Studying Scriptures and Finding your Fit: Homeschool Style

I was at a Mom’s Night Out a couple weeks ago.

Ok, it was a month or more ago. I’m a little behind.

The topic of the discussion was “How do you Incorporate Scripture Study into your Homeschool?” I was really, really, REALLY excited about this, because I felt my family had finally gotten into a good rhythm and habit of studying our scriptures each day. I wanted to share our success and, I don’t know, pat myself on the back or something.

Sadly, I had to go before the actual topic discussion got underway, which I know sounds strange because I was there for two hours.

Sometimes homeschool moms are just chatty. That’s my only defense.

However, homeschool moms are also resourceful, so the mom hosting set up a google doc for us to all share our information with each other. Oooh, this was going to be fun! Think of all the awesome ways you could teach your children the scriptures!!

And it WAS fun! They had come up with some really fun and creative ideas, many of which I will share a little later. But before I do I wanted to share some thoughts about one method in particular and how it relates to homeschooling and life in general.

One mom shared how she studies the scriptures with her young children. They take a regular sheet of printer paper and fold it into 16 equal rectangles (fold in half, fold in half again, and again, and again.) Each day they read just a few verses together. The children write the scripture references at the top of their little rectangle for the day and then draw a symbol or picture of something that stood out to them. Maybe it was a phrase, like “He leadeth me to green pastures,” or “encircled in the arms of His love.” Or maybe it was simply the next sequence in the plot of that particular scripture story.  It sounded like just about anything was fair game. The goal is to get a visual down for those verses. She referred to this as a “box-a-day journal.” After 16 days of reading, when all the rectangles were filled, she had her children write their testimony or their feelings about the Savior, the scriptures, or something new they had learned on a separate sheet of paper. This second paper was then laminated to the back side of the 16 rectangled paper, three hole punched, and put into a binder.

Think of what an amazing keepsake this binder will be once the child has read the entire New Testament – or even just the Four Gospels (or any book of scriptures.) If you aren’t as amazed as I am, take a look at the photos. I just think this idea is genius.

The first two photos are of the mother’s “Box A Day” scripture journal. The second two are photos from one of her sons’ journals.

box a day 1

box a day 2

box a day 3box a day 4

I immediately thought, “I so want to do this! I want a row of binders full of scriptural treasures and written testimonies of my children lining my bookshelves!!”

But then immediately following I realized this would never, ever work in my house.

My 5th grader would refuse to comply. He would pout for the first few minutes about how he didn’t know what to draw, and then when time was up he would complain and say he didn’t have time to finish so therefore he shouldn’t be required to do it anymore. Sure, somedays would work as planned. But this kid has never liked to draw and although over time I can see him coming around and catching the vision of the project, I can also see myself burning out and giving up first.

My 3rd grader likes to draw. But she is enough of a perfectionist that she would need at least 30 minutes to fill in a single box. Maybe 45. If we only had a few minutes to give, the predictable results would include agitation, frustration, and eventual meltdown.

My 1st grader would be up for it until he made a “mistake” and then would be horrified that he wasn’t allowed to crumple up the paper and throw it away. Tantrums. This is my kid who has recently rediscovered tantrums and gives new meaning to the word “stubborn.” *sigh* I don’t need to get into how “fun” life has become with this little dear.

My preschooler would probably draw a lot of geese and Egyptian tombs full of treasure. That’s kind of his thing right now.

And the toddler doesn’t count. I just barely got him to sit down and listen to scripture stories at all.

Now, does this mean my friend’s idea is of any less value and any less worthy of the title “genius” I so generously bestowed upon it a few paragraphs ago?

No, not at all. I STILL love this idea. I think it is fabulous. I would treasure these little binders forever if I had them, as I’m sure she does hers.

But just because the idea is really wonderful and I love it, it doesn’t mean it will work for me or my family.

Here is the lesson. And I am constantly reminding myself about this every time I search online for ideas of how to teach such-and-such a concept, or how to organize more effectively, or how to this or how to that, etc.

Good ideas are good ideas, but if they don’t fit your family, they may not be a good idea for you. This is similar to the idea that there are lots and lots of cute clothes out there on the racks at your favorite stores, but if they don’t fit you, don’t buy them. It’s a waste of time and money.

