Episode 193: Rachael Hartzell and Discipling with Every Book

This week we talk with mom and author Rachael Hartzell who shares a simple and effective way to disciple our children with every book we read.

Our Guest: Rachael Hartzell

Rachael Hartzell holds a degree in elementary education and wears many hats. On top of being a wife and mother, she’s a homeschooler, kid’s ministry volunteer, and the founder and owner of Little Honeycomb Press, a small publishing business for children’s books.

As a teacher, she loves turning everyday moments for kids into learning opportunities through meaningful connections. She believes children’s literature, a passion of hers, should be no different. The Garden Scouts: Buzzing With Love is the first book in her picture book series.

Rachael lives in Oklahoma with her husband and daughter.

Rachael’s Book:

Show Notes/Transcript with Links:

Terrie (00:08):

Welcome to “Books That Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books that help us with everyday discipleship every day, sparking important conversations with our children. We all want to see the next generation on fire for God. How can we disciple our children well when we’re having trouble staying awake long enough for our own Bible reading? Well, part of that is taking every opportunity with every book we read to speak to our children and to have them talk with us, opening up those conversations with our kids, whatever we’re reading, wherever we are and whatever we’re doing, that’s the key to discipling our children from day one. If you’re feeling inadequate or overwhelmed or like you don’t know enough to disciple your kids, I promise you, you have the answers they need. So now let’s join the conversation talking about some more books that will bless you and your kids. I’m so glad you joined us today. We have a very special guest with us. Her name is Rachel Hartzell, and we are so excited to talk with her. Thank you, Rachel, for joining us today.

Rachel (01:13):

Absolutely. I’m so glad to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Terrie (01:16):

Well, first of all, we want to start by talking about your first book in your series, Buzzing With Love. Tell us about this. It’s wonderful.

Rachel (01:24):

This is a calling God gave me when I was struggling to find resources for my own daughter to help her understand how to go beyond memorizing what each fruit of the spirit is like they were doing at church, and that was kind of where it stopped memorizing the names or memorizing a scripture to go with it, but not explaining how she would use that once she became a Christian, to live it out with the Holy Spirit’s help in the real world. We sometimes forget that kids are more capable than what they are. We just kind of assume that they’re not going to be able to understand it, but I wanted to help her dive deeper and I couldn’t find what I was looking for, so God told me to write it. God told me to create this series that would speak to kids on a relatable level and pull them in deeper to an understanding of what he’s trying to teach them in the Bible, in the scriptures they’re being asked to memorize. So that’s how all this came about.

Terrie (02:26):

That’s wonderful. I love that. I always encourage parents, if you can’t find the book you’re looking for, maybe God is calling you to write it.

Rachel (02:33):

Yep, that’s true.

Terrie (02:34):

I love that. So will this become a whole series on the fruit of the spirit?

Rachel (02:39):

Yes, it will. I mean, you can obviously find other fruits that are within the story because it’s hard not to have any actions with characters without them showing other fruits, but the focus of this one is teaching about the foundation of it all. It’s all about love because you can’t have any of the others without love, and I believe that’s why it’s listed first in scripture, because anything else you do, whether it’s you have patience or kindness or you’re answering gently, it all comes from love. Everyone gets this foundation with the first book coming out, and it’s all just going to build off of that.

Terrie (03:13):

Well, that’s true, and if we do things without love, even if we’re trying to do good, it’s got the wrong motivation. That’s so important. And I love, love, love in the book, at first, I don’t want to give away the whole story, but the scout leader is telling the main character that she will act in love, and she’s like, “I just want to be friends.” I just thought that was so perfect, because kids can get confused, especially in our culture today, by what we even mean when we say love. They’re thinking romantic love and icky stuff.

Rachel (03:45):

Right, right. Or it’s just overused and they don’t understand the deeper meaning behind it, especially when we talk about Christianity and biblical love. So it helps kind of give them that understanding that, yeah, you can be friends with someone, but there’s also a level of love that’s involved in that friendship.

Terrie (04:04):

Yeah, that’s good. It’s a very cute story and has lots of good interactions with the characters and everything, and it’s just cute. The illustrations are so pretty. All the flowers and everything, I just love. Well, there’s so many things I want to talk about. Okay, so let’s start with your website. On your website you have a questionnaire where people can say what they would like to see, because I agree with you, we don’t want to waste time and money hours or theirs creating things that people don’t care about, so we can share our ideas of what would help us. I know you’re a homeschooler and you’re also a teacher, right? You have a degree in teaching.

