By Shari McMinn
Ghoulish masks. Headstones. Risque costumes. Scary Clowns. Witches and warlocks. Do you agree that this is the sight in every single store you enter during October, even when just to buy groceries or gas?
When two of our adopted children — who were among my unique learners — joined our family, our caseworker cautioned us that they were afraid of the “scary clown,” having been seriously traumatized by watching the “Chuckie” movie as impressionable toddlers. Well, I would have been traumatized watching that myself as an adult! Knowing this, we learned to avoid taking them to circuses and rodeos where clowns are often part of the entertainment. We also had to avoid taking them to stores during October, but early Halloween displays already set out in late summer caught us off guard! We discussed their trauma flashbacks before, during, and after such encounters, but it did not stave off their uncontrollable meltdowns that such evil abruptly brought into their lives.
Our family shied away from “trick or treat,” even at churches that offered alternatives, because kids and adults would show up in inappropriately scary costumes, retraumatizing my children all over again. The bottom line is: there is evil in the world, and October 31 is a high holiday for those who practice it. So, how do we prepare our unique learners to be in the world but not of the world, especially during this scary season? I know the month is nearly over, but wanted to suggest you can still redeem October 31st.
Here are some strategies we developed over time to help calm our kids and navigate this season of evil:
1. October provides a timely opportunity to discuss with your family that there is evil in the world, but we should not be afraid because God is greater than satan, and God loves and protects those who call on His name. But let all who take refuge in You rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread Your protection over them, that those who love Your name may exult in You (Psalm 5:1 ESV).
2. Read Scripture each morning at the start of your homeschool day throughout the year. This simple family discipleship time helps build resistance and protection from the evils of this world. Proverbs is an excellent book to read a chapter a day, then discuss takeaways your family members can practice. Memorizing a verse each month gives your children 12 strong arrows yearly to shoot against the enemy’s attacks!
3. Teach your children to “put on the whole armor of God” to protect them from sin and the enemy. Let them have fun dressing up year round in play armor (home-made with cardboard and duct tape) or other God-honoring no-sew costumes that celebrate biblical characters or heroes of the Christian faith. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:1 ESV).
4. Celebrate the harvest of God’s blessings during the months of October and November as part of your homeschool days. Preserve your own home-grown produce or purchase at a farmer’s market to make easy refrigerator pickles or simple peach jam without pectin. Bob for apples then dip them in melted caramel. Have kids paint pumpkins instead of carving them because jack-o-lanterns were once used for evil.
5. Plan for a last-minute (as in, get your supplies and invites completed today or tomorrow!) family night celebration on October 31st to make a new family tradition by staying home and honoring God. October 31st is also known as Reformation Day (the anniversary of when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the Wittenberg church door), which can add to the celebration. Invite some like-minded friends over for a simple soup supper followed by a party with fun games and perhaps a goodie-filled pinata. Hack: for homeschool “extra credit,” have your kids make the pinata starting a few days ahead by first watching this YouTube video!
6. Avoid places that have large Halloween celebrations and displays. This can be a challenge even when going to enjoy a family-friendly farm with corn maze and pumpkin patch opportunities. Sadly, many venues also have a “haunted house” set-up, so be prepared to ask about such displays to plan ahead of time and not attend that particular type of activity. Definitely do not go to such a farm after dark.
7. Always model for your kids that we should focus on God and His call for us to be holy. Set your own mind on the things that are good and beautiful, remaining grateful ahead of November when we give Him thanks as a nation. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8 ESV).
8. For family entertainment, watch edifying movies instead of scary horror films; bundle up to roast s’mores around an outside fire pit or indoor log-burning fireplace; star gaze on a cloudless night along a country road; read aloud classic books to your children before bedtime; give God the glory in all things as you experience His creation inside and out during this autumn season.
Most importantly, teach your children that we can experience joy with Jesus at the center of our lives instead of being robbed of joy by the world’s evil pleasures. It can be an uphill battle, but redemption of the culture can start with your family simply honoring the Lord by giving Him the glory for all He has created and blessed you with. Children with special needs, as well as typical children and parents, all need the constant reminder that God is very good and so, too, is everything He created, And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good (Genesis 1:31a ESV), including each of us who bear His image, So God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:27a ESV).
My next blog, “Instilling a Thankful Heart” will be posted on November 22, 2023 (the 4th Wednesday).
P.S. If you have a topic I should write about, please email me with your suggestion(s). This blog is for you!
Shari McMinn, your trusted homeschooling friend