If, in your quest for homeschooling advice, knowledge, expertise, and know how you come across some really good stuff, but no matter how hard you try and no matter how much you want to implement it into your family it just doesn’t seem to work, maybe it just doesn’t fit you. Maybe it’s just not your style. (Think even curriculum or educational philosophies. I keep desperately wanting to be hard core Charlotte Mason followers, but I think it’s just never going to happen. At least, not to the degree I am imagining.)

This happened with us regarding doing the dishes, actually. A few years back, in another town in another phase of our lives, my husband and I heard a little boy go up to the pulpit at church and declare how much he loved his family and how much he treasured the time they spent every evening together doing the after dinner dishes.  My husband immediately grabbed on to this concept and held on like his life and the happiness of our family depended on it. We were going to do dishes together and we were going to love it!

No. Matter. What.

The problem was our children were 4, 3, and 1 years old! The idea was a really, really good one. But it just didn’t fit us at the time. (Just fyi, the reference family had 4 or 5 kids and the youngest, who loved doing dishes, was 8.)

Fast forward 6 or so years later. The kids have gotten older (and multiplied) and we’ve come up with a system for doing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen that works for us. Chore rotation wheel and everything! (That would be my husband’s style!) We took the idea, made it fit who we were and our circumstances, and voila! It actually works. (Although I admit none of my kids have yet to declare to the congregation that they love after dinner chores.)

Some things are important enough and need to be done in just the right way, no tweaking allowed. But those things generally, if not always, fall in the realm of God’s laws. You cannot change God’s laws to fit your fancy and your “style.” You cannot change God’s laws and find your own way into Heaven. There is only one Way.

But for everything else you have a choice. And God expects you to use your agency to make the best choices for you and for your family. He doesn’t want everyone to be the same and do everything in the exact same way (some few things excepting as referenced above.) So don’t try to be someone else and do everything they do. Or if you do, at least don’t be surprised when you get different results.

Scripture Study.

Homeschool.

Life.

I think this principle applies equally to all three.

So, how do we study our scriptures? I’m so glad you asked!

Every morning before my husband leaves for work, and every evening before we banish the kids to the basement so we can have some quiet time before bed, we have “devotional.” Literally, this takes about 5 minutes unless someone has a meltdown or throws a tantrum. Even then, we’re probably only pushing 10. We read a few verses together, just picking up where we left off the “devo” before, alternating readers depending on the day. Occasionally we offer spiritual insights related to those verses, clarify doctrine the children may not understand, or ask a question or two to verify they are comprehending. Then we recite a portion of the scripture or document we are memorizing. We use the same sentence or group of sentences for a full week. After reciting it together, we pray as a family. When we do this in the evening we also say individual prayers silently on our own together in the same room before the basement banishment begins. (We got this last “personal prayers together” tradition after my husband heard another person at the pulpit describe how his family did the same thing. This is an example of finding a suggestion that actually fits perfectly, and just running with it.)

Let me tell you how warm and fuzzy it feels when the family is done praying together and three children shout at the top of their lungs, “PERSONALS!” to remind us not to just get up and run away, but to stop and say a personal prayer. Yeah, it’s actually less warm and fuzzy and more jarring and ear splitting. But you know what? We NEVER forget.

Last year we took 25 popular and important verses from the Old Testament to “ponderize.” This means memorizing, but also seeking to understand the doctrines and truths found in those scriptures. I used the pre-made scripture cards from this blog here and kept them in an envelope. Each week we pulled out the next scripture, sometimes staying on the same verse for 2 weeks depending on how hard it was to memorize. Then we hung up the cards on a little chain/twine/countdown/clothesline thing in the kitchen. When we were done memorizing, we spent the last days of the year taking down a scripture card at a time to review.

This year we are memorizing a document called “The Living Christ.” I was inspired to memorize this on my own, and help my children with it as well, after listening to three sermons/talks about it within the space of 6 months. I figured if God kept telling me to do this, He probably meant it, so I better get a move on. (This talk, this talk, and then this talk.)

I cannot tell you the difference this has made in our home. “God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine son!”

This is what it looks like at our house. (Not as cute or colorful as my friend’s method, but this works for us so I’ll take it!) (And just FYI, those first two cards are probably the longest portions of the entire document to memorize at a time. This is very doable. The line we are memorizing this week is “He went about doing good, yet was despised for it.” There is an entire sermon in each little sentence.)

IMG_4016IMG_4017IMG_4018

My oldest two children study their scriptures on their own. My 3rd reads a verse to me each night and occasionally I expound upon the verse to him to make sure he understands what is going on. And with the two littlest I read scriptures stories. The 4th child has all the stories memorized, and my 5th, well, like I said. I’m still trying to get him to sit for the 2 1/2 minutes it takes to read the short little story. We are working on it.

