Building your Educational Dreamhouse

PART I

Each step a builder takes to create the home of someone’s dreams is necessary and deliberate, just as the steps a parent must take as they create their children’s so-called “educational dream house.” Parents who take their divine calling seriously know how important it is to seek out and create a unique, inspired education for each child. As we discovered how to construct this educational dream house for our children, we found the following five steps to be invaluable:

Step #1 -Visualizing the Educational Dream

One of the best methods of getting started on this educational journey is for parents to list the characteristics they want their children to have acquired by the time they are adults. By visualizing what they want their family members to be like, they will be better prepared to select the curriculum, educational guides, and types of education that will help them achieve those characteristics.

When we interview parents pertaining to this subject, they normally list qualities such as honesty, integrity, virtue, being a good husband or a good wife, and showing good citizenship, etc., as the characteristics they want their children to own.

Almost every parent has memorized this well-known scripture: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). But notice that parents are not to simply “train up” the child, but they should train them in the way they should go. This indicates that children’s education ought to be highly moral and well-principled.

As you can see, the skills themselves are secondary--not the main focus--in helping children prepare for adulthood. How family members use their education appears to be more important than how skilled they are in various subjects. Of course, parents also want their children to have good academic skills so they can enjoy lives of achievement and growth. But becoming well-rounded honest adults is the primary focus in raising children.

The basic academic skills that most parents desire (the “core curriculum”) usually consists of history, math, language arts, science, and religious studies. Goals for teaching and learning each of these core subjects should be included in the family’s educational blueprint.

Once this first step of creating a blueprint has been completed, and the desired end has been identified, parents are then in a better position to select the best education that will aim their family members towards each of their goals. This conversion of the blueprint to reality can be exciting and very rewarding.

Step #1, then, is for parents to discuss with their children some educational goals, and have each child write down their goals and future dreams – or have the parents write these down for them as they are discussed in the family setting.

Step #2 -Determining the Starting Point

Before a “dream house” is begun, the plot of ground where it will be built must be tested, evaluated and diagnosed. Not only is the quality of top-soil and bedrock evaluated, but the purchased lot must be squared off and surveyed to the specified parameters.

Likewise, parents will first need to evaluate their children’s skills -- academic and otherwise. This includes their physical, spiritual and emotional needs and talents.

A good battery of diagnostic tests can be of benefit in determining where students are academically. There are many ways that parents can have their children evaluated academically. Kimber Academy offers diagnostic testing in the first few weeks of school. This allows parents to see “holes” and also areas of strength in order to help their child focus on the subjects which will most benefit them. (See Appendix I for more information on KA testing)

Step #2, then, is to discover through diagnostic exams the levels of learning for each child.

Step #3--Selecting the Educational Environment

Now that the “groundwork” has been examined and diagnosed, our educational dream-house can be built on that foundation of knowledge. After the “footings” are poured (with “reinforcement bars” for added strength), the shape of the house can be seen.

Selecting an educational environment is like preparing the dream-house’s foundation. Once parents know what they want, they simply look at the entire community as a possible provider of each educational need. Most families find success by combining a number of forms of education. This is especially true for Kimber Academy families who have many hours during the week to take advantage of dual-enrollment at, community colleges, educational businesses, public schools, libraries, and university correspondence courses. Local on-site learning is valuable as well, such as visiting zoos, observatories, or getting involved in community orchestras, choirs, sports, etc. Modern technology has made knowledge available in every subject on every level of learning. This has greatly simplified the education process of almost all students.

When parents are active in the education of their children, they can rapidly see opportunities for learning everywhere.

Step #3, then, is to determine the educational resources, in addition to the Kimber Academy, that are available in your area.

Step #4--Selecting the Core Curriculum

The walls and roof of our dream house must be sturdy and well-built. When finished, they must provide sure protection against heat, cold, storms, and wind. The windows should allow adequate light into the rooms and provide a pleasant view.

