Sunday, August 29, 2010

How I Know what I Know

As I've been writing about finding truth and learning line upon line and how I don't always know what I'm talking about, I thought I better share a little about me and about the few things that I really do know.

I am a skeptic.  I like to question things people say they know.   I also love a good argument.  Growing up, we loved debating things around the kitchen table.  I grew up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or "The Mormon" church.  I didn't really question things too much when I was little, but as I got into my teenage years I began to have serious doubts about what I had been taught.  Suddenly I realized just how absurd the Joseph Smith story sounded and I wondered if I really believed it.  I liked how I felt at church and I liked how I felt when I heard the prophet speak, but I wondered if I had been "brainwashed" into feeling good when I heard things that sounded so nice.

I really began to doubt.  I decided to try out Moroni's promise in the book of Mormon.  I was almost done with the book, I had been reading it with skepticism, but I had been taught that there was promise right there at the end of the book:
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. -Moroni 10:4-5
So I finished the book.  Check.  I decided to ask.  I knelt by my bed and asked Heavenly Father to let me know if the church was true.  I waited.  I felt good, but nothing that impressed me enough to where I felt I had an answer.  Oh well, I thought, Maybe it's true, maybe it's not, but just in case I better keep going to church.

I went on like this for a while.  I can't say that things of eternity occupied my thoughts very much.  I was usually thinking of boys and social things at school.   I did hope it was true, but sometimes I didn't because I didn't want to feel guilty for my wrong choices.  I still tried to live the gospel though.

One evening, my aunt called me and asked me to help her out because she had to work and her daughter was having a stake baptism presentation that she was supposed to attend and her daughter didn't have a way to get there.  She told me she would show up to the presentation sometime, but she wondered if I could drive my cousin there and sit with her until she could arrive.   I agreed and I went.

The presentation was nice.  My aunt arrived and so I left.  On the way home I was thinking about how neat it was that the gospel was spreading throughout all the earth (the presentation was in Spanish).  I was waiting at a red light on the intersection of State Street and Center Street in Orem by McDonalds when suddenly I knew.  I knew the church was true.  It's hard to describe how I knew except that I felt that same feeling I had felt many times when thinking about these things, but magnified to the point that I could not doubt.  It felt pure knowledge flowing into my mind and into my heart.  Everything fit together so clearly in my mind - the church, the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith's vision - I knew that those specific things were really true.   I felt an incredible amount of peace and light and clarity and joy!  Such joy.  I could not have been more sure of anything.  I knew!  I wanted to get out of my car and declare it to the world so they could feel what I was feeling!  I stayed in my car though, no worries,  but I almost felt like I could float away since I felt so light and happy.

I know not everyone has a "specific"' time when they gain a testimony.  I don't know if my experience was a sudden knowledge.  I had felt this feeling before, in a lesser magnitude, but having grown up in the church, I didn't recognize it for what it was.  I often questioned it.  Because of that experience, I now know how to recognize the Spirit when I feel it.  It's not excitement or emotional confusion where I just get caught up in some moment.  It's so real.  I feel it when I listen to general conference, when I truly ponder the scriptures, when I pray with real intent - knowing He is listening, when I heed a spiritual prompting, when I go to the temple, or when I find truth and I need to apply it.  I am filled with an incredible amount of love (not from me - I even love the strangers around me) and with peace.

How grateful I am for this knowledge!  When I question things around me and I wonder what is true and what is counterfeit - I have a solid foundation that I can always turn to and find peace in.  I don't ever have to be on this journey on my own.  He is there for me, waiting for me to turn to Him.  He is there for us all - waiting until we are ready to really come unto Him so He can welcome us with open arms and let us feel of His love.  I know this is true.  He is merciful and will not impose Himself upon us until we really seek Him and are really ready to do His will.  

I am still a skeptic about many things I hear, although I'm getting better at learning how to judge new ideas.  But I am no longer skeptic about certain truths.  I have felt a witness that they are true too many times for there to be any room for doubt.  However, I know I must continue to strengthen my testimony because it is so easy to forget what I have felt when I neglect it - it is hard to believe in something so intangible when I have so many tangible distractions in my way.  Thankfully, every time I've realized that I am distracted, I remember what I have felt before, look again to God, then it all comes back to me and I wonder how I could have ever doubted.  I am so grateful for this mortal experience, for the trials that I've learned from and for the joy I find in it every single day. 