That’s all that God asks of us anyway. Just do your best and work on it.

(I should add, this is not the only religious or spiritual instruction the kids get a day. This is just the “formal” stuff. Just like with other subjects, homeschooling is a lifestyle and any time there is a chance for learning, explanation, or discussion, I try to capitalize on that. “Try” being the key word, there. Just keep trying.)

Ok, so if you actually just came to this post for other scripture study suggestions, here you go! Because I live in Utah and the particular area of Utah where I live is even more predominantly LDS than the rest, a lot of these references and suggestions will be links to LDS resources. However, if you are not LDS, you will still find Bible resources among these links that you may really like. And you may see a link that doesn’t perfectly correspond to your faith, but can be tweaked easily to fit the doctrines and teachings you are blessing your children with. Take the good and true where you find it!

Incorporate the Scriptures into the schooling you’re already doing:

It’s good to establish a habit of daily reading with your kids, but adding variety can help keep them from getting bored and resisting the practice.

Gospel Library app and LDS.org – The Gospel Library app https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.lds.ldssa&hl=en

can be used on phones and tablets. Under “Children” you can find Scripture Stories videos for the Book of Mormon, Old Testament, New Testament, Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price (BoM, OT, NT, D&C, PoGP).  Make use of audio options, too. These are available on your device and through the church’s website (lds.org) as well. The church also has coloring books available for download for the BoM and PoGP. And don’t forget music! You can print piano sheet music, or watch Sing-Along videos.

LDS.org

https://www.lds.org/children/scripture-stories?lang=eng

Scripture Power: 30 minute conversation with Bro. and Sister Joy D. Jones of the Genreal Primary Presidency about helping children experience the power of the scriptures. https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2017-01-0012-how-to-teach-your-kids-that-scripture-power-is-real?lang=eng

Scripture study report or highlights – require/encourage an oral report of each chapter/story read/watched. Helps ensure that children are comprehending and retaining what they read.

Allow family members periodically to share what they’re learning in their personal studies during dinner, at FHE or other family gatherings or with primary groups (Activity days, Scouts) This is a convenient way to pass off Faith in God requirements.

Games: Perhaps one day a week, your typical scripture study could be replaced by a game to review what you’ve been learning.

Scripture Charades – Act out stories from the scriptures without speaking. (I find it’s helpful with younger ones still unfamiliar with scriptures to make a list of stories I’m sure they know, then put the options in a bowl for them to draw from. That way you don’t have one person miming a story that no one else has read! And if you know all the options in the bowl, you can help if the littles have a hard time deciding how to act it out.)

Who Am I? (20 Questions) – Guess what person someone is thinking of by asking only yes or no questions. Are you a prophet? Are you in the New Testament? Are you righteous? Did you build a boat? Did you have a vision?

Nephites vs. Lamanites – You could get really creative with this, or keep it super simple. When the weather is warmer, go outside and determine teams and boundary lines. Then appoint “spies” to find out where the enemy is planning to attack. Use a chapter from the Book of Mormon as your guide and act out a battle scenario.

Alternately, you could play a game of  chess or checkers, assigning a color to Nephites or Lamanites. Discuss how pride resulted in the ultimate downfall of scriptural societies and how we can learn from their mistakes. (Deseret Book actually sells a chess set you may wish to invest in. Might make a fun birthday gift!) https://deseretbook.com/p/nephites-vs-lamanites-book-mormon-chess-checker-set-latter-day-designs-90005?variant_id=5844

Writing/spelling – Select verses for memorization and to use for copy work in a notebook and as spelling/vocabulary words for the week. Sometimes it’s fun to set aside one day a week for something out of the ordinary. You can create your own word search puzzles here: http://puzzlemaker.discoveryeducation.com/WordSearchSetupForm.asp?campaign=flyout_teachers_puzzle_wordcross

Similar resources:

http://www.ldsliving.com/5-Scripture-Word-Puzzles-Your-Family-Will-Love/s/77856?page=1#story-content

https://mormonsite.wordpress.com/puzzles/

https://www.lds.org/children/resources/type/word-puzzles?lang=eng
Math – Study Scriptures by the numbers!

http://www.ldsliving.com/By-The-Numbers-Questions-in-the-Book-of-Mormon/s/74716

https://rationalfaiths.com/hebrew-numerology-book-mormon/

History (and a bunch of other stuff!)

