All posts by Tresta Neil

Are they getting it?

I have wondered if my children were understanding what I was teaching them. This week while studying the colonial time period and ready Johnny Terrmain. I would stop and ask my children if they understood what I was teaching them. I specifically was observing the learning of my six year old. He often could not tell me anything about what we had read and I’d have to retell it or have one of the older children tell him what we read. ​

This bothered me so I talked to him about it. I’d tell him, “I’m going to read this small section and have you tell me what we read.” I would read and stop to ask him. He would almost verbatim tell me what we read. The first few times this satisfied me. He told me the same words I read. Then it occurred to me he was only memorizing the words and not really understanding them. “Now what?” I remembered asking myself.
One day while reading Johnny Terrmain I stopped and asked everyone what “desertion” meant. They didn’t really know, so I defined it. Then their older college age brother came in and defined it even better and we talked about examples. When I felt everyone understood I went back to reading. The story about Pumpkin, Johnny’s friend getting caught and tried for desertion continued. Tirzaan, my 6 year old got up from the floor and sat next to me and asked, “What does desertion mean?” 
I was shocked. Wait, how in the world could he not have gotten anything from the discussion we just had? I explained it to him again trying not to sound frustrated and a little disgusted.
I pondered on this incident for some time. I have concluded – children must have a question and seek the answer before true understanding can happen.  This is a life changing principle for me. I’m so glad I discovered it and will now be a better teacher for my children. 

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How to Prepare to Teach Principles

After learning what principles are, why they are important and how to identify and apply them. Let’s look at how you prepare to teach these to your children.
​Understand that many teaching experiences will not have much preparation time, however, if you do have or take the time to prepare here are three questions to ask yourself to help you know what to teach:
  1. What did I learn? Choose a portion of a book, a picture or painting, art and ask yourself, “Why did the author (painter/creator) write (create) that particular thing? Why was it important to him/her? What did the spirit teach you? Why was it important?”
  2. What are the converting principles? Be on high alert for portions that contain converting principles, those that lead our children to Christ or to understand the Atonement. Our goal is to encourage them to find the principle and apply it in their own lives. “A converting principle is one that leads to obedience to the will of God.” (handbook 2 page 54 by President Eyring) If the principle will help you or your child experience conversion, that’s the one to consider. Highlight or write out the principles you discovered and those you want to them to discover.
  3. What do I need to teach my children? With the spirit’s help discern what your children need to learn. There may be things that are more relevant than others. Remember Heavenly Father know your children individually and he will guide you to what they need to learn and what the Lord wants you to teach. Write out your impressions of what principle to teach, perhaps a different principle per child.

While teaching your prepared lesson remember that the spirit is the teacher. You want them to discover the principles on their own. You don’t need to tell or point the principle out for them. Allow the spirit to direct them and lead them to discover it. This may be different principles than the ones you pointed out, allow it, go with their flow of thought. Once a child discovers the principle he will naturally relate it to something he already knows. Often, when it is a new idea, it becomes a transformational and gives him greater confidence in his abilities and in the Lord.
Happy Teaching,

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