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20 November 2010

Teaching Virtues

We've been using our scripture box for about a year now, created with instructions on Simply Charlotte Mason. We haven't added the 31 numbered cards for the days of the month because we don't have enough verses learned well enough for that yet. Even after a year. And that's OK.

Don’t worry about how many days it takes for everyone to memorize the selected Scripture. Hiding God’s Word in your heart is not a race; it’s a lifelong habit.
-Simply Charlotte Mason

This box has surpassed my wildest expectations. I thought it would be a good thing. I anticipated that he would learn some scripture verses. But I didn't know the half of it.

And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
-Ephesians 6:4, emphasis added

One of the hardest things I've had to do as a parent is to teach my son to control himself, rather than trying to do it for him. Not only to get him to tell the truth, but to understand why it's important, to show him the value of truth, honesty, and integrity, or any other virtue I hope to see in him, so that it becomes important to him.

I teach correct principles, and they govern themselves.
-Joseph Smith

I believe that this sort of teaching is absolutely essential to helping our children to act, rather than to be acted upon. I also believe that moral agency - that is, the freedom to choose - is one of the greatest gifts of God to His children, next to life itself. Just as I would never endanger my children's lives, so I must guard against endangering their agency. This principle poses some substantial challenges to the parent hoping to see their child live a godly life! To make it work, I cannot be content to see proper behavior, I need to somehow ignite proper motivation. If Monkey sees the value in what I am teaching then the decision to comply becomes his, as it should be. One of the things that makes this difficult is, the heat of the moment is not a teachable moment.

Enter the scripture box. When I notice that Monkey is developing a habit that is not in accordance with scripture, I will often put a new verse in the scripture box that teaches the governing principle. Most recently, Monkey has discovered that by telling us he brushed his teeth already, we would move on to other things, even if he had, in fact, not brushed his teeth. When we discovered this, he happened to have just mastered the Articles of Faith we recently added, so there was room in the scripture box for teaching about honesty. I chose this verse to add to the box:

...that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty.
1 Timothy 2:2

Learning this verse gave us the opportunity to talk about a number of virtues, including talking about what is honesty and why is it important. Since introducing it, Monkey has begun to learn to value honesty, and thus the lies have dropped right off. Because this teaching has happened outside of the moment of conflict, as a natural part of our established bedtime routine, frustration and defensiveness are reduced or eliminated. And because it is a part of our bedtime routine, we can revisit the idea of honesty several times and make sure it is really understood.

Giving a man a fish feeds him for one meal. Teaching a man to fish feeds him for a lifetime. As parents and gospel instructors, you and I are not in the business of distributing fish; rather, our work is to help our children learn "to fish" and to become spiritually steadfast. This vital objective is best accomplished as we encourage our children to act in accordance with correct principles - as we help them learn by doing. "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God" (John 7:17). Such learning requires spiritual, mental, and physical exertion and not just passive reception.
-David A. Bednar
Watching With All Perseverance

Another wonderful thing about the scripture box is that it does all this good stuff within the confines of a young attention span. Because of the nature of the box, we began with a single verse, and have gradually built up to doing 4-5 verses a night. But because we are constantly rotating through verses previously learned, we've covered a great deal of ground with minimal effort or fuss. I like that too.


Keeley said...

What a great idea! I've been keeping a list of scriptures on a whiteboard and we memorize maybe one a week...but I really like the scripture box idea.

Ritsumei said...

I love it: it doesn't take very many verses before a plain list doesn't serve well. I'm thinking that a similar system, in a binder rather than a box, would probably serve well for memory work once we start doing that.


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