Be a More Inspiring Teacher

by Sue Otis

Originally published in September of 2006 under the LDS-NHA Quarterly Bulletin

Your task is not just an education. It is a religious education.

As you homeschool, you have the privilege of combining secular and spiritual education within your home. Secular education under the umbrella of the Priesthood will assist your children in coming unto Christ while advancing academically. The Spirit must be present to do this. Your task is not just an education. It is a religious education. It is an education that will allow your child to be academically advanced due to the influence of the Holy Ghost. It is the most exciting and wonderful adventure you can share with your child. What you are teaching is for eternity. You will be building an eternal relationship as you build up your child academically and spiritually. President David O. McKay taught, "After all, the technical learning is secondary, if we keep in mind the ultimate aim of the work. We must never lose sight of that. It is the Spirit which teaches the spirit." (Gospel Ideals, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1953, pg. 219).

The Lord describes effective teaching as teaching that edifies (see Doctrine and Covenants 50:21-22). To edify means to build up spiritually or to bring one closer to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. (Teaching the Gospel, A Handbook, Church Educational System, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, p. 2). All that you will do as you homeschool should work to edify. This will encourage your child to follow Christ with perfect commitment.

The 1st principle of edification tells us that each of us kept our first estate and has a divine nature and individual worth. Doctrine and Covenants 18:10 reminds us that the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; while Abraham 3:26 reminds us, "And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever." The worth of your and your child's soul is the reason behind all of God's work on the earth. It is important to remember it as the reason behind what you do as a homeschooling parent. As you strive to emulate your Savior, you will support the worth of your child. Education under the Spirit will edify all involved.

Learning by the Spirit

These times of learning by the Spirit will allow both you and your child to use your moral agency in choosing the right, thus feeling the Spirit's influence. Moral agency is the opportunity to choose between good and evil according to one's desires, and is the 2nd principle of edification. The Lord will let us use this gift of agency even though it may be used to choose incorrectly; that is why the Spirit is so important during these learning times. You must have the Spirit present so that your child will know how to choose. As the Holy Ghost inspires you as a parent and teacher you willincrease your child's opportunity to make correct choices, increasing your ability to bring your child unto Christ. Your child's conditions in this life and his eternal happiness and progress will be impacted by your positive choices.

Remember, you set the example within your home of how our agency should be used. Be inspiring! Be excited as you learn together through the Spirit. Share the blessings that come through your righteous choices. During your learning time be positive, give encouragement, keep your voice gentle and calm, and build on current successes for future success. Help your child remember times when he felt the Spirit during his learning. Ask him to help you to repeat that success. As you encourage him you will help him to accept responsibility for having done a task, to develop a sense of accomplishment, and most importantly to know what the Spirit feels like in his life.

President Hinckley said "…I thought of what a great challenge this is for you to teach in such a way as to not only instruct but, more importantly, to inspire." ("A Challenging Time-A Wonderful Time, An Evening with President Gordon B. Hinckley," February 7, 2003, 1, quoted in "Instruct, But More Importantly, Inspire," by Steven T. Linford, Religious Educator, Vol. 6, No.3, 2005). The outcome of your teaching must be to inspire with spiritual power; thus you will help instill the gospel into the heart and life of your child. As you do this, your child will be edified by the light and truth of the gospel. Thus he will feel an increased desire and motivation to choose the right. Paul V. Johnson, while administrator of Religious Education for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, stated, "I really believe living the gospel is the single most important thing you can do to improve your teaching. It makes it possible to have the Spirit with you in your life as you prepare and teach your lessons and as you interact with your students. There is no substitute for the Spirit." (Paul V. Johnson, CES address to new hires, May 15, 2002 as quoted in "Instruct, But More Importantly, Inspire," by Steven T. Linford, Religious Educator, Vol. 6, No. 3, 2005)

This is an awesome and overwhelming responsibility, but the Lord promises in Doctrine and Covenants 50:22, "Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together." As you purify your motives and desires and come unto Christ, you will be edified to be a parent-teacher who edifies.

Trust is the 3rd principle of edification. One of the great assets you have in being your child's teacher is the relationship of trust that already exists. You can use this relationship to help your child trust in the Lord. Proverbs 3:5 asks us to learn to trust in the Lord with all our heart; and lean not unto our own understanding. As you display attributes of godliness and trust in the Lord, and your child sees you do that, he will learn to also trust the Lord. It will be important that you and your child form a relationship as learners-both learning from the Lord as you study together.

We need to be sure we don't get in the way of our child learning to trust the Lord. Bryce Dunford advises,” The Lord has declared that edification requires more than an inspired teacher. Students must receive `the word of truth…by the Spirit of truth' or else `it is not of God' (D & C 50:19-20). This process requires that children do more than just listen, even to a Spirit-filled instructor! Children must be given opportunities to receive learning by the Spirit of truth and should be taught how to do so. He tells us that truth is more readily learned when it is sought, and that truth is often more appreciated when it is discovered ("Hey, Teacher, You're in the Way" by Bryce Dunford, The Religious Educator, Vol. 6, No.3, 2005, pages 73-78). Be excited as you learn by the Spirit and share your excitement with your child. He will catch this excitement and want to learn by the Spirit and will be motivated to seek learning. Expect to learn from your child every day as they share what he has learned by the Spirit [AO1].