Of these things I am sure: I know that Jesus Christ is real, He is there, He loves me and all of His children on this earth.  He really did suffer and die for me and for each one of us individually.   I love Him with all my heart.  I know He has restored the fullness of His gospel in these last days spoken of by prophets throughout time.  I know that the Book of Mormon is a true record kept for our benefit by prophets who sacrificed much to preserve it.   I treasure that book and the Bible.  I know that Joseph Smith was telling the truth when he spoke of his vision - that he did see what he said he saw.  I will always be grateful to him for what he endured and for ultimately giving his life to bring about God's purposes.  I know Heavenly Father has a living prophet on the earth today to guide us and teach us with continuing revelation.  I feel Heavenly Father's love every time he speaks.   Of these truths I have no doubt.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Disclaimer, Finding Truth, and Goodbye Hummer

I've taken too much time reading and commenting on other people's blogs lately that I haven't had time to post anything on my own.  In light of some of the conversations I've been having, I think I should probably make a disclaimer that I hope you are already aware of.

The Celestial Education DVD is not pure truth
The Thomas Jefferson Education books and conferences are not pure truth
The Headgates e-book and FAQ are not pure truth
The things I write on this blog are most certainly not pure truth

Of course, I am not trying to deceive anyone.   There are a few things that I do know without a doubt (see this post) and I believe the rest of the things I write for at least 2 hours after I write them.   I am just trying to do my best in raising my children and am learning things line upon line, precept upon precept until one day in the very distant future, I finally get it right :-)  The great thing is that I do know the atonement is real and will make up the difference for what I lack if I keep my focus on Christ in my efforts.

It is so crucial for me to make sure to be in contact with pure Truth everyday so that I can recognize it when I come across it - to pray with faith, to stay close to the word of God through scripture and words of His living prophets, and to make sure I am filled with His love - and when I am not - repent, get in tune with His Spirit - and try again.

I think Heavenly Father expects us to learn from each other, from good books, and from the other sources of truth out there, but only if we have a sure foundation on which to measure the knowledge and insights which come our way.

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. -Helaman 5:12

What a comfort.

Now, on a lighter note, I had to post this picture of "Hummer's" grave. Two little hummingbirds flew into our garage and wouldn't come out. I left the garage door open overnight in hopes that they would leave. Bud went out to check on them before he went to bed and found one of them on the floor with a little blood on his beak. He picked it up with a blanket and brought it in the house (much to my frightened surprise). I told him to find a nice bush with flowers to put him in and that maybe he could find some food to recover with. The little bird didn't make it through the night and the kids, being attached to him after watching him in the garage throughout the previous day, made him a nice grave for a resting place:
The "tombstone" reads:  "You will always hum in our minds".  Here lies a humming bird named Hummer.  It died Agust 24, 2010."

I'm happy to report that the other humming bird survived and left our garage early in the morning.

They were burying the bird while I picked tomatoes - I'm so exited to actually have a bunch of tomatoes this year (I've tried growing tomatoes before, but I always kill them or get very few).  Since I'm working on teaching the kids to work, I have to make myself go outside more often so our garden actually produced tomatoes this year! Now I have to figure out how to bottle them - does anyone have any good Salsa or sauce recipes or tips on bottling plain tomatoes?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

New Focus and Devotional Boxes

Rock and I got to go to the Celestial Education conference yesterday.  It was inspiring and I got to meet some friends that I have gotten to know through blogs.  I loved that.  I wished I could have talked to them longer, but it was still neat to hear their comments and see them "for real life".  It was neat to be around so many people who are trying really hard to figure out how Heavenly Father wants them to raise His children and who don't just take things for granted.  I was also able to get myself my own copy of the Celestial Education video.  They mentioned that they are in the process of making it available on the site.

