Allow me a short brag. Recently my 9-year-old daughter, Miriam, gave a talk in primary. Miriam said she didn't want any help putting her talk together. She went on lds.org, found some scriptures and a quote from Elder Holland, and cut and pasted it until everything was in the order she wanted. I didn't do anything to help her except make her "give" her talk to me twice.
Then she stood up and gave the most wonderful talk. Seriously, I was brimming over with pride. She was confident, she was poised, she didn't read every word, she looked at the audience, the transitions were completely smooth. She sounded far more prepared and intelligent than many of our youth speakers (sad but true) in Sacrament meeting. My hubby thinks she has really good inflection when she speaks because she listens to so many books on tape. I think it might just be her flare for the dramatic. Either way she was never monotone and, quite frankly, her talk was stellar in every respect.
And she's 9. And really shy.
How did she go from her first terrified efforts when she was three to being able to put together a complete talk at age 9?
We utilized the opportunities given to us in the Church.
I'm not trying to say that all children can or should be able to prepare a talk independently by age 9. We all know there are no set ages for our children to be able to do things. My son, who is 7, can't read well enough for him to do many of the things my daughter was doing at his age. That's okay. When he gets an assignment he still does everything he can to prepare--and that will one day lead to his being able to serve independently in the church.
My point then is that many opportunities that the church provides our children are wasted. I served as the primary chorister for a stint and almost every talk given in primary was one of the pre-prepared talks written by the primary president. That was wasted opportunity. Not taking our children with us to clean the church--wasted opportunity. Not participating in Activity Days, Scouts, FHE, family prayer, not reading The Friend--wasted opportunities.
Many times as homeschoolers we drive ourselves to distraction putting together perfect devotionals, or scripture study methods, etc. Those are good things. I know I've enjoyed most of our devotional time this past year spent studying the Old Testament. However, what my children enjoyed most was reading The Friend together. All the resources and opportunities our children absolutely need are already provided by the Church. We just have to make sure we aren't trying so hard to do more that we fail to utilize that which we already have.
I'm certainly not perfect at this. I forget primary assignments and choose Faith in God goals after the fact instead of planning them in advance. I am especially terrible at remembering Activity Days (argh!). I'm also guilty of planning out elaborate scripture study plans and then spending most of our devotional time yelling at my kids to be quiet and listen. However, I keep trying. I keep teaching my children that an assignment from primary is a sacred responsibility that requires their best efforts. I also teach my children that God asked us to develop our talents and abilities and then he provided us with callings to be able to do so.
I'm so grateful for our church programs that make our kids learn and stretch and prepare for all sorts of experiences later on in their lives. I'm also grateful that I have a child who can prepare her talks herself. One down, five (almost) to go.