by Betty Pearson
I've learned a great deal about myself, our family, and home schooling since we began so many years ago. One of the best things I did was to begin with the end in view. Begin by charting your course, then set your goals, pray, and work hard.
When Karl and I first started home schooling, I was a young and relatively inexperienced parent. Our oldest was around three or four years old. Reed Benson's Dissertation was just barely published. We had never heard of home schooling before, and we were so excited that we could do this with our children.
In the "old days" we used to tell everyone what we were doing. We had to explain many times what home schooling was because no one knew. We learned quickly what to say and what not to say. Not everyone was as excited about this wonderful opportunity as we were. Family was the first to protest, quite strongly, that what we were doing was very wrong. They thought we'd be excommunicated for sure. Others predicted dire warnings: our children would be social misfits. One person, a leader over us, even told us that we were to have our children tested, and he had to see the test results.
Karl and I knew for a surety that this is where our Heavenly Father wanted our children to be. He knows our children better than we do! If it hadn't been for home school, I know that at least one of my children may never have stayed on the right path, for this child walked the "edge" and went away from our teachings for a short time. Without the strong spiritual background we supplied this child in home schooling, we may have had a lost child for a long time.
My children aren't perfect. Karl and I aren't the perfect parents or home schoolers. Our children are geniuses in their own right, but they don't seek for worldly acclaim. Our family has its weaknesses and strengths, just like other families. We don't claim to "know it all" as far as home schooling goes. Even though our oldest child is 21, and has always been home schooled, our youngest is only six years old. We are still "midstream" as far as home schooling is concerned. So, even though we may be a bit farther down the road than most home schoolers, we are still in the middle, too.
Those who have begun home schooling in the last few years have so many more added advantages than the "pioneers" of home schooling. When we began, there were so few home schooling, and not very many had been home schooling very long at all. Now there is an overwhelming supply of curricula, how-to books and tapes, and a large pool of veteran home schoolers to help out.
Now, back to begin with the End in view. It is hard to visualize what life will be like for you when your children are older and "leaving the nest". We were idealistic parents. I wrote pages of what my children needed to know to enter adulthood. I forgot that they have free agency, and in some areas, their view of what was necessary might be very different from mine. But we learned to allow them freedom when the time came, and "let go". We also learned to keep teaching, whenever possible, and use whatever resources are available. We took advantage of grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends and leaders in our wards.
For my sons, my goals were that they would be Eagle Scouts. The Scout program has wonderful educational tools and resources. Those who attain the rank of Eagle Scout are also much more likely to serve a mission. The Lord expects all young men to serve missions. It isn't a "do it if you want to" but a commandment from the Lord. I even have a mentally handicapped nephew serving a mission. I have read somewhere that a well served mission is equivalent to fifty years of church service. With that in mind, aiming for children to serve missions is a good goal for parents to make. Also, by serving missions, your sons (and daughters, if they choose) will learn lessons in compromise, negotiation, and patience. How valuable those skills are for a Celestial marriage.
Another goal was for them to attend Seminary and Institute. My oldest two have graduated from Seminary, and my oldest daughter graduated from Institute.
After missions, it is a Temple Marriage. We expect these things of our children. We have taught them from their childhood that it is not a choice, but something the Lord has commanded them to do. For our daughters, we have just mentioned that a mission would be wonderful, however, a handsome returned missionary taking her to the Temple, who also liked the idea of marrying a home schooled daughter, would be wonderful. For our boys, we never say "If you go on a mission" but rather, "When you go on your mission." That sets the expectation in their own minds at a very early age.
So, in order to prepare our children for adulthood, we had to make certain that they were taught and educated enough to enter adult life.
We made mistakes along the way. We were constantly needing to re-evaluate, and change, and then re-evaluate and change again. The key word is: Flexible. You MUST be flexible in a home school. You must include the Lord in your decisions. You must stay close to the Spirit so you can listen to and heed his whisperings.
Here are a few things that I wish had happened to us:
1. We would have, or wish someone else had, invented the Internet sooner! What a marvelous, wonderful tool the Lord has inspired! Look at the wonderful thing it is doing for Family History, missionary work, and in bringing the Saints together. We can use it in our home school. There are so many wonderful educational sites on the Internet. If you don't have access to it yet, get it. You can purchase programs that will screen out objectionable material. Don't cripple yourself by not making it available. I will give a warning. If you go to a public library to use the Internet, you MUST be with your child at all times, for the American Library Association will not screen pornography out of the Internet. Anyone can access an objectionable page by accident. I've even done it myself when searching for something. The bad stuff is out there. But so is the good stuff.
This wonderful innovation came a bit late for my older children. They enjoy it now, but it would have been great when they were younger.
2. We would have had email. My boys disliked writing, until we got them email. Email is free (Juno, Hotmail, etc.). My boys have communicated with people all over the world. My son, who is now on a mission, emailed Senators and Congressman and had some very serious political discussions with some that were very interesting. My daughters have had pen pals all over. But, you still need to be careful where they go with email. There are people who abuse it and will attempt to abuse your children, too.
