Like many homeschooling mothers, at the beginning of my journey I had some very lofty ideas. And while my children were very young and I had much more energy than I do now, my ideals became ever loftier.
Whenever I faced a setback to reaching my illustrious goals, I just dusted myself off and started fresh with even grander and more splendiforous curriculum ideas, implementations and, er, even crafts.
More than anything, I wanted to be able to make the gospel the center of my homeschool curriculum.
In the beginning, I used church manuals. I looked up the lesson schedule for my children and made sure they studied their Primary lessons ahead of time, and I would incorporate the lesson themes into our daily devotionals and family home evenings. I still like this idea.
Then, I decided that while doing that for devotional and free time was great, I wanted the entire curriculum to be gospel centered. Because all learning should be seen through the light of the gospel, that’s what I wanted for my children. So, my next step was to buy many LDS curricula.
I also tried to find blogs and websites for free helps for LDS homeschoolers. There are quite a number of lovely, generous people offering many wonderful things for homeschoolers who wanted the gospel as part of their curriculum for which I am very, very thankful. We currently use many of those resources.
But, somehow, no matter what curriculum I tried, no matter how many resources I used–I felt like I wasn’t quite reaching my children.
Sure, they had lots of scriptures memorized (which was good), they knew a lot of gospel facts (which was good), and they knew most, if not all, of the stories from the scriptures (even obscure ones). They were also, for the most part, good children (which was good).
No matter how good it was, I still felt like something huge was lacking. I also found that my family was spending a lot of time on acquiring gospel knowledge (which was good), and much less time on math and reading books other than the scriptures. I missed the great works of literature that helped me see the gospel applied in life situations.
I realized that these LDS curricula and online resources were great as a springboard (and sometimes as an actual “curriculum”) for my little ones (ages 0-7), but once they hit age seven, things started to feel…incomplete.
What was it?
I was trying so hard, and everyone at church thought my kids were really spiritual and very knowledgeable.
As I thought about it, I often found myself going back to how the Savior taught.
Was I teaching the way He did? Did I even understand how He taught?
Well, I had the zeal to teach as He did, but I really didn’t have a working knowledge of how He taught.
And, was I teaching children who would be called on to leave their temporal vocations to preach the gospel 100% of the time as apostles?
Well, no. My children would more than likely be required to provide for their family through some sort of occupation or labor, at least for the majority of their lives. Was this education preparing them for that eventuality?
Finally, while I knew they were gaining testimonies, were they being converted?
I didn’t know. And that was the entire reason why I wanted to have a gospel-centered curriculum.
To have them be converted.
I just didn’t know how to actually realize it. I couldn’t understand. I would look at all these LDS curricula and ideas and just think, “Wow!” or “Awesome!” and “This is going to work!”
I thought they were great–and they were–but they were doomed to ultimate mediocrity if employed in our home as an entire solution for a gospel based curriculum, because there was a foundational problem with all of them.
The problem was that they were employing Greek methods. And that is why it always felt somewhat incomplete to me.
In my quest for answers to this huge dilemma, I found an article about the Hebraic teaching model. And it was then that I realized that no LDS scripture/gospel based curriculum alone would work for our family because they were all based on the Greek model of teaching–and that was not how the Savior taught!
Sure, LDS based curricula could teach character traits, facts, scriptures and memorizing proclamations, but that alone wouldn’t necessarily change their souls. Sure, they would know all the scripture stories and how God created the earth–but would they be etched in the stony tables of the heart?
In comparing the differences between the Hebraic and Greek learning models I realized that what I wanted was to teach my children to be something, not just try to pour knowledge into their heads.
Something to think about:
The understanding of these conflicting educational systems is important in determining a Biblical perspective of education. Methodology is NOT neutral. Our philosophy will dictate our methodology. Our methodology will affect our outcome. We need to develop a culture and educational methodology that distinctively reflects our love for God.
The Greek model of education shapes our modern American educational theories. Greek education focused on content. Hebrew education focused on relationship. Greek teachers tried to shape students’ minds. Hebrew teachers tried to shape students’ hearts. Greek students were to learn what their teacher knew. Hebrew students were to become what their teacher was. The notion that one can merely teach the mind and body of a child without involving the heart and soul is the method of the Greeks.
I love that thought, although it puts a lot more pressure on me. I am supposed to be what I want my children to become. That’s tough. It’s a lot easier just do some handouts and an object lesson with a tie-in craft than to attempt to be what I am teaching.
Actually, that thought is terrifying. I realized that I wanted the LDS based curricula because I needed a crutch. In my heart of hearts, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to make the sacrifices required to teach as Christ did.
Because I realized that to teach as Christ, I would have to have more faith in my children’s abilities to find the truth for themselves, and that I would have to become more concerned with living truths than spouting truths. (By the way, I am a great spouter!)
I have come to realize that it is very good to teach scriptures stories, examples of good deeds, that math is part of the way God counts things, that God created the earth, etcetera, but it is not a whole curriculum.
This is only half of what we need to do to have a gospel centered curriculum.
The other half is not done by spending more time trying to pour that knowledge into our children’s heads and inundate them with gospel facts, crafts, object lessons, our take on the scriptures, or creationist theory, or how math relates to the Old Testament, or even our testimonies alone.
No, having the gospel as the center of your curriculum is not about the curriculum.
It is about having the gospel at the center of your life, your soul, your heart.
If the children are reading their scriptures on their own, memorizing verses on their own, praying on their own, meditating on their own, the truths of the gospel will leap out at them throughout all of their studies without you interfering at all in that part of the process.
It’s the parable of the Ten Virgins in all its truth. No matter how much you want to, you can’t pour it into them.
