October 04, 2010

scripture time.

today i thought i'd post some fun ideas for scripture time.
i remember having young children and trying to start a scripture time habit.
some days i thought we were wasting our time... but today, scripture time is what we do.
every day.
it has become a habit, a tradition in our family.
i love when my children whine and say, "We ALWAYS have to have scripture time."

1.  Never stop starting.  This is my favorite parenting advice, from Shana Sylvester (a Michigan friend of mine).  It is specifically great for scripture time.  Life changes.  Something that you felt inspired to do at one time in your life may not be inspired for another time in your life.  I have heard 100 different, amazing mothers say 100 different ways they have had scripture time with their family.  I'm going to give you lots of examples...  But, I know that if you ask God, he will tell you what will work best for your family and the age and stage of your children.  The basics- pick a time, pick a place.  We start with a song, have some kind of scripture devotional, and end with a prayer.  Most of our scripture times last 20 minutes... some last 2 minutes.  We always discuss a scripture and always end with a prayer.  Family prayer is as important as family scripture study.  My sister in law lanette calls her little warriors to scripture time by saying, "Let's put on our armor."  The most important thing about scripture time... doing it.  

2.  Decide that it is what you do, every DAY.  Modern-day prophets have continually counseled us to have DAILY scripture study with our family.  And so, just do it.  You feed your kids breakfast, lunch and dinner.  You just do it.  You don't say there is no time... it is a priority.  Scripture time should be spiritual food that you just feed your family.  Someday you may have scripture time that is like homemade waffles with strawberries and buttermilk syrup, most days you'll have cereal, and some days you'll hand them a piece of toast  (or a quoted "as i have loved you, love one another") as they head out the door.  But, feed them daily.  Morning has always worked best for us.
This year we have junior high, elementary and pre school aged kids... this is what we do. 
The kids come dressed.
We have scripture time, eat and head to school.
Many days we are tying shoes or doing hair during scripture time... sometimes we are eating breakfast.
I do NOT wake up my pre-school age kids to join us.
My kids pick their clothes out at bedtime the night before.
At night we remind them to say their prayers and read the next chapter in their scriptures.
(Each night probably half the kids actually read... we're getting better at this.) 
We wake the kids up at 6:45.
We put breakfast on the table so it is fast to eat later.
We help kids find shoes and backpacks and socks and encourage hair brushing.
We start calling them for scripture time at 7:00.
We have scripture time between 7:00 and 7:25...
song, devotional, and kneeling family prayer.
We eat fast... the professor drives jakob to school at 7:30, i finish getting the younger kids ready to go, sign papers they forgot about, clean up the kitchen, tell them NO they can't go ride their bikes.
we drive the little kids to school around 7:45.
and the morning rush is over.

we do chores, piano and homework after school... so the only thing we have in the morning is dressing, scripture time and breakfast.
some days, we drop the kids off at school for breakfast, but we still have scripture time before they go.

NOTE-- if it were up to the Professor, we would wake our kids up MUCH earlier.  But, waking up early makes me cranky... and, gives the kids more time to dawdle and fight.  WE CAN and DO, get everything done that we need to do in this shorter time.  

3.  Start with the STORIES.  For children under the age of 5, i like to focus on scripture stories.  (Actually, even when I taught the adults in gospel doctrine, i still liked to focus on the stories.)  I use illustrated "scriptures" and other books, but mostly I just focus on telling them over and over, like nursery rhymes till they know them and use them.  Often, we will quote or memorize one scripture or one line of scripture from the story as part of our scripture time.  Every chapter in the scripture has a story.  For me, think of yourself as a story teller-- telling the "Aesop fable" and letting the kids tell you the lesson that they learn from it. 

Sometimes, parents feel inspired to "read" straight from the scriptures with their little kids.  And, if this is the case with you, then do it.  I do think it is important to have children exposed to scripture language at a young age, but i'm not a fan of having them repeat things that they don't understand and calling it "teaching."  Even with my big kids... we discuss the chapter and read only one or two scriptures during scripture time... we do not spend our scripture time taking turns reading.

-I remember doing scripture time where we tried to read one chapter a day.  The professor and I would each read 5 verses and the kids would read 2 verses each.  Kids love to read, even if it is just copying what you tell them to say.  This was a good time of our life... but, i think kids also need to know the stories.
(At this stage of my life, we do this with the kids at night, for their personal study.  Most of my kids read independently, but if a younger child wants help with a chapter, i will read 5 verses and they will read 2, so we can get through the chapter quickly... we don't do this during scripture time.)

-We started with the stories...  for me, the KEY to a successful scripture time, is the fact that both the professor and I have read the chapter BEFORE scripture time.  Sometimes we take turns, but every day WE (the parents) come prepared.  I like to pray about what in the chapter would be applicable for my kids.  For young kids, we do the stories... and we just go from story to story.  I try to tell the story, act out the story, use props, and then read one scripture.  KIDS NEED TO BE TAUGHT THE STORIES.  first.  in my opinion.
because they are fun and they teach lessons.  Young kids learn lessons form stories.  Jesus taught in parables.

