Read, Learn, and Bless Your Family

In 2011 I wrote an article on what it takes for parents to carve out time to read and study for themselves. There are many adults, my husband included, who do not read. But when children see adults in their lives reading and studying, it sets them up to do the same.

As I read what I had written, I realized that my knowledge base on some things had expanded and I had adjusted my thoughts on others. Interesting.

At any rate, it was worth sharing again. If you homeschool, then this is a must. If you want your children to enjoy reading and learning, regardless of how they are educated, this is a must. If you haven’t been a reader or a learner as an adult, this will help you grow. : ) It is powerful and can be life-changing. Learning can become part of your family culture.

The Scripture That Triggered the Thought

Back in 2011, I read a verse of scripture that sparked this article. “I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth. . .therefore, First, set in order thy house” Doctrine and Covenants 93:43 On this day, I read it in a new way. I focused on “First, set in order thy house”. It brought to my mind another verse of scripture. “For now we see through a glass darkly”. 1 Cor. 14:12

Seeing through a glass darkly is an apt analogy when we are sharing knowledge with our children. If the windows to our home are dark, we cannot see out of them clearly. Everything we see will be dimmed by our own darkness. We will not be able to give more light to our families than we possess. We must be enlightened first, and then we can share with our children.

It caused me to think of the classics I have read and my spiritual canon. If we are unfamiliar with good literature and that which informs our belief system, then we cannot call them to mind when a quote, verse, or thought might enlighten a child, illuminate a teaching, open a new learning adventure, or ease a soul. These quotes and teachings won’t be in us because our house is empty, and our windows are dark. As parents, we want to do and say the best thing when it is needed, so we can give help, comfort, and knowledge to our children. Having light in our own house, so to speak, is vital.

Reading good books and our spiritual canon or other writings that inform our belief system is like washing our windows and filling our house with light. As we enlighten ourselves, we see more clearly. We see our children and their needs more clearly.

So, how do busy parents find the time for self-education, reading, and reflection?

Here are some ideas that helped me while I raised seven children and continue to assist me now that I live in a four-generation home.

1. Decide that you want to learn and that you want to expand your knowledge base in old and new areas. Make a personal commitment to read, take classes, and learn, so when it is difficult you can and will follow through. And it will be difficult. That is the nature of parenting. There are many demands. However, committing yourself to reading and studying will help you do it when it isn’t easy or comfortable!

2. Have a book available all the time. When I had children, I packed one in the diaper bag. Later, I had a small bag by the front door with a book, pencil, and paper in it. I could grab and go at a moment’s notice.

If needed, have a second book, which you will read more often, available in your home so that when the rare moment occurs, you can read.

Today, I keep a book in a basket in my bathroom. I visit that room at least three times a day and I can read a few paragraphs before I am interrupted. You all know what that is like. LOL Declare your intention to learn and grow by being prepared.

3. Give up perfection. I know that having quiet, focusing on one book fully, and taking notes is the best way to digest information. Your season for that will come but may not be now. And if you are like me, at 74 in a four-generation home, it may come much later than you anticipated. LOL

At this point in my life, I thought I would be going back to college and getting my doctorate in education. In Montana, when I still had most of my children at home, I had a full-ride scholarship for a doctorate. But it wasn’t the season. I had to content myself with learning how to parent better by reading and counseling with those who knew more than I did. It eventually led to a career spanning 13 years, speaking, teaching, and publishing a book.

Now, here I am, back in the traces and I, like you, must be content to read in the bathroom or while waiting in a doctor’s office. Be ok with learning in whatever way you can manage – reading while nursing, cooking, waiting for the washer to fill, snatching a paragraph or two while managing a toddler at the doctor’s office, or grabbing your 30 seconds of private time on the toilet.

Occasionally, I can retreat to my office to study my spiritual canon or read. I take notes. I do research on the computer. However, I know that I will be interrupted repeatedly and that I may only get a few focused minutes. For now, I am letting that be enough. Give up perfection and you will learn, change, and grow. Who knows where it will eventually lead you?

4. Talk about what you are reading at dinner. Throw out a thought and see who responds. Let the conversation flow naturally. You can even do this with a 3-year-old. “Jenny, what would you do if someone wanted you to be mean to someone else.” (Maybe you have been reading Lord of the Flies) You and your spouse can have a discussion which the children may join. If not, they will hear what you are learning.

I do this when my husband and mother of 94 years, sit to eat. Often, I am the only one talking. : ) But it helps me think about what I am reading and Don and Mom don’t seem to mind.

Occasionally at our meals, I read to them. I eat fast and then I read. It doesn’t happen every meal or even every day but occasionally, we read at a meal.

5. Call a friend on the phone and share an aha. They do not have to have read the book. The best way to cement what you are learning is to share what you have discovered while reading. This is why talking at dinner or phoning a friend is useful. : )

6. If you can, give yourself 10 minutes before bed to read a few paragraphs. You may have great thoughts and ideas upon waking.

7. Have a pad and pen by your bed. When you wake up sit on the edge of the bed, quietly, for a couple of minutes, and ask your brain what it came up with in the night. See what ideas flow and write them down. If the baby is crying, take the pad and pen with you. While changing a diaper or nursing, ask your brain what it has come up with in the night and then write it down.

Currently, I have my pad and pen in the bathroom window. My nightly caregiving, prayer-filled shower is when I have many thoughts and I write them down so I can ponder them before bed.

8. Consider reading with your spouse for 10 or 15 minutes every day. If you set a time and then are as consistent as possible, you will read together more often. Don and I used to read in the evening. He likes Westerns, doesn’t read himself, but enjoys it when I read to him. This worked for many years. Now we have had to adjust. My mom lives with us and so we read at lunch, most days.

Reading as a family is a powerful way to share knowledge and information with your children. Reading as a family allows you to read books with tough ideas because you can talk about them as you read and help your children navigate the difficult decisions they may face as they grow.

If reading to your kids seems too challenging because of a wide range of ages, then here are a couple of articles that can help you navigate it successfully.

Don’t worry if it takes time to finish a book or if you only get a few paragraphs in. It is the reading consistently that matters, whether you are reading to your spouse, your family, or by yourself.

9. Cast out discouragement because you cannot read and study for long periods of dedicated time. Everything has a season. Your current season is parenting. Mine is four-generation grandparenting, with a special needs granddaughter, and full-time caregiving for two older adults.

Keep in mind the old example of how to fit more in a jar. Begin with the rocks. Then add small gravel. Then comes the sand. Finally, add water.

Your family and children are the rocks. This goes in the jar first. Housekeeping, preparing food, work, and all the rest are the small gravel that we sift in after the rocks. Church, community duties, etc. are the sand that follow the gravel. Reading and learning are the water. There is always room for the water when we put the rocks in first.

Remember everything has a season, be content with your season.

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