A friend asked me the other day what I was doing differently because of what I've learned through the video.  There are several things, but mostly my focus has changed.  Before, my focus was on teaching the children to love learning and to be curios about the world around them and to want to know more.  Now, I would say that my focus is on teaching the children to love their Heavenly Father, learn how to communicate with Him, and learn the things they need to do to accomplish His will for them in this life.  This does not mean that I'm not teaching them "temporal" things, but as the scriptures say,
And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me. -Moses 6:63
As Michelle Stone so beautifully put it:  the light of the Sun encompasses the light of the moon and of the stars.  A Celestial Education covers all of the good things in a "Terrestrial" and "Telestial" education.  The scriptures teach us what Heavenly Father would have His children learn and why.  I came across a great verse that put the "why" so beautifully in my scripture study a couple of days ago:
Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are broad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—

That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you - Doctrine and Covenants 88:78-80

One thing I have incorporated into our day is devotionals. I've always done a devotional (at least since I started homeschooling and off-and-on before I started), but I've struggled with where to put it in our day. At first, I was doing it as soon as we were up in the morning, right after breakfast, to get our day started off right. It was a little long though, and by the time we were done we all felt kind of lazy to get up and start our morning work. Then I tried doing it in the transition from morning work to free time. That worked pretty well, but there was some contention in our morning work that I think could have been avoided if we had taken the time to have some spiritual thoughts in the morning. I also tried to fit a lot into the devotional and their minds started wondering towards the end.

Anyway, here's what I've done:

I considered splitting the devotional in two and do some in the morning and some in the afternoon, but part of the difficulty of having a devotional was that we would all have to gather all of our supplies (a folder with our current hymn and memory verse, scriptures, journals, pencils) and then clean it all up when we were done. Half the time we skipped some parts because we didn't have all of our stuff gathered. I didn't have the energy to do this twice a day (three times, if you count our family scripture time in the evening). When I was sick in bed last weekend, I thought of a solution that has worked really wonderfully so far.

I made "Devotional Boxes".
 Each box has a set of scriptures, their journal, a pencil, a doodle pad (for when I read), their folder, a set of spiral-bound notecards (to write down the verses we are trying to memorize), a compass, a poetry notebook, colored pencils, and crayons.
It has been so nice.  We take our box out for devotional time and put it away as soon as devotional is over.  Now I can have our three devotionals everyday and it doesn't seem like such a hassle.  I like it because it gives us focus in the morning, afternoon and evening.  If I don't take time to focus a little in the afternoon, I've found that by 3 or 4 o'clock my spiritual batteries are dim and I struggle to keep feeling uplifted through the rest of the evening.  I think this is the reason that in the scriptures we read,
Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening. -Alma 34:21
I also like this one:
Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice. -Psalms 55:17
This is how I split it up. Maybe it's too much. So far it's going well, but I need to try it longer to see if it will work in the long run.

Morning Devotional (at 8am - before breakfast):
-Lesson (I share any insights from my scripture study that morning or a short article from the Friend or Ensign)
-Recite Article of Faith
-Recite, write, or pass off a memory scripture
-Read a short fiction story that teaches a value (mostly for Bazinks)
-Write in our journal (impressions, thoughts, things to do or work on).

Afternoon Devotional (at 11:30am - ideally right before lunch - but sometimes it's after ;-))
-Spanish Hymn
-Read a poem and discuss it (this discussion is usually very short)
-Recite, write, or pass off a poem (or stanza of a poem) we are memorizing
-Read a non-fiction story (Story of the World, biography) and discuss the gospel principles in it.
-Check our journals to make sure we do whatever we set out to do that morning

Evening Devotional (after dinner)
-Family Hymn
-Family Prayer
-Family Scripture Study
-Write in our Journal (such as what we're thankful for that day, what we've learned, how we've seen the hand of the Lord in our lives that day, etc,)
-Read from a classic together

I should admit that we still skip certain parts in the devotionals here and there because I forget and we're stll trying to establish the habit, but it's going pretty well and I think it's a family habit worth establishing.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Our Family Ladder (a reward system)

One of my friends recently wrote about a reward system she uses with her children.  I've mentioned how I feel about reward systems before and I wasn't sure if we needed one right now - until I thought about my little Bazinks.  He is at a time in his life where he is really testing his boundaries and trying to see just how much he can get away with.  I've been feeling like I'm often correcting him and I wanted to focus more on his positive actions - so he wasn't getting so much of my attention just from the things he did wrong.  I thought something like this ladder system would help him.

I thought about doing a ladder just for him - my kids are a bit older than Dreamer's and my older ones are able to understand that they ought to be obedient and good because it is how Heavenly Father wants them to be and not because of a reward.  Then I thought about how we've been getting sort of slow at cleaning the kitchen lately, and how their morning list isn't always done on time, and how family work takes longer than I would like... so I wondered if there was a way to make it work for the rest of the family...