Charting the Book of Mormon – collection of 175 visual aids for study of BoM

https://byustudies.byu.edu/book-of-mormon-charts

Book of Mormon Central

https://bookofmormoncentral.org/about

Free Download – Book of Mormon Genealogy Chart

http://www.mormoncharts.com/23/book-mormon-genealogy-charts/book-of-mormon-genealogy-chart/

Incentive programs:

For our family study (which is kept very simple, a few verses read at the dinner table each evening) we wrote a list on the dry-erase board of reward activities for each book completed. Once we finished 1 Nephi, we went to Temple Square. You could plan hikes, go to a swimming pool or ice skating, or bowling. Involving the whole family in the decision helped unit us. We kept a photo of the list on our phones so we could refer to it to help motivate us!

Feast Upon the Word reward cards:

Read for 30 days and earn a reward of your choice (parent-child date, movie, toy, nails done, etc.)

http://www.themormonhome.com/business-card-sized-scripture-reading-charts/

Reading charts and Trackers:

Create a customizable reading plan for Bom, D&C, NT or OT – http://www.ldsscripturetools.com/

https://cknscratch.com/scripturestudygroups/read-the-book-of-mormon-free-printable-schedules

http://www.themormonhome.com/scripture-study/
Memorization helps:

Ponderizer app

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=net.danmercer.ponderizer&hl=en

Scripture Marking products

Stickers

http://www.scripturestickers.com/info

https://deseretbook.com/products?keywords=scripture+stickers
Scripture Pageant

I think this is a great idea either as a reward activity or as a review tool. Living in Utah, you could make a goal to finish a certain book or amount of scripture as a family in time to attend one of the many pageants across the state.  Or, as an end of the year project, hold your own pageant!! Act out stories from the scriptures, recite memorized verses or songs. It could be done in a Day Camp style, where you have different stations (or just a different activity each day through a week). How about an archery station to review Nephi’s exercise of faith after breaking his bow? What if you learned about the different types of weapons of war used by the people of the BoM and make some of your own to bury in the sandbox, like the Anti-Nephi-Lehites? (I see a lot of potential for a Homemade Learning showcase!)
For Older Children
Once I saw an analogy for scripture study which I really liked and might be useful in helping teens and older kids to delve deeper in their understanding of God’s word.

Using a simple illustration of a boat on the water, you provide some prompts for writing/thinking about a specific passage of scripture. On the boat itself you would summarize the actual words of the verses, its surface meaning, if you will. In the water surrounding the boat you might explain some of the historical or spiritual context of the verses, who wrote them, what the circumstances were at the time of their writing, etc. And as you go deeper into the water, you discuss any symbolism, “hidden meaning” or personal applications you can glean from the passage. This could be used very literally as a writing assignment, but might also be useful during a spontaneous discussion to remind your student to think more deeply about the topic.
Youth speakers can be a marvelous resource to encourage your teen in their scripture study.

*Righteous Warriors: Lessons from the war chapters of the Book of Mormon – John Bytheway, BYU Education Week, 2006

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llBV0Okknhk

I learned a lot from this video by John Bytheway and thought it would be helpful to make my own worksheet assignment based off of it for some of my kids. You might preview a video and then type instructions for your student to pause it at certain points (or watch up until a certain point if the video is too long for one assignment) and then answer some questions about it. Maybe even assign them to teach an FHE lesson on the topic. (This is an excellent way to pass off requirements for Faith in God or YW Personal Progress).

BOOKS for Teens

Please Pass the Scriptures – John Hilton III

https://deseretbook.com/p/please-pass-scriptures-john-hilton-iii-53698?variant_id=48865-paperback

The Stripling Warrior and Warriorette Workout – Shane Barker

https://deseretbook.com/p/stripling-warrior-warriorette-workout-shane-barker-66912?ref=Grid%20%7C%20Search-1&variant_id=33363-paperback

ISAIAH

28 Lesson outlines with links (1 lesson/week for 7 months)

https://www.lds.org/manual/institute-secondary-electives-student-readings-and-selected-course-outlines/the-book-of-isaiah-course-outline?lang=eng

Intro/Foundational lesson

https://www.lds.org/new-era/2012/03/how-can-i-understand-isaiah?lang=eng

Got more ideas? Or is there someone you do with your family that others would benefit knowing about? (The answer is “yes!” We will benefit from your encouragement and support.) Share them in the comments. The more the merrier.