Friday, October 18, 2019

"Be not conformed to this world"

Me and my youngest "babies" being silly

When my husband and I were married as a young couple back in 1992, we were committed to each other and to the covenants we made in the temple, but we did not fully understand the Lord’s plans for our family. The Proclamation on the Family had not yet been created, but I am grateful that we began our marriage with a firm conviction that parenthood was the most important work we could do in this life. We both had strong testimonies that “Children are an heritage of the Lord”, and we knew we were on the right path.

Interestingly enough, we began to feel confusion about when we should bring our first child into the world when all of our friends-- who were active, faithful members of the Church-- greatly discouraged us from starting our family while at college. Yet the Spirit had begun prompting my husband and I to not prevent our children from coming in the first few months after our wedding. We were young, and began to wonder if those around us might know something we didn’t. Luckily, when we discussed our future family as a couple, we both knew that the promptings we were having were from the Lord. And so, we prepared to become parents and I became pregnant right away.
A few years later, after having one miscarriage, and then two small children immediately thereafter, President Gordon B. Hinckley presented “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” in General Conference, and we felt so grateful that we had followed the impressions of the Holy Ghost and had ignored our seemingly-sophisticated friends. As the early apostles told the followers of Christ in their day, we learned that we should “Be not conformed to this world” and that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God”.

The important convictions we gained from the Lord’s reminders found in The Proclamation were vital to our family right after our first son (our second child) was born. My new baby was six weeks old, and I was driving to my postpartum appointment when I reflected on my nurse-midwife’s question regarding our plans for birth control. As I prayed to the Lord on that short drive, the Spirit impressed my mind strongly with the thought that the Lord needed to send another baby to our family very soon. This surprised me-- our baby was brand new! But the prompting was unmistakable, and we decided to once again put our family size in the Lord’s hands. (We had our third child, a boy, almost exactly thirteen months after our second child.)

The passage on welcoming children into a family found in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” has resonated in our family again and again over our 27 years of marriage.
“The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.”
Becoming parents is an integral part of our Father in Heaven’s eternal plan for His children. We have been given a wonderful opportunity in this life to become more like Him by having and raising children. Elder L. Tom Perry expressed the importance of marriage and family this way:
“What the restored gospel brings to the discussion on marriage and family is so large and so relevant that it cannot be overstated: we make the subject eternal! We take the commitment and the sanctity of marriage to a greater level because of our belief and understanding that families go back to before this earth was and that they can go forward into eternity.”
I believe that welcoming children into our eternal families is one of the greatest blessings that the Lord can give us in this life. Elder D. Todd Christofferson emphasized the importance of establishing families in God’s plan:
“A family built on the marriage of a man and woman supplies the best setting for God’s plan to thrive—the setting for the birth of children, who come in purity and innocence from God, and the environment for the learning and preparation they will need for a successful mortal life and eternal life in the world to come.”
“For [God’s] work to succeed to ‘[exalt us] with himself,’ God ordained that men and women should marry and give birth to children, thereby creating, in partnership with God, the physical bodies that are key to the test of mortality and essential to eternal glory with Him.”
Our advice to our children as they have grown up and started families of their own, is for them to follow the principles and doctrines found in The Proclamation on the Family:
“We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.” 
“The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.”
Our adult children have sometimes voiced their concerns about the difficulties of bringing children into our troubled world today. My husband and I have done our best to encourage them and remind them of the blessings we receive from following the Lord’s plans for our lives.

President Hinckley’s encouraging words are a reminder for us all:
“I see a wonderful future in a very uncertain world. If we will cling to our values, if we will build on our inheritance, if we will walk in obedience before the Lord, if we will simply live the gospel we will be blessed in a magnificent and wonderful way. We will be looked upon as a peculiar people who have found the key to a peculiar happiness.”
We are so grateful to have been blessed with thirteen children in our family. We acknowledge that not every family should be as large as ours, and we firmly believe that family size and timing is between couples and the Lord. But we have also learned firsthand that the Lord will qualify those He calls to be parents. We can trust in the promptings we receive! Our Father in Heaven will always bless us for following His plans for our lives.


With love,
Mama Rachel


References Used

Thursday, January 31, 2019

"Come, Follow Me": Implementing the New Scripture Study Program in Our Home





When the Church’s “Come, Follow Me” program was announced, many homeschooling mothers rejoiced, (Hooray for free curriculum!) but some women-- homeschooling or otherwise-- felt overwhelmed at the idea.

