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Children Are Born Persons

CHILDREN ARE BORN PERSONS

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home: Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

(section from) Intimations of Immortality  by William Wordsworth

WE ARE EDUCATING SOULS

“If we have not proved that a child is born a person with a mind as complete and beautiful as his little body, we can at least show that he always has all the mind he requires for these occasions; that is, that his mind is the instrument of his education, and that his education does not produce his mind.” 
-CHARLOTTE MASON

I want you to imagine you and your children living together in the premortal realm receiving lessons and being prepared as equals (see D&C 138:56 and Alma 13:3). Our spirits were educated and prepared long before we were born, and I believe that true education is not actually teaching children completely new concepts, but reminding them of things they already knew to be true. Children are often compared to clay; an inanimate object that does not act and will not become anything unless molded, shaped, and acted upon. But I believe this comparison can be the cause of much anxiety and frustration among parents because children do not act like lifeless clay; they are living, breathing souls and are active agents in their own development. 

Our soul is made up of our spirit and our body, and while our spirit is mature and experienced, our body is not. Our children’s body and brain develop in stages, and while the stages are fairly predictable (e.g. children start walking between 8-24 months), each child will develop skills based on their own timeline and how they develop those skills are unique to the individual. 

Children are essentially a walking paradox: they are mature and capable of deep, intellectual thoughts; yet, their inability to control their emotions and comprehend the simplest of natural laws can be maddening. This is where parents and educators stumble teaching young children. How do we effectively teach someone who is our equal in spirituality, but needs so much training in the ways of the world? This is something I struggle with daily; I certainly have not mastered teaching in this way yet, but there are some key principles that have helped me see my children as mature, yet developing human beings.

TEACH PEOPLE, NOT LESSONS

“Bring up your children in the love and fear of the Lord; study their dispositions and their temperaments, and deal with them accordingly…” 
-BRIGHAM YOUNG

The “Zone”

Lev Vygotsky was a Soviet psychologist who has contributed much to our current understanding of child development. He believed that children learn much better when knowledge is gained through relationships. One of his theories that has made teaching children much more effective is the “zone of proximal development.” There are essentially three “zones” of tasks that children are capable of: tasks that they can do independently, tasks that they are completely incapable of yet, and the zone of proximal development, which describes the tasks that a child can complete with the help of an adult. 

The framework of traditional education is heavily focused on the skills–or tasks–that children can complete on their own. This is completely understandable when a teacher has 25+ students to teach. But when we focus on the tasks a child can complete on their own, we are focusing on the past. When we focus on what a child is on the verge of developing, we are focusing on the future. This kind of teaching requires a lot of one-on-one teaching and is time-intensive. 

However, no one is more equipped to teach a child in their “zone” than a parent who knows their child and what they are capable of. Watch your child and take note of which tasks are in their three zones. Focus on the tasks that are in their zone of proximal development and put your energy towards developing those. Here is an example: While watching my four year old clean I’ve noticed that he can put a few books on the shelf, he can put away a whole box of blocks, and he can put pillows on the couch. If I help him, he can clean up his entire room, put away all the books in the library, and he can clean up an entire game. He is not capable of doing the dishes or mopping the floor, with or without my help.

Meet the Child

Stop focusing on which grade level your child “should” be at or where you want them to be. Look at them as a person with unique attributes and abilities. See where they are at this moment and meet them there. Before you help your child or teach them a subject, find out what the child needs from you and ask them questions to find out what they already know. This is what Charlotte Mason meant when she said to meet the child where they are at. This kind of instruction is time and labor intensive. It requires the teacher to know her student well and to work with the student’s timeline and abilities, not a scheduled, one-size-fits-all curriculum. 

This kind of teaching is focused on adjusting the material to fit the needs of the student, not adjusting the student to fit the requirements of the curriculum. 

Christ taught people, not lessons. When we are preparing lessons and activities we should focus on the person we are teaching and their “zone.” Take note of books that may be too easy to understand, or too hard. Try to limit activities that can be accomplished alone, these are what most students call “busywork”–work that is accomplished without the scaffolding of a teacher and is a review of information already learned instead of learning new skills. How can you possibly teach multiple young children this way? It is actually quite simple: School lessons are spent mostly one-on-one (or alternating between students), and they are short. For example, elementary students spend between 5-15 minutes learning about each subject, so school should only take 1-2 hours. The rest of the day is left open for students to practice their mastered skills independently in projects of their choosing (self-education will be covered in the next post.) As children mature, the teachers role changes and less time is needed one-on-one, especially when they can read their school books on their own. Lesson time will slowly increase with each year as the child’s ability to focus is strengthened. After this point, scaffolding may consist of creating a schedule, choosing books, and discussing the books with your child.

Be prepared to adjust plans as necessary, and do not make schedules too far in advance. Children develop and mature quickly as they are taught in their zone, and their interests change as well. In Charlotte Mason’s schools, she did not have a fixed curriculum or plan for a whole year at a time. She planned each term (three months) one at a time. Personally, I have found this to work well; I plan some subjects for a whole term, other subjects I make a plan for six weeks, then re-evaluate and adjust. I give myself a broad structure, say historical period of 1800-1900, and then have lots of freedom within that structure to pursue my child’s interests. Narration and play are the tools to help gauge your child’s zone of proximal development and to get a glimpse into what they are interested in. Narration will be explained in-depth in a later article; for now, you can read this article.

NATURE VS. NURTURE

All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.
excerpt from THE FAMILY: A PROCLAMATION TO THE WORLD

Any parent will tell you that each of their children are very different from one another. They were born with their own personality, experience, and abilities, and these are apparent before they were born. Despite similar genetics, home environment, and parenting, siblings make different choices and have unique personalities. There have been many theories throughout the centuries trying to explain the puzzling behavior of young children and how they develop. Many people believed that because we are born in a fallen state, that children are born inherently evil and need to have the “devil beaten out of them.” Literally. Others believed that children are born inherently good and that it is the sinful, fallen world that corrupts them. And then there is John Locke and B.F.Skinner who believed that children were born blank slate; that a person’s personality, preferences, and abilities were all due to the nurturing they received. 

With so many conflicting opinions how can we distinguish the truth? If we believe children are born evil then we will believe any negative behavior is sinful and needs to be punished. If we believe that children are inherently good, then we should take on a laissez-faire sort of parenting style, where most everything they do is good and we should avoid correcting them. If they are born blank-slate, then the choices our children make and what they ultimately become is completely up to the parents. I don’t know about other parents, but if I believed every choice my child made and his whole character was based on my parenting, I don’t think I would have ever chosen to be a parent.

Many parenting books are based on this last theory, known as “behaviorism.” This theory affects much more than we realize. Teachers may see their students that come from disadvantaged homes as less competent or not able to comprehend difficult material as their more advantaged peers. And in their deep compassion may not have as high of expectations or provide them with as rigorous material as their more advantaged peers. But research and experience has shown that intelligence goes much deeper than just home life and genetics. Although earthly experience definitely influences a child’s intellect, it doesn’t define him or her. When given the chance, children from disadvantaged homes have been found to rise to their teachers’ expectations and show they have a spiritual maturity and intelligence that would not be possible according to behaviorism. (see chapter nine of The Smartest Kids in the World)

“The person rises to understand, master, and enjoy whatever he is surrounded with in language, ideas, literature, and in appreciation of beauty. If you share with children the very best, carefully chosen to meet their needs, they will amaze everyone.” 

SUSAN SCHAEFFER MACAULAY

TEMPERATE IN ALL THINGS

“The fact seems to be that children are like ourselves, not because they have become so, but because they are born so; that is, with tendencies, dispositions, towards good and evil, and also with a curious intuitive knowledge as to which is good and which is evil.”

CHARLOTTE MASON

As usual, truth can be found in the scriptures, and it is usually a tempering of the extreme views of the world. 

We are born with two opposing forces: the Light of Christ and the Natural Man. In the Church Gospel Topics manual, the Light of Christ is defined as “the divine energy, power, or influence that proceeds from God through Christ and gives life and light to all things. The Light of Christ influences people for good and prepares them to receive the Holy Ghost. One manifestation of the Light of Christ is what we call a conscience.”

As for the natural man, or the opposing force, King Benjamin defines the natural man as “an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit…” (Mosiah 3:19)

Interestingly, Charlotte Mason was radical in her day in that she believed children are not born tabula rosa (blank slate), but are born with possibilities for both good and evil. Dr. Gordon Neufeld explained this same idea in his book Hold on to Your Kids in such a profound way that my parenting and knowledge of the gospel has been changed forever. He said that maturity is the ability to temper our impulses with the opposing feeling;  we are all born with intense feelings (hate/love, fear/courage, sadness/joy, etc.) and maturity is the ability to temper the possibly destructive impulse with the attribute that opposes it. We have been commanded in the scriptures to be temperate in all things (Galatians 5:22-23, Alma 38:10, 7:23).

For example, when I was a child and felt angry at another person I may have the impulse to hit them, but over time that has been tempered with love and compassion for other human beings and it has overcome the impulse to physically hurt them. Becoming an adult does not mean we have reached maturity, however; maturity comes from learning how to temper the impulses of the natural man with the Light of Christ. Immaturity is feeling one intense feeling at a time: anger, love, happiness, sorrow, but not at the same time. Later, when you realize the consequence of acting on your emotions, there is guilt, sadness, and remorse. If those emotions are not tempered with compassion and love, self-hatred and loathing can make it even harder to change.

