Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Education for young children, part 1: Teaching children to love and serve God.

When my oldest child was about 3, I started reading books on educational methods and philosophies, and especially on home education. I discovered there are a lot of methods and theories out there, all with their own adherants. Some are commonly identified by the name of a principle proponent--Montessori, Ruth Beechick, Charlotte Mason, etc. Others are given names supposed to describe their methods or philosophies: Classical Education, Leadership education, Unschooling...and of course there exist both variations withing these methods and overlap amongst them.
Drawing on what I have read, on discussions with others, and on my own experience and philosophies, I have developed my own ideas about what my children's education should look like in the early years, up to about age 8. I'm not saying this is what it does look like; rather, it is the model that is in my mind, and that I am working towards. If I had to give a name to what I am trying to do, I would call it Service Education--I want my children to grow up with both the desire and the abilities that will equip them to serve God, their families, and their fellowmen. This post address my first goal: preparing my children to love and serve God.

I want my children to learn to know and love God, and desire to serve him. This means I take them to church with me on Sundays, we read from the scriptures daily as a family, we pray together daily as a family and teach the children to pray individually as well. Scripture memorization is important, and can begin as soon as a child begins to talk. When my oldest was about two and a half, I sat down with her one day and taught her a scripture that I wanted to make our family theme for the month. The scripture was Moroni 7:45 from the Book of Mormon: "And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." Not a particularly short or easy passage, but within about 15 minutes she could say it perfectly. I would say a few words, she would repeat them, I would repeat them again, after doing this a few times I would add on a few more words, until both of us had the entire verse memorized. She can still repeat this verse today. We have since memorized other scriptures and passages as a family, ranging from the short and sweet (John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.") to the more complex (the parable of the sheep and the goats, Matthew 25:32-46). Don't underestimate you children's ability to memorize. Ideally, I would like to learn at least two new verses each month, and continue reviewing as a family memory work we have done in the past. We're not there yet, but I figure whatever we do learn together will benefit every family member.
Music is particularly powerful and memorable, and children will naturally learn to sing what they hear. I love to hear a toddler singing "I am a child of God" or "Jesus wants me for a sunbeam". They may not understand all the words, or be able to pronounce them correctly, but they are starting to build in their minds a storehouse of sacred music that will bring them comfort and encouragement throughout their lives. We sing at home the songs the children learn in Sunday School, as well as hymns and other songs I want to share with them. For small children, adding in hand motions or some sign language to make the music more interactive is always a bonus. I love to hear my children making up their own songs. With Christmas music in the air right now, my toddler has started making up her own songs about Baby Jesus; I can't think of anything sweeter to listen to.
I have been blessed with a husband who takes seriously his responsibility to be the spiritual leader in our home. It is Daddy who presides over family prayer and scripture study, who makes sure we are at church every Sunday, we hold Family Home Evening (almost) every week, and who makes sure the children are saying their personal prayers in the evenings. I take the lead in morning devotionals, which we try to do at breakfastime (after Daddy has already left for work). During devotionals we read from the scriptures or from scripture story readers, we practice memory verses and songs. When we start the day this way, everything seems to run more smoothly.
Above all, I believe in the power of example. As children see father and mother trying to model their lives on the Savior's teachings, they will naturally seek to do the same themselves. Our testimonies are transmitted most clearly in the way we live our lives.


Maile said...

I very much appreciate your posting this. As we begin our homeschooling journey, I love to read about others who are like-minded in many ways. I was inspired by so many of the things you wrote about and need to implement them in our lives - memorizing scriptures, practicing the songs at home that kids are learning at church, having a morning devotional. These are all ideas that have been bouncing around in my head for a while in a less coherent form. Reading them here somehow makes them seem more doable. I look forward to any more posts you want to make about your approach to homeschooling!

Lieke said...

Thank you so much for this inspiring massage. We too are beginning our homeschooling yourney. I have so many questions and so on... I love your example!!!!

love from Holland