Honestly, I fell somewhere in the middle. I was excited and felt the Holy Spirit witness that the program is divinely inspired, but I had concerns about how I was going to add something new to our family study time.

I have pondered a few initial questions I had, and found some wonderful answers from many of our Church’s leaders.


Q: Why do we need to study the scriptures even more than we already do?

The simple answer is that we live in more difficult, complex times than any generation before us!

In a recent interview with the Church News, Sister Joy D. Jones said:

“Our children will be strengthened at a time when they need it most, when they are being bombarded by the darts of the adversary. This will suit them in their protective armor every day.

“There is remarkable faith and strength in today’s children. You can see their light and courage in their actions and examples. I pray for the children and for their families to be happy. I am so grateful for the love of our Savior and Father in Heaven for each of us.”
Her counselor, Sister Harkness added:
“Children are facing increasingly difficult challenges at younger and younger ages. This new curriculum will fortify families and children as they study the scriptures together and learn how to apply them as they serve and love each other.”
Q: What does a home-centered, Church-supported curriculum look like? And how do we implement it in our homes?
Answer #1: Jump in and try it!
Just as with our homeschooling, every family can and should implement the new program differently. The beautiful part about how the lessons are structured is that we are given several things we can cover, but ultimately, we should seek the counsel of the Holy Ghost on how to teach the given scriptures.
For us, we have found that diving right into the scriptures has most easily brought the Spirit into our lessons. Our children are used to reading rich, beautiful, inspiring words, but even for families who do not usually read together, the scriptures are the best examples parents can have of living books! We take turns reading different verses, and then we discuss them using the questions provided, or we ask the questions that come to our minds.

The practice my kids have had doing narration has really prepared us for using the “Come, Follow Me” program. Our children know how to listen, and are not shy to answer questions or retell the stories we have been reading in their own words.


Answer #2: Let the children help teach!

In the article mentioned above, Sister Joy D. Jones also said:
“Children are very sensitive to the Spirit, and they will be a strength to their families in this wonderful revelation process. We hope our children will share their voices, ask questions and give their thoughts about what they are reading and what they are feeling. In doing so, we know they will be an influence for good in their families. Their little voices will have such an impact.”
In our home, our younger children especially love being assigned to teach! (Teenagers are another matter, but we keep presenting them with the opportunity...) The Church has so many wonderful resources that can help, such as The Friend and New Era magazines, not to mention the multitude of resources like coloring pages, videos, stories, and images that can be found for free on lds.org!
There are many other programs out there that women have created to supplement the “Come, Follow Me” lessons, but with all the other Church materials we have access to online, I have not found any supplements necessary for our family.
Answer #3: Prepare myself to teach the lesson.
This wonderful new program makes it super easy for us to simply open up the book and begin teaching, which works great, but I find that our lessons are much more spirit-filled and impactful if I have studied them beforehand. We cannot rush the Spirit, and there may be promptings we will miss if we come to the lessons unprepared. I love that these inspired lessons work well for group learning AND for personal scripture study.
Answer #4: Pray to know the needs of your family.
As we homeschooling mothers know, no two children learn in exactly the same way. Hopefully, we have some ideas about the struggles our children are facing. We can receive precious inspiration that can truly help them during our sincere study and discussions using the “Come, Follow Me” program.
Some of our best inspiration can be found in the quiet, reverent rooms of the Lord’s house. We can attend the temple with questions on our minds and more easily find the answers we are seeking.
The important thing is that we should involve the Lord in our lesson preparation. He knows what you need to teach and it is essential that we are as receptive to the influence of the spirit as we can be.
Parents love their children more than anyone else, with the exception of the Lord. Working together with the Holy Spirit to teach these sacred truths will give our children the spiritual armor they need to battle the attacks that the adversary is waging in these turbulent times.

Answer #5: Use Music
Sister Harkness of the Primary General Presidency suggested:
“Sing with your children! Primary music has the ability to plant the seeds of doctrine deep into the hearts of your children. Talk about the gospel as you sing — it will help them apply gospel principles to real world experiences. Look for the songs suggested in the ‘Come, Follow Me’ lessons. Have fun singing them as a family during the week. These songs will provide strength and protection for them as they grow. Your children will remember the gospel truths you sang about as you studied the scriptures together.”
Music is a very important teaching tool in our home, and I have found that nothing brings the Holy Spirit into learning more quickly than a sacred hymn or Primary song.
Answer #6: Teach Doctrine
President Boyd K. Packer once said:

“True doctrine understood changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will change behavior quicker than the study of behavior will change behavior.”