Young children are new to these opposing forces and have not yet learned to temper the feelings that we all feel on a daily basis. They can be so loving and compassionate one minute, then turn into a violent perpetrator the next.

It is important that we do not label emotions as “bad” or “good.” Emotions are not evil or righteous, it is how we act on emotions that is good or bad. It is the choices we make that will either bring us happiness or misery. I find it interesting to read in the scriptures that Christ displayed the full spectrum of human emotions; sorrow, anger, happiness, even depression.

Here are a few of them:

  • “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death;” (Mark 14:38)
  • “Yea, I will visit them in my fierce anger,” Helaman 13:10 (also Mosiah 12:1)
  • “And now behold, my joy is full. And when he had said these words, he wept.” (3 Nephi 20)
  • “Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you.” (3 Nephi 17:6)
Deborah Macnamara, a child psychologist and author of Rest, Play, Grow, supports the idea that emotions are neither bad nor good.  She says, “Parents can also falsely believe that emotion is learned and must be unlearned with reinforcement and consequences. The new science of emotion has shown that this is incorrect. We do not teach a child to behave frustrated, alarmed, caring, sad – they are born with the capacity to feel these emotions and are instinctively moved from this place. The role of a parent is to guide them through their emotions so that stability, balance, and self-control can eventually be achieved.”

Instead of telling our children that they shouldn’t feel sad, angry, jealous, etc. We should be:

  1. Acknowledging their feelings and not shaming them,
  2. Discussing how they acted on that particular emotion and the consequences of their action, 
  3. Then, assisting the child in bringing out the opposing feeling. This should be done after the strong emotions have simmered down, not in the middle of it. Trust me, this doesn’t work well. 

I have noticed a trend among my boys: when there is a moment during family devotional when the Spirit is strong, they go haywire. They start making silly sounds, jumping on the couch, or tackling me and my husband. For the past year or so I could not figure out why they would disrupt a perfectly spiritual moment like this. Then I realized that if children are not capable of tempering emotions like anger and sadness, they cannot temper their joy and strong sense of feeling the Spirit. Ultimately, they lack the maturity to temper their joy with respect and reverence. Since that time, I have started seeing their energy not as a disruption or naughty behavior, but as a sign that their spirit is full of joy, and I have been trying to help them recognize that and put it into words.

There is so much going on under the surface of our child that we cannot see. There is also so much experience our child gained before this life that we have no knowledge of, or have forgotten. Instead of assuming the worst when they make a mistake, we should have a “benign assumption.” This means that we assume the child had good intentions, but was lacking knowledge when they made their choice (or were completely overcome by emotion). We can help them recognize the consequence of their choice and help them figure out what they can do better next time. When we assume the worst every time our child makes a mistake, we will inadvertently bring out the worst in them. Christ wants us to see the best in our child; see them as a person with good intentions who is simply lacking the experience and knowledge adults have.

LINE-UPON-LINE

Children develop in stages; they must go through a set of physical, mental, and emotional milestones that are dictated by eternal laws. For example, during the first two years of life the child mainly operates from their brain stem. Their movements are automatic and governed by reflexes. After two years old, their limbic system starts to develop and this coincides with “the terrible twos.” The limbic system of the brain controls emotions, and we certainly witness their innocent souls overcome with each emotion as it presents itself. In combination with the knee-jerk reactions of the brain stem, this is a recipe for disaster. Combine the automatic flight-or-fight responses of the brain stem along with pure anger, sadness, and joy and you get the tantrums and aggression that are so characteristic of toddlerhood. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for reasoning and planning, and this does not start developing until around eight years old, on average. It is amazing to me that Heavenly Father has told us since the beginning of time that young children are not held accountable for their mistakes. They are not capable of sin, and thanks to modern science we know why.  In order to sin we must 1) know what is wrong and what is right, 2) willfully choose to go against what we know to be right. This requires the ability to reason, and a child’s brain is not capable of that higher function until around 8 years old. We may see short flickers of the ability to reason and resist temptation as they get close to eight years old, but it certainly isn’t constant.

A wise, loving Heavenly Father does not hold children under the age of eight accountable for their actions and neither should we (see Moroni 8). This is a stage that should be dedicated to teaching and connecting. Correct your child when he/she makes a mistake, teach them good habits, and connect with them so they know that you love and cherish them more than anything else. This is extremely difficult, especially because this is most probably counter to what we experienced as children. For most of us (including myself) this requires a paradigm shift, along with overcoming the natural man. Remember, you are still developing too. Focus on progress, not perfection. 

 

Rest, Play, Grow

Many, if not all, parents today feel the enormous responsibility to “mature” their children. It is a heavy burden to bear; to assume that a child’s maturation and development rests solely on your shoulders. However, Charlotte Mason believed that the mind developed much like the body; parents provide nourishment and rest, but ultimately the body takes care of its own growth. As an example, we are not responsible for turning on the hormones each night, or setting a timer for when the baby teeth should start falling out. Neither can we speed up normal growth by feeding them more food or forcing them to sleep longer hours. Maturation and development of the mind works the same way: if we provide nourishment (experiences, ideas, etc) and rest (connection and safety) their minds will develop and mature at the rate they are supposed to. We can relax and trust the process. Our children will develop the ability to walk as long as we give them opportunities and support. However, they will do it on their own timeline. We cannot force them to walk at two months old by discovering the secret formula and putting in extra time. The same goes for independence, self-regulation, and other fruits of maturation; we cannot force a three year old to self-regulate any more than we can force a two month old to walk. 

 

Growing up as the oldest of six children and now raising three boys of my own, I have noticed that most “undesirable” behavior is simply a stage that the child will grow out of soon. I remember my brother throwing massive tantrums around seven years old. He would scream, punch the walls, and spit out hateful words. As stressful as this was for my parents, they did their best to love him and help him understand his strong emotions. A couple months later he grew out of it. He was never aggressive or violent after that stage. In fact, he is the calmest, most composed sibling I have. The key is to make sure your child feels loved, and ensure they know what is expected of them. When dealing with development it’s important to remember that today is not forever. 

 

Children are born persons, with previous experiences and personalities. They are not born purely evil or good, but have tendencies for both; they are born into a natural body which is tempered by the light of Christ that has been with us since before birth. Children are bound by the natural laws of development that we all should understand and respect, because the Lord (and His creations) work “line-upon-line” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:21).  When we realize that we are not responsible for achieving a certain result, we are free to love our children for who they are, which will prepare their hearts and minds to be taught.

 

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TEN PRINCIPLES

TEN PRINCIPLES

OF EDUCATION

01

LOVE | Relationships are sacred, and love is the foundation of teaching and learning. When our children are attached, they will emulate our behavior and listen when we talk to them. A secure attachment encourages children to take risks and become independent. When children feel accepted as they are, they can rest in our love, and therefore play and grow.

02

CHILDREN ARE BORN PERSONS | Children are born with previous experience and spiritual maturity. They are not born “blank slate,” and they have tendencies for both good and evil because of the light of Christ and the natural man. Parents need to trust the natural process of development and maturation and respect children as people.

03

SELF-EDUCATION | Agency plays a necessary role in the Plan of Salvation, and therefore it it essential to learning and growth. The most important way that children exercise their agency is through play. The educational value of play cannot be overstated. We cannot force children to internalize and retain information. They learn what they need, when they need it, and the Holy Ghost plays a central role in that  process.

04

THE ROLE OF THE TEACHER | The Holy Ghost is the true teacher of all knowledge; the gospel, math, science, and the arts. As parents and teachers we cannot make a child remember and comprehend information we deem as important. So what are the parents’ responsibilities and how do we teach? Charlotte Mason said we have three tools at our disposal: atmosphere, discipline, and living ideas.

05

ATMOSPHERE | Children learn by watching others and engaging in meaningful experiences. Our children learn values and mature behavior by watching us, and practice those skills with people of all ages. Children learn best from real-life experiences, not from artificial environments that are specially prepared.

06

DISCIPLINE | We are constantly forming either good or bad habits in ourselves and our children.  We influence our child’s behavior by how we respond to it (conditioning). The idea of habits extends to more than just outward behavior; it encompasses how we think and respond to certain situations

07

LIVING IDEAS | Curiosity, imagination, and passion come from living ideas. Deep learning comes from interacting with great minds and ideas through high-quality books. Parents are in control of what is brought into their home and the experiences/things their children interact with. Rich, nourishing material is followed by ample amount of unscheduled time to digest and comprehend what was experienced. 

08

NARRATE | Real learning happens when children synthesize the information they learn. This happens by the child taking in ideas and information, digesting it, and telling back in their own words what they learned. This process is simple but powerful. True learning and comprehension happens when the brain is asked to synthesize information and tell back in a way that makes sense.

09

 QUESTION | A thought-provoking question is the epitome of the Savior’s way of teaching. A great question immediately opens the mind and ignites the learning process to discover truth. Not all questions are created equal, however. If it is not worded correctly or the intent is loaded, it can just as quickly shut down the thinking process. 

10

APPLY | What use is knowledge if we don’t know how to apply it? Children naturally experiment and apply their knowledge to new situations, from coloring to building with Legos. More than ever our children need to learn how to discover truth and patterns in all subjects, and then gain the wisdom to apply it in many different situations.