Rachel (04:41):

Yes. I have an elementary education degree, but now I’m at home and just homeschooling.

Terrie (04:45):

That’s great. Yeah. I did the same thing. I have a master’s in education and a bachelor’s in social work. Then we went overseas, and I had to homeschool my kids, and I always loved the idea of homeschooling, but I don’t think I was very good at it. My sister was amazing as a homeschooler. I think it takes wisdom to homeschool, and I was still in classroom teacher mode way too much.

Rachel (05:10):

Oh, it’s hard to break that mentality.

Terrie (05:13):

Oh, it is.

Rachel (05:14):

I always tell people I’ve had to work at deprogramming my brain to train it to think a different way. It is very tricky.

Terrie (05:22):

Yeah. I wish someone had been there to tell me, just relax and lay off a little bit. It would’ve been a much happier experience for all involved. I love teaching and I love being able to teach my own kids, but I think I could have done better. So I try to encourage homeschool moms today because I’m done now. My kids are grown until I get grandkids, I guess. I think homeschoolers are amazing people and it takes a great commitment, but it doesn’t need to be like a regular classroom where it’s all so structured. I mean, yes, some structure, but not like that. But anyway, back to what I was asking. As an educator, you want to create materials for people and this gives them an opportunity. What kind of questions are you looking for answers to on your questionnaire where you can share your ideas? What would you like people to do with that?

Rachel (06:13):

Yeah. I still have the site currently under construction right now. I’m working with someone to get it more refined and actually get a personal brand website up and running more than the imprint publishing company that I created for the series, but I really want to know what are the key daily interactions that they’re struggling with their kids. You know, whether it’s bullying or name calling, if there is a consistent set of areas that parents are struggling in helping their kids understand how to handle it and do it through the fruit of the spirit, then I can start incorporating those now into the storyline for the rest of the series. I have ideas of things I want to touch on. I have specific pain points for a lot of kids that in my own head I think would be good to put in with each one, but I also want some feedback from parents. What are they actually struggling with? I only have one kid, I only get one personality that I’m seeing struggles from, so it would be good for me to understand before I get too far into writing all the others, what actually would be more beneficial in their homes.

Terrie (07:24):

Yeah, I love that. They can find this at LittleHoneycombPress.com. You’ll see the link there to give some ideas. I think that would be really beneficial. I was just this last weekend speaking at a homeschool convention, and one of the little bits of feedback I got from a couple parents is they would like to see some more materials on how to help siblings get along, but also mentor one another, and then how to teach leadership in the homeschool setting, and I thought, wow, those are good. I like that.

Rachel (07:56):

Those are good.

Terrie (07:57):

Yeah, I’m always creating homeschool materials too, so I really appreciate that kind of feedback and you know, we’re going to act on it. We read what you say, so please go and give your opinions on her website. You can give your ideas on my website as well in the comments on this post because we just love to hear from parents. We don’t want to just be out here making noise. We want to help bless people.

Rachel (08:21):

They could even spark a new idea that we hadn’t considered yet for a new book that maybe God is using them and their pain point to help us write something new that we hadn’t even had brought to our attention yet.

Terrie (08:34):

Right. One of the things that you do that I think is so fantastic is you take the time to not just talk through the books you’re reading with your child, but then to post those conversations on social media so parents get a real life glimpse into how to use what you’re reading with your kids to help disciple them. Can you talk a little bit about how you do that and where they can find that?

Rachel (08:58):

Yeah, absolutely. On my Instagram page at @Rachel.Hartzell, there is a conversation that I bring to Instagram that I just haven’t seen other people do. They talk about how they loved the books or their kids love the books, and this is maybe an activity they did with it, but nobody ever talks about the conversations that come from their books. Usually I wanted to walk my daughter through using whatever book we’re reading to find a way to point it back to God because I could read all of the books that have the word Jesus in them all day long if I want to, but the reality is when she goes out into the world as a teenager, as an adult, even if she were to go to a restaurant, she’s going to encounter ungodly things around her, and whether the book specifically was actually written for the purpose of teaching a biblical concept or not, I want to train her how to see God.

