Last time I posted, I wrote about the importance of "clearing the soil" when we want to motivate our children to want to learn. I mentioned that I would write later about step #2 - surrounding them with sunshine - or love - by building relationships. I don't claim to be an expert, but I have had several questions about this from several people so I want to write about my experience with this in hopes that it will benefit those who are seeking some answers.
I really believe that if there is contention in our hearts, we cannot learn. It is counterproductive to try to force a child to learn something when they are battling with us in their hearts. Before we can teach anything, we must establish an environment of love and trust. I heard someone once say, "If the Spirit is gone, we set aside all of our learning agenda until we get it back, or we are just wasting our time."
I recommend that people take their time to build happy relationships before even attempting to "do school" or formal learning time.
I will list what I have found to be four very important priorities when we are working on building relationships.
First Priority: Scripture and Prayer Habits
In my opinion, the first habit we should establish in our home is the habit of family and personal prayer and scripture study. If our children are growing closer to their God, they will catch the Spirit of Learning (it comes from Him) and they will feel closer to us if we are doing the same. We like to share our morning scripture study "ah-has" or questions during breakfast. It makes for some good discussion and the children know they will be asked each day, which helps them better prepare and remember their personal study.
This is crucial for mothers. It is too hard to parent alone. We need His divine influence, guidance, and love in what we do. We cannot afford to not take the time for a personal devotional each day and throughout the day.
Second Priority: Obedience
I am really focusing on this one in our family right now. I have always known that teaching obedience was important, but I didn't realize how essential this duty was until recently. I have been reading Charlotte Mason's books on home education. She talks about how a parent must not rule by whim or that makes them a tyrant. They must rule by principle. I realized that I sometimes rule by whim because I want my children to be happy.
Last week, one of my children decided that something I asked him to do was unfair, so instead of doing it, he laid in his bed. We had planned to go to the duck pond that day and he loves the duck pond. When it was time to go, I wanted to let him come with the promise that he would do his jobs when he got back, but it occurred to me that if I did this, I would be governing by whim, because I wanted him to go. If I were to rule by principle, I would not allow him to go if his work was not done. This was a very hard thing for me to do, but I remembered, and reminded him, that it is my duty to God to teach my kids obedience and hard work. So he stayed home and cleaned. I thought he would be mad, but he almost seemed relieved to have a boundary he could not cross. Charlotte Mason talks about how many children spend much of their energy deciding whether or not to obey. We do them a great service by teaching them the habit of obedience.
So the goal right now is that I only ask them to do something once. If I have to ask them again, we do "obedience practice" and then I ask again. "Obedience practice" may be picking up certain items, or doing jumping jacks, or running somewhere and back as fast as they can. Then we talk about how good we feel when we obey. We have only been doing this for a few days, but I have already seen a drastic difference in their behavior and attitude. It has been a very good thing.
Third Priority: Serving One Another
Establishing a family work plan not only teaches children to work, but it also teaches them to love and serve one another. It may not seem that way since it appears that many struggles and contentious moments arise during family work, but it is in learning how to work through these differences that we grow closer and build solid relationships.
This will also put to the test how well they have learned obedience and will allow them to practice it. In addition to that, your house will get clean which makes learning time a lot more peaceful for all involved. I have written before about family work. We have a good system right now that I might write about later, but really everyone needs to experiment on what works best for them and where their children are at this time. And then change it as the need arises.
Fourth Priority: Nature Time
Spending time outdoors is very healing for the soul and for relationships. Some of the most peaceful moments with my children have been when we have been outdoors in the midst of God's creations. Relationships have been healed and we feel whole and closer to Him. Nature is a wonderful place for all to be taught by God.
Ladybug tries to run outside whenever a door opens. Little children are especially sensitive to His influence there, but even my teenagers seem to feel more calm and have a clearer perspective when they have been stressed or frustrated. Charlotte says, "Never be indoors when you can rightly be without." We are trying to get out everyday this summer. It has been very good. I now find myself really craving nature's influence when we are not able to get outside. A bonus benefit is that younger children are able to find sticks, bugs, leaves, flowers to play with instead of the silverware, books, blankets and dishes they seem to want to get into after we "cleared the soil" and took away their entertaining toys.
The Proclamation on the Family by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints states: "Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities." Time in nature is about as wholesome as it gets.
I may write some ideas about some of these things in my next post. And then I want to write a post about Step #3 - Watering our plants - or nurturing them with the educational environment they need to fulfill their unique work on earth. Happy Sabbath!
Donut Falls with family from Georgia (how I miss them!) and from around here (I love you all!).
We also went to the Natural History Museum with them (no pictures) and to the Zoo.
We stopped at a hot spring on the way home with our friends:
When we got home, our friends moved in with us (like I mentioned before). We had some fun times with them. They just left us yesterday and we miss them already.
We went camping by a reservoir for Ray's birthday. Some friends joined us there for lunch.
Whittling with friends and playing in the river on a different "nature day:
My friend had her baby at my house last Thursday. I had the honor of getting to be there. There is an incredible feeling when a baby comes into the world. You almost feel like you could touch Heaven.
This weekend I spent time preparing for next week and figuring out our summer schedule. I am excited to try it even though I know that things always look better on paper than when you actually try to execute them, but it will be fun to shoot for the ideal and see where it takes us :-)