WONDERS simple
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LOVE: PART 2

PART 2

LOVE

Relationships are Sacred

In my first article about love, I discussed the importance of attachment and how nurturing the connection between you and your children is essential to teaching. For some of us, nurturing comes naturally. For others (like me) it is not innate and requires more intentional work. As parents and teachers, we can borrow a lesson from medical doctors by taking the Hippocratic oath: “Primum non nocere,” or “First, do no harm.” In other words, when we discipline children our priority should be to do no harm to the relationship. 

As I have studied the Savior’s methods of teaching, I have noticed that he does not chastise or revile; he prioritizes the person and the relationship first and foremost. As an example, let’s look at how the Savior reacts when the Pharisees brought him a woman caught in adultery (John 8). Jesus did not say to her “Well, you really screwed up” or “You knew what the consequences were when you made the choice.” He simply said, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?” She said, “No man, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” He did not condemn her. He did not give her a long sermon about the law of chastity. 

When our children make the wrong choice we should not be the first person waiting to cast stones and condemn. We should be down at their level, looking them in the eyes and showing them our unconditional love, followed quickly by encouraging them to go and be a better person than they were before. There are laws and commandments that must be obeyed, but when those laws are broken we can come alongside our child in their guilt, shame, and sorrow and show that they are loved. They need to know that their worth is not tied to their choices, and that we have faith in their ability to be better.

Revile Not

Another relationship lesson we can learn from Christ is not to revile against our children. To revile is to criticize in an abusive or angrily insulting manner. This is the biggest challenge for me as a parent; For a long time, I had a child that would explode over what I felt were insignificant things. He would say that he hates me and that I’m “the stupidest mommy ever.” Even though I taught him correct behavior and showed an increase of love afterwards, he still continued to verbally abuse me. When all the behavioral techniques failed me, I became frustrated, gave up, and started to punish and revile against him. Not surprisingly, it did not solve the problem, it only made things worse than before. Only when I ignored the behavior and focused on him as a person did things start to improve. I put forth an even greater effort to strengthen our relationship and allowed him some grace as his immature brain is developing. I believe there is a misconception among parents that if our children, in their frustration and anger, say disrespectful things, it is our duty to fight back and punish them for it immediately. However, the Savior has given us an example to ignore the reviling, and Peter clearly states that we are to follow it: 

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example,that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:”
1 Peter 2:21-23

Connection Before Correction

When someone is angry and frustrated, they are not teachable. Likewise, it is pointless to argue, force apologies, or teach a moral when a child is emotionally upset. When we revile against our children we are actually robbing them of an opportunity to comprehend their mistake, feel remorse, and a desire to make amends. Many times they actually know what they are doing is wrong, but lack the reasoning capabilities to act on what they know to be right; the prefrontal cortex doesn’t start developing until around age eight.

Therefore, when we start to lecture and attempt to teach right at that moment, they will most likely justify their behavior, blame others, and make it less likely to feel remorse. If we want to be more Christ-like parents, we need to maintain a calm, loving countenance, even when our children are falling apart around us. I’ve found that in these moments, I just can’t say anything, otherwise I start rising to their emotions and everything falls into chaos. I simply get down at their level and try to think loving thoughts, and if they let me, I embrace them. At this point they usually break down and start crying.

Later, when a child has calmed down and feels connected, I say something like, “You were really upset with me earlier when you couldn’t have another cookie, and you said words that were not kind.” Sometimes they apologize on their own, and sometimes they just acknowledge that they were really upset. Either way, the relationship is intact and the child feels loved, despite making a mistake. I will usually take note of these incidences and center a family home evening lesson around it, like “speaking kind words” or “honoring parents.” In this way, I am ensuring that correct principles are taught, but at a time when the child is calm and ready to learn. I will discuss teaching and roleplay in a later article.

This kind of parenting is difficult. It goes against the natural man who wants to punish, seek revenge, and mend wounded pride. Some days I feel like I ran a marathon from all the energy I expend trying to maintain self-control. And although I still occasionally slip into previous bad habits, I have made great improvements by simply changing what I believe about what Christlike parenting looks like. I realized that a lot of my previous “parenting” was actually just me releasing steam. It wasn’t intentional, problem-solving, or loving. I parented based on what made me feel good after my feelings were hurt and my pride was wounded. We will all fall short of following Christ’s example perfectly, but I know from experience that the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Each moment that you choose to follow Christ and love your children is a small victory that helps motivate you to do it again.

As parents we were first commanded to love our children, and then teach them.  We were never commanded to judge our children’s actions and punish them accordingly. That responsibility is left to only one person: Jesus Christ. 

Nurture a Tender Heart

Why is reviling, condemnation, and punishment so damaging? The scriptures are full of examples of people with “hard hearts” that refuse to listen, and have lost empathy, compassion, and remorse. Although there are many variables that contribute to this attitude, I believe that the quality of close relationships play a large part in whether a person develops a hard heart. 

Dr. Gordon Neufeld concludes from his many years of counseling children and parents that hardened hearts come from peer attachment. When a child becomes oriented to their peers, they must protect their vulnerable hearts from the conditional love (or lack of love at all) of their peers. Children shield or harden their hearts, making them resistant to adult guidance, vulnerability, and an interest in things around them. You can read more about peer orientation in his book, Hold on to Your Kids

To maintain a tender heart, all people must encounter futility, which is acknowledging that we cannot change something. This means that parents need to have high expectations for our children; we need to set limits and maintain structure in our homes so children can encounter futility and develop self-regulation. However, this can backfire on us if we are not there to show an outpouring of love when our children realize their desires are futile. To feel deep disappointment is very vulnerable, even more so when they visibly show their feelings through tears. When we come alongside our child during their time of vulnerability and show them they are accepted and loved as they are, we are keeping their hearts soft. When children feel safe to show vulnerability they are more able to accept responsibility for their mistakes, ask questions, love deeply, and show an interest in learning.

In the scriptures, many words are used to describe people with hard hearts, such as: 

  • Offended
  • Contentious
  • Prideful
  • Angry
  • Resentful
  • Apathetic
  • Blaming
  • Indulging

The opposite of these words could be used to describe a soft, or tender, heart: 

  • Forgiving
  • Humble
  • Peacemaker
  • Happy
  • Empathetic
  • Responsible
  • Grateful
  • Curious/Interested

We want our children to maintain their tender hearts that are so characteristic of childhood, but how do we do it?

We need to maintain a delicate balance between expectations and love. In other words; imposing limits, setting high expectations, and letting our children shed tears and being there to comfort them when things don’t go their way. When we blame and resent our children we have a hard heart (read Leadership and Self-deception for a wonderful explanation of this). When we try to discipline with negative feelings we push our children into blaming and resenting us as well. Our feelings toward our children make all the difference when we talk to them.

As an example, when I’m feeling negative feelings toward my son I am actually excited when he asks for cookies after dinner because he has chosen not to eat dinner and I am justified when I get to tell him no. My tone is not kind and I see his tears as an annoyance and not as a person who is genuinely disappointed. Compare this to feeling charitable toward my son: I might say something like “I really want you to have a cookie, but you need to eat your dinner. Would you like me to help you finish? Or sit with you while you eat?” In both cases I am imposing a limit, but it’s how I’m imposing the limit that makes all the difference.

“Imposed sanctions, artificial consequences, and the withdrawal of privileges–are self-defeating. Punishment creates an adversarial relationship and incurs emotional hardening.” 

Dr. Gordon Neufeld, Hold On to Your Kids

Crime and Punishment

Whenever a person loves someone or something, they open their hearts to become attached and love deeply, becoming vulnerable. Children are especially good at opening their hearts and loving completely. Popular discipline tactics recommended by professionals for many years involve taking advantage of this vulnerability; the most common are time-outs and grounding.

These may not seem like a terrible way to correct behavior, but the long-term result can actually be damaging. When a child is punished by being separated from a parent, despite the child seeking for connection, the child is hurt, feels rejected, and must find a way to cope with the pain. The result is indifference. If a child is grounded from riding his bike, playing soccer, etc. they learn to not feel so deeply for these things as a way to cope with the hurt and vulnerability, not to mention the resentment they feel for the parent that is choosing to take away these beloved items. The more a person is forced to feel indifference, the more hardened their heart and the less vulnerable they become. 

A tender heart is needed for a person to be teachable. Christ admonished us to become like little children for many reasons, but one reason is that they have tender hearts. They are willing to make mistakes, take chances, and ask questions, even if the questions seem silly. Our job is to maintain their tender hearts by validating their emotions, making our love unconditional, relying on natural consequences, and holding back condemnation. Maintaining a tender heart does not mean giving in to demands, it does not mean we dissolving rules that might cause frustration, and it certainly does not mean letting our children grow up in ignorance. What it does mean is that we change the way we think about our role as parents,and trust the maturation process. Most importantly, we need to trust our children to make the right choice when they have been taught correct principles, and give them the space to make mistakes. 

IN SUMMARY, if we want to effectively teach our children, we need to:

  1. Develop charity and see them as people.
  2. Nurture secure attachments in order to gain authority.
  3. Not use coercion, bribery, or punishment to force obedience.

So the question arises, how do we discipline our children? As usual, Charlotte Mason has the answer. She famously stated in her Twenty Principles of Education that: “We are limited to three educational instruments–
the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit,  and the presentation of living ideas.”