The “Come, Follow Me” curriculum teaches us and our children in a powerful way. I love that we are not just learning abstract principles, but that we are diving into the scriptures to find the basic, pure doctrine. We are being given the opportunity to learn at the feet of the Master Himself as we study His life and His teachings.



Q: So how do we keep going, even through the difficult times?
Elder Steven R. Bangerter of the Quorum of the Seventy said:
"Every parent faces moments of frustration and varying levels of determination and strength while raising children. However, when parents exercise faith by teaching children candidly, lovingly and doing all they can to help them along the way, they receive greater hope that the seeds being sown will take root within the hearts and minds of their children."
The Lord knows that we are not going to be perfect teachers, but He can send His Spirit to make up for our weaknesses. All He asks is that we keep doing our best to implement His teachings that we receive through His holy prophets. This program is great practice for us to do just that.

I love what the inspiring speaker Hank Smith has said:
“Strive for improvement, not perfection. … There is a difference between the ideal and real... but we have to deal with the real… There will be wonderful moments when the real becomes the ideal, but don’t stress out when you have to deal with the real most days.”

I have a sincere testimony that the “Come, Follow Me” program is inspired of the Lord. He will not leave us to implement it alone-- He will help us every step of the way, if only we ask for His help.

With love,
Mama Rachel

Thursday, August 9, 2018

How We Transitioned from Unschooling to Structured Homeschooling



Now and then I enjoy participating in some homeschooling Facebook groups. Yesterday I was asked a question about our family's transition from unschooling to structured homeschooling. I thought I would share my response here, since some of my readers might be interested in how we changed our homeschool six years ago.


Question:

How did you transition [from unschooling to a structured homeschool] and do you feel like your kids are thriving? Do you feel like they still love learning?

My Answer:

Looking back, it happened gradually. First we added a set time where we gathered together for a short learning time. We held a Charlotte Mason-type meeting where we did copy-work, worked on memorizing a short scripture, listened to a scripture story while doing some crafts or coloring, sang a song together, read something about the subject of the day (history, art study, music study, geography, or Shakespeare), and then I read aloud from a classic novel. The short lessons that Charlotte mason espoused REALLY helped us, and I tried to keep it light and fun.

My kids LOVED it, and my older kids watching me told me that they wished I had done homeschool with them life that. I was SHOCKED, to say the least! I thought they loved being in charge of what they studied, but they made it clear that they wished they had had more guidance during their homeschool years. As they became adults, their self-esteem plummeted when they discovered all that they had never learned.  That helped me keep going and working hard to TEACH the kids still at home.
 After a short time, we added an online math program, and I learned how to keep transcripts. We are still not yet strong in science, but so far we have made a good start with Nature Study (Botany!) and Astronomy. We plan to start some online science classes in the Fall. 
My kids do still love learning, but they now feel more strongly about setting goals and feeling confident in what they know and are learning. My older kids (3 "graduated" as unschoolers, two graduated with more structure and completed transcripts) still tell me that they love how I homeschool now, as opposed to how things used to be.
As a side note, my younger kids still have a more relaxed learning structure, but we are no longer unschoolers. They read a LOT, and do some writing and math every day. We watch science videos, and they do chores and science experiments. Then as they become teenagers, we add more academics and more structure. They take classes outside our home here and there. Their self-esteems are thriving because they KNOW where they stand academically.

Some may take the ACT/SAT and go to college, and some might not. But now they have OPTIONS, where my older kids feel they are "too dumb" to go to college. They are charting a different course, and I don't actually CARE if they go to college or not, but it makes me sad to know that they do not feel they are capable of thriving there, if they wanted to go.
I feel a great deal of peace with how things have worked out, in the end. I have regrets, but my older kids hold no grudges. When we know better, we do better, right? We are moving forward and utilizing all the wonderful resources that are out there. 

I am happy to answer any questions my readers may have about our journey in homeschooling. I want to be open and honest about our failures as well as our successes because I am so grateful for all that I have learned through this process!

Below are some of our favorite resources that have helped us along our way.

Favorite Resources:


I wish you all the very best in your family's homeschool journey!

Love,
Mama Rachel
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