3. Use educational TV. Forget the networks. Get Satellite or Cable, and hook up to the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, A&E for their Biography Programming, The Learning Channel, etc. We watched a very interesting series on the weather: volcanos, tornados, hurricanes, lightening. No way could we see this kind of thing in a book. To "be there" was something else. We watched a series on the brain. We've watched war documentaries that were excellent. We watched biographies. We watch Bill Nye, the Science Guy. There are some things that you just can't get from a book.
4. When studying history, I wish videos had been invented earlier! For example, we love watching an entertaining video that will coincide with the period of time that we are studying in history. For example, When Studying Ancient Rome, we watched Ben Hur and Spartacus. When studying Ancient Egypt, we watched The Ten Commandments, although some experts tell you it isn't historically accurate. For World War II there are many great movies. Also some good Westerns for the 1800's. I could spend hours talking about my favorites. We have found that videos "bring to life" the era being studied. They are entertaining, and it is fun to see how accurate they are to the time periods. There is a website on the Internet called www.teachwithmovies.org. It's a great site. It helps you find good videos to use with different subjects you are studying.
5. Of course, nothing beats a good book. The first thing is to be a good example. How much do you read, and do you read a good variety? I make sure our home has a newspaper, monthly newsletters (we subscribe to the Rush Limbaugh Newsletter, and the Dr. Laura Perspective). I also subscribe to a cooking magazine. We buy the Reader's Digest, Prevention and the American Diabetic magazine. We have a variety of current issues we study in books and articles. We read fiction and nonfiction. Some of it is pure entertainment, other for educational purposes. Share what you read! We try to read good church books and magazine articles together as a family. Also, the kids know that Karl reads the Book of Mormon every night. And he discusses things he reads with the rest of us, though he wishes he would remember to do it more often.
Through the years, many of our friends stopped home schooling. They no longer needed it. But, when it came for us to decide, each year, we knew we were to continue on our path. Home schooling doesn't guarantee that a child will choose the right path. But, we will have much more involvement and communication in the lives of our children if we are spending time with them at home.
6. If I were starting over again, while my children were younger, I would have researched more into the lives of great men and women, and would have found as much religious material as I could to back up our studies. I try to use church magazines as much as possible in our studying. For example, in the 80's there was an excellent article in the Ensign on Columbus. Recently, there were articles on the Reformation and Renaissance.. I try to do our own curriculum as much as I possibly can. For example: spelling. When we do spelling, I get an article out of the Friend or the New Era. I make copies of it for my children. As I read through the article, I find words that my children most likely won't know how to spell. I underline them in red to catch their attention. They read the article. They write down the words underlined in a notebook. Then we have a spelling test. They study the words they miss.
7. For History, I use the books, "What Your Fifth Grader Needs to Know" by E.D. Hirsch. Being a true home schooler, I never use the books the "way you are supposed to use them". Instead, we start with a subject, such as Old World History, and study that subject straight through Kindergarten to 6th Grade. Even my third grader uses the 6th grade book. I make up worksheets for them. They are easy, and I do them similarly to the way Cleon Skousen does in his Book of Mormon study guides. My kids love worksheets, especially the ones I do. I always tie LDS history into our study of secular history. When we studied the Aztecs, I had them read parts of the Book of Mormon. When we studied Ancient Greece and Rome, we studied Korihor and his teachings. When we studied the Middle Ages (actually the Dark Ages, but those re-writing History don't want religion brought into our studies), we talked about why it happened, and what was needed to bring about the Restoration.
Why home school if we don't take advantage of our freedom of Religion, and study the religious aspects as well? Are we so steeped in secular studies that we are educating our children to be as Ezra Taft Benson has said, nothing more than the secularly taught and created "clever devils"? LaDawn Jacob has said, What good is it if a child becomes an expert musician, but lacks a testimony of the gospel?
In our day, the majority of people worship education. The world has chosen to ignore and treat lightly spiritual things. In fact, many deny or ignore any type of spirituality, especially Christianity, as being the "ravings of an unsound mind" (The Humanist magazine, 1979). Europeans really feel that if you believe in a Satan, you should see a psychiatrist. We've had two exchange students from Europe: one from Germany, and one from Hungary. They had absolutely no spiritual foundation. They didn't know "right from wrong" based on the teachings of Christ. The world ignores morals, values, and qualities that make good character in a person. This is our rock. We should build our home schools on the teachings of Christ.
8. If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't have allowed two of my boys to do math whenever they felt like it. They are still trying to "catch up", and it has been hard for them. Also, I would have hired a math tutor sooner. I also would have sung the multiplication tables to a catchy tune everyday for warmups!
