I am supplicating your help.
A few days ago I got an email from a woman who had just started doing one of my Mom's MTC lessons with her boys ( 8, 5, and 3). She wrote:
... I got ready to do honesty this week and started today because my oldest son was staying the night at his cousin's house and I thought things would go better with just the two younger ones. So, it went ok, but I realized that I am just not a very good teacher! It's not one of my talents and the kids barely tolerated me reading the two scriptures and listening to the song. They absolutely refused to listen to a scripture story. I really want this to work! I feel like this is what I'm supposed to be doing, but help!
How do you make it "fun" for the kids instead of making them feel like you are subjecting them to some torturous lecture? If my two youngest aren't going to enjoy the material in the way I tried to present it, my oldest son, who has ADHD, is never going to go for it. Do you have any tips for presenting the material? I wish I could come see how you present the lesson to your kids, but since I can't any tips would be appreciated for someone who struggles to be an interesting teacher. Thanks for any help you can give me!
As I read her email I felt lots of sympathy and kinship with her, because despite how organized and orderly the lessons appear on my blog they very rarely turn out picture perfect. In fact, it has been a really big struggle for me to get my kids to pay attention and to maintain some semblance of family love during our "school" time. I especially find it really hard to keep Asher, my busy five-year-old interested for long. Rose doesn't seem to have trouble, but getting my little boy to focus can be hard!
|Not my boy, but could be.|
Here was my best attempt to respond to her question:
Some days my lessons with my kids go really well and other days they fall apart and are disasters! I have found that what has helped my kids more than anything is routine and consistency. For the first month we did lessons my kids struggled, but I just kept going and I had the same order and routine every day. Chores, pledge of allegiance, song, scripture story or story book , and activity (or no activity if things were too wild). After awhile they got comfortable with the routine and it got easier, but it was a struggle at first.
As far as being an interesting teacher. I think what has helped me the most is to let go of the "teacher" mode and just be a mom. I don't have to assume the role or persona of a teacher. I just need to be their mom, to love them, and have fun. They don't have to sit quiet and reverently like they do at church, I don't expect that. I just expect that we are going to have fun and learn together, and hopefully feel the spirit.
Awhile ago I read a book called "Godly Play" by Jerome Berryman and basically his idea is that the true aim of religion is to get us to a point where Christ is our "friend" and not just an authority figure in out lives. Christ calls himself a friend several times throughout the scriptures when the person he is talking to has reached the point where they truly are friends (see D&C 84:77). Berryman's argument is that when children "play" with religious ideas and are free to explore them in a play-like situation they learn to make Christ a friend, an integral part of their life rather than someone to be feared or overwhelmed by. So that has been my overarching approach, to make spiritual learning fun and play centered rather than lecture or listening centered. But like I said, it doesn't always turn out great at our house either ;)
Don't be too hard on yourself. The key is just to be consistent and to experiment with what works with your kids. The more you pray to know what to do for your kids the more the lord will guide you!
I also have found that it makes a HUGE difference how prepared I am. If I haven't done my own scripture study, or prayed or mediated then things usually fall apart. Yet when I have prepared a lesson the night before AND have taken care of my own spiritual needs... things go much better. The days I am not prepared usually are the days that fall apart, mostly because I am cranky and impatient.
That was all the suggestions I had for her and I found myself wishing I had more to give her. I feel sort of like a hypocrite giving suggestions about getting kids to pay attention, because that is something I struggle with too.
I would love to hear from other parents what tricks they have found to keep their children engaged as they teach them, during scripture study, virtue lessons, homeschool, tying their shoes, or whatever. Any help would be appreciated.