Sunday, December 20, 2009

The 21 Rules Of This House by Gregg Harris

The 21 Rules of This House, listed below, cover just about every situation common to young children and teens. They were developed over 30 years ago to help my wife and me be more consistent in what we required of our children as members of our household. It is so easy to allow our own moods to change the boundaries of what we will tolerate from one day to the next. In far too many homes the only real rule is to stay out of Mom or Dad's way when they are in a bad mood. Otherwise, when they are in agood mood, the kids can get away with almost anything. The goal in the use of the 21 Rules is to clarify what is pleasing and displeasing to parents, regardless of their moods, and to administer discipline without anger, and then only in response to willful defiance of what the child knows to be right.

My oldest son, Joshua Harris, now a respected author and pastor, illustrated each house rule for a coloring book when he was just 14 years old. We published it successfully for many years. Used copies are still available occasionally through's Used Book search engine. I post them here in response to many requests from families with younger children.

The 21 Rules Of This House
by Gregg Harris

1. We obey God.
2. We love, honor and pray for one another.
3. We tell the truth.
4. We consider one another's interests ahead of our own.
5. We speak quietly and respectfully with one another.
6. We do not hurt one another with unkind words or deeds.
7. When someone needs correction, we correct him in love.
8. When someone is sorry, we forgive him.
9. When someone is sad, we comfort him.
10. When someone is happy, we rejoice with him.
11. When we have something nice to share, we share it.
12. When we have work to do, we do it without complaining.
13. We take good care of everything that God has given us.
14. We do not create unnecessary work for others.
15. When we open something, we close it.
16. When we take something out, we put it away.
17. When we turn something on, we turn it off.
18. When we make a mess, we clean it up.
19. When we do not know what to do, we ask.
20. When we go out, we act just as if we were in this house.
21. When we disobey or forget any of the 21 Rules of This House, we accept the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Instructions: Post the list on your refrigerator door or other prominent location in your home. When misbehavior occurs, draw attention to which House Rule has been violated and repeat the rule a few timesand explain what it means. Once the meaning becomes clear, discipline your child for any expressions of willful defiance. Over time, the rules will be internalized by each child as a general statement of the behavioral boundaries. Remember that these rules follow you and your child wherever they go. Discipline should only be administered in private, in love for the child, never in anger or in any way that would ever do harm. The challenge is to be consistent so that such discipline is eventually no longer needed.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Gregg Harris' "Legacy Series" in MP3s

In order to respond to the growing number of requests by a new generation of young families for help on many of the issues I have taught on over the years, my twin sons, Alex, Brett (see have converted some of my best tape-recorded seminars from the 1980s and 90s into sets of MP3 files. They may now be purchased and downloaded from

We are calling this The Legacy Series and it includes:

The Basic Home Schooling Workshop
The Seasons of Life Seminar
The Noble Planner Time Management Seminar
The Households of Strength Seminar
The Family Business Seminar
The Family Storytelling Seminar, and most recently,
The Household of Faith Seminar.

If you are looking for practical help in life-planning, marriage building, child training, career planning and church reform, these seminars and workshops may be of help.

This new MP3 technology allows us to share the messages that helped to launch the international national movements in Christian home schooling, family restoration and age-integrated local churches (see Household of Faith Community Church). Each seminar set was originally $29 to $39 on cassette tapes. Now, due to the lower expenses involved with distribution the web, we are able to offer them at around $2 per session, and that with no shipping and handing fees. Amazing!

I hope you will make use of this material. I stand by what I taught back then, and though a few references are dated, the biblical principles and the basic ideas continue to stand the test of time and guide my own life decisions. They are certainly bearing out well in the lives of my children as they enter onto each new season of their lives.

One last thing to mention is that Noble Institute, The Rebelution, Good News Project, and now this new commerce site, Noble Books all operate under Noble Institute as a non-profit 501(c)3 tax exempt educational organization. Therefore, any purchases and/or donations made will be used to develop new resources, launch new ministry projects and maintain and grow our sites for greater service. Thank you for your support. And thank you also for helping me get the word out to your friends and fellow enthusiasts on the web.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Delight-Directed Study

Overview: This post was written in 1988 and 1995 for The Christian Home School by Gregg Harris, (1995 Noble Publishing Associates). This has been my approach to home schooling. The photo is of the Wright Brothers, pioneers in aviation, as young adults building bicycles in Dayton, Ohio (where, by the way, I happened to be born in 1952). Their story provides a good example of the fruits of delight-directed study.