9. I would have started a home school scrapbook sooner! Jr. and Sr. high schools do a yearbook every year. We just didn't think about doing one for our home school. It would have been so much fun to do together as a family. We have missed out on some wonderful pictures and school memories. My advice is to start one this year. Make it fun, include everything, just like a public school yearbook does. Take pictures when you go on field trips; when you take them to a music lesson; when they have a performance; when they have their nose in a book, or sprawled out on the living room floor. Take pictures of their art work, science projects, sitting around the table playing games (educational, of course!). Libraries usually carry yearbooks. Go and look in them and get some ideas of what you can do with your home school yearbook. You could do it in a book form and have it bound, or do it in a scrapbook form. You could scan everything into a computer, too. Remember to have a child in every picture of their work, if possible, because pictures of things mean nothing without the people who created the things.
10. I would have been a little bit more creative with writing and science. When we first began home schooling, there weren't any curricula or books geared just to the home school. We had to use whatever we could find out there from the public schools, and most of it was geared to large classrooms and was stilted and boring. I would have had my children write books for their grandparents, friends, and others, about some of their favorite topics in science and history. Call it a scrapbook if you like. Girls would like to put together something like that. Boys like to build things. They could make a wood or leather cover for their books. They could find neat photos to use on the internet or in magazines. There are some really neat photos of lightening, volcanoes, tornados, etc, that would perk the interest of boys. My boys loved things like "Big Foot", the Bermuda Triangle, Dinosaurs, etc. It takes parent participation to help organize these things, but it would be so much fun.
11. It is helpful to provide a "second witness" for your children besides yourself. Use others to help teach your children. If they have the same beliefs you espouse, that is even better. We have tapped our relatives, grandparents, and a couple of neighbors along the way. Also, I try to use video or tape programs. I use videos for Constitutional and American studies from NCCS (National Center for Constitutional Studies; phone: 1-800-388-4512). I use the Cleon Skousen video presentation of The Making of America. On my wish list is the video educational package called A More Perfect Union. I want to purchase the video tapes, American Government and U.S. Constitution. They also carry many other important books including Vicki Jo Andersen's book about the lives of 45 eminent men.
The reason I try to have others add to our home school is because they reinforce what we are trying to teach them in our home. Books, tapes, videos all help, too. I use a package from Focus on the Family (1-800-A-FAMILY) called, One Nation Under God. It also includes a book called, Our Country's Founders by William J. Bennett. I also have my children read out of William J. Bennett's other books, including The Book of Virtues.
If I can find anything LDS, I buy it. I recently found a book published by Bookcraft called, The Spirit of America, and it includes the Patriotic Addresses given at the Provo Freedom Festivals. Gordon B Hinckley, Dallin H. Oaks, Ezra Taft Benson, Jeffrey R. Holland are just a few contributors to this book.
From Living Scriptures I have purchased the Living Principles of America. These are tapes about the people who helped found our country and the principles they espoused.
Many items might be found in your local library. You can also try using the Inter-Library Loan system if your library doesn't have these items.
12. Help your children become more familiar with the scriptures. Use books, videos and tapes to help you in your scripture studies. We have used the "Scripture Readers" from Church Distribution. We like the Scripture Kit by Bruce Barton available at Deseret Book. It's pricey, but adds to our scripture studies. Of course, I am a bit biased because he is my cousin! We have also used Cleon Skousen's, Treasures from the Book of Mormon, and Building Faith with the Book of Mormon by Glenn L. Pearson and Reid E. Bankhead. Of course, learning to use the Book of Mormon is critical to our success in our quest to meet the challenge "Every Member A Missionary". To help there, we use Book of Mormon: Key To Conversion by Glenn L. Pearson, and his later book Moroni's Promise.
You can also use Gene R. Cook's book, Search the Scriptures and come up with your own materials, games, and ways to study the scriptures together as a family. You should know that Karl doesn't use any of these in his study of the scriptures. He reads and uses the cross references so he knows what other prophets have said on the subject in question. There are many different ways to study the scriptures but the underlying principal is to STUDY THE SCRIPTURES, especially as a family.
13. An interesting and more personal way of studying history is to study the times when your ancestors were alive. What was going on in the world when they lived? Were they in the Civil or Revolutionary Wars? Karl's Aunt has written a book for her relatives incorporating our ancestors and the events unfolding during their lives. This would be a fun family project to do together.
I am the list owner of an LDS Home Education Group. (See the Web Page: LDSHomeEd) I have many email friends. I asked them for some ideas on what they would do differently if they were starting over again. Here are some of their responses:
1. I used to be very demanding of my home schooled children when I first began. I expected more work out of them than they could possibly do. It took awhile to realize that everyone learns, but they don't have to cram three years of education into one year! Every family is different in what time of day they do things, what curriculum they use, and how they run their home school. No two families home school the same. You must seek your own way. What works for one family may not work at all for yours. Do your homework. Talk with other families, get their ideas, and then have fun creating your own home school!