Likewise, a good core curriculum will give children the strength of knowledge and spirituality, to overcome adversity and provide sound principles for a good “outlook” on life.

At Kimber Academy, our curriculum is based on the above principles as it emphasizes “Intrinsic Values” and scripturally-based learning (see following section for more details).

Step #4, then, is selecting the curriculum that fits the needs of your family academically and spiritually.

Step #5--Setting Goals for Subject Mastery

The crowning objective to our educational dream-house is doing the landscaping. The yard should be filled with lovely flowers, shrubbery and trees—the walkways laid in. Maybe there is a decorative fence around the lot, and a garden spot out back.

All these things must be planned in advance, and organized according to the ideas on the blueprint.

Similarly, young people want to be organized, but they resist being over-structured. (We do not want to mow the lawn with manicure scissors, after all.) When students are organized and meeting self-imposed goals and deadlines, they are more able to keep focused and progressing in a comfortable pattern. When their goals have been met, they have a feeling of completion--a feeling that they really can achieve.

Setting goals also keeps the students from wandering from one subject to another without purpose, and helps them organize their thinking. At the same time their confidence is built.

At Kimber Academy, our Dean of Students works with parents to assist students in setting and reaching these goals.

When parents keep the end result of the blueprint in mind, remembering what they want their children to be, to do, and to know by the time they are adults, the resulting educational dream-house they have built within each of their children will undoubtedly be the most useful and admirable structures ever imagined!

 

PART II

HOW WE DEVELOPED THE KIMBER CURRICULUM

After following these five steps of educational planning for our children in the 1980s, and before starting our private schools, we determined that there was no curriculum on the market that could assist us as parents in achieving all five of those goals. In fact, at the time there were five basic reasons why it seemed the normal textbooks used in public and private schools would not work for us:

1. Faith and moral values never came first. Some of the curriculum resources were excellent for teaching the mechanics of a subject, and most were very good for teaching things of the world. However, nowhere could we find materials that were designed to increase testimony and faith first—while at the same time incorporating the academics. We did not want our children to spend long hours of study in academics that did not also teach them moral lessons and spiritual values that would be important in their lives and in their futures.

2. The curriculum divided our family. We noticed that the curriculum on the market seemed to divide our family. Every age level had a different textbook. We found it to be almost impossible to teach each of our six children from six different textbooks on six different levels. Total “mother burn-out” loomed ahead!

3. Learning was detached. Each subject was so detached from all of the others, that there was no cohesiveness in the learning process. The children all had to learn separately.

4. Assignments often became chores of meaningless busy work. The texts required so much busy work that the children would feel pressured to study for so many hours that they could not enjoy their childhood. Hours of busywork also taught them to be self-serving. The motivation and desire to help the family and serve others was smothered by mandated “homework.”

5. Knowledge was limited. We noticed, in fact, that usually only two main tools for learning were emphasized—sight and hearing. Our children were geared so tightly to learning by sight and hearing that we felt they were being robbed. We wanted them to experience other valuable learning tools, such as touch and movement, music and nature. Since our family was quite active--especially the boys--we knew that these additional ways to learn were definitely as important as seeing and hearing.

As a result of these experiences with curriculum, in 1991 we formed a corporation called The Center for Educational Restoration, and began an extensive project to create a curriculum that would incorporate testimony and a love of learning. The result was some 75 texts and materials are under the name of Kimber Curriculum and have become the base curricula for thousands of students. (You may wish to view the individual guide-books, online at www.kimbercurriculum.com).

We are pleased that our children –now all grown with families of their own—have become good, well-rounded citizens who love God and serve Him. While we, of course, had ups and downs as we taught them, we are beginning to see the fruits of God-centered curriculum as our children teach their children.

Now let us consider each of the five topics of why other textbooks did not work for us. As you will see, through the years we have attempted to find solutions to the challenges we faced as we tried to teach our children testimony and a love of learning.

