If I were a betting person, I’d wager that you, like all other LDS homeschoolers (and many LDS families who don’t homeschool) start the day with scripture study and/or some kind of devotional. That’s great! Way to follow the prophet! Way to arm and teach your kids and invite the Spirit into your home and lives! I commend you! You are fantastic!
But what do you do with your scriptures after that? Do you then put them on a shelf or under the couch until the next day?
For the past several years I have taught a class on incorporating the scriptures into every school subject. I bring a shoe box and a patchwork quilt to hold up at the front of the class. I then ask, “Do you compartmentalize the scriptures, putting them in a box, just for scripture time? Or are your scriptures more like patches of the quilt, together with other facets of education, the thread of the quilt being the gospel, which ties all things together, and the quilt being something that with beauty warms, protects, instructs, and comforts you always?” You see, I don’t believe the “other” subjects to be solely secular, but all parts of a great whole.
Galileo said, “Mathematics is the pen with which God has written the universe.” It’s evident when you look. God is the Supreme Scientist. I could go on and on with every “secular subject.” Education isn’t supposed to be a checklist, or the filling of a pail full of facts, but the training and molding of a being—an eternal being—and the process by which we become.
Education is also about coming to know the truth. It only makes sense to infuse every subject with all the truth that is available and see how it all goes together. It is truth that 1+1=2, and also truth that there is mathematical order to the structure of the Solar System. Additionally, the more you use the scriptures, the more you’ll have the Spirit, and the more your mind will be blessed to learn and retain.
In my homeschool, the scriptures are an essential part of our curriculum. It’s expected that along with pencils and notebooks and whatever other regular school supplies, everyone will have their scriptures “right there” ready to go. I try my hardest to bring the gospel into everything. Sometimes it’s really easy, sometimes not as much. But I try. I use the Standard Works as well as the words of modern prophets and Church magazines. I have found that there is always a way if I seek it.
We don’t have any time or length or frequency quotas. Sometimes I have to really search and study, and sometimes, in the middle of a lesson, the Spirit reminds me of a scripture or article I read to insert at just that moment that I didn’t see coming. Often, while looking for one thing, I’m led to others things in addition to or instead of what I thought I needed, or that I’ll need in the future but don’t know it yet and feel prompted to bookmark it.
Now, when people come to my class, it isn’t difficult to convince anyone as to the merits of schooling with the scriptures. The hard part for most people is in the application. So, here is a very small assortment of ways to bring the scriptures into your everyday educational subjects.
History – It’s no secret that the scriptures are full of history. I would hope that any time you study the times and places in world history for which we have scriptural accounts you will include them. In both history and science there are discrepancies between what we know from revelation and what the world accepts as fact based on limited physical evidence or ignorance or rejection of additional records. A wise teacher will seek the guidance of the Spirit as she presents all the information and helps her children learn and discern truth.
In addition to straight historical information, attention to prophecies and warnings and comparisons of peoples, choices, actions, civilizations, governments, and events through all generations would be wise. Who were the good leaders, who were the bad, and what made them so?
Science – The scriptures speak of all branches of science. In the case of chemistry add these scriptures to your studies: Particles – Moses 1:27 and 7:30; Water Cycle – Genesis 1:6-7 and Ecclesiastes 3:7; Elements – D&C 93:33 and 3 Nephi 24:3.
As you learn of the miraculous wonders of the human body, what it’s made of, how it works, and what it needs, consider the following scriptures among many more: Moses 3:7, “Fall of Adam” entry in the Bible Dictionary, Moses 6:59, Leviticus 17:14, Psalm 104:29.
There is a multitude of scriptures on astronomy, including the order of the universe, celestial bodies, rotations, and seasons. Long before the world accepted a heliocentric view, Alma and the Nephites knew what was true (see Abraham 1-3, Alma 30:44, and Helaman 12:15, among others).
The animal kingdom is chock full of gospel lessons and symbols. Ants teach us of industry and preparedness (see Proverbs 6:6 and 30:25). The life cycle of salmon symbolizes enduring to the end (see D&C 24:8 and 2 Nephi 31:20). Polar bears humbly show humans what it takes to be a good mom: sacrifice, teaching, playing, snuggling, defending, and an example (see the Proclamation on the Family and Topical Guide entry “Family, Children, Responsibilities toward”). Creatures of the very deep sea have their own bioluminescence; they are lights in dark places—even when there doesn’t appear to be anyone there to see it (see Matthew 5:14-16 and 3 Nephi 15:12). Of course, all animals show us we are here to fill the measure of our creation, encouraging us to do what we’re meant to do and become who we’re meant to become.
Math – Right and wrong get no clearer than in math! We’ve been given the formula and functions we need for eternal life. When there is an unknown, it’s all about problem solving—just “ask” the Brother of Jared. A reluctant learner of algebra may need Proverbs 4:7, including the footnote, and a nervous test taker may need the end of D&C 38:30.
More than this, much math can be done with the scriptures. From simply learning numerical order by locating scriptures to introducing ratios with the rotations of Kolob: Earth, the material is there to work with. A Scripture Story Problem can begin each child’s math lesson and it’s not hard to do. For example, read Proverbs 18:10 and then say, “If you have 4”x6” bricks and you need to build a tower with walls 100’ high and 7’ wide, how many bricks would you need for one wall? How many for 4 walls?” Then emphasize that no towers built by man compare to the power of the Lord for protection. Read Psalm 5:2 and then tell the children to count the number of syllables in the verse and create a division problem in which the quotient is the same number as the number of syllables. Then you could discuss how the Lord hears every word of our prayers. Read the story of Samuel the Lamanite and create fraction problems: “If 100 arrows were shot, and ¾ of them hit the wall, how many arrows hit brick? What fraction of them then missed Samuel in the air, and how many arrows was that?” (You would, of course, need to establish that these numbers are hypothetical, as well as perhaps the arrow trajectory, as the scriptures aren’t that specific.)
Language – The most obvious way to use the scriptures is in reading. Because it’s obvious we may overlook its importance for the developing reader. I testify to you that the quickest way to make a strong reader is to immerse them in the scriptures, even when it seems too hard. I have had children who struggled with basic readers but took off with scripture reading. It made all the difference.
Many of the skills necessary to acquire can be learned and practiced in the scriptures: alphabetical order, dictionary skills, reading a table of contents. If you’re learning the parts of speech, it’s easy to read the story of Noah or Jonah or Daniel and have the children point out nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions and so forth. Vocabulary and word origins abound. Practice penmanship with scripture passages. Work on comprehension, application, and literary creation by turning scripture stories into newspapers, newscasts, plays, puppet shows, artwork, crossword puzzles, picture books, etc.
Bruce R. McConkie wrote in Mormon Doctrine,
“In the broad sense of the word, the process of living on earth, of seeking to work out one’s salvation with fear and trembling before God, is in itself a course of education; it is a system of training, study, and discipline whereby the mental and moral powers are schooled and prepared for graduation into the eternal realms.
“…the saints are under command to ‘teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom,’ to learn all expedient ‘things that pertain unto the kingdom of God,’ and to gain a knowledge of countries, kingdoms, sciences, arts, and every form of learning, so that they can both work out their own salvation and carry the message of salvation to the Lord’s other children. …
“Education is gained primarily from the Spirit of the Lord by revelation and secondarily from study, research and investigation….”
The Topical Guide of the LDS Standard Works and the search engine at lds.org have become the most oft-used of any tools available to me, because in the end, I homeschool my children not to prepare them for the ACT or the workforce—I homeschool my children to prepare them for exaltation.