2. Put some serious thought and prayer into why you want to home school, why you started home schooling, and what your motivations are. What do you want to accomplish? What are your priorities? Write these things down, and then be willing to be flexible. This process takes time and work. Don't expect it to be an overnight project. Take time to enjoy your children.
3. Keep it simple! Do reading, writing, and arithmetic. Then throw in some other stuff you are interested in, and you've got school.
4. Pray about what your children need. Try hard to help them learn what their talents and interests are. Help them find hobbies. Help them find out what they are interested in.
5. Buy less curriculum, and stick to the basics: math, grammar, and history resources. I would have all of my children keep a journal. My children have learned my attitudes and biases, so watch what you say and do! I would have taken them to the park more often, had more picnics. Take vacations from the books and spend time learning.
6. I have never known any home schooler who did not go through a series of changes in their schooling. The reason why we change is that we, as teachers, learn too. We learn what works for us, and what doesn't work. There are few things written in stone. Overall family goals change very little (fine tuning), but our strategies will change from week to week, year to year. It's like the gospel. The gospel stays the same, but there are different programs and focus issues that change as the membership in the church changes in number and testimony needs.
7. Do we always eat the same food prepared the same way every day? No. I have always tried to find new ways of doing things-even when it comes to chores such as laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc. In home school I am always trying new ways of doing things, discarding what has ceased to work, and finding replacements.
8. I would help my children understand why they are being taught at home. I would explain why they need a better environment and to learn about the Savior as well as their academic needs.
9. I would not have worried so much about what others might be learning in the public schools. My children may miss a "neat" thing here and there, but they will miss a lot of junk, too! To me, it isn't worth the sacrifice.
10. I would try to set a wonderful example by studying the scriptures personally, where they could see me reading and studying. If children don't see you reading and studying the scriptures, they may assume you don't do it. I would pray and study the words of the prophets and apostles more from the beginning so that I could pass along the knowledge and truth I was learning. I would have introduced them to classical music earlier. I would have taught them about composers and artists that were called of God.
11. In our home school, we have always saved the religious education and structured learning for the mornings. The afternoons are spent on personal learning: practicing a musical instrument, exploring a hobby, working on cub scouts or merit badges, etc. Teach your children what hobbies are. Hobbies are dying. Entertainment has replaced old-fashioned hobbies.
12. Whenever I get discouraged because we don't seem to be covering as much material as I had hoped, I remind myself of the reason I pulled my son out of school in the first place: Above all, every child has the right to learn at his or her own pace!
13. If you are fairly new to home schooling, don't purchase much curriculum until you talk with a lot of people and read a lot about home schooling. Try to keep things simple. If you are nervous about coming up with your own curriculum, purchase a limited (bare bones) amount of already prepared curriculum, such as A Beka, until you feel more confident. Remember to stick to the basics, too. Supplement when you get more experience.
14. We purchased an expensive math program, and our children really disliked it. Now we have learned that they will be much more willing to do math if we find books or workbooks that they like. If you paid a lot of money for something and it isn't working, you must set it aside or sell it, and try something else, or it will be a struggle and everyone will not cooperate very well.
15. Find the learning styles of your children. Thomas Armstrong's books can help. Check them out and read them. Find home school support wherever you can get it. Either through your local home schooling organization, or through an email group.
16. If your children have been in the public school classrooms, they will need to be "detoxed". They will expect you to teach like their teacher did at school, and it takes a while for them to change. Do more reading together, go on field trips, watch educational videos, and do fun things together.
17. When I was pregnant or had a new baby, I always had to rely more on already prepared curriculum that encouraged my children to study independently from me. It helped me relax more and not worry that the children were waiting for me while I was taking care of the baby. Some of my babies took a lot of my time! I didn't want to resent this special time, so I changed our home school to fit our needs. I could sit on the couch and care for the baby while the children worked in their workbooks or textbooks around me. We also did a lot of oral reports, and this way I still felt very involved in their learning.
Every Home School is Different!
We must always remember that each family has different circumstances. We must look carefully at our role models and heroes, and decide: is it possible for me to do everything they do, or should I just pick and choose one or two things to try?
I have learned, also, to never predict the future! Watch what you say and don't be too judgmental about anyone or any method! You might end up needing to change your methods. When we started out home schooling, I picked one method of a home school style, and was determined to stick to it. We considered it the one "right way" to really home school. Don't get locked into one philosophy or style or textbook! I have since learned that what is good for a mother to choose for the entire family, may not be good for the individual child. In fact, it can spell disaster! Each child is different! Each child learns differently. I learned that some of my children were natural leaders and were easily self-motivated! A more unstructured approach and child-initiated learning was wonderful for them. However, a couple of my other children weren't self starters. They were "followers" more than leaders, and they wanted and needed to be told what to do. When left on their own to come up with things, they floundered like fish out of water. They needed an extrinsic motivational source! So, rather than picking one method for everyone, I had to change and pick what method was best for each individual child in my family.
