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My Path to Creating a Gospel Centered Homeschool or Reflections on the Mortal Messiah
Each time you return to the classics you are a new person than the last time you visited. Classics are books that you can get something from that is life changing and your friend can do the same and they may be completely different, or in some ways similar. The next time you return to the classic you find new information, stories, ideas, or inspiration to make you a better person. A classic brings inspiration into your life in countless ways. It’s not what a test or professor says you should be getting out of it (though, that may help sometimes), it is what comes to you via inspiration and intuition as you read and absorb.
Oliver DeMille suggests that you write three to four things in your life that you were working on or looking for answers in the front of the book while you read your current classic book. I tried that and it seemed like I was forcing answers, so I went back to allowing them naturally to come to me while I read. It may work for others, though, but I find it best to have it just be something in the back of my mind. Perhaps I’ll try writing it down at the END of the book or after I finish it and write any thoughts that came to my mind related to it.
The Mortal Messiah took me in so many different directions. It was a life-changing book, and 1 of 5 in a series, so this is only the beginning. Good reading along with this book can be: the five books of Moses (the first five in the Old Testament, and the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
My parents had the Mortal Messiah set of books by Bruce R. McKonkie in our home growing up. My dad read and loved the series, but I didn’t know anything about it so I was never interested. This spring I felt the promptings to purchase it. I’m so glad I did. I hope that I do enough “Book Commercials” for my kids and mentees that they feel the appreciation and love I have for the truths contained in these wonderful books.
Before reading this book I felt inspiration from God to change the focus of our homeschool. While we were/are doing Leadership Education, we relied on book lists from others whom we did not know well enough and unfortunately do not share the same standards. We try to apply the Admonition of Paul even in what we’re reading. Philippians 4: 8 “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Does that mean we don’t read things that are controversial- no. We like to read things that teach us how to be better people with the trial, struggle, and difficulties that are many times juxtaposed side by side. What we do not want to do is read things that will entice to do something wrong, think too much about darkness or negativity, offend our spirit and/or The Spirit, give us no hope, fill our minds with dirtiness and darkness. Some classics on some of these lists, unfortunately, fall into this latter category. It angered me and made me feel cheated to see the effects of one or more of these books on the spirit of my loved ones. We share other lists throughout this blog that we love or are inspired by.
“We all need our heroes, our patterns and guides. If we choose evil exemplars, we become evil ourselves because we adopt their ways. Everyone imitates someone else; all of us learn what we know from other people. If all instruction and education ceased, if all patterns of living were taken away, civilization would cease in one generation, and all of earth’s inhabitants would sink to a state of barbarism.” (Bruce R. McKonkie, The Mortal Messiah book 1)
I was led instead to lists my personal mentors gave me and now more recently to church leader’s book lists as well as those of the Founders. Our main family study is now Gospel led instead of the Gospel being a “part” or side note of their studies. I’m trying so hard to remember the words by Sheri Dew, “We no longer have the luxury of spending our energy on anything that does not lead us and our families to Christ.”
I think of myself as a fortifier. I’m building strongholds within my children to face the world head on and to live their missions. I want to leave no stone unturned and no holes or gaps. I can only do this by using the inspiration I receive, working diligently with my children, being a good example, and not allowing myself to get distracted or make allowances because “maybe its not that bad”. There is so much good in the world, so many GOOD ways to teach things, why utilize material/works that are contaminated so to speak?
“…then said that ‘those professors’ (meaning all who, like the scribes, had by their interpretations and teachings perverted the truth and made it of none effect) ‘were all corrupt.’ Then he said, paraphrasing Isaiah, ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.’” (Bruce R. McKonkie, The Mortal Messiah book 1)
In A Thomas Jefferson Education the Scholar phase is the phase of hard work and study. It’s a deep thinking phase with research and learning. As Christians, I felt our family should study directly from material that will teach us about God as the main focus. He is the one that created us, created math, created the earth and earth science, created the laws, was directly involved in history (it is “his story” after all). Before this change, our main focus was on the Greek and Roman philosophers and others in the Great Books. Now, these are the SIDE NOTE and not the main focus. The following quote is my absolute favorite from the book:
“All this learning, this weight of wondrous wisdom, this knowledge of truth beyond carnal comprehension, all is available to those who will pay the scholar’s price. True it is that gospel scholarship is seldom sought in today’s world, and that even many of those who do seek have little knowledge of the available source material or of how to read those volumes whose contents are known and understood only by the power of the Spirit.” (Bruce R. McKonkie, The Mortal Messiah book 1)
If we aren’t studying the gospel, we only have a first grade education in the gospel and a full education in the world. I think we should turn it around.
How can you apply this and help your children gain an education to fulfill their mission and provide for their family?
Remember the 7 Keys of Great Teaching:
Classics Not Texbooks
Mentors not Professors
Inspire not Require
Structure Time not Content
Quality not Conformity
Simplicity not Complexity
You not Them
“Once you’ve read five classics in math, five in science, five in history, and five in literature, you won’t be asking that question anymore. Instead, you’ll be asking different questions. Better questions. Lots of them.
Read the classics in all fields, find mentors who inspire and demand quality, structure your days to include study time for yourself, and become a person who inspires great education.” (DeMille, TJED.org)
Our country has come so far from where it began. People taught their children to read with the Bible. Every home had at least two books: The Bible and Shakespeare.