In other words, we teach our children by our example and by them making mistakes  through real-life experiences (atmosphere); by shaping the child’s behavior and habits (discipline); and by introducing “living ideas” by reading the scriptures and other high-quality books. These three principles will be discussed in-depth in the next few articles. 

 

Photography and artwork by Randi Gardner. You can find her on Instagram, at @blooming.pen

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PRINCIPLE ONE: LOVE

PART 1

LOVE

CHARITY: THE PURE LOVE OF CHRIST

“Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.”
THOMAS S. MONSON

A few months ago I stood in my kitchen scrubbing the floor late at night (because that’s when all my deep thinking happens) and I was in tears.  I had just realized that my love for my children is conditional; when they are cute and loving I can’t get enough of them, but when they are obnoxious and frustrated I send them away until they can “behave” and “calm down.” When their behavior is not meeting my expectations, I feel that loving warmth quickly replaced by feelings of resentment, irritation, and sometimes anger. What it comes down to is this: I put more value on my child’s behavior than on them as people.

I confessed this realization and consequent discouragement to my husband. I asked him how I can love my kids for who they are and not for their achievements and behavior. To me, that is what makes a person who they are, so how can I love them despite that?! My husband simply said, “You can’t. That kind of love is a gift.” After pondering that for a while, I have come to believe that as parents we have been endowed with the beginnings of love, but we do not automatically love our children unconditionally. Heavenly Father created us with the instincts to protect and care for our children, but ultimately the pure love of Christ is a gift. A gift that is given to those who truly desire it above all else. A gift that is essential to the finest of the fine arts: teaching.

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail— Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ;”
Moroni 7:46

Without charity, the power to discipline and teach our children is ineffective. If we think we can parent our children solely based on instinctual love we will fail. It is essential that we receive charity in order to teach effectively, and the only way to gain charity is to desire it more than anything else, prove that desire by sacrifice, and earnestly pray for it.

SACRIFICE DEVELOPS LOVE

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. “
JOHN 15:13

We may not be required to sacrifice our physical life for our children, but when we become parents we are metaphorically laying down our lives for our children. Becoming a parent is not inviting children to be a part of your life, where they get what is left of you after you are done living “the dream.” Your life, at least a short phase of it, is now dedicated to nurturing a human soul who needs every aspect of you: physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Many people resist this change and expect their relationship with their child to remain secure and healthy, but this view is wishful thinking. We simply cannot have it all. Parenting requires serious sacrifice because love is ultimately developed by sacrifice. 

Not all sacrifice is created equal, though: it can create resentment or joy, depending on your reasons for sacrificing. In one research study, the researchers found that when people sacrificed because they felt pressured or feared negative consequences, they felt resentment toward the person they sacrificed for. But when people chose to sacrifice because they wanted to, they felt an increase in love and connection in their close relationships.

The key to sacrifice is desire: the more you   want to  love someone, the more you sacrifice for them. Conversely, the more you sacrifice the more you love. As an example, let’s say your toddler needs to feel connected to you, but you really just want to zone out and browse Instagram. If you put your phone down and play with your son, you are strengthening your love for him. If you choose to turn on the TV for your son so you can be alone with your phone, who are you strengthening love for? Yourself? Your friends? It’s definitely not your son.”

 If you are continually sacrificing your children’s needs for your wants, you will only strengthen love for yourself and make it more difficult to develop unconditional love for your children. When a child seeks connection it is not a want or a bad habit; connection is a need, especially for young children. If you want your children to feel connected to you, you need to be sacrificing for them. 

The parent-child relationship is not a one-way street;  we cannot expect our children to continue to sacrifice for us and prioritize their relationship with us when we do not do the same for them. Secure attachments with our children should be our number one priority as parents.

I WILL GIVE YOU REST

“Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart. And ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Matthew 11:28-30

It is an eternal truth that when we feel loved we can rest, and therefore learn and grow.   When a child feels that their parent loves them for who they are and not based on their performance, they are able to “rest” in their parents’ love. In her book, Rest, Play, Grow, Deborah Macnamara explains that only when children feel connected and safe will they be able to play, and therefore grow. If they feel that their parent’s love is conditional, or that their parent values other things more than them, all the child’s focus will be on reestablishing that connection. This can come out in the form of negative, clingy behavior, as well as the inability to focus and learn.

It’s a humbling thought to realize that parenthood provides the perfect opportunities to become more like Christ: by sacrificing for our children, developing an unconditional love for them, and providing a relationship where they can rest and feel loved for who they are. 

I believe that one reason Jesus Christ invited all people to become like little children is because of their natural instinct to attach to their parents. They instinctively attach themselves to someone whom they feel is experienced and knowledgeable because they need safety and connection. When they are securely attached they seek to emulate and learn from whomever they are attached to. The child trusts that their parents have their best interest at heart and therefore they obey their parents’ requests and guidance.

When there is a loss in connection (whether that is physical or emotional), it is rarely the child’s fault. As the mature adult in the relationship, it is our responsibility to maintain a healthy connection with our child if we expect to parent them. Today, our generation faces more obstacles to the parent-child attachment than any generation before us; both parents working outside the home, children starting school younger and attending more hours each day, smartphones (biggest culprits), and television. All of these things disconnect parents from their children both physically and psychologically. When that connection is weakened or broken, we lose the authority to parent.  

AUTHORITY + ATTACHMENT

“The principles of authority on the one hand, and of obedience on the other, are natural, necessary, and fundamental;”
CHARLOTTE MASON

When a child attaches to a parent, they do so in stages, starting at birth and ending in late childhood. Children develop their attachment to you all the way through middle school. Although their needs change and lessen as they mature, their attachment needs are just as important in adolescence as they were in toddlerhood.

Attachment starts at birth when a baby needs to be physically close to their parent; around two years old they want to be like their parent, to imitate them; also around that age they seek for a sense of belonging (“my mommy!”); at around age four they want to know they have significance, that they are valuable to you; around age five they seek attachment through feelings of love and affection (hugs, holding hands,“I love you,” etc); and around the time a child starts school they want to attach by being known through sharing secrets, desires, thoughts, and ambitions. (see Hold on to Your Kids, pages 20-24)

Here are a few ways you can connect on a daily basis with your child:

  1. When your child is trying to tell you something, stop what you are doing, and make eye contact, and always ask follow up questions. This can be hard, but do your best!
  2. Ask them to teach you about something they love. Video games, books, sports, etc.
  3. Wrestle or steamroll them. 
  4. Play hide and seek.
  5. Tell them stories about when they were little; funny things they said or did.
  6. Leave notes on their pillow or in their lunch.
  7. Ask them what they are doing and if you can do it with them.
  8. Give your child a hug, and let them decide when to break. 
  9. Give eskimo or butterfly kisses.
  10. One-on-one time every week. Even if it’s just running errands with you.
  11. Ask them to hold your hand while you walk together.
  12. Whisper a secret in their ear (usually just jokes or silly words)
  13. Tell them funny quotes from books you’ve read together.
  14. Ask them to tell you a joke.
  15. Write words on their back with your finger.
  16. Cuddle with them before bed.
  17. Write messages with your finger on their back (my four year old LOVES this)
  18. If you notice your connection is suffering, take your child on a date night, or maybe even a whole weekend if needed.

Psychologists are just starting to uncover the vital role that attachments play in human behavior and development; self-regulation, aggression, maturation, and learning. In this article I will only focus on how attachment affects learning and discipline because those are what most affect teaching, but if you read the books recommended in the “Resource” section you will gain a solid understanding of how attachment affects all facets of human development.

Through a secure attachment, a dependent, inexperienced person gives authority to someone more experienced. In this case, a child gives authority to their parents. Despite common belief, authority is not imposed on children by parents, it is given to the parents by their children. Authority has always worked this way. In fact, the Lord describes unrighteous authority in Doctrine and Covenants as,

“when we undertake…to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”
D&C 121:37

Parenting is an authority given to us by Heavenly Father and our children, but we can lose that authority when we try to make our children obey just because we have authority. Charlotte Mason confirms this truth about authority in her volumes on education: “But we have been taught better; we know now that authority is vested in the office and not in the person; that the moment it is treated as a personal attribute it is forfeited. We know that a person in authority is a person authorised; and that he who is authorised is under authority.” (Volume 3, pg 11-12)

There are many ways parents and teachers exercise control, dominion or compulsion in children. 
I was surprised to read Charlotte Mason’s list of ways that we exercise unrighteous  control over children. In her  Twenty Educational Principles she states:   “…these principles are limited by the respect due to the personality of children, which must not be encroached upon, whether  by the direct use of fear or love, suggestion or influence, or by undue play upon any one natural desire.” 

So, how do we maintain righteous authority? Once again,  turn to Doctrine & Covenants section 122 to find the answer:

“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of priesthood [or parenthood], only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeignedBy kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile-

Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.”

