Your Children: What Are They Learning? How Can You Help?

“Your Children: What Are They Learning? How Can You Help?” Ensign, Sept. 1975, 91

Your Children:
What Are They Learning?
How Can You Help?

“I’m a tough cowboy!” the four-year-old cried, as his teacher pulled him, wriggling and kicking, from her class and out into the hall.

The commotion attracted the attention of the Sunday School president, who had been standing in the hall talking to his counselors. “What’s the trouble?” he asked.

“He’s a ‘tough cowboy,’” the teacher said, “and sometimes I’d like to wring his neck.” Then, embarrassed, she continued: “Brother Butler, he’s not a bad boy, really, but I can’t get him to sit still for ten seconds at a time. He runs around wildly, pinches and wrestles with the other children, kicks them with his cowboy boots, hangs out the window …”

The president was familiar with the problem. Sister Thomas wasn’t the first teacher this boy had driven to exasperation, and many attempts at kind persuasion over a period of several weeks hadn’t helped. After a moment’s reflection, the president knelt next to the boy, who was now hanging like a dead weight in his teacher’s grasp, trying to free his arm.

“So you’re a cowboy, huh?” he said kindly. “A tough one?”

“Yeah,” the boy replied, still squirming.

“But Craig, don’t you remember that the really tough cowboys are the nice ones?”

Much to the teacher’s surprise, the boy stopped wriggling immediately. He said nothing; he was thinking, perhaps reconsidering the many movies and television shows he had seen.

Presently, the president lifted the boy to his feet and helped him tuck in his shirttail. “Would you like to go back to your class?” he asked.

The boy went; and from that day forward, he was a model of cooperation.

The Church enters a new curriculum year beginning this month. The teachers have been called and set apart. They are better prepared than ever before. Their lessons and supplementary materials are better than ever; they have better facilities and equipment and resources than ever before. When you deliver your child to the classroom, you can be assured that he or she is in good hands. The question, however, is this: When your children do come to the classroom, will they be “teachable”? In the true story above, a wise leader was able to recognize mixed-up roles in a young boy and effect an immediate change. But many mistaken roles are not so easily altered.

When a child enters a classroom and the door closes, there is little, if anything, a parent can do to help him learn. There are, however, many things parents can do before class to prepare children for the learning experience, to make them teachable and after class to reinforce in their minds the things they have learned. With respect to the “before” and “after,” the following few suggestions are offered to help you help your children get the very most from their learning experiences in Church:

First, instill in your children a respect for and a desire to learn the principles of the gospel. This is best done by example. Therefore, parents, undertake a systematic study of the scriptures yourselves. Read from the standard works. Study the general conference reports. Take the scriptures with you to your priesthood and Sunday School classes. You may wish to consider putting copies of the scriptures into your children’s hands as soon as they are able to read words and sentences. Inexpensive paperback copies will do for young children who are likely to handle them roughly; teenagers should have, and indeed, will require, the missionary version.

The influence of parents is tremendous, and when your children see from your example that you care about the gospel and rely on the scriptures, they will care, too.

Second, teach the gospel in your home every day, and especially during family home evening. A serious obstacle to effective learning is overcome when children—teenagers especially—come to the classroom with some knowledge of the subject to be learned. Each may know only a little about the topic, and certainly all won’t know the same things; but when all know something about it, discussions are accelerated and classes are more stimulating. Because home and family are the very centers of influence and early learning, there can be no substitute for an active program of gospel learning in the home.

Third, teach your children reverence. Teach them that reverence is much more than simply being quiet and passive in the chapel; it is an active kind of honor and respect for the Lord and for the sacred things he has given us, including the principles of the gospel. It is a respect for the fights of others in the classroom who are trying to learn the gospel. Parents, consider carefully the kinds of roles you are teaching your children to respect and emulate. Don’t “saddle” them with “tough-cowboy” kinds of roles while they are young. Such roles may prove destructive to their reverence, and thereby to their learning habits, well into their teens and perhaps throughout their lives.

Fourth, teach your children to pray. Teach them to recognize the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the source of all knowledge. In short, make your children teachable.

When classes are over, there are many opportunities to reinforce the lessons the teachers have presented. Sit down with each of your children and say, for example, “Tell me what you learned in Sunday School today.” Perhaps your smaller children will remember only a key word or two from their lesson. If they have completely forgotten, help them out with suggestions. A question asked of your teenager may start a week-long discussion of a gospel principle!

Such a practice can result in a number of benefits: (1) When the child repeats in a few sentences the kernel of the lesson he has just learned, that lesson will become more firmly fixed in his mind and the teaching will therefore become more effective. (2) You the parent will also know specifically what your child has learned and will then be able to help him apply those principles when special “teaching moments” or crises arise. Teaching thus becomes doubly effective. (3) Perhaps more importantly, a recitation of what he has learned becomes, for the child, a measurement of his performance—one that is sure to help his performance improve.

When your children see that you care whether or not they learn anything in church, they will be encouraged.

In many classes, especially those for younger children, producing crayon drawings and cutouts is a regular activity.

Keep the artwork and other items that your children make in their classes. Display them in a prominent place in your home, and when they are taken down from display, keep them all together in a folder. Keeping everything together for your children to look through occasionally can help give the lessons a sense of continuity and will also let your children know that you value their work.

One mother keeps a folder for each child. At the end of each week, when last Sunday’s artwork comes off display, she puts it in the folders, and at the end of the year she selects the best work to keep for each child’s “baby box,” which she plans to give them when they grow up and marry. When children know you care about their work, they are more careful to do good work in their classes.