The 4th principle of edification is participation. As your child participates fully in his own learning, he will be rewarded with increased growth and development. Questions can create opportunities for your child to discover, to participate, and to reach greater depths of understanding. Discussions can be tools to inspire our children to inquiry. "The role of a teacher is much like an orchestra conductor who is there to keep order and give general direction and instruction. An orchestra conductor, however, does not produce the music. Your questions are the framework of the music of inspiration. Elder Richard G. Scott has taught, `Participation weaves the gospel into [the students'] very character.' Thus, the teacher's dominance decreases and the students' speaking, sharing and learning increases." (Richard G. Scott, CES satellite training broadcast, August 10, 2003 in Alan R., Maynes, "Creating Questions That Invite Revelation," The Religious Educator, pp. 31-41, Vol. 6, No. 3, 2005)

Live the gospel

Living the gospel requires diligence and commitment; so does participation. Each baby is born with these divine attributes. As your child holds tight to these attributes, he will be involving his heart, might, mind, and strength in all that he does and will be drawn unto Christ. This is the ultimate goal of all education, for then knowledge can truly "rain from heaven." President James E. Faust quoted Paul Harvey after he visited BYU as saying, "Each…young face mirrored a sort of …sublime assurance. These days many young eyes are prematurely old from countless compromises with conscience. But (these young people) have that enviable head start which derives from discipline, dedication, and consecration." (James E. Faust, "The Light in Their Eyes," Ensign, Nov. 2005, p. 20). You are giving your child a head start spiritually and educationally, and it will show in his countenance (see Alma 5).

The 5th principle of edification is the need to keep our eye single to the glory of God (see Doctrine and Covenants 88:67-68). As we sanctify ourselves, our minds achieve that singleness of purpose and direction. Each experience in learning and living the gospel should strengthen our yearnings to accept God, give glory and honor to Him, and to move further away from worldliness, selfishness, and sin. Our Savior showed us this example as He constantly gave glory to His Heavenly Father both in the pre-existence and during his earthly mission. He taught that as we gain in power and ability, so too must we gain in meekness and obedience.

Help your children to gain in meekness and the desire to use their learning for the glory of God and in His service as the Savior taught. Allow them ways to serve using their new knowledge and experience. As they share new knowledge at Family Home Evening, make that experience more of a teaching opportunity than a performance or competition. This is a fine line but a very important one. Allow them ways to visit the sick and the widows to share their new knowledge. Let them serve their younger brothers and sisters. Set that example constantly in your home by teaching and serving with meekness, not with performance or pride.

The 6th principle of edification is that if we are one as a family, we are God's. John 17:17-23 teaches unity. Verse 19 is especially instructive to parents for we too must sanctify ourselves so that our children may see that example and be sanctified through truth. As you are one within your family then you will be one with the Father and His Son. The Savior reminds us, "If ye are not one ye are not mine" (Doctrine and Covenants 38:27). As you live gospel principles you will encourage this unity within your home and open the gates to heaven for your child's learning and coming unto Christ. This is one of the great blessings of homeschooling. As you live these principles you will encourage your children to love the Lord and to try to be like Him.

One of the most important aspects of edification is vision: having an eternal, spiritual perspective. It is the 7th principle. Children have this perspective naturally. We just have to make sure they don't lose it as they grow. A major effect of the influence of the Holy Spirit is increased vision or seeing things more as God does. Between the years of 3-8, before baptism, your child will be watching your interaction with the Holy Ghost. As you share the influence of the Holy Ghost in your life, you will keep this eternal vision alive in your child and prepare him for baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost.

We are warned that, "If the principles of edification are violated by either teacher or student, the Spirit will be grieved and religious education, or gospel learning, will be lessened-perhaps even stopped altogether" (Teaching the Gospel-a Handbook, Church Educational System, 1994, p. 3).

Never doubt the power of the influence your example is making on your child. Your excitement for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and for learning will be a powerful one for good. As you live these principles of edification, your influence will increase the influence of the Holy Ghost on your child.

Let's review briefly the principles of edification I've discussed.

  1. Your child successfully kept their first estate and has individual worth and divine nature. Your child came to earth with commitment and diligence.
  2. Your child has been given moral agency and the ability to choose good from evil.
  3. Trust develops within members of a family when they acquire attributes of godliness.
  4. Your child will grow as they participate and this growth requires effort, diligence, and commitment.
  5. As your child maintains the Spirit, his vision is increased, and he has a greater desire and determination to become more like God.
  6. If we are not one as a family, we are not God's.
  7. As we are sanctified within our family our "minds will become single to God."

These principles of edification lay the groundwork for all you will do. Review them often to make certain you have not gone astray in your anxiousness to teach. True teaching and learning must be built upon these principles or they will not teach. Each of these principles constantly requires our very best efforts and will be rewarded with the blessings of a loving God.

About the Author

After a senior mission with her husband, Roger, and having been involved in LDS based private education for 20 years, Sue has recently made the switch to homeschooling for her grandchildren. She is the mother of 6 and looks forward to sharing her love of learning and of the gospel with 6 precious grandchildren. Sue is now writing curriculum for homeschoolers based on her years of teaching. She is the author of LINK System of Interpersonal Communication, The Learning Books and Reach for Gospel Phonics and plans many other materials. She is excited to now be involved with LDS homeschooling families.