There is so much truth to unpack in those verses. Read them again and see what you can find. Here is what I learned:

  • Our parental power comes from unconditional love.
  • Our authority comes from our child’s dependence on us; they need our knowledge, experience, safety, and connection. When they do not feel connected, safe, or loved, there is a void which will be filled by someone else, and amen to the authority of that parent. This is when parents and teachers feel they need to resort to bribery, punishment, and coercion to get children to obey. 
  • Heavenly Father does not hold children under the age of eight accountable for their actions and neither should we. This is a stage that should be dedicated to teaching and connecting. Correct your child when he/she makes a mistake, teach them good habits, and connect with them so they know that you love and cherish them more than anything else.
  • Discipline does not mean punishment; it means to lead, to teach, to guide, to invite (my new favorite parenting word.) Discipline is teaching your children about choices and consequences, and not shielding them from the natural consequences of their actions. Many parents feel that shielding their children from consequences is kind, but they are doing their child a great disservice. Children should learn from their mistakes when they are young and their mistakes are still insignificant.

HEART BEFORE MIND

 “It is the business of the heart for a long time before it is the business of the mind.”
JOHANN PESTALOZZI

The Master Teacher

Jesus Christ is known as the Master Teacher because he loved people unconditionally and they knew that their worth was not tied to their righteousness or performance. One major teaching method that Jesus is known for was teaching by example. Scientists now know why teaching by example is so powerful: a little something called “mirror neurons.” The human brain contains neurons that light up areas of the brain that essentially imitate the behavior they see. When a child is attached to someone (hopefully the parent) they will mirror that person’s behavior. Our greatest teaching tool as parents is to form a secure attachment with our children and then be a good example of the behavior we want to see in them. I just love how science eventually catches up to eternal truths. 

In Hold on to Your Kids, Dr. Gordon Neufeld states four essential qualities that “are primary in determining a child’s teachability: a natural curiosity, an integrative mind, an ability to benefit from correction, and a relationship with the teacher.” Learning is essentially the act of making mistakes, encountering problems, and then drawing the appropriate conclusions. Failure is essential in learning, and children need to feel that their worth is not tied to their performance. When parents punish by shaming their child or withdrawing love, the child feels vulnerable and afraid to make mistakes. It is essential to the learning process that your children know you love them no matter what. In order to learn, a person needs the humility to acknowledge they have made a mistake. When a person is afraid of punishment or shame they deny they made a mistake to protect themselves and do not seek guidance or help. Secure attachments allow a child to acknowledge failure and seek help from a parent, whether that failure was academic or moral. 

Pure Knowledge

Knowledge is information touched with emotion”
In Memoriam: A Tribute to Charlotte Mason

Last, but not least, before a child will whole-heartedly learn about a subject they must love it. The brain does not retain information very long if there is no meaning tied to it. We must ignite curiosity, love and enjoyment of every subject before we try to teach any information. Love is truly the foundation of all learning; a child must feel loved and connected to their teacher and their hearts must be stirred before their minds will remember.

“Children learn best when they like their teacher and they think their teacher likes them. The way to children’s minds has always been through their hearts.” 

Dr. Gordon Neufeld, Hold on to Your Kids

There is so much to say about this topic and so little time. Stay tuned for PART TWO of this article, where I will discuss what Christlike discipline looks like and  how we can implement it in our homes.

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INTRODUCTION

HOME-CENTERED EDUCATION

Home-Centered, Public-Supported

As a second generation homeschooler, I have had many experiences that shaped my view of education. I was educated at home entirely until eighth grade when I decided that I wanted to take art and choir at the local middle school. I continued dual-enrollment through high school, eventually taking a math class and government in addition to art and choir. My brothers were “expelled” from homeschool (they did not meet the self-motivation criteria) to attend high school full-time their freshman year. They thrived and loved the structure placed on them by their teachers. All five of my siblings have had unique combinations of homeschool, online charter school, and public school through their K-12 education; each person received an education as unique as the individual themselves. My parents have always viewed education as home-centered and public-supported, but that idea never verbally materialized until The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced its plans to shift gospel instruction to be home-centered, church-supported. What my parents had believed about education and practiced all these years finally made sense.

I experienced a very unusual childhood being educated at home, at least compared to most children in America. I spent very little time doing “lessons” each day, while the majority of my time was spent outside exploring our farm, reading books, and working on my own projects. My mom received a lot of unsolicited advice regarding her children’s education: that we wouldn’t be independent adults, we wouldn’t be able to handle the rigor of college classes, and we would be so socially awkward that we wouldn’t be able to serve church missions or function in society. My mom felt the call to educate her children at home, but sometimes people’s opinions made her second-guess her choice. 

Fortunately for us, none of those things happened. It turns out my family is not the only ones who have escaped the “side-effects” of home education; in fact, I cannot find a single study that shows people educated at home are statistically more likely to have any of those problems. Studies actually show the opposite: people who are educated at home turn out to be more mature, score higher on tests, and have less behavioral problems than their public school peers. I have met many home schooled children and public schooled children that might be perceived as being “weird.” People from both of these groups were quirky in their humor and hobbies, and maybe a little shy, but were perfectly able to carry on a conversation and developed mature social skills. It is important to not confuse conformity with social skills.

Education in America

I believe that we live in a society that has a distorted view of what real education looks like, and we have very little faith in the power of the family. For the vast majority of Americans and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, traditional education looks like this: children are required to attend school with a class of 25-35 other children of their same age. They are taught by a different teacher each year, where a pre-planned curriculum is followed. Traditionally, students:

  • sit and listen to the teacher present a lesson about what he/she has read and feels is important for students to know
  • fill out a worksheet or are engaged in an “hands-on” activity (if they have a motivated teacher)
  • read textbooks instead of primary sources
  • and are finally tested and graded based on if they retained information deemed “important”

This system of education has only been around for 150 years, yet it has dominated the way we think about education in America (1). It has permeated all institutions of education: public, private, and home. While I was researching the legality of home education in Connecticut (a state whose original laws influenced the Constitution), I was fascinated to find that the current system of education has not always existed in the United States; Connecticut’s original (and still existent) law states: “Duties of parents: All parents and those who have the care of children shall bring them up in some lawful and honest employment and instruct them or cause them to be instructed in reading, writing, spelling, English grammar, geography, arithmetic and United States history and in citizenship, including a study of the town, state and federal governments.”(2)

Education in early America (pre-public schools) was viewed first and foremost as the responsibility of parents. If they were unable or unwilling to fulfill those responsibilities, they were responsible to employ someone else to instruct their children. Over the years our view of parental responsibilities and government responsibilities has shifted; for the majority of America, the mindset is that the public schools are responsible for educating children and the parents’ role is to support the public schools. Unfortunately, despite the dedication of hardworking teachers and billions of dollars spent on education, American students are not performing as well as we would expect.(3) 

John Taylor Gatto, an award-winning public school teacher, has written multiple books on his experiences as a teacher in New York State. In his book, Dumbing Us Down he writes:

“…no large-scale reform is ever going to work to repair our damaged children and our damaged society until we force open the idea of “school” to include family as the main engine of education. If we use schooling to break children away from parents…we’re going to continue to have the horror show we have right now.” (4)

Teachers, government officials, and parents have been contending and researching for years to figure out what needs to be changed to get the results we want, but I suspect the answer is not what they want to hear: children’s success or failure in life is largely based on their parents, not the quality of the school. Although there are many areas in which public education can improve, we must realize that education outside of the home will never have the ability to replace what is the responsibility of parents. 

Faith in the Family

The family truly has the potential to be “… the ultimate setting for learning, living, and becoming.”(5) Research studies support this truth: children do better with one teacher over many years (6), learn better social skills in mixed-age classrooms (7), and retain more information when they engage in real, meaningful life experiences. The family offers all of those things and more. The family is not an earthly institution, but an eternal structure. The more I’ve learned about the Plan of Salvation and eternal principles of education, the more convinced I am of the value of the family unit to teach and train the children of God. In the beginning, God did not institute schools to educate people; in the beginning there were families that learned together, and in the celestial kingdom the family will continue to be the primary mode of education.

“I think that by the end of the millennium, for those who occupy the celestial kingdom, the home will be the only media for teaching children.  Teaching will be through the family.” (8)

As members of The Restored Church of Jesus Christ, it is our duty to prepare ourselves and our families to be centers of learning for all subjects, not just religion. In 2018, Russell M. Nelson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, revealed a new way of teaching the gospel in the Church: Come, Follow Me. In this revealed method of learning the “objectives,” teacher scripts, and pointed questions of past curriculum are removed and replaced by focus on reading the primary source (scriptures), and asking a few open-ended questions to invite discussion. These methods take the responsibility of learning off of the teacher and puts them on the student. It also focuses on most of the learning happening at home, with parents teaching their children and the church supporting that teaching once a week. 

In the past, home-education was sometimes not possible or practical. Parents worked long hours on the family farm or in factories. They did not have the knowledge or materials to educate their children. Today, however, is very different; Technology and libraries have made it easier to nurture the mind and spirit by granting access to almost any book in the world, not to mention the greatest music and art, for free right in our home.  Mother’s are more educated and better prepared to teach their children than ever before. In The Family: A Proclamation to the World it states that “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” To nurture something means to encourage growth and development; physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Innovation has freed women from time-consuming, labor-intensive housework that was required for the basic nurturing of the body (food, house, clothes) making it possible to spend time nurturing the mind and spirit. The difficulty now lies in resisting the temptation to use that time for less edifying pursuits. We have slowly been accustomed to the worldly idea that mothers are not meant to be teachers (unless they have a degree) and that the government is responsible for the education of its citizens. However, the Lord’s way has never been in-line with the world’s way, and He has felt the need to remind us of His ways. 

