What is your parenting style: Shepherd or Sheepherder? Jesus was the Good Shepherd. He marked the path and led the way! I believe He gave us a pattern. He gives us some clues about good or true shepherds in the scriptures.Read More
Originally published in the Sentinel on 6 June 2005...
I love timelines. Looking at timelines can broaden our perspective, help us see new relationships between events and give us a sense of order. Making a family timeline is a great family project. Here is one way:
Start by brainstorming events that have happened in your lifetime. On a piece of paper, list births, marriages, graduations, family vacations, moves, accidents, or dramatic events that have happened in your lifetime. (You may want to browse through your scrapbooks to help jog your memory!)
Take pieces of paper and tape them together horizontally. Draw a long black line through the middle. Determine your furthest date back in time, and start there. Decide how many years you want to cover, and mark the years proportionately. (JJ's timeline of his life so far was 8 pages, and he is only 8).
Write the events and where the event happened on your timeline in the appropriate year. Post your timeline, because you will remember more events. You will also find that some years were busier than others! This is your "Sloppy Copy" so don't worry if it gets a little messy, or if you have to add another piece of paper in the middle of your timeline.
Photos can be added to help highlight some of the events on your timeline.
After you have added all your events in the correct time and place - you can make your final copy.
We made a timeline of my husband's great-grandmother, highlighting the service she gave over the last century. We added when she was born, was married, and died, and also when she gave birth to all 13 children. We then added military service, marriages and births of children and grandchildren, etc.
For fun, we added a timeline of world events, church events, and famous inventions. The timeline was 44 feet long and covered a whole side of a room! (We also noted that the washing machine was not invented until her 13 children were out of diapers!) It was very fun to put life into perspective and see what a single family could accomplish in a century's time!
This week was our spring break and, in search of warmer weather and sunshine, we headed south to St. George. However, a cold front moved in just before we headed out. Although St. George found us in warmer weather than the 30 degree temperatures at home, it was still a little chilly compared to what we expected. The pool was closed but we had a grand time hiking and exploring in Zion’s National Park. Since we were so close, we decided to make the two hour drive to Las Vegas for the afternoon. I had researched all the fun and free things to do with kids there; aquariums, lions, white tigers, light and water shows, techtronics…It all sounded great! I had been to Las Vegas a handful of times growing up and always thought it was fun.
We spent hours walking the strip and looking for the amazing things on my list. Problem was, all the things to see were conveniently located in the middle of each casino. That meant wandering around through the smoky haze of one-armed bandits looking for the ‘kid-friendly’ attractions. Traveling down the strip on foot with five kids made the casinos that had something we were interested in seem very far apart. Still, I thought we were having an adventure. I remember being impressed that no one standing on the street with pamphlets and pornography had even once tried to hand any to us. I thought, “Look, they are being respectful of us because we are here as a family. See, Las Vegas can be enjoyed by families like us without worry.” I knew that some people thought that Vegas was a horrible place but I had always had fun there without drinking or gambling. Besides, our family had a technique we learned from the Duggars to help our boys avoid things they shouldn’t see. We had been doing this for a couple of years and the kids were pretty well conditioned. Upon approaching something that we thought they didn’t need to see, like a girl that was dressed immodestly or the windows of the Victoria Secret store in the mall, we would say “Nike”. That was code for the boys to look at their shoes until they were told the coast was clear. If we came across something in Vegas, we could use this technique to avoid it.
At one point in our search for those cool things to see, I looked down at the ground to maneuver the stroller over a curb and was sickened to realize that the pornographic pamphlets were littering the ground by the dozens. No one had to hand us any brochures because they knew that all we had to do was look down to see everything they had to offer. Oh, the cunningness of Satan! I was sickened to realize that, not only had I not protected my sons from temptation, I had paraded them straight through it! In the pursuit of pleasure and adventure, I had discounted the enticings of the devil as something that could be withstood and even overlooked. While this is an extreme example, I am afraid that there are other, more subtle ways in which the adversary successfully lulls us into a false sense of security when temptation and dangers are lurking. It is in the books and movies and tv shows and music and youtube videos and facebook postings and text messages. And, while we can’t shield our children from every evil and temptation in the world, I can be much more vigilant in standing firm and not falling to the tendency to overlook “just a few little things”.
