The Supreme Schoolteacher
All types of learning are best accomplished with heaven’s help and at the feet of the Master Teacher because he is the source of all light and truth.
We met recently with a prospective student and his family, and as we were explaining all we do at Liberty Youth Academy to foster a spiritually rich environment for our students, this young man made the sad observation that “the Spirit can’t be felt at my school.” Our eldest son, Jaxon, made a strikingly similar observation toward the end of his Kindergarten year.
My wife Bonnie and I were both homeschooled as children and had great experiences with it. We loved the complete integration of spiritual and secular learning and the flexibility it gave us to graduate high school and commence our collegiate studies early. Naturally, even before we were married, we were united in our desire for our children to have the same opportunities. As the time approached for Jaxon to begin Kindergarten, we saw no problems with having him begin his academic career in the public school system with the plan to switch to homeschooling well before the grades where the conversation topics of his peers would turn to the profane and the morally questionable. So it was that he began Kindergarten that year at our local public school.
One of the most thrilling things for me as a parent, next to watching one of my children learn to walk, is watching them begin to read. Seeing him progress in reading and writing was really quite enjoyable, and he was a sponge for all things zoological and scientific. As the year progressed and we watched Jaxon’s academic improvements, we also noticed some things that were concerning. The light in his eyes and his excitement for learning slowly dwindled. He was still learning and he had friends, but he just wasn’t loving school anymore. One day, he told my wife that he never wanted to go back to school again. When she asked him why, he responded that he just feels yucky at school, not like how he feels at home. Although he was not able to articulate why he felt yucky, he was picking up on the same thing the young man we recently spoke with had noticed - an absence of the Spirit. For more on this, in “The Myth of Spiritual Neutrality” I discuss in depth why an environment that excludes God is not spiritually safe or neutral.
Getting Jaxon Back
As we contemplated what to do about our son feeling “yucky” at school, I found myself thinking back on every Sunday School lesson on the armor of God in which I have participated over the years. Evoking imagery reminiscent of King Saul strapping armor on the boy David just before he confronts Goliath, invariably a parent in the class volunteers how important it is for their family to hold daily scripture study as a way to fortify and arm their children for the onslaught of temptations they will face during the school day. Such comments are typically greeted with a chorus of nodding heads. While I heartily agree that daily family scripture study is critical to the spiritual survival of our families, what bothers me about such comments is that parents seem to accept it as inevitable that their children will be educated in enemy territory. Could it be true that our son would have to become accustomed and comfortable with “yucky” in order obtain an education?
As we prayerfully considered what to do with Jaxon, we felt compelled to accelerate our plan and begin homeschooling him in first grade. At the time, we were shocked by how quickly our happy boy came back and how quickly he recovered his love of learning and natural curiosity. After completing his first grade year, we sent Jaxon to St. George to attend I Love America Camp at the Liberty Youth Academy that my mother owns there. He came home with an impressive understanding of early American history, especially for a first grader, but what was life changing for him were the special spiritual experiences he had while there, experiences that he remembers vividly to this day and which I do not doubt he will carry with him throughout his life. We have since learned that our experience with Jaxon is not uncommon. As the founder of Liberty Youth Academy, my mother has enrolled scores of children who come with a reluctant resignation to the tedium of school but who are miraculously transformed into children who genuinely love learning and into budding scholars. We are seeing the same transformations among our students here in Southern Arizona, and the explanation is really quite simple.
What we have come to realize through this experience and others is how powerfully the Spirit and Christ’s influence can be felt when pure, undiluted, and undivided truth is taught to a child. Spiritual and secular education are two sides of the exact same coin. Truth is truth is truth, and only Satan would have us believe that we can subdivide and compartmentalize it without losing anything in the process. As we “seek… out of the best books words of wisdom” we are counseled to do so “by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118). Henry B. Eyring once said, “Remember, you are interested in education, not just for mortal life, but for eternal life. When you see that reality clearly, you will put spiritual learning first and yet not slight the secular learning. In fact, you will work harder on your secular learning than you would without that spiritual vision.” Truth united and indivisible is incredibly powerful, far more so than the sum of its parts when taught separately.
The Supreme Schoolteacher
When we teach truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, we are inviting Christ and the Spirit to be our team teachers, and there is absolutely nothing that our children and students can’t accomplish. The feelings that accompany such learning create a positive feedback loop that drives students to greater levels of scholarship than could otherwise be possible. All types of learning are best accomplished with heaven’s help and at the feet of the Master Teacher because he is the source of all light and truth. He is the supreme scientist, the master mathematician, and the consummate artist. There is nothing in biology, chemistry, music, literature, physics, law, philosophy, politics, economics, astronomy, psychology, or business (did I miss anything) that is beyond his powers of comprehension or beyond his ability to teach. Not only is he brilliant, but you couldn’t ask for a more loving, personable, and inspiring teacher. If he were to open a school in your area and hire himself as the teacher, would you enroll your children? What would you be willing to sacrifice to secure seats in his class for them?
At Liberty Youth Academy, we take very seriously our responsibility to foster a spiritually rich and safe environment where Christ and his Spirit can be the primary teachers, but private school is not the only place where such an environment can be found. Christ has made himself available as a personal, in home, full-time tutor for your children. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matt. 18:20). He can be an integral part of their education in a way that is every bit as real and powerful as having him teach them in the flesh. All he needs is an invitation. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7). Will it require sacrifice? Absolutely. All things of value require sacrifice because “what we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly” (Thomas Paine, The American Crisis), but it is without a doubt worth it.
The picture for this article is called Perfect Love by Del Parson
Education for Real Life, Henry B. Eyring, Oct 2002 Ensign