“The Lord intended parents to be the primary teachers of their children. He is not concerned about credentials, degrees, curriculum and such–only about parents’ love for their children. He expects parents to sacrifice for their families. He expects learning and the search for truth in all areas to be a family quest and a lifetime pursuit. He expects excellence, integrity, and refinement. And He stands ready to pour out blessings and directions upon the family. With the heavens working with us, how can we fail?” (9)

The family was created with everything a child would need for development: mature, loving adults to mentor them, mixed-age peers to play with, and real-life experiences. School outside the home can supplement this teaching, but should not replace it. The Lord gave parents stewardship over His children and He has commanded them to teach and train their children. Parents will be held accountable for the information their children learn and the habits they develop while they are under their stewardship, whether that is in school or at home.

Teach and Train

Amanda Ripley is a journalist who decided to take a unique look at education in America. She followed three high school seniors from the U.S. as they spent a school year studying in a foreign country. The three countries–Poland, South Korea, and Finland–are considered educational superpowers because they claimed the highest scores on the PISA test — a worldwide test administered to 80 countries every 3 years to test 15-year olds’ competence on reading, math, science, and collaborative problem solving skills. The test does not consist of multiple choice questions to test how much information the students have gained during their education, it is a test to understand problem-solving skills, creativity, a way to test how the students learned to think during their education. It is not a multiple-choice format to test how much information a student knows; it requires students to apply what they’ve learned to real-life situations. Through interviews with the U.S. students and teachers, as well as foreign students and teachers, she is able to compare and contrast the educational methods and results of all four countries in her book, The Smartest Kids in the World. (10) The observations in this book do not favor any one country, but instead looks at what each country is doing right to give us a more complete picture of what a high-quality education could look like. Ms. Ripley’s observations support almost everything Charlotte Mason’s writings teach about education: 

  • We should have high expectations of all children (regardless of background). 
  • Curriculum should have structure, but freedom within that structure.
  • Curriculum should cover less material, but more thoroughly.
  • Require fewer tests and less homework.
  • Parents should view education as their responsibility.
  • Children need freedom to fail and learn from their mistakes. 

I will be focusing on each of these points throughout this book, but for now, let’s talk about the parents’ role in a child’s education.

Coach, not Cheerleader

The PISA researchers wanted to understand how parents influence their children’s scores on the PISA test, so they sent questionnaires to parents to determine how much time they spent with their children, time spent volunteering at school, time spent reading to their children, etc. The only consistent variable between all the successful countries (even down to individual test scores) was that parents in countries who scored well on the PISA spent more time with their kids and less time volunteering at school. The researchers were confused. Wouldn’t a child do better if their parents were more involved in their school? They ran their analysis again, but came back with the same results. 

Their conclusion was that when parents do not volunteer at their child’s school, they are spending that time one-on-one with their child instead. That one-on-one time is more powerful than managing fundraisers and splitting time between other children in the classroom. Ms. Ripley called this the “coach” versus “cheerleader” mentality. In general, parents of teens who did well on the PISA viewed their role as a coach (the primary educator), while teachers and tutors were the cheerleaders (support). Teens who did not do as well on the test had parents who viewed their role as the cheerleader; they spent more time supporting the school and cheering their child on than spending one-on-one time reading and tutoring their child.

I believe the reason that parents are such effective teachers is that the motivation behind teaching is parental love and a genuine concern for their children. There are certainly many public school teachers who deeply love and are concerned about their students, but that love is spread out across thirty or more students and they only have three to nine months to bond with each other; their time and effort is finite. As much as teachers would like to slow down and individualize learning for each student, they are bound to the rigid curriculum of the public schools and under scrutinizing pressure from administrators for their students to perform well on state tests. Teachers sacrifice immense amounts of time and effort to teach thirty or more children, but are we putting in the same amount of time to teach our own? We are expecting teachers to perform the duties that were originally assigned to parents, and then wondering why they aren’t meeting our high expectations.

There are many reasons that family is so effective at educating individual children, but one important and overlooked reason is that parents can customize their child’s education using methods. Methods can be much more effective than a system, and much easier to implement on an individual level.

System Versus Method

I love using public transportation to get to my family’s favorite places like the zoo, nature park, and downtown. We walk to the nearest station, wait for the next train to come–according to the strict schedule–and ride it to one of the many places along its route.  It is a very efficient system that is able to transport thousands of people to locations all over the metropolitan area. However, it is a system that works only if people adhere to its schedule and limitations. Most of the places my family needs to go are not along its route and are miles away from our home. Fortunately, I have multiple methods of transportation available to me: a car, a bike, and my two feet. I can utilize any of these methods to get me to where I want to be, exactly when I need to be there. 

Public education is a system set in place to efficiently educate thousands of children in each school district. It runs on schedules, time constraints, and efficiency. Just like public transportation, it cannot stop and wait for individuals if they are late, or speed up if they are early. It cannot personalize your itinerary to get you to the exact place you want to be. Home-centered learning is based on methodology. As the parent/teacher, you utilize different methods to get your child  to where you want to be, exactly when you need it. It is individualized, and usually more effective than using a system. However, there are downsides of methods; they require more resources and effort than a one-size-fits-all system. And for many parents teaching their children entirely at home just isn’t practical, and they seek support from a system. 

On the other hand, many parents recognize the shortcomings of the public school system, but are wary of home education because of five pernicious myths that saturate our society. 

MYTH ONE | GOD HAS NO PLACE IN EDUCATION

“The idea that the religion of Christ is one thing and science is another is a mistaken idea, for there is no true religion without true science nor, consequently, no true science without true religion.” (11)

This is one myth that can have serious consequences, as education is a vital part of our eternal progression. Russell M. Nelson explained in his talk “Where is Wisdom?” that the scriptures contain more than just knowledge about spiritual matters. He relates the fact that millions of people have died over time due to the ignorance of infection. Yet, in Leviticus chapter fifteen, the Lord explains to Moses, in detail, how to properly care for someone who has a contagious disease. President Nelson comments,

“Thus, our loving Heavenly Father had clearly revealed principles of clean technique in the handling of infected patients more than three thousand years ago! These scriptures are in complete harmony with modern medical guidelines. But during those many millennia, how many mothers needlessly perished? How many children suffered because man’s quest for knowledge had failed to incorporate the word of the Lord?” 

A wealth of knowledge is at our fingertips, if only we would be wise enough to use it. We are doing our children (and ourselves!) a great disservice by not utilizing scriptures in our studies of all subjects. Harold B. Lee taught: “We [must] measure every teaching to be found in the world of book learning by the teachings of revealed truth, as contained in the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we find in a school text claims that contradict the word of the Lord as pertaining to the creation of the world, the origin of man, or the determination of what is right or wrong in the conduct of human souls, we may be certain that such teachings are but the theories of men.” In public school, children are exposed to 6 or more hours a day of the theories of men; but are they receiving the same amount of time being exposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ? In a home-centered learning environment the majority of learning should be happening at home.

The early prophets of the restored church–Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, and John Taylor–knew that Zion is built on celestial principles (12) and since education is a vital component of the plan of salvation, it is a vital part of building up Zion. A celestial organization of education was revealed to them: to learn all subjects (both temporal and spiritual) from spiritual sources: the Holy Ghost, a righteous teacher, and the scriptures. The leaders of the church were commanded to organize church schools, also called academies. In these church schools they used “the best books” about science, history, and the liberal arts in addition to spiritual sources, but they were supplemental and completely in line with the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

The Lord directed the prophets to organize church schools for children to receive an education, but once the academies were organized the members did not obey the counsel to enroll their children.  In response, President George Q. Cannon observed “Whenever this people shall fellowship a spirit to disregard the counsels of the Priesthood, seeking to accomplish end by methods that are popular in the world, then they become like other people, and their strength leaves them…Our strength consists not of being part of [the world], but the very opposite of that. (13)

Philosophers over the past two centuries have worked hard to remove all religion from public education.  John Dewey and Karl Marx were two of the most influential in this effort. John Dewey is the father of Secular Humanism, which is the belief that is taught in schools today; that there is no God and we do not need Him to become good people. Karl Marx was also an advocate of removing religious beliefs from public education, which seems logical since there are many different religions in the U.S. and it would be a conflict of church and state to include Christian beliefs in school curriculum.  However, President Benson counters this logic by explaining the consequences of separating God from education. In a 1970 General Conference address he warned:

The tenth plank of Karl Marx’s Manifesto for destroying our kind of civilization advocated the establishment of free education for all children in public schools…It is self-evident that on this scheme, if it is consistently and persistently carried out in all parts of the country, the United States system of popular education will be the most efficient and widespread instrument for the propagation of atheism which the world has ever seen.”

Knowing this, should it really come as a surprise to us that young adult retention in the church is at an all-time low? The retention rate for members of our grandparents and parents generations hovered around 75%. Now it is estimated that 30-46% of young adults stay active in the church after high school graduation. (14) Twenty years ago, Boyd K. Packer also warned us of this spiritual danger, and the climate in the schools have only worsened since then. He warned: 

“In many places it is literally not safe physically for youngsters to go to school. And in many schools (and it’s becoming almost generally true) it is spiritually unsafe to attend public schools. Look back over the history of education to the turn of the century and the beginning of the educational philosophies pragmatism and humanism were the early ones, and they branched out into a number of other philosophies which have led us now into a circumstance where our schools are producing the problems that we face.” (15)

When we separate God from all other subjects it makes it much easier to disregard His existence altogether. When we isolate eternal truths to religion only we are halting our own progression. Heavenly Father has knowledge of all truth and has promised “… the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things,

and bring all things to your remembrance.” Although I did enjoy having discussions with my classmates in high school, I will never forget the inspiration and learning experiences I received when I was quietly reading at home in my room, in complete solitude to ponder on ideas and listen to the Spirit. I was free to compare scriptures to my textbooks with no time-constraints or interruptions. 

