April 10, 2012

The Essential Family Curriculum

woman-at-the-well-simon-deweyAs a homeschooling mother I am often thinking about curriculum.  It comes with the territory, doesn’t it?  Imagine my delight when I heard an Apostle of Jesus Christ speak about the essential curriculum for our families during General Conference.  Elder Quentin L. Cook said:

The message, ministry, and Atonement of Jesus Christ, our Savior, are our essential family curriculum. 1

I knew as I listened that I needed to consider carefully what was being taught. Since that Saturday I have listened to, read, and re-watched much of General Conference.  As I have pondered the messages of the apostles and prophets I have been reminded that one of the greatest blessings we gain as homeschoolers is time.  We have 15,000 more hours with our children during grades 1-12 than if we sent them to public schools.  (That’s 7 hour school days for a 180 day school year, which does not include time spent riding buses or doing homework).  What are we doing with this extra time? 
Yes, I know we have academics to teach.  That takes up a portion of the time, but not all of it.  It simply does not take 7 hours to teach the academic subjects for a child in elementary or middle school.  Perhaps in high school they use most of the 7 hours with independent writing, reading, and extra studies.  We’re not there yet so I can’t be sure.  
Are we taking advantage of our time with these precious children to teach the ‘essential family curriculum’?  I have always tried to keep gospel learning as a part of our homeschool day.  Tried and failed quite regularly.  I let the busyness of life push gospel learning to a small corner of our morning, something to hurry through and check off our list.  Academics takes precedence over the eternal too often.
As I honestly evaluate even our good days I recognize that I can do more.  There is room for improvement in my life.  If I want the message, ministry, and Atonement of Jesus Christ to be our essential family curriculum I need to make some changes.  Reading scripture stories is not enough.  Learning hymns and memorizing scriptures is not enough. 
I think the idea that came most forcefully to my mind as I pondered this talk is that my children are hungry for doctrine.  They need more than just the stories of Jesus.  The gospel is simple enough that a child can understand it.  I need to use the stories in the scriptures as a springboard for discussing the doctrines of Christ with my children.  That takes time.  Less than two weeks ago President Monson said this in General Conference:

“In this fast-paced life, do we ever pause for moments of meditation—even thoughts of timeless truths?”2

I have come to realize that my pause button has been broken of late in our homeschool.  Perhaps it comes from trying to get things done before the baby needs me, because once I stop to help him the other 6 children scatter.  So I hurry through and push on to academics.  The minutes run together with no moments to ponder.  We read from the scriptures and then move into math or writing or reading.  There is little or no time spent asking questions, thinking, or talking about Christ and his doctrine.  One of my most important tasks as a mother, one that takes time.  Twice in this General Conference 2 Nephi 25:26 was quoted(here and here):
“And we atalk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we bprophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our cchildren may know to what source they may look for a dremission of their sins.”
I have a long way to go before I live up to this scripture with my children.  There is always room for improvement.  My curriculum plans have to begin with Christ.  The message, ministry, and Atonement of Jesus Christ, our Savior, are our essential family curriculum.  Needless to say, I’m getting my pause button fixed and adjusting our curriculum plans accordingly.
Tristan is the wife to one good man and mother to 7 children ages 10, 7, 6, 4, 3, 1, and almost 3 months old.  She blogs about homeschooling at Our Busy Homeschool and about her special son at Mason’s Spina Bifida Journal.

11 comments - Add a comment below -:

Mama Rachel said...

This is an excellent post! Thank you for reminding us to keep our priorities in order-- something that gets lost in all the busyness of life. I needed this today. :-)


treen said...

Elder Cook's talk was not on my list to review about parenting, but it certainly is now! I totally missed that quote during Conference last weekend, so thank you for pointing it out!

Jessica said...

I heard and felt this too as I listened to those words during conference. I loved this counsel. I hope I can put my plans aside and change those to focusing on what we really need to be studying. Written beautifully, thank you.

Chasity said...

What a wonderful post! Thank you so much! I definitely needed to hear this. :)

Evelyn Curtis said...

I had similar talks about General Conference as well! What an amazing conference to help me get started in homeschooling.

One of the main reasons why I decided to homeschool was so that I could teach my children from the scriptures.

Another talk that you might look into is by Sister Cook from the Young Women's broadcast. She talks about getting an education and finding a mentor to help you...then being a mentor to others. Great GC to advocate education!

Kristen said...

Super awesome. Thank you Tristan!

momof7 said...

Tristan, I will comment here and on your personal blog. As you share the "miracles" "blessings" and "tender mercies" of Mason's arrival, birth and life with your children, you will be teaching them faith, love, obedience, testimony etc. Mason's life is all about what you are saying you need to teach. We can all improve on our "true family curriculum" but just know that you are already teaching them so much as you live each and everyday with Mason. Just loving him as you all do is the best lesson of all.

Jenni Taysom said...

I think Shelly said it really well- its living it that is the most important part. Yes, we need to be systematically teaching the doctrine, but more importantly we can help them apply that doctrine in their life. I think it was in Sister Esplin's talk that she spoke about teaching moments -taking the time to teach in the moment. We teach our kids to love and serve one another by having them love and serve one another. We teach them the value of work by having them work. We teach them to love and serve God by teaching them that we love God by loving and serving one another.
Recently I've been pondering what curriculum to be using to teach my children and the answer wasn't what I was expecting it to be. The answer came in parts over a few weeks time and it came in the order of importance. The first answer I received was I needed to teach my children to love and serve one another-that was the "curriculum" of highest importance. The next part of the answer came a few weeks later, after we had been working on the first one for awhile. This time the answer was I needed to teach my children to work. One reason these answers seemed unexpected is because we are always working on those things and they have been a priority of mine. What I came to understand was that these are number one and number two on the list of priorities of what God wants me to teach, above anything academic, as worthy as those things may be, and I must keep my priorities in order and not let them be crowded out by all the nonessentials. So whenever I'm feeling overwhelmed I stop and check to see if my priorities are in order and scale things back to the essentials and let go of the rest of it.

The Osborne's said...

Thanks so much for this article. My ears perked up when Elder Cook gave that talk in conference- it is so true of all the things we can teach, the message of Jesus Christ is the most important.

Stephanie M Larsen said...

What a great post! I picked up on that line as well during conf. I think in our fam we talk about living the gospel alot, just tonight I had a good talk with my grumpy daughter who slipped out of bed to tell on her sister and said she will "never forgive" her. It was a great time to talk about forgiveness, sin, and repentance.

But, where I really feel like I fall short is teaching the stories. Maybe it's because I didn't grow up in a religious home, or maybe I'm just lazy (prob. a bit of both) but we really don't read the stories as much as I hear other families say they do.

Just wanted to say, I felt encouraged by your post to pick up the slack in that area and maybe incorporate that sort of daily storytime along with regular story time. I feel bad even admitting that, it's pretty simple and yet I hadn't thought of doing it until now. Before I sound like terrible, we read scriptures in the morn, but that's usually just more a discussion of day to day living that scripture we're reading, and I love those discussions but it makes it hard to get the stories that way.

Kori said...

Great reminder! Thank you!