We ended our spring break vacation with a trip to the St. George temple. My two oldest children were able to go in and be baptized and confirmed for the dead by their dad. How grateful I was for their worthiness and desire to be there! How much I want to do all I can to foster that desire and to fill up their lives with opportunities that invite the Spirit and grow their testimonies! That is so much more important than glitter and glitz and neon signs and empty pleasures. Satan may have walked away laughing that night in Las Vegas – I want to make sure he doesn’t get that chance again.
Just when I thought that this past General Conference of April 2013 could not possibly answer any more questions, encourage any more action, or offer any more peace, the closing song of the Sunday morning session put me in tears. As the Mormon Tabernacle Choir began to sing “Come, Come Ye Saints”[i] and my feet tingled with the bass on my stereo system, my heart tingled with the knowledge that this staple hymn was not written just to comfort the early Saints, pioneers virtuously walking out across the firm ground of the country, but also to comfort Saints today, pioneers standing firm in a country that’s walking out on virtue.
Weighed down as of late by wars and rumors of wars, escalating secularism and persecution of religious peoples, permeating immorality, and the increasing encroachment of government and erosion of liberty, I have counted the minutes until General Conference this year. While none of these burdens is a surprise, the load taken together is heavier than I anticipated when imagining the last days. I think, for me, the final stressful straw has been the threats to education.[ii] The battle for the hearts, minds, and wills of the youth is paramount. Surely there is anxiety over the fate of my homeschool which is sacred to me. But no longer is it just about MY children and MY parental rights, and OUR agency. It’s not even just about my grandchildren or great-children. The ignorance and apathy of many parents of my generation alarms me; the fate of ANY and ALL children being left to (or forced to) anyone who intends to brainwash, dumb down, use, and in truth harm them should alarm us all. It should not set us to hand wringing and helpless weeping. It should send us to our knees, then to practical action. This is one of the many messages I took from Conference. Amidst all the wisdom, prophecy, and counsel, I learned a bit about how to be a faithful lover AND a fighter.
Will it be easy? Of course not. Absolutely not. But just as our pioneer ancestors had their part to play in building the kingdom of God, so have we. They didn’t sit, nor should we. And on those girding[iii] days when the hill is high, the journey is long, and the burden is heavy, we can “fresh courage take” with these words:
Come, come ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
“Tis better far for us to strive
Our useless cares from us to drive;
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell—
All is well! All is well!
Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
‘Tis not so; all is right.
Why should we think to earn a great reward
If we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take.
Our God will never us forsake;
And soon we’ll have this tale to tell—
All is well! All is well
[i] LDS Hymn #30, “Come, Come Ye Saints,” by William Clayton, 1814-1879
I am often awed by the rich poetic truths found throughout the hymns in expressions of very few words. Half a line carefully articulated has stopped me mid-melody to consider and reflect. Just as an entire sermon can be given on one verse of scripture, a complete thematic unit can be created from one phrase of hymn.
This year one of the phrases that’s caught my attention in the Christmas carols is, “Let every heart prepare Him room,” from Handel’s “Joy to the World.” I wanted to spend some time with my children focused on this choice of words and tactilely explore all that it could mean to us. I thought I’d share what we did in the event that you could use a “new” Christmas lesson at your house.
We read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett. We also watched a few different film adaptations of Dickens’ novel.
We sang “Joy to the World.”
We made Heart Maps.
I handed each child a copy of “Opening Our Hearts” by Elder Gerald N. Lund and asked them if they knew what the Heart Maps and this talk had to do with “Joy to the World.” We then read through the talk together.
I wrote the phrase, “Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room” on a whiteboard and we dissected, discussed, and diagrammed each word individually. My kids supplied the ideas, and I include them here just for clarity of the lesson.