 

MYTH TWO | DIRECT-INSTRUCTION IS THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY TO TEACH

“[And] the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself … And because that [men] are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever … to act for themselves and not to be acted upon” (17)

Agency is key to the Plan of Salvation; Heavenly Father gave His children agency to choose between right and wrong. He did this knowing that we would sometimes fail, but He knew that we cannot learn without making mistakes, and that forced compliance is not real knowledge. As Charlotte Mason said, “Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.”

Traditional education relies heavily on the teacher’s role to schedule, prepare, and impart knowledge to students. The student’s role is to read assigned material, listen quietly to the teacher’s lectures, complete assignments (mostly in the form of worksheets), and regurgitate information deemed important through multiple-choice tests. A teacher cannot possibly follow the interests of every child or listen to every question or commentary on the material. It just isn’t feasible. But here’s the problem: it is vital for children to ask questions (even if they aren’t related to the material). It is essential for children to work through their thoughts and ideas and express them verbally, and feel that someone is listening.  Children thrive in a child-led, parent-supported (or teacher-supported) environment. And, it should be our goal to create this environment at home and look for it in quality teachers.

Compare traditional education to the new Youth Program the Church has recently released: a simple framework is given within which individuals are free to choose their own goals, set their own deadlines, and assess their own progress. Parents are there to guide and assist when needed. This is what education should look like. Some schools are implementing these methods, but they are rare and usually expensive. Implementing these methods at home is always an option and all it takes is some time and effort. We want our children to be self-reliant, so we need to take them out of an environment where they are passively being acted upon and allow them freedom to choose and act for themselves.

MYTH THREE | CHILDREN LEARN HEALTHY SOCIAL SKILLS FROM PEERS

“If socializing with peers leads to getting along and becoming responsible members of society, the more time a child spent with her peers, the better the relating would tend to be. In actual fact, the more children spend time with one another, the less likely they are to get along and the less likely they are to fit into civilized society. If we take the socialization assumption to the extreme-to orphanage children, street children, children involved in gangs-the flaw in thinking becomes obvious. If socializing were the key to socialization, gang members and street kids would be model citizens.” (18)

This myth originated with John Dewey and his theory that children needed to be removed from their homes where traditions and cultures of their parents were taught, and be “socialized” in a central place with their peers. But like most philosophers, his beliefs were based on theories, not truth. The changes made to public school based on Dewey’s theories has been a social experiment since it was instituted in the beginning of the 20th century. We’ve been told that by their fruits ye shall know them.” (19) So let’s briefly look at the fruits of Dewey’s theory that children should be socialized by their peers. In his book, Hold On to Your Kids, Dr. Gordon Neufeld presents evidence to prove that ever since the transmission of culture was switched from parent-child to peer-child society has slowly been deteriorating; aggression (20) and violence are increasing in schools (21,22), more teens are committing suicide (23), and prison populations have increased by 500% over the past 40 years. (24)  Although there are many contributing factors to these issues, my belief is that the underlying factor is the deterioration of the parent-child relationship and the unnatural phenomenon of peer-orientation. The structure of the public schools–same-age peers, high student-to-teacher ratio, and long school days–encourages children to orient to their peers instead of mature adults.

A child naturally attaches to someone that they are physically and emotionally close to. If there is a void (either physical presence or emotional availability) then children fill that attachment gap with peers. When a child is peer-oriented they can never get enough peer interaction. They would rather be spending time with friends (in person or online) than spending time with family. They start to behave like their peers, believe what they believe, and value those relationships more than anything else.  Dr. Neufeld explains that children need to be attached to loving, mature adults in order to learn mature social skills.

Playing with friends is called “social play” in developmental psychology terms. It is being acted upon by outside sources with little or no active role itself. Peer interaction offers novelty—which is addictive to the brain—and detracts from personal growth. Only when the child is alone with their thoughts and no novel experiences will they blossom and reach their full potential. In this setting, the mind will become hungry and crave stimulation to the point of creating new experiences for itself (i.e creativity and imagination). The play that children need for healthy development is “emergent play” which involves the child creating their own narratives, problem solving, talking to themselves (yes, this is healthy), and learning who they truly are without the outside influence of peers. For some children, this unscheduled time alone may feel uncomfortable, and maybe even distressing, to not be constantly stimulated, but this is not actually healthy. Children absolutely need to be able to play for a few hours a day without friends, parents, or planned activities. But don’t children need to play with one another? Dr. Gordon Neufeld–psychologist, author and founder of the Neufeld Institute– counters:  “We have to see the difference here between what children want and what they need. The play that children need for healthy development is emergent play, not social play.” (25) 

Children need lots of self-directed play to develop their sense of self. Social interaction actually delays the development of personality and creative thinking, so although social play is healthy for certain aspects of development, it is only needed in small doses.

“And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” (26)

We are starting to see the “curse” of peer attachment in today’s increasing deterioration of the family and social issues.

MYTH FOUR | CHILDREN NEED TO ATTEND PUBLIC SCHOOL TO BE A "LIGHT"

“Ye are the light of the world, a city that set is set on a hill cannot be hid.” (27)

One of the most common concerns that parents have of educating children at home is that their children cannot be a light to the world if they are not attending public school. First, I would like to point out that as adults we do not attend school anymore, but still interact with people on a daily basis and are perfectly capable of being a positive influence. Additionally, education does not mean that you stay home all day; most children are involved in music lessons, sports teams, play groups, library visits, community service, etc. where they meet and socialize with people of diverse backgrounds. 

A close friend of mine was converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ while in high school, and she is now homeschooling her own children. I asked her about her conversion experience and the role that her peers played in it.  She said the most influential person in her conversion was not one of the kids at school, but a neighborhood girl who befriended her. The one-on-one time with that friend was more influential than the time with a large number of kids at school. 

Unequally Yoked

Paul advised the Corinthians “be ye not unequally yoked with the unbelievers.” When two oxen are yoked together they need to be equal in strength and influence, otherwise one will drag the other along, causing problems and possible injury. When our children are in a place where they are outnumbered and over-influenced they are essentially unequally yoked and can be injured spiritually.

There are actually many studies that support Paul’s advice to the Corinthians. One research study found that when one unproductive employee is placed in a group of productive employees, the efficiency of the whole group decreases, instead of the one worker’s productivity increasing. (28) Another interesting study aimed at understanding peer-pressure took a participant and put them in a room with one or more other people–these other people were actors who knew the purpose of the study and were given a script to follow. The participant and actors were given two pieces of paper, one with a black line on it, the other with three black lines, numbered 1-3. The task was for all the people in the room to come to a consensus on which of the three lines was the same length as the single black line, and write down the number the group decided on. The actors’ job was to choose the wrong answer, even though it was very obvious that the line was not the same length. When an unknowing participant went into the room with one actor, they stood their ground and would not be satisfied by submitting a wrong answer. However, if there were two actors insisting on the wrong answer the participant eventually gave in and submitted the wrong answer. If there were three or more actors, the study participant wouldn’t even mention their doubts, they simply went along with what the majority believed. (29)

Following the Crowd

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, observes that people are most influenced by these three groups:

  1. The powerful.
  2. The many.
  3. The close.

He goes on to advise those who want to develop good habits that “One of the most effective things you can do to build better habits is to join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior.” (30) Children and adults are influenced by people they see as powerful, the majority of people around them, and the people closest to them. The children at school will be influenced most by their teachers, the habits and values of the majority of children, and their closest friends. And the same is true for your own children. This is not a theory or a personal belief; it is a truth written in the scriptures and proven by science. This is one reason why so many parents want their children to attend a church university, like Brigham Young University; the culture is different from a public university, and it stands as a light to the world inviting everyone to “enter to learn; go forth to serve.”

A child’s brain structure is programmed to learn and imitate the beliefs and habits of those around them, especially if it is one of the three groups above. Parents and teachers naturally have more power to influence those around us than children do. Instead of putting so much responsibility on our children to be a light in their young, vulnerable state, we should focus on what we can do as adults to be a positive influence. Right now, young children need to be taught how to be a light before they can do it effectively as teens and adults.

An experienced gardener and homeschool mother once explained to me how she gets the most productive plants for her garden: she starts her plants indoors before planting them outside in the elements. She gives them a temperate environment with lots of nurturing, and when their roots are strong enough, she starts “hardening” them to the elements, slowly increasing the time outside before planting them in the soil. If she plants them too soon they either wither and die, or their growth is stunted and they never produce fruit. If she waits too long, their roots outgrow the pot and they will eventually die or stop growing. The key is knowing the plant and the weather, and watching for when its roots are strong enough to survive. After this explanation she then compared this truth in nature to children and their spiritual growth. Home-centered learning is not about deciding if your child will be a light, but when and where.