A delight-directed study is like a wonderful fire in the mind of a student. It starts small, but as it grows, it begins to consume vast amounts of information until it bursts into a roaring blaze of insight, understanding and creativity. It takes on a life of its own.

In a delight-directed study, a child’s interests are fanned to flame and supported in ways that increase his interest in his studies. The child’s delight is the spark that ignites everything. Once established, like a fire, it is self-sustaining. The student begins to study for his own personal satisfaction, and the fruits of his study begin to flow outward to others.

This approach is especially helpful for the child who has been "burned out" on school. It helps restore his love for learning. But delight-directed study is more than just a method of remedial instruction. As we shall see, it is the foundation for all true scholarship. Once the basic concepts of delight are understood, the approach itself is easy to implement.

Is this anything like unschooling?

At first glance, delight-directed study, with its emphasis on enjoying study, may sound a bit like the unschooling approach mentioned earlier. [See my book, The Christian Home School, from which this post was excerpted.] Unschooling, developed by the late education reformer and author, John Holt, emphasizes the child’s freedom from adult control. It takes a more or less non-directive approach toward instruction. Like Rousseau, Holt viewed adults, and especially parents, as the major defilers of children. The result of his liberal bias abandons children to their own limited resources and further disarms parents in the face of child rebellion. There is little place for discipline in unschooling. [I was talking here about "unschooling" in its original or typical context at the time c. 1988; not necessarily what some Christians have now "re-defined" it to be, within a godly context.]

Delight-directed study is child-responsive, but still parent-supervised. Dad and Mom remain fully in charge, and discipline is a constant part of the mix. Delight-directed study strategies are more responsive to the interest of the student, without being indulgent. Rather than allow the student to study whatever he sees fit, however he sees fit, delight-directed study urges parents to guide their child’s studies and establish clear accountability for his work. Also, whereas unschooling is deeply humanistic and therefore disdainful of the Scriptures, delight-directed study is based on a distinctively Christian worldview and has substantial support in the Bible.

The foundation of delight-directed study is the Goodness of God. While most of us agree that God is good, we may not realize just what that means to our day-to-day experience. But the Bible is clear that God is good. "How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?" (Ps.116:12) The word good means "beneficial." A good God does everything He does for good reason. That means there are real benefits in every aspect of God’s activity. When God observed, in the first chapter of Genesis, that everything He had made was good, it meant that everything served a good purpose.

But when it comes to schooling our children, we Christians doubt God’s goodness. In a fit of uninformed conservatism, we bring out the "hickory stick" and demand that our students submit to their instruction without regard for their enjoyment or pleasure. School attendance is compulsory. Teachers must be stern and mean. We suspect that something must be wrong if our students are actually enjoying their studies, because we didn’t. "It’s not supposed to be fun," we say. "Studying is a discipline."

Is it really? Granted, children need discipline for their disobedience, and they are as likely to disobey in school as anywhere else. And there is, of course, a general need for self-discipline in their studies, just as there is in their development of skills in music, art or sports. But nowhere else do we find it necessary to make everything so joyless and compulsory. In every other area of human need, the wholesome pleasure of satisfying what is needed draws the person into the activity.

Why is there so much emphasis on teaching young people to endure hour after hour of boring, disjointed and generally uninteresting activity? Why is schooling such a deadening experience for so many, even in high school and college? Is it possible that the main objective of our school system, with its passion for responding to school bells, blindly following instructions, and fitting in to the social pecking order, is not academic at all, but rather preparation for the labor force? Could this be the education of pawns? John Taylor Gatto, former New York City and New York State Teacher of the Year, believes it to be so.

Excerpted from the chapter on "Delight-Directed Study"
in Gregg's excellent book The Christian Home School.
Used with permission from Gregg Harris.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Priceless Treasure: Why I Choose to Home School

Overview: This article was written in 1999 for Table Talk Magazine. I include it here to give my reader/editors an idea of where I am coming from in my approach to the Christian life and the roles we have as parents of children in the local church. The picture is of my twin sons, Alex & Brett, age 17, who have a blog of their own blog called the rebelution at I have seven children, the oldest of which is Joshua Harris, author of several best selling books, best known of which is I Kissed Dating Good Bye.

C.S. LEWIS ONCE OBSERVED that God is not so much offended that we want too much as by the fact that we are satisfied with so little. Though He offers us the highest of adventures in our Christian life, we settle for the stale mediocrity of our lukewarm religious routines.