Focus on their talents and interests. Work patiently with their weaknesses. With my self-motivated children, I sometimes had to pull in the reigns a bit. With my other children, the "followers", I had to gently guide and help motivate. (Karl's Note: Sometimes, Dad has to step in and provide some "masculine" motivation that Mom can't and shouldn't be expected to give.)
Somewhere along the way I came to the realization that Satan plays a role in tempting our children, especially our teenagers, to not do the things they know they should do. I can imagine the perfect educational methods, and they would work wonderfully up in Heaven. But, Satan doesn't want our children to achieve. He wants them to not do things or study and learn skills. Satan would love to limit their opportunities. They lose their free agency when they can't choose or take advantage of an opportunity because they aren't prepared or skilled. For example, a child cannot play the piano in church or a symphony hall if they haven't practiced. When they choose not to practice, they limit their opportunities and freedom. The same goes with academics. When a child chooses not to learn math, they limit their opportunities to do well on college entrance exams, and therefore, bypass their opportunity for scholarships. The world also expects high school and college graduates to have a sound education, and "proof" that they are educated. Karl taught himself how to program computers. But, because he didn't graduate in Computer Science, he had a very difficult time getting a job interview. They would toss out his resume, or they wouldn't even accept it if he didn't have a "degree" in that field. By the way, he is very, very good at what he does, and he learned it on his own. After much fasting and prayer, a friend "opened the door" and got an interview set up for Karl. The owner of the company had graduated with the same useless degree Karl had (Sociology) and was willing to take a chance on him. The world expects "proof" and it is very, very hard to get around that piece of paper, the college degree. At least Karl had the wisdom to go back to school and at least get a degree.
Karl and I learned that for some of our children, it was especially hard on them to be so "different" from their peers in the public schools. Call them social butterflies, but whatever their needs are, try to help them. There is a very fine line in this area! Some children cannot handle being so different, and they rebel. We try to stay "mainstream", without drawing unnecessary attention to ourselves or what we are doing. For example, in the Fall we go out and buy "school clothes and shoes" just like their peers. Besides, the back to school sales are great. We don't talk about home school in front of our public school friends. We don't "advertise" our differences.
How Do We Teach our Children with the End in View?
We must give them a pre-run on activities and situations that they will encounter in adulthood. If you are sending boys on missions, then they need to learn several things:
1. How to teach. Help them overcome the fear of teaching by helping prepare lessons for Family Home Evening. Doing devotional thoughts, etc. They can give presentations to the family about books they have read and what they learned. I really emphasized this when, with my 6th pregnancy, I developed Toxemia. I had to stay in bed for two months. My home schooling, out of neccesity, changed to fit our circumstances. Encourage your children to give reports and lessons "in their own words". Home schooling presents a nonthreatening environment. Give them many opportunities to ask and answer questions.
Home schoolers have the added advantage that they have more time together as a family to do scripture reading and studying. They will be more comfortable reading the scriptures out-loud in Primary and Sunday School. Play gospel question games, and teach them how to find the answers in the scriptures. If they have the answers, teach them to find documentation from the scriptures.
One thing I wish I had started when they were learning how to write was to take notes of the talks given in Sacrament Meeting. They can write down the scriptures and the topic. They can give their own personal testimony of what they are hearing. And it has a side benefit: They pay better attention.
Read good church books as a family. A good book to start with that can be brought to many learning levels is "A Marvelous Work and a Wonder". Teach them also that just because it is in print, it doesn't mean it is true. Always read the works of living Prophets and Apostles FIRST before going to those who are not. Study the writings of the Prophets as a family.
Develop a standard of dress and styles. Teach them correct principles and they will govern themselves. Our appearance has a direct reflection on the Spirituality of our personal lives. Missionaries are taught to "look the part" Teach children to respect their body: body piercing is not respecting our bodies. Weird colors and styles detract from the Spirit. We've always taught our children not to grow to like fashions that can't be worn after a temple marriage. This will save a great deal of expense later on.
Also very important: we need to teach that they must learn to control themselves. Self-discipline is very important. How do you teach children to control themselves? If they cannot control themselves, the control comes from the outside (someone stronger, or society will control them).
Teach children to persevere. I have learned that many teenagers are more popular if they act "stupid", and adults will leave them alone. Some teenagers don't even want to think at all. Learning to express oneself intelligently can be difficult so kids take the easy way out by acting stupid or silly. As parents, we must realize this is a defense mechanism telling us they don't know what to say or how to say things, or maybe that they are uncomfortable.. Show them the correct way. If you cannot discipline in love, do not discipline! Teach and discipline so your children will learn the natural consequences of their behavior. What are the consequences if children do not learn certain subjects? Learn to do certain chores? Home schoolers have a head start in relating to children and adults of all ages and walks of life. They mix with different age groups all the time, and don't feel shy about communicating with others, especially the elderly.