MYTH FIVE | TEACH TO THE TEST

“The nearer we get to God, the more easily our spirits are touched by refined and beautiful things. If we could part the veil and observe our heavenly home, we would be impressed with the cultivated minds and hearts of those who so happily live there. I imagine that our heavenly parents are exquisitely refined. In this great gospel of emulation, one of the purposes of our earthly probation is to become like them in every conceivable way so that we may be comfortable in the presence of heavenly parentage and, in the language of Enos, see their faces ‘with pleasure.’”(31)

Slowly over time, traditional education has slowly warped into a system of information, worksheets, and testing. By no fault of their own, schools resort to these tactics because of pressure for their students to perform well in state tests. Although a lot of genuine learning may be happening in the school, if the students are not learning information that is on the test, the schools will suffer negative repercussions in the form of funding. Testing ignores the emotional and spiritual aspects of the human soul; those things that cannot be seen, but are true. Faith, integrity, imagination, and compassion are just a few of those truths that cannot be experienced with the five senses. They need to be felt with spiritual senses, or in other words, the “heart.” The heart consists of the faculties that sense beauty, eternal truth, and Christlike attributes. These are impossible to test and quantify, and therefore are drowned out by the subjects that can be tested, and therefore deemed more urgent by school administrators and state governments. And this can have negative repercussions for the child. Many parents I speak to know this is true and understand the consequences, but continue sending their children to a place that employs traditional methods of education, hoping that something will eventually change, or that their child will escape unscathed.

Imagination Breeds Empathy

Dr. Samuel Curry, author of Imagination and Dramatic Instinct beautifully defined the imagination as “The thinking of the heart.” (32)  Marlene Peterson, the founder of The Well-Educated Heart, observed that there is a “sacred combination” when heart and mind are nurtured. History and scriptures are full of examples of both people who have nurtured their heart and mind, and those who have not.  The phrase “hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds” (33) is quoted many times to describe people who were wicked and would not believe in God or Jesus Christ. Right now we see a period when education neglects the heart and, consequently, there is a decline in creativity, compassion, religious belief,  and an appreciation of beauty. 

“In the curriculum of most of our institutions of learning no place is given to that instruction which has for its end the cultivation of the imagination, and the sentiments through the refining of the perceptions and quickening of the love of beauty. ‘Education,’ say some of our legislators, ‘must give a means of making a living, our public schools must train up practical citizens, boys and girls must be educated in the practical arts of life. The ornamental has no place in the schoolroom.’ They utterly fail to grasp the nature of the imagination and its relation to everyday life.” (34)

Jack Monnett–a doctorate of education, author,  and experienced educator in the public schools–said this of educating the heart: “By amplifying the intellect and dyeing character curriculum, schools have assisted in the creation of an out of balance society that is ‘ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.’” (35) In addition, David O. McKay cautioned that “The principal aim of schools and colleges seems to be to give the students purely intellectual attainments and give but passing regard to the nobler and more necessary development along moral lines.” (36)

The Liberal Arts Feed Imagination

The heart is nurtured through stories, nature, music, art, dance, and poetry. Yet those are the subjects that are becoming extinct in most classrooms and homes because they are not easy to test and do not stand up to the standard of “real-world skills.” As Dr. Curry mentioned, we disregard the importance of the imagination in everyday life, like understanding  how another person is feeling (empathy) and believing in something you cannot see (faith).  

A child needs to fall in love with a subject before they will retain the information in their mind; nature study before science, reading-aloud before grammar, and speaking before writing. Children understand and remember when they love something; when their curiosity and imagination have been sparked. This is the business of the heart, and it is vital to a deep understanding of all subjects. Johann Pestalozzi, the influential German educator and founder of kindergarten, wisely stated, “it is the business of the heart for a long time before it is the business of the mind.”

There are parts of our spirit and heart that are touched by the refined things of life: art, music, and poetry. Pure joy comes from creating something beautiful. We are children of a Heavenly King; the desire to create is in our nature. Education should nurture that divinity within us and prepare us to meet our Heavenly Father and someday become like Him; this is the reason we came to earth and this should be the purpose of education.

A MORE EXCELLENT WAY

“God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availability, and if we then prove our dependability, he will increase our capability.” (37)

Parents have been given the responsibility to teach their children all truth, whether by themselves or by actively seeking out someone they trust to teach their children. Too often we assume that all teachers are of high moral character, or have good intentions. Too often we assume that the public schools are using the most effective teaching methods based on time-tested principles and/or research. As parents it is our moral duty to educate ourselves on what excellent, Christlike teaching methods look like and seek out teachers and schools that employ them. We also need to have the courage and faith to pull our children out of an environment (or change our methods at home) that is not in-line with correct doctrine. 

When the Saints first arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, they established schools where all subjects would be taught hand-in-hand with the gospel. In order for Utah to become a state, they were required to organize a public school system. However, as soon as free education was instituted, the members of the Church abandoned the church academies and enrolled their children in the public schools. The leaders of the church warned and pleaded with the saints in general conference addresses until the church schools were dissolved in 1920. (38) But free education was too enticing for the members, and eventually all the original church academies were closed, except one: Brigham Young University. 

The Lord has not instructed the Church to organize primary and secondary church schools since that time, but He still expects parents to take responsibility to “teach and train” their children, and to seek support from outside sources when needed. Through Come, Follow Me and the new Youth Program, we are being given the tools we need to become more Christlike teachers. The teaching philosophy and methods used in the Church are nearly identical to the methods Charlotte Mason used  in her schools and outlined in her six volumes of education. 

The philosophy and methods may be foreign to most of us because they are not the methods used in traditional education, but I know that they work. Traditional education strips away the agency of the learner, and relies on the teacher to do the work of learning (compiling information, giving lectures, testing). Traditional education can be found in home, public, and private schools. Which is a significant reason why many parents become burnt out after attempting homeschooling and conclude that home education just isn’t right for their family. School-at-home is not the same as home-centered learning. Christ’s methods of teaching individuals are not the same as the world’s. When we attempt to educate our children by the world’s standards failure is inevitable.  What I am proposing is that parents need to understand what constitutes Christlike teaching and learn how to apply his methods so we can enrich home-centered learning and know what to look for when we seek support in outside sources. I feel much like Alma when I say “Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but… by small and simple things are great things brought to pass… and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.” (39). At first glance these methods may not seem effective because of their simplicity and inability to produce immediate results. But like all eternal principles it requires faith to take action. We need to strive to become more Christlike teachers and have the faith to utilize a more excellent way of learning in all subjects.

“But in the gift of his Son hath God prepared a more excellent way; and it is by faith that it hath been fulfilled.”

SOURCES CITED

  1. History of Education in United States
  2. Chapter 168, Sec. 10-184. https://www.cga.ct.gov/current/pub/chap_168.htm
  3. U.S. Ranking in World PISA Test 2018
  4. John Taylor Gatto. Dumbing Us Down. (2017) New Society Publishers.
  5. Bednar, David A. Prepared to Obtain Every Needful Thing. General Conference April 2019
  6.  Hill and Jones. A teacher who knows me: The academic benefits of repeat student-teacher matches. (2018)
  7. McClellan, Kinsey. Children’s Social Behavior in Relationship to Participation in Mixed-Age or Same-Age Classrooms.(1997)
  8. Dyer, Alvin.”Education: Moving Toward and Under the Law of Consecration.” BYU Studies, 1969 p.6-9
  9. Kinmont, Joyce. LDS Home Educators Association.
  10. Ripley, Amanda. (2014) The Smartest Kids in the World. Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition
  11.  Journal of Discourses, vol. 14 pg. 117
  12. D&C 105:5
  13. Cannon, George Q. Collected Discourses. Vol. 1 September 2, 1889 (emphasis added)
  14. How Many Millenials Are Really Leaving the LDS Church? Religious News
  15.  Charge to the David O. McKay School of Education, December 1996
  16.  John 14:26, emphasis added
  17.  2 Nephi 2:14, 16, 26
  18. Neufeld, Gordon. Hold On to Your Kids.
  19. Matthew 7:16
  20. Classroom Crisis in Oregon Schools. (2019) KGW
  21. US School Shootings, Just the Facts. (2019)
  22. School violence in US Schools. (2018) USA Today
  23.  Suicide Rate is at It’s Highest in a Half Century. (2018) Pacific Standard Mag
  24. Criminal Justice Facts
  25. Neufeld, Gordon. Hold On to Your Kids, pg 252
  26.  Malachi 4:6
  27. Matthew 6:14-16
  28. McCord, J. and McCord, W. (1959). “A follow-up report on the Cambridge-Somerville youth study.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 32, 89-96
  29. Asch, Solomon. Conforming to Social Norms. (1950)
  30.  Clear, James, Atomic Habits. Pg 117
  31. Douglas Callister, Your Refined Heavenly Home, BYU Speech 2006
  32. Curry,  Samuel Silas., Imagination and Dramatic Instinct. (1896)
  33. Ether 15:19
  34. Curry,  Samuel Silas., Imagination and Dramatic Instinct. (1896)
  35. Monnett, Jack. (2000) Revealed Educational Principles and the Public Schools. Archive Publishers. Pg 123
  36. McKay, David. Gospel Ideas pg 441
  37. Maxwell,  Neal A. “It’s Service, Not Status, That Counts.” Ensign (July 1975)
  38. Monnett, Jack. Revealed Educational Principles and the Public Schools (2000) pg 29
  39. Ether 12:11