 Just a silly recent picture :-)

I decided to make one ladder with one marker for the family.   Here's basically what it looks like (with a little more color and stuff):

                                 I                           I
                                 I           200          I
                                 I                           I
                                 I           100          I
                                 I                           I
                                 I           75            I
                                 I                           I
                                 I           50            I
                                 I                           I
                                 I           30            I
                                 I                           I
                                 I            20           I
                                 I                           I
                                 I            10           I
                                 I                           I
                                 I             5            I
                                 I                           I
                                 I         START         I
                                 I                           I
                                 I             -5           I
                                 I                           I
                                 I            -10          I
                                 ....and so forth down the ladder to -200

 So here's how it works:

-Everyday, regardless of where we were the day before, our marker is placed at START - there is only one marker for the entire family - not one marker per person.

-Every evening we put into our bean jar however many beans our marker got to that day.  When our bean jar is full, we go on a family outing of their choosing.  We haven't had to take any beans away yet.  I'm wondering if the whole bottom portion of the ladder is even necessary.

-If, at anytime during the day, our marker reaches 200, we automatically get 200 beans in our jar, even if it's not the end of the day - and everyone gets a treat (we have frozen gogurts in the freezer right now).  I knew this would motivate my 4-year old a little more than beans.

This is how we move up the ladder:

-If I ask you to do something and you do it the first time I ask.

-If you notice someone else doing something nice (you can't ask to move up for the nice things you do yourself).

-If you complete a task especially well (in attitude or speed) (e.g. we move up 2 rungs if we complete the kitchen cleaning in 12 minutes)

This is how we move down:

-If I have to count to get you to listen to me

-If we take longer than a certain amount of time to complete a task (e.g. we move down 2 rungs if we don't finish cleaning the kitchen in 12 minutes)

Does it make sense?

This has been a nice tool in helping us work faster and in helping the kids to remember to obey immediately.   I talked to the older kids about how this is mostly a tool for helping their little brother learn obedience, but that they'll get to participate on the speed activities or when they need extra motivation to accomplish something (like times tables practice).  They like the game.  They've been pointing out the good things Bazinks is doing and he feels praised more often for the things he does.  It also discourages tattle-telling because if I punish someone by having them move the marker down, then everyone suffers.  It gives us a nice common goal.

I especially like that Bazinks is beginning to think of himself as a "nice, obedient little guy" instead of a "little stinker" as he was often called :-(  He is quite proud of his speed as he puts things away for me.  I sure love that little guy!  Thanks, Dreamer, for the great idea!

Some family updates:
Bud is sick with some stomach thing :-(  He didn't eat anything yesterday or dinner the day before.  I am waiting to see how he feels when he wakes up this morning, but since he is usually up by now, I don't think he's feeling better yet.

I had Mastitis last weekend, which was awful, but kind of nice because I got to lay in bed and read for about a day and a half.  I'm almost done with Teach the Children: An Agency Approach to Education.  I have learned a lot from the book and I wish everyone would read it, but it is kind of difficult to get through because you have to focus and think - it would have taken me quite a lot longer to get through it if I hadn't been sick because I found myself having to re-read many parts in order to get it.

Our quest for no contention is going well.  Not that we are close to achieving it, but we are becoming more aware of how it creeps up on us and how it feels.  Unfortunately, I'm noticing how often I speak in a certain tone that I don't like my kids using and how often I contribute to the contention!  Sometimes I wish kids weren't such great mirrors to our own actions!

We're currently reading Little Britches and the kids are LOVING it. Even Bazinks will laugh along as we read.

(This next part if mostly for grandmas and for me to remember in the future - you all don't need to listen to me go on and on about my kids)
I have the sweetest kids in the entire world. I often tell them how blessed I am for having them and Spice will reply how they are the blessed ones for having me - I just tell her that she's only proving my point. The other day, Bud got a consequence for leaving the yard without asking me for the second time in a row (I had to search quite a while before finding him both times). He had to clean out the fridge and the freezer. I was snapping green beans as he did it, and we were talking. I told him how happy I was that he was doing his consequence without complaining and taking it so well and how lucky I was to have such awesome kids. He told me he was the lucky one for having such a mommy - I said, "See what I mean? Not many kids would say such sweet things to their mom as they're busy cleaning out the fridge!"