Raising a family takes a lot of time. Not just a few minutes here and there, but quantity time. There needs to be time to sit and talk and discuss things. Discussing things at the dinner table helps. Having a good discussion AFTER a devotional helps. Have late-night talks after dates and other activities.
Help children learn how to deal with rejection and face ridicule. In a Regional Talk, Elder Boyd K Packer addressed the youth by telling them not every day is a "happy" day. There are good days, and there are bad days. There are times when we are up, and there are times when we are down. It is normal. Just because a person doesn't do well on a piano performance or a test studied well for, doesn't mean it is the end of the world. Throughout life we will face times when things don't go the way we visualize them to go. When they serve their missions they can expect to be rejected. We need to help our children learn how to control their frustrations. Math isn't going to be easy for everyone. We sometimes need to really struggle! My father-in-law always said as he got older, "Life is hard, then you die." And he then usually added that the Lord expected it to be that way because only the strong are worth saving.
Of course children need to learn to cook, clean, repair, and sew. They need to learn how to budget their money. Children also need to learn to obey rules "just because" even when there doesn't seem to be a good reason to do so. Give Bible stories frequently to emphasize this point. Today, it is a matter of safety and protection!
There are certain character traits that children need to learn to be successful adults. Creativity, and a stick-to-it attitude. If a child continuously gets away with not having to do chores, isn't held accountable, doesn't report back to you, isn't checked up on, they learn bad attitudes, bad habits, laziness and selfishness. Sometimes our children must do things simply because the "world" demands and expects it. In learning to become an adult in the "workforce", sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do. Teaching a child by allowing them to act and therefore believe that its okay to live as though"his way or no-way" is okay, is wrong and damaging! Our pre-teens and teenagers are old enough to learn these things, and that the decisions they make will have an eternal impact. In "real life" we sometimes have to eat food we don't like just because it is good for us. I have never forced my children to eat anything, but we do have one rule in our home: "take one bite". When we get exchange students, we tell them, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do". Our sons will be serving in foreign lands: be it Japan or Louisiana. Their food is different than ours. It is offensive for a missionary to not eat what is given to him, and can have disastrous effects on missionary work if you offend those whom you are trying to teach the truth. Of course, you must teach them how to graciously refuse things they must not eat, such as foods with alcohol or caffeine.
Sometimes life is just plain hard! For parents, home schooling is hard, too! Another point President Packer made last May in our Regional Conference was also to the youth: "You don't have to be perfect. Life is stressful. It is supposed to have ups and downs. You don't need someone else's body, or mind, or parents (meaning kids always think someone else is better than they are, smarter, more talented, have nicer parents, etc.). You are supposed to have problems in your life. Even prayer cannot supply what you didn't already know. There will be times that are unsettling in your life. The Gospel is great medicine. Learn to pray for the things you ought to have, not always what you want to have. Learn to listen to the promptings of the Spirit." He then referred to the story of "Chicken Little" and how the sky was falling. If your children get caught up in doomsday thinking and talking, read them this story. He said, "You have a lot to look forward to. Build that into your life.
Then he went on to give an example of how a woman listened to the spirit and obeyed the promptings. It wasn't exactly a voice that spoke to her, but a "feeling" that she obeyed. It saved her life and their home. President Packer gave this speech right after the Columbine incident. I have remembered this speech, and have given it a great deal of thought. President Packer went on to tell the youth: "You are very special. You have the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and angels are promised to attend you. Learn to know that code word, "feeling" . Sometimes you get the feeling that "I knew I shouldn't have done that". You can't get into trouble without overruling that feeling. You recognize it afterwards, knowing you shouldn't have done that. Pay attention to those feelings and don't ignore them!"
I want to make a special point of what President Packer just advised our youth. These days are filled with trials. Many evil people are doing wicked things. We MUST teach our youth to be obedient. If they aren't obedient, they can't feel the Spirit, and will miss the promptings they need that may save their lives one day. A missionary MUST obey all of the Mission Rules, or he doesn't have the protection promised by the Lord. When missionaries get hurt, it very likely is because they disobeyed a simple rule: be in your apartments by 9:30! Of course, bad things don't always happen to those who break simple rules, or who don't listen to the Spirit. If so, then they would not learn because they would be forced to obey because something bad would happen every time. But, when something bad does happen, it's usually the result of disobeying something or some principal. There is no way anyone can tell what the future may bring. If we teach our children, especially our teenagers, to listen to those promptings, it could save their lives. We live in unpredictable times. We must do all we can to help our families in the Spiritual war that is raging.
President Packer also spoke to the youth about peer pressure. He gave the story of when he was a youth, a teenager. He went to church with a suit on one week. When he walked into the church, a group of young men looked at him and said, "Nice suit, Packer. Didn't the store have any in your size"? He left. He vowed he would never go back to church again.