- Let – invitation; to not keep from doing; agency/free will
- Every – everyone; all; each; all that there could be—the Gospel and Atonement for all collectively and personally and individually
- Heart – the main or most important part; symbol of mind and will of men; strength and courage; tender, guarded place; can change
- Prepare – make or get ready; for a visitor, clean house—for Christ clean self; purify
- Him – Jesus Christ
- Room – space; place to live; with Christ “moving in” we don’t lose square footage but gain it—our hearts are enlarged to include others when we make room for Him
Then for each word, we also found sentences or paragraphs within Elder Lund’s talk that corresponded to our ideas.
We discussed other ideas found within the talk. We especially talked about Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart.” Using a bag of roasted pistachios, we talked about what it means to have a “broken heart.” Just as a pistachio that is sealed tight cannot be accessed, so is a heart that has no “cracks” in it for the Lord to penetrate. You cannot find the pistachio goodness inside if the shell is not pliable, nor can anyone find the goodness in your heart if it’s unbroken. Preparing room for the Lord means having a way He can enter.
We talked more of preparation. Elder Lund’s talk is about being open to the Spirit; we can’t make room for Jesus if we don’t have the Spirit. Referencing the Parable of the Sower, and faith being a seed, we discussed preparing our hearts like we would soil with labor and nutrients.
When Brother Lund began speaking of those whose hearts are set upon the things of the world, I was delighted that my children readily recognized Scrooge and that segued into a writing assignment I’d prepared with the following quotes and questions.
CHRISTMAS PAST: “’There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,’ returned the nephew. ‘Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the rave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!’”
*What good have you derived from Christmases past, and how has it reflected on Christmas’s namesake?
CHRISTMAS PRESENT: “’Business!’ cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. ‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!’. . .
. . .‘At this time of the rolling year,’ the spectre said, ‘I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!’”
*What can you do now to change how you see and treat other people?
CHRISTMAS YET TO COME: “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
How can you honor Christmas in your heart and keep it all the year in years yet to come?
We looked over our Heart Maps to see if everyone had already included Jesus. Then we copied Matthew 6:21 on the backs of the maps.
While listening to Michael McLean’s “The Innkeeper (Let Him In)” from The Forgotten Carols, we made personally meaningful collages by cutting and pasting Christmas cards around Neal A. Maxwell’s quote, “Each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus.”
Finally, each child chose their favorite artist’s rendition of Christ knocking at the door. Under a printout, they copied Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with me.”
All these pages were then bound together in a homemade book to be cherished every Christmas!
Advent is simply defined as “the period leading up to Christmas in the Christian church’s year.”[i] It is a time of preparation and anticipation. This Advent season I have marveled at the enormous peace I have felt inside myself. It’s odd; national and world events and turmoil, personal tasks and to-do lists, recklessly giddy children, and even reason seem to defy the possibility of any inner peace. Yet, it’s been my companion these days, so prevalent it’s tangible. I’ve decided it is Advent itself, with the lights, music, and hearts turned toward Christ that is stilling my soul. As I prepare and anticipate the beloved celebration of His first coming, I’m keenly aware that we are also in the Advent of His Second Coming, but it somehow provides a sustaining serenity.
“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” has forever been a song I’ve loved to hear, even before I really knew what it was about. I’ve always at least understood the longing in it. I’ve wondered about the people living the thousands of years before Christ’s birth, being taught that the Savior, Emmanuel, would one day come to deliver them from sin and death. How did they look forward to that? Now, knowing that He was here, that He came as foretold, but living in these current times that were also foretold, I understand that longing and the hope and expectancy.
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
Probably the oldest carol still sung today, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is also probably the only true Advent carol. All other Christmas carols detail the actual event of Christ’s birth, or express the joy and rejoicing of what the event means for us. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is the only one singing of the anticipation, of prophecy and waiting for fulfillment. Originating as one of the “Great Antiphons,” it was written by a monk or priest before 800 A.D. and sung in Latin during Advent vespers, one verse per day being sung or chanted during the last seven days before Christmas. (To get a taste of what that was like then, watch this video of Mannheim Steamroller’s “Veni, Veni” put to pictures of Catholic cathedrals and monasteries.)