#1—Faith and Moral Values First, Not Last

We have previously mentioned that Benjamin Franklin said, “Learning to Serve God, family and community should be the aim and end of all true learning.” Serving God and learning to keep His commandments should be foremost in a student’s learning as he or she goes through life.

We took a different approach to all the academics and made them God-centered and service-oriented. Briefly, here is how we have attempted to accomplish this: (Note: A more detailed discussion on how to use the Kimber Curriculum is found in the next section.)

History. History is simply a record of God’s dealings with mankind, and man’s dealings with each other. Instead of teaching godless theories of how mankind evolved, the Kimber History is taken directly from the viewpoint of the scriptures. Each student--no matter what denomination he or she belongs to--can refer to their preferred set of scriptures—the Bible (any version), the Book of Mormon, the Torah, the Koran, or the writings of Confucius. All these are considered to be sacred writings. When young people see how God works with mankind, and how mankind works with one another on the earth, they begin to know their own worth and thus develop a personal relationship with their Creator. This grows into a desire to serve Him and keep His laws and commandments.

Math. Instead of repetitiously manipulating numbers on pages and pages of pre-written math problems, the Kimber Math program presents the fundamentals of how God used mathematics to pattern of the entire universe. Students are taught that He is the Great Mathematician who organized everything, for he said: “ ... all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.” (Moses 1:35) Also, the Savior told his Apostles, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30). As students begin to see the magic of what they too can do with numbers and correlate the concepts of how God organized everything in existence with numbers and formulas, His majesty becomes more clear. It is hoped that students may begin to ask questions such as, “How can I use mathematic knowledge to help my fellow man, and to help build God’s kingdom?” The Kimber math texts are designed to help them answer this question.

Language Arts. Language arts is the “art of communication.” When students learn proper grammar, spelling, and language skills, they are better prepared to communicate. The plan of this curriculum is to teach the student the beauty of communicating their thoughts and words, so they can help others gain an appreciation for the Creator. Using their Language arts skills, the Kimber Language arts program teaches students to share the beauty of language with all kinds of service projects. Students begin to use self-expression on a higher plane because they use the “art of language” from the scriptures and the classics. They show how they feel about life and God through stories, poetry and thought.

Science. Science is perhaps the greatest testator of the existence of God. In the Kimber six science guidebooks, students are given major vocabulary words to research, analyze, memorize, and illustrate. As they write their own textbooks on the subjects of physiology, zoology, botany, chemistry, geology, and astronomy, their knowledge and testimony of God’s existence builds and strengthens. Their finished books are an impressive portfolio for any college or job.

#2—A Family Divided Can Become a Family United

One of the warning signals that our family was not united glared bright and clear when we took them on vacation one summer. All the children were excited to go, and each begged to invite one of their friends to come along so they could have “fun”. We began to wonder why they needed outsiders to provide the fun they were looking for. Because we wanted this to be a family outing, we told them, “This time, no friends.” During our so-called vacation there was much sulking, arguing and contention among the children. We realized something had to change in our family relationships.

Not long after this experience we began home tutoring. At first, we were surprised by their behavior towards each other even in the home. It was anything but positive. It was during learning time that we discovered that they didn’t really know each other! They had always been separated in different grades or schools, and had various social activities that rarely allowed them to associate together. As a family unit, we had a lot of growing times while they learned how to get along 24 hours a day!

After a few weeks, we started noticing gradual changes in relationships. The children slowly but surely began to develop a certain loyalty to one another. Because we were spending so much time together, there were more opportunities to “bond” at home.

After several months, we also noticed that teaching became much easier, and learning became a lot more fun because there was a general spirit of cooperation and unity in the home that we had not experienced before. Of course there were days when relationships and learning times would back-slide, but we noticed that it was much easier to solve those problems when we were together on a continuing basis. We decided that serving each other was one of the main keys to this harmony.