We need to help our children learn to face and deal with peer pressure and opposition! President Packer went on to say, "You don't always have to have everything perfect. You don't have perfect temperatures, perfect days. You will have problems, ups and downs. You don't have to smile all the time. You are normal if you don't smile all the time!" He commented that he would be worried if someone did smile all the time! "They aren't normal," he said. You are normal when life is not all happy all the time or even most of the time. He then said, "You can rise above it. Know the gospel. Each of us is a child of God. Learn to understand and how to receive revelation, and how to respond to it. Learn to grow from your experiences."
I feel that President Packer's remarks can also be applied to home school parents and how they view their home schooling. We dream of ideal schedules, perfect curriculum, wonderfully obedient, genius children, studiously reading textbooks and excelling in music and sports. But we also need a dose of realism.
I have found a good parenting book. It really is meant for preparing missionaries, but the information in it is very helpful for all ages. It is called, Send Forth with Honor by Randy L. Bott.
Teach our children to believe in themselves. Here are a couple of quotes I really like: "Treat a man like he is and he will forever remain on that level. Treat him like he can become and he will rise to meet your aspirations." In our attempt to be compassionate, we settle for mediocrity. Demand excellence from our children and let them rise to it. If they complain that a book is "too boring or too hard" find out the reason behind the complaint. Maybe they aren't understanding some words. Spend some time talking about words, play dictionary games. Help them memorize scriptures and poems. Perhaps you could see a video of the play or the book.
Teach children how to peacefully settle disputes. Rather than telling them to stop fighting, teach them how to resolve the problem. Instead of criticizing unacceptable behavior, role play acceptable behavior. I won't go into the discipline and how to have "peace" at home among siblings, other than saying sometimes kids need to be alone and have their own space where they can "escape" the noise of the house and be by themselves. Karl's boss told him the story of when his family was young. They lived in a house that was the smallest in the ward. One day he found his daughter in a closet with the door closed. He asked why. She said, "I just want to be alone sometimes, Daddy." He remodeled the home and added more to it than was there before because her statement hit him and caused him to consider the privacy needs of his children.
Watch your children's diets. When arguments erupt, perhaps it is because they are hungry, or have had an overdose of "entertainment". Having children home all day increases opportunities for siblings to "pick on each other". Husbands, be understanding of what your wife sometimes has been through during the day, and give her a break in the evening by letting her get out of the house without taking children with her. Don't expect children to be wonderfully intellectual, perfectly obedient, brain-children when you arrive home, with all of the school work neatly done sitting on the table for your review.
Example is a powerful teacher. Are your children learning more from their peers than they are from you?
Are we setting good examples in the following areas?
-do we ignore bad behavior, or make them accountable?
-study and understand the scriptures?
-How to get out of difficult social situations? Do we have adult temper tantrums? I once witnessed a mother, who came to the MTC to give her son a backpack, throw an adult temper tantrum, with her children all watching and listening by her side, because the rules wouldn't permit her to see her son. She argued. She got angry. She yelled. She cried. She insisted on talking to the "boss". It went on for a good twenty minutes! I felt sorry for her children, but they weren't the least bit embarrassed as if it were something quite ordinary on the part of their mother. I was very embarrassed and amazed, especially since she didn't seem to notice, or if she did, care about the scene she was creating!
-Do we control our tempers and tongues?
-Do we recognize answers to our prayers (how can one having a tantrum recognize answers anyway)?
-Are we helping establish good study habits?
Teach our children to stand alone, if necessary. "When I do good I feel good and when I do bad I feel bad." said Abraham Lincoln. Alma said the same in chapter 41:10: "Wickedness never was happiness."
Discuss with your children the consequences of sin. Ask your children:
"Why do you suppose the ones (peers) who are breaking the commandments seem to have more influence on the group than those who are trying to be good?"
Satan has influence, even in our home schools. He can tempt our kids not to study hard, to learn things they should learn. A perfect home school may not be realistic. But, we must strive to do what we can to strengthen ourselves against the adversary. Teach our children the same.
Teenagers sometimes say, when trying to convince or sway us, that everyone has this, or is doing this, or their parents allow them to do this. Not everyone is "doing it" and not everyone is making fun of those who are trying to do what is right. Satan wants you and your children to think these things. Satan also wants your children to believe there are no consequences for not learning things they should know for adulthood. He wants children, especially teenagers, to think there are no negative consequences for sin especially if nobody finds out. If we aren't doing what we should, or what we know is best for us, we are falling into the traps and falling for the temptations of Satan. Teach your children the consequences of sin (2 Nephi 9:48). Teach your teenagers that some have eternal consequences that can destroy their lives. One example of this is teen pregnancy. A life is never the same, nor should it be. Consequences can't be chosen; it's just not part of free agency to also choose the consequence of our actions.
