Monday, June 25, 2012

Teaching in FHE

We have a long-standing rule in our home. Lessons in Family Home Evening may not last longer than 10 minutes.

Actually it’s not so much a rule as just the way things are. But we articulated it several years ago when Elder Perry mentioned in a stake conference that his children’s FHE lessons were a minute or two long because that’s all their kids would sit still for. (Elder Bednar promulgated a similar notion in his famous “He’s breathing my air!” talk. And Elder Holland enshrined the flexibility of FHE forever in his reference to Belamites.)

We have seven children who range in age from 11-31. As a result of that wide spread of ages we’ve had to be pretty flexible in our approach to Home Evening lessons. Interestingly, it’s not the littlest kids we’ve had a hard time keeping engaged, it’s the surly teenagers. Some have just been bored at anything that doesn’t come out of an electronic device. Others have resisted FHE because of various stages of testimony doubt. But we’ve been fortunate. Most of our kids, most of the time, have been willing to be at least civil for a ten minute lesson.

That’s not to say our Family Home Evenings are limited to ten minutes. We try to keep the family in “home evening” mode from dinner through family prayer. In addition to the lesson, we sing, we play a game, we have a treat (still the all-time favorite part of FHE, especially for the person who gets to pick the treat!), and we have our weekly calendaring session.

When we teach, of course we mix up who teaches (we have one of those FHE charts with moveable pieces for each of us; with fewer kids at home now than then, we simply skip some of the assignments on the chart – now the person on lesson also conducts, and we don’t do a spotlight anymore (though during his senior year, one of our sons loved that assignment – he would always spotlight some organism he was learning about in his environmental biology class)).

When my 11-year old daughter teaches, she likes to use PowerPoint or a favorite Mormon Messages video. (I will often still help her prepare her lessons.) I like to use videos, too, including excerpts of conference talks. My son favors basing his lessons on an article from one of the church magazines (often the same article he’s used for our home teaching lessons…go figure). My wife and I both like to have the kids digging in their scriptures. That said, most lessons are short and to the point. There’s discussion involving everyone. And we try to reinforce whatever the teacher of the evening is trying to teach.

After April conference, my wife and I reviewed together which talks had messages we thought our family ought to hear again, and we often refer back to that list of talks when we teach. And recently in my personal prayers I’ve felt a strong pull to teach doctrine to my kids rather than behavior.

My own experience has taught me that regular family home evening is not a guarantee that our children will choose the way we would like them to all the time. But I do believe that it has helped our family stay close together. I treasure that time together with my wife and children.

In fact, I treasure that family time so much that we actually have three family nights a week most weeks. Of course we have traditional Family Home Evening on Mondays. But Sunday night (when there is not a youth fireside) is also family time – we play board games between dinner and bedtime. And so is Friday night, when we always have pizza (almost always homemade) and a movie. (Nope: Friday is NOT date night for my lovely wife and me; that’s Saturday.) Even when I was bishop, or when I have been my busiest at work, I did my very best to keep those times available for my family and me to be together.

What works in your FHE?


  1. When I was a younger kid, we did FHE all on Monday. We also had a chart with a spinning circle that we'd rotate to change duties.

    Eventually my parents realized that our FHEs were tending more toward activities rather than lessons, and they wanted to make sure we got lessons too, so we split into two FHEs. We had one on Sunday that included a lesson, and one on Monday that included a fun activity. That way we got to have both. And dessert BOTH nights! (Score!)

  2. When I was growing up, my parents never planned an FHE lesson before hand, but instead would let us ask them questions about things we had seen/done during the week, and then give us a lesson about those things. It was always a natural and helpful way for us to learn gospel lessons. I always liked our family home evenings, and I've tried to follow a similar path with my kids.

  3. MaryAnn, that's a great idea. There must have been some good questions to sustain that pattern week in and week out. But there's nothing like teaching something on the mind of our kids to get them engaged.