Little Miss continues to be a cuddly bug and will come up and cuddle me whenever she gets a chance. I took her on a mommy-daughter date the other day and she talked up a storm. She is quite the talker when her siblings aren't around. She came home and wanted to make a "goal list" like her sister. Here's what she wrote: "What I should be doing: ride my bike, go on more mommy-daughter dates, piano, penmanship, math". So cute.

I was telling Bazinks a story about 2 boys - one was obedient and one wasn't. As I was telling the story, he stopped me and asked, "Which one am I? Fred or Bob (the names of the two Boys)? I said, it's just a story about two boys, you can decide which one you want to be like. After the story, I asked him to put something away from me and he said, "Okay!" Then he came back and said, "See, I'm like Bob, becaue I was obedient." I love the power of stories.

Ray is learning more tricks. He likes to pretend to read books and to talk on the phone. Here's a video of him talking:

What an amazing bunch of kids. I know Heavenly Father has reserved some amazing spirits for these last days. I am so incredibly blessed to have 5 of them!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Teaching Family Unity

We've recently learned something that has really helped us in getting rid of contention in our home.  It's been so helpful that I thought I'd share.

It starts with math.

In math, the circle is the symbol for the number one.  When you want to draw a circle, you start by finding a center point - the circle's essence.
"Ancient mathematical philosophers referred to the Monad [the number one or the circle] as The First, The Seed, The Essence, The Builder, The Foundation, The Space-Producer, and, most dramatic, The Immutable Truth and Destiny" -A Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe (all of the following quotes, except the scriptural ones, come from this book)
I asked the kids what the scriptures refer to when they mention One.  They immediately responded, "Jesus!"
And they must come according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of the Lamb...wherefore they both shall be established in one; for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth. 1 Nephi 13:41
And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. 2 Nephi 31:21
So we drew a dot to represent the Godhead even though Heavenly Father, His Son - Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate beings, they are united in purpose.

"The Monad creates all subsequent numbers (111111111 x 111111111 = 12345678987654321)...  The ancients didn't consider unity to be a "number", but rather a parent of numbers. They noted that unity exists in all things yet remains inapparent... any number when multiplied by unity remains itself (3x1=3).  The same is true when unity divides into any number (5/1 =1).  Unity always preserves the identity of all it encounters...supporting all.  Monad is the universe's common denominator.  Everything strives in one way or another toward unity.... the circle has been a universal symbol of an ideal perfection and divine state that always exists around and within us whether we acknowledge it or not."

There are lots of great thoughts where I put the dot-dot-dots in my quotes, but I don't have time to type up the whole chapter - I highly recommend getting the book!  It's not a "religious book", but it is easy to see the spiritual symbolism.

I then put the compass on the dot.  I showed the kids that the compass makes like a little house.

"The closed upright compass on the point represents the mythological world axis, world mountain, or holy center of many cultures, they symbolic pole or spine that supports creation and around which everything turns in adoration.  Traditionally, the center is the most honorable place, known to the Greeks as "the keep of Zeus." Protector of hearths and boundries (centers and circumferences) and the source of moral order..."
We talked about what the scriptures say about mountains or a mount.  Look here for some examples.
We decided that the closed compass represents where God dwells - the Temple, our hearts, Zion, etc.

Next, I opened the compass.  I showed them how the opened compass looks like rays of light.
 In many myths, the universal creating process begins with an expansion from a divine center, like the very first Biblical command, "Let there be Light." In Hindu mythology, the dimensionless Brahma speaks aloud the word "aham", "I Am," a word made of the first, middle, and final letters of the Sanskrit alphabet which represents a circle's three parts; the center, the radius, and the circumference, and our own spiritual center, psychological reaches, and outer material form.  The opening compass represents the first manifestation of God's light...illuminating and vibrating the universe into existence, as expanding states of self-awareness, which we call "nature".  Nature's form represent invisible forces made visible....
 We played with ripples and talked about how in the scriptures, light is used to represent the Spirit and how our Spirit can ripple and touch others and help them want to draw closer to God.

The chapter goes on to explain how the motion of drawing the circle represents cycles and all of the cycles in nature and life and other principles of the circle, but you'll just have to get the book to get all that info - this is where we talked about unity.