Let your children know they can make a difference. In one of my daughter's letters from the MTC, she mentioned that some of her friends are writing to her and asking gospel questions, and seeking advise for their life choices. You need to realize that my daughter has had friends who have not chosen to follow the "Iron Rod". When she told them she made the choice to go on a mission, they were shocked and she was ridiculed. They told her that it was ridiculous for her to go on a mission. "What a waste of time", they said.. They told her that she should stay home and at least get married, if she wasn't going to go to school and find a career. She heard negative comments even from adults. My daughter is learning that she can have a good influence and can make a difference with her peers, for the better. She also knows that the decision she made was right.
Social scenes: have the parties at your home so you can control the activities. I don't like sleep overs. So if it comes up, it is okay to sleep over at cousins houses, but friends must come to our house.
To learn self-control, our children need to learn to obey when no one is watching or checking up on them. They must keep their room clean, know how to do laundry, how to follow through on chores they dislike. We must help our children realize that they must assume responsibility for their own behavior. This doesn't happen over night, either.
Teach them to accept the blame if they did wrong. Teach them to say, "I'm sorry". I just recently taught this lesson in Primary to my Sunbeams. Learning those two words, "I'm sorry", teaches us to be humble. Sometimes we must obey simply because we were told to do something without full understanding as to why. Following mission rules are very important. If our children haven't learned to follow rules, just because the Mission President said so without giving reasons why, it could cost them their lives!
The world doesn't emphasize obedience. In order for our children to have successful missions and marriages, they must apply strict obedience to all of the rules. If not, an eternal marriage may not be very eternal.
We can teach our children to not make excuses for their bad behavior. They must assume responsibility for their own mistakes. Don't' accept excuses!
Overcome self-defeating behavior! Commend them on their successes. Nothing breeds success like success. Life is a test, perfection is a process, not an event!
Learn that they must follow through on their promises and their obligations. Don't excuse your children! The Lord has never said, "I the Lord am bound if ye do most of what I say..." Part of learning to be obedient is learning that it isn't okay to be obedient some of the time. If a project is too difficult, break it up into pieces and help them. Don't let them give up.
In the book, The De-Valuing of America by William J. Bennett, I found some really good points:
"If we believe that good art, good music, and good books will elevate taste and improve the sensibilities of the young-which they certainly do-then we must also believe that bad music, bad art, and bad books will degrade. As a society, as communities, as policymakers, we must come to grips with that truth.
"The battle over culture reaches beyond art, music, poetry, photography, literature, cinema, and drama. The broader issue has to do with a growing realization that over the last twenty years or so the traditional values of the American people have come under steady fire, with the heavy artillery supplied by intellectuals. This all-out assault has taken its toll. In our time, too many Americans became either embarrassed, unwilling, or unable to explain with assurance to our children and to one another the difference between right and wrong, between what is helpful and what is destructive, what is ennobling and what is degrading. The fabric of support that the American people-families especially-could traditionally find in the culture at large became worn, torn, and unraveled.
"...individuals and families need support, their values need nourishment...These truths are passed down from generation to generation, transmitted in the family, in the classroom, and in our churches..."
"Can Americans be confident that their children are going to inherit the habits and values they themselves honor? Are we confident that they will be raised in an environment that properly nurtures their moral and intellectual qualities? Can we have confidence in the cultural signals our children receive from our educational institutions, from the media, from the world of the arts, even from our churches? Are we confident our society is transmitting to our young the right messages, teaching them the right lessons, about the family, drug abuse, respect for religious beliefs, and our meaning as a nation and our responsibilities as individuals? Is the public air conducive to moral and intellectual health? I believe that most Americans would still answer "no" to these questions.
"...Even social scientists now recognize the importance of sound values and moral norms in the upbringing of children... What determines a young person's behavior in academic, sexual, and social life are his deeply held convictions and beliefs. They determine behavior far more than race, class, economic background, or ethnicity. Nature abhors a vacuum; so does a child's soul. If that soul is not filled with noble sentiments, with virtue, if we do not attend to the 'better angels of our nature', it will be filled with something else. These are matters of overwhelming importance to our children. As the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder put it, "What we do to our children, they will do to society." Looking today at what we see many kids doing to themselves, to others, and to society at large, we need to reflect on what society collectively is doing to them in the critical task of inculturation, the passing on of our values, in an often hostile atmosphere."
William J. Bennett had this book published back in 1992. Look at what has happened to our youth and society since then!
I will close by quoting a letter sent out, February 11th, 1999, from the First Presidency:
"...We call upon parents to devote their best efforts to the teaching and the rearing of their children in gospel principles which will keep them close to the Church. The home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place or fulfill its essential functions in carrying forward this God-given responsibility.
"We counsel parents and children to give highest priority to family prayer, family home evening, gospel study and instruction, and wholesome activities. However worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely appointed duties that only parents can adequately perform."
Home schooling is a wonderful blessing! When you look at those parents who willingly delegate their god-given stewardship of raising and teaching their children to the public schools, you will notice that they fight an uphill battle just to find family time. We who home school can take the time to give our children a strong foundation upon which to build a life of service to our Father's Kingdom, which is centered in the family.