The parental counterpart to this idea is that most mothers and fathers actually want too little for their children - they settle for success in this world's terms. But God would have us aim higher, not like an ambitious stage mother pushing her mildly talented children into the spotlight, but like a fine jeweler making the best possible use of each bit of gold, silver, and precious stone he has. My children are priceless treasures, and I want God\'s highest and best for them.

What does it mean to aim high in this way? What am I really trying to accomplish in the education of my children?

Is it enough that they read well? No, not for me. I want them to commune with great authors from throughout the ages and be able to comprehend the profound ideas and truths that God has used to change the course of history. Let them be voracious readers of truly great literature.

Do I want my sons and daughters only to write and spell correctly? No, I want them to correspond with fellow enthusiasts in their chosen areas of endeavor. If they have the gifting, let them eventually author intelligent, superbly written works concerning the important issues of their day. Let them be prolific writers, whether privately or publicly

Do I want them merely to know enough history to pass a written test? No, I want them to understand the times in which they live and to be able to pass the real tests of life they will face in voting booths and on battlefields. Let them be like the sons of Issachar (\"who had understanding of the times,\" 1 Chron. 12:32) in the unfolding dramas of future events.

But education is so much more than mere academics. It is primarily matter of character development. Self-discipline may be out of style, but it is never out of work. Do I want my children simply to be nice, well-behaved, and safe from peer pressure? Not at all! Aslan, in Lewis\'s Chronicles of Narnia, is not a tame lion, but he is good. I prefer my children to be like that - good but not tame, men and women of integrity, not conformity. Let them be so influential and contagious in their faith that they turn the hearts of their companions toward God. Let the world grieve that its best and brightest have become Christians.

What about marriage and children? Are these things only a matter of personal comfort and enjoyment? Is a lifelong marriage aiming too high? Is the average number of 1.5 children per family enough? No, I want each of my sons and daughters to have a marriage and a family like that of Jonathan Edwards - enduring, large in number, and deeply devoted to God. Let each future household be devoted as a team for ministry as an effective embassy of the kingdom of God.

On an economic note, will it be enough if my children manage someday to find good jobs, regardless of how restrictive and disruptive their work schedules may be? No, I would like to see my adult sons provide for their wives and children through family business ownership and entrepreneurial stewardship. Contrary to the best efforts of the ACLU, there are still millions of public school students praying secretly to find decent jobs someday. Why not prepare our homeschool students to hire them?

Ultimately, neither academics, nor character, nor a strong marriage, nor a large family, nor financial freedom will matter if my children are still dead in sin and alienated from the promises of God. God help me never to raise up \"civil men, lost in sin,\" as the Puritans would call them. Salvation in Christ is more than merely foundational. It is everything.

Deep within the secret counsels of God\'s sovereign decretive will lies the very real responsibility I bear as a father to train up my children in the way that they should go (Prov. 22:6). Only God can save my children. Will He do so? The very fact I care at all for the salvation of my children is good evidence that God is already at work on their behalf. Our God is a covenant-keeping God and His sovereign election is the norm, not the exception, when parents respond in faithful obedience to His Word.

As I read the biographies of great men and women, I notice that godly parents often do make a difference. \"As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.\" Our sovereign God, working by concurrence through His created order of parents training their children and children obeying their parents, has ordained that special instruments of His grace will be forged on the anvil of a mother or father\'s heart. If I am both wise and diligent in my child training, it may be evidence that something extraordinary is brewing in the heavenlies - perhaps my children will be special gifts to Christ\'s church in their generation.

But if, like Eli of old, I am passive and negligent in this matter, it bodes eternal ill for me and my children. Insight is not action. Knowing is not the same as doing. Faith without works is dead. Think about it. Taking the easier path of conventional schooling is by any measure taking unnecessary chances with the souls of my children. Willfully sending them off to an institution that denies my authority, where the dominant social life is ungodly, where God is not feared and His Word not taught, where I cannot protect my children from falling into dangerous activities that could ruin a young life in one casual act of foolishness, where I cannot even vouch for the moral character of the teachers and administrators, seems to me an odd way of being diligent. The spirit of Eli is upon our nation and our churches as we rationalize with all our rational lies. That is why I ask God for grace to understand and obey Him in all of my obligations. Then, strong in the grace of God, I exert myself to do what He has commanded, even when it is not easy.

