As I sat in on the Young Men President’s introduction to the new Duty to God program a few weeks ago, I was stuck by two things - how well this program trains the young men to be ready to use the “Preach My Gospel” program when they are missionaries, but also how well the new model for the program will and should be working for us in our home schools.
The greatest changes to the program are the Learn, Act, and Share. The young man is instructed to learn about a topic and then set goals that will help him make what he has studied a part of his life. The goals are personal and can be big or small as the young man chooses. After setting the goals the young man then acts by working to accomplish the goals he has set. Once he has set and accomplished the goals he is asked to share his experiences with his quorum, friends or his parents. This is a form of return and report and, as the manual says, will strengthen his testimony of what he is learning and will strengthen the testimonies of those he shares with. This will help the young man share personal experiences with those he teaches not only on his mission, but throughout his life. The gospel teaching becomes personal, not just academic.
I was struck by how this is the model we need to follow in our homeschools. This is the next step in our search for excellence and a Zion education for our children.
When we use the public school as our measuring stick of how our homeschools should run, it is easy to get overwhelmed and frustrated that we cannot accomplish all that is required in the 12 years allotted to us. There is so much! But when we take the time to break it down to what we really want our children to be when they graduate from our homeschools, for many of us academics is not at the top of the list. At the same time we want our children to ready for college or whatever their life’s mission has in store for them.
How can we use the model of the new Duty to God program to help us? First, we prayerfully consider what our goals are for each of our children for the coming year. What are their weakness and strengthens? What do we think are the most important things to be done in the coming year? What can we do to help them develop their talents and abilities? Do they need help in certain areas either temporally or spiritually? We need to choose only a few- too many and it will be overwhelming and discouraging for both us and our children.
One of the ways that our family does this is with school blessings at the start of the school year. Then I meet with each of my children and we talk about the things Heavenly Father thinks they should focus on and encourage them to find ways to work on those things.
After we have those areas of focus, then we help them set goals that help get them where we want them to be. When our children have input into their goals, then they own them and are more willing to accomplish them.
As they work at achieving their goals we have them report their progress to us, not to brow beat them but to encourage and redirect as necessary. As they study throughout the year we can have them report at FHE, for example, or at the dinner table, the things they have studied that interested them most or gave them the most trouble before they finally conquered it. This will help them see they are actually accomplishing and learning right through the year.
My family has used the return and report idea in several ways. At dinner the kids like to tell their dad the things they did that day for school or something they learned they think is cool. That can lead to some interesting discussions and debates! Another thing we like to do is have a game night where we play a Trivia game with questions from the science or history unit we have just completed. I have had my elementary aged kids give their older siblings a run for their money! We also like to do history nights where we have food from the country or time in history we have studied. Then we have displays or plays or whatever the kids come up with to round out the evening.
One of my kid’s favorites is our monthly talent night. Sometimes this bombs, but more often than not it is a great way for my kids to show off. They can play a song they are learning, showcase art work, recite a poem, tell a joke, or perform a skit- it doesn’t matter. Everyone has to do something, even mom and dad. Sometimes they combine their efforts and can come up with some really fun stuff. Since my kids are musically inclined the evening usually ends with a sing-a-long, building memories and strengthening family ties.
I am always amazed at the development of the new programs in the church. They are moving us step by step toward our Savior and our Heavenly Father. I believe we can do the same things this program teaches with our families and our homeschools as we work to perfect a Zion education.
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