About a thousand years later a remarkable man by the name of John Mason Neale translated the chant into English. Neale was a brilliant Anglican priest who could speak and write more than twenty languages, yet his intelligence and insight was feared because he was a free thinker. He was sent away to the coast of Africa where it was thought he could do no harm to the church. So instead of having a pastorate in London as planned, but instead of giving up on what he perceived as his calling, he made a radical move and established the Sisterhood of St. Margaret, an orphanage, a school for girls, and a house of refuge for prostitutes. (He is also the English translator of “Good Christian Men, Rejoice” and the author of “Good King Wenceslas.”) His translation of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” was a great gift to the people of the Dark Ages, most of who could not read nor have access to the Bible, because it was a rare example of how the Old and New Testaments came together in the birth and life of Jesus.[ii] (See Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:22-23)
Because of Advent, Christmas is a season, not just a day. I’m thankful for that because I need all the peace and focus on Christ I can get. I’ve always tried to use this time to teach my children even more of Christ and how to emulate Him, and there are many ways to do that. However, this year I decided to let the children teach us. I determined three things to ponder this Advent season and posed these questions to some homeschooled children. Here are the questions and answers.
In Matthew 16:15 Jesus asks Peter, “Whom say ye that I am?” How would you answer that question? Who is Jesus to you?
Eliza L., 6, North Logan, Utah: “My King. My Savior.”
Emily A., 8, Paradise, Utah: “I would tell Him He’s Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Jonny G., 7, Providence, Utah: “The Lord of the whole world. My Lord.”
Matthew G., 13, Providence, Utah: “The person I look up to.”
McKenna B., 9, Petersboro, Utah: “He is a loving, compassionate person who brings me a lot of comfort, especially at night.”
Brent L., 10, North Logan, Utah: “The living God and the Savior of all men.”
Tabitha M., 9, of Logan, Utah: “Jesus to me is the person who made it so that we could come to earth and be together with our families forever, so we could love one another, and He set the example for us.”
Ptolemy T., 17, Nibley, Utah: “He is the Light of the World. The true and living God. Our older brother. The most caring person in the world.”
Rachel H., 6, North Logan, Utah: “He is the Savior. If He came down right now, I could tell it was Him by the holes in His hands and feet.”
Psadi T., 8, Nibley, Utah: “He is loving and kind.”
Matthew B., 15, Redmond, Washington: “A brother who cares for me and will do whatever it takes for me to return to our Father in Heaven.”
Sam A., 11, Paradise, Utah: “The King. The person who gave life to everyone. Someone who didn’t sin and someone I’d want to be around.”
Christopher B., 14, Redmond, Washington: “The one sent by God to guide His children and help them along the way.”
Ptallan T., 10, of Nibley, Utah: “My Savior. He’s my hero!”
Cordelia L., 2, North Logan, Utah: “Baby.”
How can you come to know Jesus and be more like Him?
Joshua G., 10, Providence, Utah: “Read the Book of Mormon.”
McKenna B.: “’I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus’ is my favorite song. When I serve others I become like Jesus.”
Brent L.: “Follow His commandments.”
Christopher B.: “Read the scriptures and act on it.”
Adria M., 11, Logan Utah: “[By] singing Primary songs, reading the scriptures, and going to church.”
Eliza L.,: “By loving one another. And try to do things very nice to people.”
Psadi T.: “Follow His teachings.”
Sam A.: “I can take a deep breath every time I get angry. I can learn about Him and get a good education.”
Ptolian T., 15, Nibley, Utah: “Learn about Him and act like He did.”
Matthew G.,: “Pray.”
Ptolemy T.: “Care for other people. Love others no matter what they do or say. Choose to always do what’s right.”
Tabitha M.: “We can go to church and help and love one another.”
Rachel H.: “By listening, by reading the scriptures, by loving one another and not hurting others. And get married in the temple.”
Evelyn L., 4, North Logan, Utah: “Like loving one another and like cleaning up.”
Jonny G.: “Follow His example.”
What are you looking forward to most about Jesus Christ’s Second Coming?
Ptobias T. 12, Nibley, Utah: “I am looking forward to finally meeting Him in person.”