Of course, this does not mean that you don’t teach anything!
But, the key is to teach as the Savior taught–in the way with them. While they are working, playing, asking a question about butterflies–that is when you can testify of what you know is of God. This is where you can pull out the scriptures and apply them to daily living.
If they have a question about an algebra problem, you can pray about it together, and then discuss how wonderful it is that God has enlightened us with this knowledge of how to count things. And if you can do it in as few words as possible, so much the better.
In fact, the curriculum you choose does not always need to be full of gospel commentary–sometimes this can even become an impediment.
The Spirit will give your children all the commentary they need in a way they will best understand. Trust Him.
As long as the curriculum is not anti-Christ, the truths will be lit up for your children as they study by the Holy Ghost.
If we teach the Savior’s way, we can quickly see that in teaching any discipline or field, there are scriptures we can share that will aid the student, and testimony of principles we can add as we discussed what they have learned that day.
From the new “Come, Follow Me” guidebook:
One of the best ways to invite the Spirit is to engage the youth in discussing the scriptures and the most recent teachings from living prophets.
Often the youth have their own spiritual experiences and insights to share. They can do this in family home evening, in classes or quorum meetings, in Mutual activities, as guests in Primary, or in many other formal and informal settings. When they share their testimonies with each other, the Spirit bears witness, and all are edified.
We long ago implemented this in our daily curriculum. When we learn or read any of our lessons, there is time every day to discuss what we have learned, and how it can relate to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We also have time to discuss what insights the students have had spiritually while studying.
There is not a day that goes by that there is not at least ONE spiritual insight the student has discovered–on his or her own–with no prodding or preaching from me. I am just giving the environment in which to feel that Spirit and teaching them the gospel principles during our daily devotionals in the morning and evening.
Oh, yes, and trying to live what I want them to be. Which is not always a success, but somehow the Lord’s grace makes up for my lack.
What does this mean in our day to day homeschooling?
- We do have a daily devotional and read scriptures and sing songs.
- The little children are often taught gospel stories, character traits, little facts about the scriptures, etc. Often it is by older siblings as part of things that just happen during the day which would relate to a gospel story.
- Sometimes as a family at Family Home Evening, we will read a chapter of scriptures and then I will ask questions to the kids, quiz game style, just for fun.
- We do worksheets, copywork, reports, writing assignments, draw maps, study vocabulary from the scriptures and much more, mostly for fun.
- We have a reading list that contains works from LDS authors and the prophets and apostles from which the children read regularly.
- The children are often seen perusing the college textbooks for the standard works in their free time.
But, we understand that this is only half of the gospel centered curriculum.
The other half manifests itself in the way with my children:
- My three year old had a bad habit of saying the word “stupid.” He and I took time to talk about some scriptures about the power of words, and then we prayed together and sang “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus”
- My 15 and a half year old could not get a math concept over the course of several days. We looked up scriptures about knowledge, and words from the prophets about education, and then prayed deeply about it. He did all he could to teach himself the concept, and implemented some of the methods taught by Dr. Robinson. After another day, he was able to understand it. He shared with me how he felt a light of revelation as he finally “figured it out” with heavenly help and a lot of hard work
- My 12 year old wanted to write a story about fairies. We talked about morality and how important it is to make sure we create things that are ultimately inspiring. She looked up some scriptures about virtues so that her fairies could have virtues.
- We were discussing history and how most great leaders have a weakness that proves their downfall. Immediately, the kids got out the Book of Mormon and compared these historical figures to people like Amalikiah and Teancum.
- When reading great literature, there are ample opportunities to talk about gospel principles. We just read “A Tale of Two Cities,” and the conversations and the spirit attending those were incredible. I am currently reading “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin” and can’t wait to discuss it with my daughter who has already read it, bathed in the light of the gospel.
A truly gospel centered curriculum can only happen when the gospel is the center of our hearts.
And you can’t buy it or borrow it from the library.
Also please note that this does not happen for us every single day. Some days are just epic failures and have to be forgiven, and we have to go forward with faith. Some days are just bad. But, that happens. 🙂
Here are some other resources that may help you in your journey to put the gospel at the center of your homeschool:
- Come, Follow Me: The New LDS Youth Curriculum
- Teaching The Savior’s Way
- Teaching the Doctrine of the Family, Julie Beck, Seminaries and Institutes of Religion Satellite Broadcast, August 2009
- Raising Expectations by Elder Henry B. Eyring, CES Satellite Training Broadcast
- Seek Learning By Faith, Elder Bednar address to CES educators
- A Disciple Preparation Center, Elder Bednar, BYU Devotional, August 2004
- Education for Real Life, Henry B. Eyring, CES Fireside
- We Must Raise Our Sights, Henry B. Eyring
- Feb 2010 President Eyring Speaks About Teaching With The Spirit, LDS Church News (if someone can find the transcript, that would be even better!)
- Worldwide Leadership Training: Teaching and Learning
- Teach One Another Words of Wisdom: Selections from The Religious Educator (you can subscribe to this via mail, too)
- The BYU Idaho Learning Model
- BYU Idaho Teacher Resources
- Realizing the Mission: Selected Readings From Apostles and the First Presidency
- Zion in the Midst of Babylon
- BYU Idaho Education Week
- BYU Women’s Conference 2009: “Nourishing and Protecting Home and Family” Julie Beck
- BYU Women’s Conference 2010: Choose Ye This Day
- BYU Idaho Magazine
- BYU Magazine
- Hebrew Thought Compared With Greek Thought (there is a section in this article regarding A Circular Versus a Linear View of God (page eight)–this is not a church article, just interesting scholarly reading)