A few of my children are part of a charter school that assists homeschoolers by providing them with elective options that are not easy to do at home. We meet once a week and attend fun classes. The catch is they have to take the state exam each year. This year they focused on the importance of having the children do well on this test and so they sent out tips or “cheats” on how to increase your score on the test. I was shocked at some of the tips; they had nothing to do with how much the child knew or how well they wrote. The test was to be checked by a computer on the number of key words used and what keys you used to create a paragraph. Our youth are extremely busy satisfying the state and now the nation’s requirements and very little time on the Lord's requirements.
Today, there is a huge focus on "passing the test", worrying about the child being "at level"; and getting "good grades". When did we stop focusing on "laying hold of every good thing"? How much time are we devoting to teaching our children to increase their "spiritual level"? Can we "pass the Lord's test"? Do we know the Lord's requirements? How does He test us? What kind of grades does He give us?
There was a study conducted concerning the effectiveness of the missionaries in the field. They wanted to know what the largest factor was, in helping them become effective. The results were surprising! They had expected church attendance, family prayer and family home evening to be the highest, but it was actually not. The highest result for helping them become the most effective was personal study (Russell Ballard, “Making of a Missionary”, Oct. 1976). Do we find quiet time and are we comfortable with being alone with God to receive individual inspiration and spiritual answers to physical problems.
Do our youth know how to be quiet? Do they know how to be comfortable by being alone with God? Do they know how the spirit speaks to them as an individual? If so, how much time do they spend quietly with the Lord? The scriptures tell us to "let ALL thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord." (Alma 37:36) What are our youth spending the majority of time thinking about? What are we thinking about?
Satan tries to get us to stop thinking in one or more ways. First, by filling our time with distractions, busy work, addictions, entertainment, appointments, etc. Second, by decreasing our desire to read, write, and communicate well. Third, instilling in us the belief that we do not need to increase our learning or continue our education (the brethren say we should be life long learners). Fourth, by introducing slang and keeping us away from the true meaning of words. And Fifth, taking away symbolism. In our language we use many words to describe very little, in God's language He used few words and taught at many different levels. Is Satan working in any of these levels with you, your youth, your family, your school, or your community?
We use five principles that help our family know where we are with the Lord's requirements or laws (D&C 130:21) and how to combat Satan's plan (Alma 12:17). We call them The 5 Key Principles on the Learning Spiral:
- I AM: This principle is about knowing who I am and teaching my children who they are. We are all children of God; we each have divinity within us. We are a complete whole within a complete whole. We teach this by telling stories, playing games, spending time, acting out, and prompting them to do what is right.
- I LISTEN: This principle is about becoming spiritually fluent. Knowing how the spirit speaks to me as an individual. Teaching my children to listen to the spirit and follow its promptings. We teach this by letting them make decisions on their own and seeing the consequences, also by example and sharing our own stories of triumph.
- I UNDERSTAND: This is the principle of learning. Bringing what we have been taught in our minds (knowledge) and bringing it down into our hearts (understanding). This is when our learning becomes part of us, not just something we bring in and then forget. We teach this step by asking good questions, and teaching etymology and symbolism (combating Satan's plan).
- I ACT: This is the application principle. Now that I understand what I know, how will I make this part of my life? Faith is action. We teach this by giving them opportunities to share, teach and serve. Also, by encouraging them to write down their plans and keep them accountable to the things they ask to have help with.
- I BECOME: This is the new level, the celebration principle. At this step we are able to help others and share with them our success. At this level of achievement we often find rest. But not for long, we get bored and want to create again or find something that challenges us beyond. Thus, it becomes a spiral and we find ourselves again at step one, remembering who we are, listening to the spirit telling us what our next adventure, project, person, or challenge will be. Then we study, learn all we can about it and go to work, take action and once again arrive at a new level.
These principles allow us to find and follow the Lord's requirements. My oldest son, who said he would never teach with geometry, came to me a few days back and drew out a shape and began teaching me what he had learned about God through a few shapes. He testified of Christ and His role as the first-born son through simple shapes. My son had taken simple principles and used them to think, and think deeply. We know this by the Principle Effect, how a simple principle stemmed from doctrine, affects our life when we learn its many meanings and it leads us to righteous action. I testify that when we teach our children true principles, allow them to think on their own and to create what comes naturally and from God, they will become the men and women God wants them to be without having to have “cheats.”