“‘Understandest thou what thou readest’ inquired Philip of the eunuch from the court of Candace. ‘How can I, except some man guide me?’ came the reply. (Acts 8:30—31) Certain things men may learn for themselves, and that they are expected so to do by a divine providence, none can doubt. But after the alphabet has been learned, after fluency in reading has been acquired, after the source books have been identified by name and by title, still the seeker after spiritual truths must do his research subject to the eternal law which says, ‘The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God,’ and that ‘the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:11-14) (Bruce R. McKonkie, The Mortal Messiah book 1)
And so we must Learn of Him!
“What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” (3 Nephi 27:27)
One of my goals as a parent is to raise righteous children. As a young mother I studied about the mothers of the prophets. What did they do differently? What kind of women were they?
Sara Benson is one of my personal heroines. When I was preparing for my husband to leave for a 15 month rotation in Iraq, I had 7 children ages 11 to 7 months. I was overwhelmed and terrified to do it by myself. In the Biography of Ezra Taft Benson by Sheri Dew it talks about how Sara’s husband was called on a two year mission for the church. She was pregnant with her eighth child. Ezra was eight at the time. They ran a farm and he had to start helping more with the farm chores. Not only did Sara do it, she did it with style. She was pregnant too and eventually raised a prophet. She didn’t have cell phones or email or video teleconferencing. I did. I had so much going for me and I didn’t see it until I read about her. I knew if Sara Benson could do it, so could I. And I did. I got healthy, lost 60 pounds, moved our family into a bigger house, and homeschooled my kids. I felt like I climbed a mountain.
The mothers at the time of Christ raised and taught their children in the gospel along with the important life lessons:
“Mothers taught their children almost from the moment of birth; at least the tutorial processes began by the time infant lips began to lisp their first words and phrases. The Psalms and prayers were used as lullabies. At the age of two years children were weaned, with the occasion being celebrated by a feast. When the children reached about three years of age fathers began to assume their Mosaically imposed obligation to teach them, not nursery rhymes, but verses of scripture, benedictions, and wise sayings. Formal schooling began at five or six, with the Bible as text. The children learned to read and write and to memorize the chants of the Levites, those Psalms which were part of the festive celebrations, and the historical recitations that were part of family devotions. At sixteen or seventeen boys were sent to academies taught by the Rabbis. It is no wonder that Jewish Paul was able to say to Jewish Timothy: ‘From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation.’” (Bruce R. McKonkie, The Mortal Messiah book 1)
Some of the scriptures they recited and learned were:
“These were repeated twice each day by every male. Family prayers were the order of the day in all homes.” (Bruce R. McKonkie, The Mortal Messiah book 1)
I found it interesting to note: “To the pious Jew the knowledge of God was everything; and to prepare for or impart that knowledge was the sum total, the sole object of his education. This was the life of his soul-the better, and only true life, to which all else as well as the life of the body were merely subservient as means towards an end.” (Bruce R. McKonkie, The Mortal Messiah book 1)
It takes extra time
Neal A. Maxwell said, “As an example, the scriptures observe that, even among believers, “hearts are set so much upon the things of this world” that they have neither time nor disposition to learn vital lessons.”
“Knowing that we live in eternity, how can we conclude that, because of the fleeting pleasures and pressures of the world, we have no time for children?” (Neal A. Maxwell, A Wonderful Flood of Light)
I have had a year of focused intent on my family, more so than in the past. Many hours of everyday, and I’ve seen such positive results. These hours weren’t spent slaving over textbooks, but discussing the great books and great ideas and how to apply them in life. They were spent memorizing, mentoring, listening, and having heart to heart meaningful discussions.
We as parents have a great responsibility towards rearing our children in righteousness. May you be blessed with all the inspiration you need as you give your children a gospel centered leadership education.
Thank you Shiloah! I am working toward the same goal .
Helena, I’d love to hear any thoughts you’ve had on this too. 🙂
I don’t have anything really good yet, we started homeschooling a few years ago and have been loving it. I wanted to focus on the classics, so I started reading them myself. I noticed immediately that some of them uplifted me and made me want to be a better person and these were books I wanted to have in my house and I wanted my children to read them often. Books such as: Little House on the Prairie series, Heidi, Pollyanna, Carry on Mr. Bowditch, Eight Cousins, A Single Shard, and The Chronicles of Narnia were on that list. Other books, also on most “classic books” lists I found to contain nothing offensive necessarily, just I noticed that it didn’t make me want to be a better person. These were books like “Alice in Wonderland”, “Treasure Island”, and “The Old Man and the Sea”. Other books, like “Julie of the Wolves”, I found to contain material I didn’t want my small children to read and found nothing uplifting within to make me want to encourage them to read it when they are more mature. I recognize that other people will find value in some of the books that I would prefer not to keep in our home and may even consider them uplifting.
I have begun to wonder how I am going to find truly “The BEST books” when I have to sift through so many GOOD books. The concept you mention here about teaching children Psalms instead of nursery rhymes is a very intriguing seed thought. I want to start focusing our children’s education on the gospel and so I am trying to figure out how that would look in our home.
Personal questions I am seeking to answer right now are: is the way they taught in the past really better than the way we teach now? What can we incorporate from the past and also the present that is valuable? Is literary value alone enough, or should a book always contain moral value as well? If I don’t consider a book uplifting, does that mean it doesn’t have value for my children? Should my library be composed of as many classics as possible or should it be a small assortment of precious classics to read over and over again and the writings of gospel authors? What worldly traditions are we clinging to that have no value in a gospel-centered home?
Sorry for the long-winded thoughts. I am in the exploratory stage right now!
I am working on this same thing, too. I’d love to collaborate and share thoughts. If you’re interested, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org