Rachel (09:54):

Whether it was an intentional inclusion in the book by the author, or it’s just what God had them insert and they didn’t even realize it because God does that. He actually did it with my book. He put something in there I didn’t know was actually in there until somebody pointed it out to me and I went, oh my goodness, I wrote the thing and I didn’t see that in there. God uses people whether they believe in him or not. I want to help her and other parents realize that they can teach their kids the same skill of noticing God out in the world when we’re going to be surrounded by a culture that doesn’t support him or what he teaches. I start off every conversation with the exact same question because it’s easy. We’re busy parents, whether you have one kid or five. We’re busy and there’s a lot to do, whether we’re homeschooling or sending our kids to school.

Rachel (10:44):

Somehow our days always get filled up with stuff. I like to keep it simple and easy, so we just start with the same question. It’s always, what did you notice about this story that reminded you of something you’ve heard from the Bible already? Whether it’s a Bible story or a character you’ve learned about, or a scripture you’ve heard, or even just a general biblical truth, you know from the Bible, what does it remind you of? And from there, I just wing it. Whatever she answers with, I find something in her answer to spur the conversation further, it might be that she has a hole that she has presented in her argument for her thought process of why she chose that answer, why she thinks that way. It gives me an opportunity to see, oh, I didn’t realize she misunderstood this story in the Bible, or she misunderstood the lesson from that story, or even just the factual information.

Rachel (11:39):

She somehow missed that piece. So that gives me an opportunity to fill it in for her and show her where she was wrong, but also how close she was and she wasn’t far off. We don’t want to knock them down in their confidence and tell them they’re wholly wrong, but we want to try and build them up in understanding that they are capable of understanding this huge Bible. It seems daunting, but by using picture books, it’s an accessible way to support what they’ve been learning and help them understand where they can continue to build on that knowledge. It gives us an opportunity, even as parents to show them, or I guess retell examples from our own lives of where we’ve used that as well, where we’ve been able to live out those truths in our life, whether they’re fruits of the spirit or a mistake that we made and we realized that we had to make it right, and sometimes that’s painful and hard, but God calls us to do that.

Terrie (12:35):

That’s great. Yeah, I just believe testimonies are so, so powerful as we can share them from our own experience and help our children see that we struggle to, we’re still learning too, that it’s something we all are doing as we grow in our understanding of God. I think that’s encouraging to them, cause that’s my conviction too. We can use anything that we are reading, anything we’re going through, anything we’re doing, God can use that to open up a spiritual conversation. I wrote a devotional book where I started with a picture book and then we go into scripture and I have questions for the family to be able to do the devotional together, but it all starts from a general market picture book. When I saw your Instagram, I was just like, oh my goodness, she thinks the way I do.

Rachel (13:22):

I love that you did that. That’s amazing.

Terrie (13:24):

I’m working on the second volume now cause everybody’s like, “Oh, but you need to write one for this picture book and this picture book,” so I’m making a list and starting on that, so I’m excited about that. Well, I want to make sure everyone knows where they can find your book. Is it on Amazon?

Rachel (13:41):

It is on Amazon. Like I said, I’m working on getting my personal brand website up. I’m working on also getting a Shopify put onto that, and eventually, I believe I might switch it from Amazon to my Shopify, but for right now, it is currently on Amazon.

Terrie (13:55):

Okay. The name of the book is The Garden Scouts: Buzzing With Love. You will definitely want to check this out. Do you have an anticipated date of your second one coming out?

Rachel (14:07):

I have the illustrations that will start early next year, so hopefully it will be out by Fall or Winter next year.

Terrie (14:15):

Awesome. Well, we will look for that. I’ve just really excited about this series. I appreciate so much you being here today. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us.

Rachel (14:25):

Oh, absolutely. Thank you for having me.

Terrie (14:27):

Thank you for joining us for “Books That Spark,” where we encourage each other to grasp those teachable moments sparked by great books and great conversations, and to live out everyday discipleship, helping to equip our children to follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you enjoyed this episode, please like and share so people know we’re here or leave comments on the podcast host sites, or on our blog. We truly appreciate you and we love that you were here today. If you would like to connect with me, you can join my mailing list or comment on TerrieHellardBrown.com. We love to hear from you and we respond to every comment and question. We pray you feel empowered to walk by faith and to embrace everyday discipleship every day with the children in your life.

Your Host: Terrie Hellard-Brown

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her newest book, A World of Pancakes, just launched and is available at terriehellardbrown.com. Her devotional for families, Building Character through Picture Books: 25 Family Devotions Based on Favorite Picture Books, is available on her website and through Amazon.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts discuss living as a disciple of Christ while parenting our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ and to use the nooks and crannies of our lives to disciple our children.

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be WONDERFUL” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

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