As the spirit of service grew, the children really began to enjoy being home together in a learning atmosphere. Our children started to become friends. They were learning to help each other and were more interested in doing things together. Outside influences didn’t have as much of an impact on their relationships. Today those growing years bring happy memories to us as parents, and – hopefully – to our children as well.

As families become more unified in their learning together, contention will leave the home.

As families who are used to other public or private school schedules become involved with Kimber Academy, they may experience this same process that we went through. It may take time, but they will notice that their children will begin to have more in common as they are placed in the same class and/or learning the same curriculum. Just the fact that the children are all learning with the same scripturally-based guidebooks with provide them with a unifying source.

Outside of the 12 hours spent at Kimber Academy, many families enjoy learning at the kitchen table where they can hear the stories of history altogether, and enjoy read-aloud time with Mom. Here the children have opportunities to teach each other while they do their individual work.

The scriptures contain many words of wisdom to help parents know how to teach their children at home. There are several scriptures that would make excellent posters to remind us of the Lord’s counsel regarding families and education.

For example, Paul wrote:

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord ....” (Ephesians 6: 1-4)

Solomon wrote:

“Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.

“For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.

“For I was my father’s son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother.

“He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.

“Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.

“Forsake her [ie, wisdom] not, and she shall preserve thee: love her; and she shall keep thee.

“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:1-7)

#3—Avoiding Detached Learning by Applying Knowledge to Life

You will recall that one of our concerns was the “detached learning” our children were getting in their educational experiences away from home. Students who are unable to associate knowledge from one area of learning to another have detached learning.

One way to tell if a child has detached learning is through diagnostic exams. We discovered this years later when we developed our curriculum. There needs to be a way to check the academic knowledge of our children and students, and at the same time see if their knowledge is being internalized.

For example, when we first started our private schools and began testing the students, we found that many of them had memorized the fifty states and their capitals. This was good, of course. However, when they were asked to fill in a map of the United States, they did not know where most of the states were located. In addition, we found that most students did not understand why they were learning particular subjects. They seemed to think that the main reason to learn was to pass an exam and get a good grade. They had detached their knowledge from living life.

When the mind is able to grasp the whole picture of a subject, and attach particular information to other subjects, learning begins to make sense in every area of life. So we decided to incorporate into the Kimber curriculum learning exercises that correlated with many subjects. In history, for example, we gave some assignments to figure particular math equations. In language arts, we had the students perfect their reading and writing skills right along with history and science. In science, we involved creativity, geography, and Language arts skills.

An Associated Press article, written April 22, 1996, demonstrates the efficiency of this method of teaching. The foremost subject during one term at Barcroft Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia, was the study of the life of Leonardo da Vinci (who, incidentally, wrote these inspiring words: “Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.”).

The article reports:

“Teachers weave the work of the painter, inventor, scientist into lessons about science, English, math, history and art--a teaching style that’s gaining popularity nationwide.

“‘It’s a way of organizing curriculum without putting everything in boxes, or saying --OK, now it’s time to take out our science book,’ says Fran Simms, language arts teacher [Barcroft Elementary School]. ‘It connects the day, connects learning.’

“ ... Integrating subjects isn’t new, but the number of schools trying it has grown steadily since the mid-1980s, and more rapidly in the past five years.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of schools exploring it,’ says Sally Chapman with the Association For Supervision and Curriculum Development, which conducts workshops on the concept.

“At Brown-Barge Middle School in Pensacola, Fla., students learn lessons under themes. In the ‘Global Awareness’ section, for example, students research and write about different countries, study ratio and proportion by comparing the size of continents and learn science by studying climate, rainfall and ocean currents.

“‘The kids love it because it makes sense to them,’ says assistant principal Sandy Ames. ‘There’s nothing more frustrating than learning things in isolation.’

“... Teachers enthusiastic about integrated curriculum say their students don’t just march from class to class in blocks of time. They learn classic course work and skills, like writing, while exploring a larger issue.

“ .... At Barcroft, students are urged to be inquisitive, like da Vinci. They are taught to think like historians or investigators. Like da Vinci, the students draw from live models and keep notebooks.”