We read this scripture:
"I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine." -D&C 38:27

We also discussed contention:
"For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another." -3 Nephi 11:29
And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another. Mosiah 18:21
We talked about how Satan loves it when there is contention in our home or anger in our hearts because it means we are separate from God, from the center, and we are not His. Then I asked the kids what we could do when we noticed that we were drifting away from "where God is" as I drew some drifting dots away from the center. They came up with some good ideas: pray, say sorry, etc. I told them those where some great ideas and that the one question that they could always ask themselves when they want to get right back in the center is, "What would Heavenly Father have me do?" and then do it. That will always get us back.
This lesson and these points took me about a week to get through. It's too much for a single lesson with little kids. It has been a great visual reminder of how to rid our home of contention. If I hear voices being raised, I'll say, "I hear contention starting to creep up, what can we do about it?" It has helped us stay focused on being united. Here's an example from this morning:

Bud wanted to try something with Little Miss' bunk bed. She wouldn't let him because she had set some blankets up and it took her a long time. He assured her that his way was a better way of setting them up. She didn't want to let him show her. They started getting angry and shouting. I told them to go sit on a step together until they could work this out. They sat on the step for about 15 minutes and they could not work it out. Bud was insistent that Little Miss let him show her and Little Miss was insistent that she had already said no and she was not going to change her mind.

Eventually, Bud was so mad at her that he threw something at her. I had him go to time-out so he could calm down and then he could go sit on the step with her again until they could work it out. After he had been in time-out for about 6 minutes, he still looked very frustrated. I reminded him that contention comes when we are seperated from Heavenly Father and I asked him if he remembered how to get back to the center and be united again. He said, "How?" I reminded him to ask himself what Heavenly Father would have him do and then do it.   He said, "I know, but she's being so frustrating!" I agreed with him, but told him that Heavenly Father would let him know what to do if he asked Him.

The timer went off a couple of minutes later and I told him to go back to the step and try again. He did and then he immediately said, "Sorry, Little Miss" and then they started to play together. I thought it was pretty miraculous how quickly a very frustrated little boy who hadn't gotten his way was willing to apologize and move on - in a couple of minutes - when something was such a big deal to him. I hope we can get rid of contention! Impossible? The city of Enoch was able to do it - a whole city. The Nephites did it for about 200 years - a whole civilization. If they can do it - why not us? We'll keep working on it anyway...
"And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people...and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God... but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God." 4 Nephi 1:15-17

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Love of Learning" is not Enough - and Spice's Goals

The pictures on this post are from when my brother,
Cesar, and his family were here in July.

I've been reading a book called Teach the Children by Neil J. Flinders.  It was recommended in the Celestial Education DVD.  It is very interesting.  So far I am learning about the different philosophies that have influenced, and are influencing education.  Almost all of the names are familiar to me like Skinner, Piaget, Aristotle, Plato, Rousseau, Maslow, Rogers, Nietzche, Augustine, etc.  I had to memorize several of their development tables and theories when I was in college.  I can attest to the fact that these people's ideas are what are taught and applied in our modern education.  While there is sparks of truth and insight in what all of them had to say - we have taken many of their ideas and made them educational doctrine for our children.

Unfortunately, much of what we've adopted doesn't necessarily go hand-in-hand with the educational plan that Heavenly Father put in place for his children that we can learn about in the scriptures.  In fact, much of it is even in opposition to it.  For example, did you know that B.F. Skinner (we studied him a lot at school, I guess you could call him the father of behavioral psychology) said that it is naive to believe in the free will of man.  That "Freedom and dignity...are the possessions of the autonomous man of traditional theory, and they are essential to practices in which a person is held responsible for his conduct and given credit for his achievements.  A scientific analysis shifts both the responsibility and the achievement to the environment" (quoted in Teach the Children pg. 103)
 Rolling down a hill

Of course, most people don't buy into that mindset completely, but we do to some extent as is evident by how much money and resources goes to manipulating the environment (not to say that environment isn't important - it is - very - just that we can take it too far).  You will find many philosophies like this when you look at where resources are allocated, where time is spent and what subjects we choose to teach.  Our whole educational system is based on the Greek philosophy that knowledge is the highest attainment of mankind.  Our grading system and exams all are products of this mentality.  Flinders mentions the song I am a Child of God.  When it was first written it said:
Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way.  Teach me all that I must know to live with Him someday

When it was taken to the leaders of the church for approval, Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, asked that the word know be replaced with do.  He said that to know is not enough and that it makes a difference which priority we teach our children.