Whenever possible, coordinate the lessons in your family home evenings with the lessons your children are receiving in church, and let them report on what they have learned.

Let your older children teach often in family home evenings, using their current lesson materials. This can have a two-fold benefit: (1) Again, it reinforces the material learned, and (2) it gives the young man or woman a significant success experience in teaching a sympathetic audience within the secure atmosphere of the home. Children too young to present lessons have at least learned several songs in Primary and Sunday School. Let them sing! Have your children also draw upon current lessons when they prepare talks for Church.

The sacred trust to teach children the gospel of Jesus Christ rests upon parents. To assist them in fulfilling this trust, the Church provides effective and systematic instruction in the plan of salvation and all its attendant blessings through the curricula of the Sunday School, Primary, Aaronic Priesthood and Young Women, Seminary, and Young Adult programs. This correlated program of instruction is outlined in the following chart. Study it; incorporate it into the program of gospel learning that is operating in your home; help your children to take full advantage of their classes and learn to apply the gospel.


Sunday School



I Have a Heavenly Father


Children learn that Heavenly Father planned for them to be part of a family, that he planned a beautiful world, that he shows his love by providing for all our needs.


We Learn about Our Heavenly Father

Star A

Children learn that Heavenly Father is wise, loving, and powerful, that he planned for the earth’s creation, that each individual is important, and that through making right choices they show their love for him.


My Heavenly Father Loves Me

Star B

Lessons teach that Heavenly Father is a real personage, that he created us, that he loves us and gives us commandments for guidance. Children learn to show love for others.


We Learn about Our Savior


Lessons help children increase their understanding of and love for Jesus through learning the events of his life; special emphasis given to parables, miracles, and healings.


Membership in His Church


Children prepare for baptism and responsible membership in the Church through study and application of the first four principles of the gospel and other basic principles.


Come Follow Me

Targeteer A

Lessons give children a better understanding of the teachings of Jesus and help them put these teachings into practice. Some concepts taught: honesty, forgiveness, fasting, the sacrament, and the priesthood.


The Epic of the Latter-Day Saints

Targeteer B

Children are taught a brief summary of Church history from the restoration to the present. They also study the lives of Church presidents and are encouraged to live by their example.


Sunday School

Primary (Girls)

Primary (Boys)


Fundamentals of the Gospel

Children study Articles of Faith 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, and 9 and are encouraged to apply the truths found therein.

Merrie Miss A and B

In both Course A and Course B, girls are to acquire spiritual knowledge, new homemaking skills, and develop desirable personal qualities. The Articles of Faith and some pertinent scriptures related to them are memorized. Girls learn crewel embroidery, crocheting, and knitting, as well as plan special activities with their mothers and fathers.

Blazer A and B

In both Course A and Course B boys prepare to receive and honor the priesthood. The Articles of Faith and some pertinent scriptures related to them will be memorized.


Fundamentals of the Gospel—Part 2

Articles of Faith 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, and 13 are studied. Emphasis is given to preparing boys for the priesthood and to motivating girls to radiate gospel light in their lives.


Introduction to the Scriptures

Students discover what scripture is and become familiar with the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon.


Each young woman will continue to discover and develop her own potential in her relationships with her Heavenly Father, her eternal family unit, and her friends.

Deacon (Series B)

Foreordination to priesthood service, basic principles of the gospel, family involvement, duties of a deacon, and temple work are stressed.


Scripture Lessons in Leadership

Examples of outstanding men and women, both past and present, are used to persuade young people that righteousness leads to happiness and unrighteousness leads to sorrow both now and in the hereafter.


The Way, the Truth, the Life

Study of the life and mission of Jesus Christ from the New Testament.

Mia Maid

Each young woman continues to grow in an understanding of herself and the gospel through sharing personal skills, talents, and gospel blessings with others.

Teacher (Series B)

Inheriting the celestial kingdom, honoring the priesthood, basic gospel principles, duties of a teacher, and preparing for missionary work, a vocation, and a family will be discussed.


A Marvelous Work and a Wonder

Young people are to develop a deeper understanding of the fundamental principles of the gospel and of their obligation to share them with others.


Follow the Brethren

Addresses by the prophet and other General Authorities from the most recent general conference are studied and discussed; the course stresses looking to our leaders for inspired counsel.


Girls are taught to use the gospel as a standard for solving problems and making decisions; they are also to gain an understanding of their supporting role in relationship to the priesthood.

Priest (Series B)

Commitment to Jesus Christ; duties of a priest; preparing for a full-time mission, for the Melchizedek Priesthood, and for temple marriage are stressed.


Scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

A careful study of what the scriptures are, how they may be interpreted, how they came to be, and how they can help us understand the gospel and life.

Seminary 14–18

Young Adults 18–25

All students will be studying the Old Testament, with emphasis on the covenant God made with Adam and continuing through the lines of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As always, the development of testimony and the application of principles of the gospel in the student’s life will be stressed.

This is an adult age-group. Their work in Melchizedek Priesthood, Relief Society, and Sunday School parallels or approximates coursework studied by parents, thus presenting excellent opportunities for gospel discussions in the home. In addition, many activities and classes of Melchizedek Priesthood MIA and institutes of religion provide gospel learning and growth. Relief Society has special optional lessons adapted to specific needs of young women and a special summer curriculum based on the addresses of the most recent general conference.

Illustrated by Julie Fuhriman