But salvation must lead to sanctification, and as a father I have a part to play in that as well. It is not enough that my children confess faith in Christ and go to church. Luke-warmness will not do. I want to see the fire of passion for the presence of God safely burning in the doctrinal fire place of each child\'s Reformed faith. A perpetual state of spiritual childhood, or even of spiritual adolescence, is not acceptable to God. Why should it be acceptable to me? I want my children to grow up to full maturity in Christ. I want them to bear the fruit of the Spirit and one day be qualified to serve as elders and deacons in a strong local church, with the courage and faith to roll up their sleeves and plant that church themselves if they have to.

To those who ask, \"But what about socialization?\" I can only weep. Socialization has always been a double-edged sword; it cuts both ways. \"He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm\" (Prov. 13:20, NASB). What my wife and I are doing in our home school is positive, biblical socialization that makes our children become wise. My children walk with me, and though I definitely have a long way yet to go, I try to be an acceptable companion to my children.

Most of our modem school-based socialization is of the foolish, harmful sort. Pooled ignorance leads to poor taste in clothing, music, films, and TV - the kind of people who read the grocery store tabloids and believe them. But the harm is far more than cultural. Disinterest in school, disrespect for teachers, rapacious dating, promiscuity, substance abuse, and gang violence also come in waves-- pounding waves of youth culture that erode moral standards. Even a small population of these poor creatures requires that high schools be run like youth prisons.

Good socialization is primarily age-integrated. It occurs when the young are included in the lives of older and wiser people, especially parents and other family members at home and the spiritual family of one\'s local church. Walking with the wise is a lifestyle, not a program. It is a club of fellow enthusiasts, not a class of uninterested age-mates. It includes working together, eating together, playing together, worshiping together, and studying together, This is where God placed the responsibility for child training and education, and it works very well in aiming children at God\'s highest and best targets in every area of life.

That is what I want for my children - God\'s highest and best - and that is my purpose in homeschooling them. Forgive what may seem my audacity, but I don\'t want my children to be merely counted among the Reformed. I want them to stand with the Reformers.

Gregg Harris is the author of
The Christian Home School and the director of the Noble Institute in Gresham, OR.

Reprinted from TABLETALK, August, 1999.

Reformed, Charismatic & Evangelical: Keeping the Fire in the Fireplace!

FOR MANY YEARS the Bible has been treated like a deck of cards. Denominations behave like players in some doctrinal “card game” where each church holds only a few cards in its hand as it competes with other churches for new members. Every church has its own “doctrinal distinctives” or emphases which are often reflected in the church’s name (e.g. Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.) In addition, churches are grouped into larger camps, based on over-arching values (e.g. Reformed, Charismatic & Evangelical). Such divisions rob every church of its heritage in the whole counsel of God.

Generally speaking, Reformed churches hold tightly to the cards (i.e. the passages of Scripture) that pertain to “the doctrines of grace.” They also emphasize the need to guard sound doctrine from error. Charismatic churches hold the cards that relate to the Holy Spirit and His gifts. They emphasize supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Evangelicals hold on dearly to the cards that teach the Great Commission, personal evangelism and world missions. They emphasize winning the lost to Christ.

Our analogy breaks down of course, because no true church is void of all interest in the doctrines championed by the others. But over time, these three camps have drifted farther and farther apart. Today they seem mutually exclusive of one another. What is worse, as each has over-emphasized and over-reacted to each doctrine errors have occurred on all sides. As each church pushes its favorite truth to an erroneous extreme, the other churches attempt to distance themselves from those errors and all but abandon some key doctrines. “We don’t emphasize election here.” Or, “We are not ‘seeker sensitive.’” Or, “We won’t stand for Holy Spirit wildfire.” In this way major passages of God’s Word are being abandoned to other churches who, in their zeal, distort them and make them the primary basis of their church’s identity. By being taught without the balance that comes from knowing and believing the other doctrines, every church loses out.

It Takes All Three!
The situation today requires a Christian to attend three churches just to receive a balanced diet of what the Bible actually teaches— one to enjoy expository Bible teaching and basic Bible doctrine (e.g. a sound Reformed Church), one to experience supernatural ministry (e.g. a sound Charismatic church) and yet another to be equipped to live the Great Commission (e.g. a sound Evangelical church). As long as every church holds only its own limited denominational “hand,” no church is “playing with a full deck.” The whole counsel of God has become divided, disjointed and out of balance. Household of Faith Community Church in the Portland Metro Area of Oregon (where I now serve as a Teaching Elder), is an attempt to bring these three camps of Bible doctrine back together in one local church. There we strive to be biblically Reformed, biblically Charismatic and biblically evangelical in order to enjoy the benefits (and avoid the errors) of all three. We want everything that the Bible teaches, but nothing more.