In our day of Google and iphones, children have access to almost anything that they want to know.  Many people are walking around with the attitude that they know it all, because they know how to find the answer to anything.  No wonder many children feel like school is a waste of time.  Why memorize and work so hard to learn things that you can have access to with the push of a button?  As false as this mentality is, you have to admit that it has some merit.  Knowing stuff should not be the aim of education.  Building character is what true education is about.

I loved this:
"Based on its Greek origins, the naturalist position frequently fosters the idea that the highest goal in education is to instill in learners a love of learning.  Cultivating this attribute is often proposed as the pinnacle of educational achievement.  Influenced by the Hebrew heritage, agency educators disagree.  It is not the love of learning, but the love of learning the truth and complying with the truth and serving others that marks the truly educated.  More directly, it is the love of God and complying with his will that distinguishes the truly educated.  The search itself is not sufficient; neither is the finding.  Only when man seeks truth, finds the truth, and obtains the light to act correctly on that truth by using it in the service of God and man is he acquiring proper education.  Searching for truth without seeking the divine light to illuminate that truth is a vain expedition.  Learning is a human constant; we are always learning.  'Ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth' disorients the ship of human history (2 Timothy 3:7).  Truth is plentiful, even among those who do not search for it.  Like rain it falls upon the righteous and the unrighteous.  Light, however, is promised only to those who seek it, sacrifice for it, and acknowledge God's hand in giving it (2 Nephi 32:3-6).  Agency education requires more than the love of learning." (Teach the Children pg 83)
I took Spice on a "mentor date" on Monday.  It's just a little outing in which we talk about how she's feeling, if she's happy with her relationships, what she's learning, what her goals, aspirations and interests are.  I took some paper to write anything down that she wanted me to remind her of.  We went to TGI Friday's and shared some ice-cream.  She is so fun to talk to and I am often amazed at her insights.

We first did a word search on her placemat and some tic-tac-toe.  Then I asked her if she was happy with how things were going.  She mentioned that she has a hard time being nice to her sister sometimes and that she wants to work on that.  I wrote it down and told her that it was such a worthy goal that maybe it should be her one goal so that she could focus on it.  She said she also wanted to study more.  I asked her what she wanted to study.  "I think I should study more math," she said.

"Why do you want to study math?" I asked

She responded, "Because God created the world using math and I want to be able to understand His creations!"

I thought that was a pretty good answer.  So I told her that maybe her one goal could be to be kind to her sister, but that she could have a list of things that she wants to work on during her free time and that I would write them down so that when free time came around I could remind her to look at her list and she could remember the things that she wanted to work on.  She thought that was a great idea.  In the end, this was the list she came up with:

Be nice to Little Miss

Free Time:
Math - every other day
Practice Piano
A Language Lesson
Start a Book of Centuries

I don't know if she'll stick to all her goals, if she's like her mother she'll do about half of them :-)  I'm just glad she's working on her talents and her goals for the right reason.  She is already doing those things that matter most - working, reading her scriptures (she just finished the Book of Mormon and has started the New Testament), saying her prayers, writing in her journal and working on her relationships.  If she can learn to communicate with God about what to learn and do - I have no doubt that she will reach her potential in this life and find joy therein.

I am so thankful for the wonderful insights I am receiving as I try to teach my children the way Heavenly Father would like them to be taught.  I am aware that I have much to learn, but I know that since I'm really trying, Heavenly Father will work with what he's got and will make up for what I lack if they choose to let Him.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Habits vs Requirements

My thoughts are kind of scattered lately, this post is an effort to write some of them down.  Sometimes that helps.  It's also mingled with some of the latest family pictures.
Ray playing in the river.  He loves rivers - hates baths.  Go figure.

Lately, I've have a bunch of ideas floating around in my head and I'm trying to figure out how to implement what and when and experimenting to see what works and what feels right.  I'm trying to stay in tune to the Spirit so I can discern what is best.   It's so simple.  I'm not sure why I'm making it not so. 
 Spice decided to make us noodles for dinner.

I guess I have a sense of my great responsibility and I don't want to fall short.  That sounds like fear doesn't it?  Fear is not an emotion of the Spirit.  If I truly realized my dependence on the Lord and that these are His children and that He will guide me, I wouldn't be afraid.