(The Daily Spectrum, Monday, April 22, 1996, Page B2)

#4—Self-Serving Homework Assignments Can Transform into Service Projects

People all over the nation are becoming alarmed by the low self-esteem among our children. Why don’t they like themselves? Often parents and teachers turn to excessive praise and adoration to help the children think well of themselves. But we found that this usually has the opposite effect on the child’s growing personality. Here is what we discovered and integrated into the Kimber language arts curriculum, and what is now being recognized in many parts of society:

Community service is a great builder of self-esteem for children of all ages. In recent years, student self-esteem seems to have had almost too much emphasis. Yet, parents and teachers watch with increasing alarm as the children get more and more depressed, turn to drugs, contemplate suicide, and fall into the abyss of immorality. Today we even read of children murdering each other at school. What is happening?

Many feel that the cause for this low self-esteem -- or as we like to put it --low self worth, is because most learning methods direct children to think inwardly. They are encouraged to satisfy their every immediate desire--and “self” is Number One.

In contrast, we all know there is a better way. Teaching the child to think outwardly towards serving others--becoming concerned about the welfare of the other person--helps keep the child’s focus away from himself and his own problems. As Jesus said: “He that findeth his life [in self-service] shall lose it; but he that loseth his life for my sake [by serving ‘even the least of these’] shall find it.” (Matthew 10:39)

An article from USA Today displayed this headline: “Giving to Others to Give Kids Compassion.” The January 29, 1996 article reads in part as follows:

“Deborah Spaide of New Canaan, Conn., is still glowing from a holiday success story. Children from her area stuffed more than 1,000 shoe boxes with little goodies for homeless and needy children in three states .... ‘The kids were creative with what they put in the boxes,’ Spaide said. ‘It’s a simple project and they really got into it. It made them feel empowered to touch somebody else’s life.

“From this experience, she says the children learned an important lesson: Caring for others makes you feel better about yourself. But many kids today aren’t learning simple lessons of caring and charity. And one reason is there aren’t that many opportunities out there for them, says Spaide, 36 .... Spaide has written a new book, Teaching Your Kids to Care: How to Discover and Develop the Spirit of Charity in Your Children, ... which lists lots of creative ideas for charitable opportunities for kids.

“ .. .It all started because she wanted to make sure her own children developed compassion for others .... So she started looking for activities for her children. The first thing they did as a family was go into a disabled woman’s home and paint the walls and clean the apartment. Her kids started telling their friends what they were doing, and the friends wanted to come along to the next activity. Spaide found that kids were ‘starving for these kinds of opportunities.’

“ .... Spaide and her husband, Jim, say that they’ll know they’ve succeeded if their kids grow up and measure success in terms of the people they touch and help, instead of in terms of money or material gain. …We have nothing against money, but it’s an empty value,’ she says. ‘No matter how much you have, you never quite feel content. While charity, even in small doses, leaves you feeling satisfied and whole.’“

Parents can give their children “free reign” to think of ways that will help their neighborhood, community, city, state and country. As families go through the Kimber language arts curriculum, they will find the weekly service projects will develop a habit of service to last a lifetime.

#5—Using All the Tools – Not Just Seeing and Hearing—to Educate

In recent years, teachers have pleaded with parents to help the school by getting involved in their child’s education. Since the present public education system does not allow parents or uncertified adults to regularly participate in the classroom, parents are asked by the teachers to help at home. This usually requires that the textbooks come home with the students so the parents can help their child with their written assignments. Even little kindergarten children were being sent home with “homework”! It seems that childhood has been swallowed up by giant the bookworm of textbook learning.

This was one of the first things we noticed as we tried to sort out the problems with traditional public education. Our children seemed to be “married” to the textbooks. They were being required to get through a textbook, but they were not really learning and mastering the subject, or applying to their lives. Wasn’t there more to learning than just sitting at a desk?