Our Strengths Can Become Our Weaknesses
The strength of the Reformed pastor can become his weakness. He has such confidence in the truth of the Bible and the sovereignty of God that he distrusts the Spirit of God and fatalistic in his response to missions. He becomes cold and academic in his teaching. He closes all opportunities for God to move with power in the church. He “despises prophesy” as “adding to the Scripture.” He “forbids speaking in tongues,” dismissing it as “wildfire.” He is like a man with a massive stone fireplace made up of sound Bible doctrine. But he would rather sit in a cold, dark, empty house than take any chance that the fire might get out of the fireplace, or that careless guests might damage his stone work. He does not understand that his precious fireplace has been designed by God to safely hold the blazing fire of God’s Holy Spirit for the benefit of many yet to be saved.

On the other hand, the strength of the Charismatic pastor can also become his weakness. His confidence in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit can undermine his motivation to do the hard work of Bible study and sound doctrinal preaching of the Gospel. He believes he need only read a passage and “pray through” until he “feels the anointing.” Then he steps into his pulpit to serve up half-baked ideas to an ever-enthusiastic, but doctrinally famished congregation. This pastor is like a man who builds a bonfire in the middle of his living room floor. A wonderful stone fireplace stands just a few feet away. But he thinks that any attempt to regulate the moving of the Spirit, to limit the use of tongues in the service or to evaluate the content of a given prophesy, (as the Bible clearly commands us to do in 1 Cor. 14:26-33), would somehow “quench the Spirit.” He also presumes upon the Holy Spirit in evangelism, failing to explain what God has accomplished for the sinner through Jesus Christ, not taking seriously the fact that the Spirit of God works through the proclamation of the Gospel to save sinners. Fire belongs in a fireplace.

In yet a similar way the Evangelical pastor’s strength can become his weakness. His desire to reach people for Christ is admirable. But when he compromises God’s Word and despises God’s Spirit in order to get more people to make decisions for Christ, he does everyone a disservice. In his attempts to be “culturally relevant” and “seeker sensitive,” he can become ashamed of the Gospel, attempting to offer a Savior who is not Lord. Lacking zeal for sound doctrine for fear that God’s truth will turn off the visitors, and lacking faith in the power of the Holy Spirit to convict and convert the lost through the foolishness of the Gospel message, such pastors offer only a diet of short, fluffy, topical messages that produces many false conversions. This plague that we call “nominal Christianity” is seen in the growing number of people who now attend evangelical churches, but who have never been born again, have only a false assurance of salvation, who bear no spiritual fruit, are not zealous for good works and who know very little Bible doctrine.

Such an Evangelical pastor does not understand that without the fireplace of sound doctrine to display God’s Truth there can be no knowledge of sin, true repentance, nor saving faith. Without the fire of the Holy Spirit to confirm God’s Word with power in the new birth, there will be no lasting fruit. It is the combination of the fireplace and the fire that provides an ideal context for effective evangelistic ministry.

The Balance of God’s Truth
In each camp, the remedy is to be found in the doctrines now monopolized by the other two camps. The entire Bible is for the entire church! What has been lost in this situation is the integrity of the Truth itself. The major doctrines referred to by the terms Reformed, Charismatic and Evangelical, interact with one another in dynamic ways that check the excesses of one another and maintain the balance of Truth.

By keeping the fire in the fireplace we create the best possible setting for effective evangelism — a beautiful backdrop of God’s power in the confirmation of God’s Truth as an expression of God’s Love. Here we find God’s people showing their love for God by the way they love one another. Here we experience passionate worship toward God that is both “in spirit and in truth,” and discover a confidence in the Gospel that allows us to boldly speak God’s truth in love.

All of the Bible doctrines monopolized and distorted by the three major camps of Protestant Christianity are found in every Bible. They have always been there. They comprise an integrated whole. One group’s misunderstanding or misapplication of a doctrine cannot justify the rest of us in ignoring that part of God’s Word. All of God’s truths are intended to be understood, believed and obeyed in relation to one another by the entire Body of Christ. Every church is intended to be “a full deck church” with all of the checks and balances in place. HOFCC is an attempt to be just that. Thus far we find the combination to be both refreshing and effective.