I guess my fear is not that He won't guide me, but that I will be too busy with my own agenda that I won't be able to hear Him when He does.  I guess I am not fully trusting the atonement am I?  If I do my best with what I know, He will make up the difference.  My kids will find their mission and unique talents in life if they learn to follow the guidance of the Holy Ghost.  We all will.  I need to teach them the basics of staying in tune to that guidance and they will be okay.  Better than okay - they will reach their potential.  So will I.  It's so simple.  That is what I need to teach.  That is what I need to live.
Bud with his new pet baby praying mantis.
I've sometimes wondered about the difference between "requiring" things of our children and instilling good habits in them.  I think the difference is that a habit is something that is just part of a family culture - something that we are all striving to work towards and to live together.  "Requiring" seems like it is something that one person makes another person do, regardless of how that person feels about it.
Bazinks asleep in a box

I've decided to start working on some family habits that will help us develop the ability to stay close to the Spirit and draw closer to God.  For example, we now have "journal writing time".  I've explained to the children that this is the time when we all work on writing down promptings about what we need to do with our time, what we need to work on and learn, spiritual experiences or insights, things we are grateful for, etc.  It is a way we communicate with God.  The younger kids practice their penmanship so that they will one day be able to write in their journals or draw pictures of their thoughts.  One of my kids asked, "Do we have to write in our journals?"  I said, "I'm not going to force you to do the things that you ought to do.  My job is to teach you what they are, and to make time for you to have the opportunity to do them, but whether you choose to do those things with the opportunities you have or not, is up to you.

Another habit we are working on is immediate obedience to parents and God.  I told them that obeying their parents helps them practice obeying God.  We are all working on obeying promptings immediately.

That is my job.  I need to teach the children how to communicate with God, how to see the lessons all around them.  All things really do testify of Him if we take the time to notice.

What habits have you made the time to develop in your home to help you children draw closer to God?

Here are some videos of Ray's latest tricks:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Implementing New Ideas - Celestial Education

So, I've been trying to figure out how to educate my children.  I know - story of my life.  It seems like once I think I have something down, I learn something new and then I have to change things up a bit.  That's how we're supposed to learn I suppose - line upon line, precept upon precept.

I'm working on the things I learned about in the Celestial Education video that I mention here.  She presented some new ideas and I've been trying to implement the ones that I liked for my family.  It can be hard to judge new ideas.

I noticed this happening with the headgates article - the ideas were so new, that people felt a need to learn more about the presenter - what are her credentials, how old are her kids, etc.  I think it might be more beneficial to look at the ideas presented and see if they are true ideas for our family or not.  We do not need to be blown about by every wind of doctrine if we are anchored to Christ.  Staying anchored to Christ is work, so it's easier to check if the presenters are trustworthy so we can trust their message without having to find out for ourselves if the message is true.   New ideas are hard to accept, but we can know if they are true or not regardless of who is presenting them to us.
For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.
And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the alight by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.
Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ. - Moroni 7:15-19
I feel so blessed to have access to the source of all truth.  If I can stay tuned to His guidance, there is no need to fear.  It is a peaceful place to be.

So that's been my focus lately.  I need to make sure I am tuned into the frequency of the Spirit.  I am so lazy sometimes and I get into little slumps where I just don't want to do anything.  Laundry and cleaning is so monotonous, scripture study takes time, I don't want to prepare yet another meal, but I have seen - over and over again - that if I just take the initial step to do it anyway, the Spirit enters my heart and it becomes a joyful, fulfilling task - even if I'm doing it for the up-teenth-thousanth time.   And I even learn something in the process.  Pretty amazing.

I mentioned on this blog that I was praying with the children one afternoon and I asked Heavenly Father to please help us use our free time in a wise way.  When I finished praying, the kids asked me if they should be praying about their free time.  This should have been a no-brainer for me, but I was in the mindset of "not requiring" and I worried that they would feel required to do specific things with their free time.   I soon realized the problem with this thinking and saw that, yes, of course we should seek Heavenly Father's will in how we use our time.

This realization led me to ponder if I was not focusing on Christ enough in my teaching.  Some of the ideas on the video resonated with me and I am working on centering our education more on Christ and not just on learning things.

I'm finding many roadblocks and distractions.  Satan always seems to work hard on getting me off track when I'm doing something important.   The last two days have been hard -  I have felt extra lazy and distracted.  Today will be better.