January 24, 2012

Learning Their Scriptures: The Preschool Years


     I recently authored an article for Meridian Magazine on helping our children to love their scriptures. If you’re interested, you can read the article in full here. However, today I just want to focus on the preschool years. So much of our children’s bent and personality begins early on, and while there are changes throughout their lives, a firm foundation can never be replaced. These years are magical. You are their hero, and can do no wrong in their eyes. I distinctly remember teaching my firstborn in his preschool years about sin and why the Savior chose to give His life to save ours. It was the first time he had ever contradicted me. I told him that everyone sins. He said, “Oh no, Mommy, you don’t sin.” I replied, “Of course I do, sweetie.” It took a lot of convincing. Eventually he agreed to just believe me because I wouldn’t lie to him.

     That moment stayed burned into my mind for two reasons: One, I was so touched that my son thought so highly of me, and two, the weight of the responsibility felt enormous. I was his whole world. The preschool age is one where children are so open and willing to be molded. I will admit, that is, in part, why I wince at how frequently people put there children in full time preschool. It is my personal opinion that we are doing damage to our society when our young children are molded in a mass market educational mindset. I sometimes wonder if that is what is going to lead to the indictment the Apostle Paul gave about the last days, saying, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” 2 Timothy 3:1-4

     Our responsibility as parents is great before our Heavenly Father. He’s entrusted these special spirits to us. We need to take that responsibility very seriously. I don’t want to waste any moment of it. Let’s not wait until our children are independent readers to give them a love of Scripture. Let’s do it from the moment they are born. I used to read Scripture to my children in the quite moments of nursing them. Now, I will be honest, once I got to three and four children, there were no quite moments of nursing, so that went out the window. But, I could still whisper words of my love and my Heavenly Father’s love to them.  Another step we can take is to have heavenly music playing in our home. I love Scriptures that are set to music. It helps it seep deep into our souls, and it becomes a part of us.

Being An Example

     However, if I was going to pick one thing that was the most important step you could take to help your preschooler love their scriptures, it would be to love the Scriptures yourself. Let them see you read it. Let them see you pour over and study the words.  Let them see you both weep and rejoice over the way the Spirit has stirred your heart. Scripture should change us. So let them see it change you. I realized my son never thought I sinned when he was younger, because I never spoke with him about my repenting.  All he saw was the outer mommy, who always seemed to have her act together. He didn’t see the inner struggles.  Now, when I read a Scripture that pricks my heart, I tell my children about it. I let them know when I’m convicted and have to work on something. I enlist them to help me. That also makes them more willing to share their struggles. We’re in this together.

     I will give a word of warning, though. If you’re like me and study your scriptures with a pack of colored pencils in hand, you had better have a Bible coloring book handy. Your preschooler wants to be just like you, and if he doesn’t have his own Scriptures to study with, your Scriptures will get colored with crayons at some point. After all, he wants to study too. That was a lesson I learned quickly. Mommy has her Scriptures to color in, and they have theirs.

     As they get into the older preschool years, and you start to teach them to read, add in a list of words that are common in the Scriptures. There is an interesting book that someone tossed into a pile of books they were giving me, entitled Head Start with the Book of Mormon. I don’t necessarily agree with her method of teaching reading, but in the back of the book she has a list, with paper flashcards, of the top fifty words in the Book of Mormon. She also mentioned an idea I did with some of my own children. I would buy them their own real Scriptures, and then underline the words in the verse they could read, one or two verses at a time. Then, we would read together with them watching the words carefully as I read. When they got to an underlined word, they knew it was their turn to get to read. How exciting for them to get to read the Scriptures for themselves, even when they are just learning words like of and unto. Our time with our children is so short. Let’s make sure we use it well. Even from the beginning. We really can help our children love their Scriptures.

Annmarie is a single mom, who homeschools her four children. They currently live in Little Rock, Arkansas. She’s passionate about her children, writing, learning, and classical music. You can learn more about Annmarie’s spiritual thoughts and her conversion on her blog www.annmarieathome.blogspot.com

3 comments - Add a comment below -:

Dana ♥ said...

Great Thoughts Annmarie! I have often thought the same thing in regards to the verse you posted. What a privilege it is to be a parent and a blessing and joy to be able to spend so much time together learning the things of eternal significance.

Mama Rachel said...

This is a WONDERFUL post, Annmarie!

I so agree with you: little children soak up information like sponges, so what are they learning at tender ages? NOTHING is more important to learn right away-- not math, nor reading, nor academics.

Truth should have its proper place in our teaching. From the very beginning.

Beautifully written article!


Debra said...

Thank You.

It's nice to have suggestions about what I can do soon. The posts about teaching teenagers are great, but this is so much more applicable to me.

The quote from Paul hit me hard.

Thank You.