After we began to home tutor, we slowly discovered that textbooks weren’t the answer to everything. To get away from the kitchen table for a little while and play, dance, sing, and have a little learning fun outside – away from the books – actually came as a great relief.

Later on as we completed our research on the tools of learning, we discovered a shocking reality. John Dewey’s public school system was designed to replace mothers with textbooks. The result of this philosophy was that students were denied two major learning ingredients: 1) a love of learning and 2) the opportunity to think freely. Dewey’s textbook-driven philosophy eventually created a whole generation of couch potatoes.

Having gone through the very same type of learning processes all through high school and even in college, we too had been trained that every subject had to be tied to a single textbook. However, when we attended graduate school, we were not tied to just one textbook, but were assigned to do intense study on our own with a whole series of reference books. And we were not required to sit at a desk all day in front of an instructor. We were free to work on our own time to accomplish the goal. We felt a sense of liberty with our learning.

We decided to experiment with this “post-graduate” philosophy. Instead of requiring students to be bookworms in a textbook, we created simplified educational guide-books. The guide-books we eventually developed allow students to be drawn into the subject, and then they are free to use any type of reference book to complete their work.

In each of our guide-books we include a number of suggested learning exercises and projects, so that students who desire to go into greater depth into each subject can do so. The learning exercises are all designed to help the student learn how to think, reason, and serve.

Another aspect we found to be especially beneficial was to encourage the students to write their own workbooks for math, science, and language arts. As we developed the Kimber guidebooks, we put “service” on a pedestal in nearly every subject. Students learned, created and wrote to benefit others.

The students are encouraged to set a goal to -- not only to write their own workbooks -- but to keep adding new information to them through the years. We noticed how much our children and other students enjoyed seeing their individual progress as time went on.

When students catch the vision of knowing how to think, reason and serve, they begin to love learning. They will become knowledgeable, active citizens – and most certainly the “fruits” of their education will be more productive than potatoes growing roots on a couch.

As Kimber Academy families incorporate these concepts into their lives through the curriculum, learning becomes a whole new and exciting experience for children. They can now have the best of both worlds—where they are free to think, serve others, and where they actually enjoy learning.

And we would add one more facet to building our educational dream house:

#6--Principles--Not Grade Levels

Another unique facet of Kimber Academy is that there are fewer grade levels of study. Instead of 12 grades, we divide students into only three age groups: (1) Ages 5 – 8; (2) ages 9 – 11; and (3) ages 12 and older. While each age-group has its own level of math, science, language arts, history, and religion, the curriculum has one major difference: Principles.

Basing our curriculum on principles is one of the most exciting breakthroughs we discovered. This idea is based on how most of us study the Bible. No matter how many times we read the Bible, we discover and understand it in more depth each time, because the scriptures are based on God-given principles. When we incorporated this principle-based learning in our curriculum, we found that students are able to study the same subject over and over, like they do with the scriptures, and gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the subject each time they go through it.

All the Kimber guidebooks are based on principles rather than grade-levels because not every third grader is on that level of learning; nor is every twelfth grader ready to launch into a much bigger world of learning. A student can be age 8 but advanced enough in math, for example, to be able to do the principles of geometry. On the other hand, a 12-year-old may be struggling with numeration and multiplication facts. When the guidebooks are principle-based, it doesn’t matter which level a student is on, the children can progress at their own levels and at their own speed.

When students learn with a purpose in mind, rather than just passing an exam and getting a grade, learning has meaning in their lives. The purpose of their education is to enable them to use that knowledge to serve.

Summary

We have discussed some basic principles of the philosophy which makes the Kimber Curriculum unique from any other. These principles can be summarized as follows:

  • Family-oriented
  • God-centered
  • Principle-based

We are finding a great upswing in the educational circles where these basic principles of sound curriculum are being used. You may want to refer to John Taylor Gatto’s speech about where education has been and where it must go. All the above ideas will be part of the wave of America’s educational future.