-I remember pushing my young kids around in laundry baskets and collecting Noah's animals.  I remember Daniel and the lions den (the professor and i were lions), throwing bean bags at Goliath (the professor of course)... scriptures are fun... scripture time should be fun.

-my friend, taneil, has spent this year studying all the stories from General Conference.  Isn't that fun?  what a great idea!!

-Since my little kids sleep through our family scripture time, i have scripture time with them before nap time.
i always tell them a story about Jesus.  Even on the days when i just want them to go to sleep without a story, who can resist the constant crying, "Please Mom, tell me a story about Jesus."
There is NOTHING more precious than watching your toddler the first time she understands, "They killed him mom?  they killed my Jesus?  why did they do that?  i love him."
and, the joy in her little face when you explain that He is alive again.
and, the sweet joy and excitement in her voice, when you are driving and you see a beautiful sunset and she says, "Mom, quick go there, Jesus is there, alive again!"
i LOVE telling them the stories of Jesus.
sometimes i tell this story, "Once when Jesus was a little boy, he was very, very good.  And his mother said, Go to sleep and He said, OK mother, i will obey."  ha!  i love that story.
Little kids need the stories, but even big kids need the stories... With bigger kids you can have them act out the story or tell you the story.  Then ask them, "What can we learn from the story?  Why did God put that story in the scriptures?"

4.  80-20 Rule.  A good teacher talks only 20% of the time.  REALLY.  If you think scripture time is, your children sitting on their chairs with their scriptures in their hand while you preach a sermon, then your scripture time is less effective.  We learn best by doing.
-We have our kids read the chapter the night before and mark questions.  The first time the professor did this, he started out, "OK, what questions did you find?"  The kids read their questions and he answered them... i yelled from the kitchen... "NO WAY!  Do NOT answer that question."  Try NEVER to answer a kids question... that just teaches them that you have the answers and they don't.  Instead, you want to teach them HOW they can answer their own questions... especially through the scriptures.
Start with, "Wow, that is a really good question, what do you think it means?"  or "How do you think we can find the answer to that tricky question?"
Search with your children... ask the other kids...  maybe tell a story, "I heard this before, how do you think that relates?"
Now, my kids are a little too smart for their own good sometimes... they are so confidant reading and understanding scriptures that sometimes i need to remind them to be humble and LEARN from those around them, but ultimately, the gospel of Christ is simple...
children can understand it.
If you are discussing in-depth oddities of the gospel, quoting random scholars and Greek text that your children are not able to understand, you probably are missing the point of the scriptures any way. 

5.  Marking and Memorizing Scriptures.  I LOVE my scriptures.  I love them, because I have read them, and marked them, and written in the margins.  They are mine and they hold many memories of hours spend in prayer and contemplation.  Kids need their own scriptures.  They are not expensive.  We buy our little kids cheap scriptures and when they are 8 they get their first set of leather scriptures.  We give them colored pencils and have them mark them up.  Yes, some days, the little girls spend the whole time "coloring" on their scriptures, and that is ok with me.  They say, "But mom, this IS the good part."  And, they are right.
Kids LOVE to mark stuff up.

-One year we bought scripture stickers for each kid and as we read, we passed out the stickers for the kids to place inside.  They LOVED it.

-To make scripture study fun, I made cute book marks and bought fun stickers... each chapter we finished, the kids put a new sticker on their book mark.  They LOVED picking out their stickers. 

-  For the 80-20 rule, marking and stickers count as activities where your kids are involved.  FINDING scriptures becomes more fun when they have marked a verse or two.  Each chapter, we pull out one or two verses to discuss... we encourage our kids, "You may want to mark this verse."

-WARNING-- it is EASY to get distracted by sticker charts, visual aids, etc. and feel that you are not prepared for scripture time... these things are fun ideas, not necessary.  The gospel is simple, but it can be fun with a colored pencil.

-We LOVE to memorize scriptures.  We usually do "Scripture Mastery" on Fridays.  Depending on what book of scripture we are doing, we use a list of our favorite scriptures and learn one every Friday.  Some Fridays we review.  This year, I want to focus more on finding WHERE certain scriptures are, so the kids can find them, in addition to memorizing what each verse says.  Even little kids can memorize scriptures.

6. LOVE IT!  I love teaching my kids... yes, sometimes i dread scripture time because it is just another thing, but, when i recommit and pray for guidance, the JOY comes back.

-Once, my kids were really fighting scripture time and I shared my exhaustion with a friend (Cynthia Mitchell).  That Friday, she showed up at 6:45am at our home with a big box of doughnuts.  She came in with JOY and EXCITEMENT and told my kids how she was so happy that they were waking up early to study the scriptures...
DOUGHNUTS are GREAT!!   surprise your kids... buy pop tarts or doughnuts or have ice cream sundaes one morning... scripture time can be FUN!

to be continued...


Rachel Ure said...

you cute mom. it shouldn't be a revelation to me that, " duh, it is better your kids actually learn someting and feel something during scripture study rather than nake sure each has a turn to recite words they don't understand" :) you might bot have said just that, but it is what i learned. I really want to see you- so maybe thursday at 10:30- 11: 30 ?

LAURA said...

thanks again for all the good advice!
I need to be more motivated than just reading straight from the Book of Mormon stories.

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