Julia F., 8, Nibley, Utah: “…when He comes again, lions are going to be friends with lambs. That He can tell me things, that He was resurrected and stuff.”
Emily A., 8, Paradise, Utah: “I’m looking forward to seeing if I was good enough to go to the Celestial Kingdom with my family. I want my family there, too.”
Brent L.: “That there will be peace on the entire earth.”
Madison B., 7, of Petersboro, Utah: “I want to be resurrected and twinkled.”
Eliza L.: “Seeing Him and knowing how He feels. And what His voice would be like.”
Matthew B.: “The ability to look upon the face of our Redeemer and for the resurrection of the dead.”
Ptallan T.: “Looking at Him and to let Him know I like Him, and seeing my dog, Shire, and bunny, Oreo.”
McKenna B.: “So we can build the New Jerusalem. I want Him to be our leader...”
Jessica B., 12, Redmond, Washington: “I’m looking forward to a world at peace and to never have fighting, and I also want to see Him.”
Ben A., 9, Paradise, Utah: “I want to meet Him and see all my ancestors.”
Jonny G.: “Everybody on the whole earth will be good and obey the law.”
Evelyn L.: “Jesus. Loving. Because Jesus wants to come here because He loves us.”
Ptolemy T.: “Being able to finally see Christ face to face and to get a hug from Him.”
Emmanuel, or Immanuel, means God with Us. How fitting that the name describes what people hoped for centuries ago, and what we look for now. In this Advent season, as you anticipate the celebration of Emmanuel, gather your children to study the prophecies and fulfillments and to draw near to Him; contemplate who He is, ponder what He did and does, and consider His return. Keep in mind John Neale, who though persecuted for his goodness even from within his own church, never gave up on the stirrings within. Remember that “there is peace in righteous doing” and do it.[iii]
Finally, a perfect addition to Advent is this perfect rendition and depiction of God with us.
[i] Scholastic Children’s Dictionary
[ii]Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas by Ace Collins, pp. 126-131
[iii] LDS Hymn 239 “Choose the Right”
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.
In January my sister and her husband heard an ultrasound technician announce that they would soon be the parents of twins, a boy and a girl. Tragically, their joy soon turned to anxiety and fear as the ultrasound revealed that their little boy had a severe birth defect. A defect in his diaphragm had allowed all his abdominal organs to move into his chest cavity. The initial prognosis was bleak. Their family started doing everything they could to prepare for his coming, and the rest of us started to fast and pray. My youngest daughter, Aneya, is 6 years old. When we told her we would be having a family fast for her cousin, she said she wanted to join. Our family prayed for him every day and when fast Sunday came, all of our children fasted on his behalf. After four long months of fasting and prayer, Samuel and Clare were delivered at Children’s hospital. They were good size for twins and as healthy as they could be, except for Samuel’s life threating birth defect. He was rushed to the NICU where they were able to stabilize him and prepare him for his surgery five days later.
Three weeks after his successful surgery, our children were able to visit him for the first time in the NICU. What really struck me during that visit was Aneya. She’s never been much for babies, maybe it’s being a youngest child, but they’ve never really interested her. Now she couldn’t get enough of her new cousins Clare and Samuel. She spent hours holding Clare and it was a tender moment as she gently stroked Samuel’s head and held his tiny hand in his incubator. As I reflected on the change in her attitude I realized the answer was simple - we love those we pray for.
I know that prayer is not an activity reserved for homeschoolers, but I truly feel that having the time to emphasize prayer and family is a great blessing that we often overlook. I’ve made the 5 hour trip to visit my sister and her babies three times in the last month, the freedom to end our school year a little early allowed me to do that. I have a friend who told me that the high school tried to fine her daughter for missing too many days of school when she went for a week to help her sister with a new baby. When we place more emphasis on academics than family, what are we teaching our children?
The ills of our society, from low test scores, to crime and poverty are all rooted in the weakening of families. Our prophets have told us that. Until we take the time to be with our families, to pray for them and with them, aren’t we ignoring the heeding to strengthen the family? Home schooling gives us the time to teach more than just reading, writing and arithmetic, it allows us to teach our children the lessons of the heart.