Monday, September 14, 2009

Family Night with Lori Truman

I met Lori Truman nearly 5 years ago. We worked together. Our children played together. We became fast friends. I could write volumes about the things I've learned from Lori. I love her smile and her 'glass-half-full' outlook. I love her gentle voice and creative parenting ideas. Really, here's the best way to sum it up: Lori makes me want to be a better person.

We hope to hear often from Lori here at Bloom. Today she shares with us how she implements a weekly Family Night with her darling family of four. (While Lori happens to be a member of our faith--The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints--we hope you can incorporate her ideas and routines into family bonding time of your own, regardless of orthodoxy.)

(Lori also blogs at Pursuits of Happiness.)


“Establish and maintain your family hours always. Stay close to your children. Pray, play, work, and worship together." -David O. McKay, 1968

Like many families I know, we cherish a little weekly togetherness tradition: a specifically set apart time to touch bases, teach, and share talents, a time to laugh and learn, work and serve. It’s a time delightfully rich in family identity and we believe it to be important, vital even, for our family unity and for our children’s development.

A few weeks ago we spent our thus described Family Night together in a place we love. Our two children, bathed in warm evening light, were tumbling together on the grass. After several minutes of happy play, my husband Wes called for the little ones to come close for a lesson. Because we believe in intentional teaching. I opened my mouth to start our short lesson just as Lucy, our four year old, leaned back and rolled down the slope we were sitting on, giggling rambunctiously all the way. *Sigh*

“Honey, come on!” Wes called to Lucy, “time for Mom’s lesson! We’ll have fun af…” Wes’s eyes caught mine as we both realized what he was about to say. We laughed and laughed and laughed.

Lucy did come dutifully back for my lesson. But I can’t forget the Freudian slip. “We’ll have fun after!” has motivated a good deal of thought about what our family nights are and what they could/should be.

Good thing September is pretty much the new January when it comes to goal setting, eh? Wes and I spent last Sunday night seated around our kitchen table, calendar at the ready, “back to the basics” on our minds. I’ll give you the outcomes of our conversation in the hopes that you’ll likewise share what has been successful for your families! We talked about two things, mainly:

Routine is relieving. It would be hypocrisy to the enth degree for me to spout about successful family nights without admitting that we occasionally drop the ball. But we drop the ball less often after learning one helpful trick: Plan for when you have no plan. Have something to do when you don’t have anything to do. Drop the ball without dropping the ball. You follow? Sneaky, I know. And “relieving” really is the right word. I feel such a lack of guilt/stress knowing that if our Monday night plans fall through (or if we’re too busy/lazy to make plans in the first place), our tradition of togetherness and teaching remains intact. At our house the “no-plan” plan goes something like this: sing and pray, tell one scripture story, clip a corresponding picture to a clipboard on the wall, and then dance the hokey pokey (a long standing Truman family tradition). It has become a no brainer and it works great for us.

2. Categories can be a helpful way to plan “curriculum.” We decided that planning is easiest and most effective when we plan a month at a time according to a few topics that we value very much. Our fall categories (does this sound like Jeopardy yet?) for example:

Service (We have a friend who said this is what his family did the majority of his Monday nights growing up. And I tell you what, he is one of the NEATEST guys we know.)

Spirituality/Gospel principles

Provident Living (Sounds funny, I know. We use it for things like chore relay races and trying new recipes. When our kids are a little older we want to teach skills like money management, nutrition, time management, etc, etc, so forth.)

Play! (There have to be times without a “we’ll have fun after!” agenda, right? =)

You’ll note that if (when!) this nice-sounding, proactive planning occasionally falls apart, we’ll always have the Gospel Picture Kit and Hokey Pokey to fall back on!

These are our very unoriginal and very versatile Family Night basics. And since there are a million and five Monday nights in a lifetime, we’re always looking for new ideas!What makes family time successful at your house? What are your favorite teaching traditions? How do you keep your kids involved and attentive (as opposed to waiting for the fun to start after???)


danielle said...

Since our only child is only 17 months old...we haven't crossed a lot of these bridges yet, but its nice just to have that time set aside for now...and we'll build on it later. Often our family nights just involve a treat and doing something together...and I am fine with that. We'll delve into more studious things later. For now, for us, its just about the time together.

danielle said...

PS. I really love your perspective on things make me want to be a better person too!

Alicia said...

One thing we did growing up that I would like to implement in my family now is we kept a family home evening journal. My mom was the faithful scribe every week. We had a template sheet with fill-in-the-blank areas. We can flip back to any Monday night (minus the times we took short breaks from FHE) and see who did the lesson, who said the prayer, what we talked about, etc. This might be a better idea for when the kids are a little older so they can really take ownership of it. We always had family business time. We could talk about anything we needed to as a family. This was the time where we made decisions as a family. It really made the kids feel important and brought our family together. We also had to report on what we learned in church the day before (which always made us listen a little closer on Sunday). It's fun to look back at our journal and see how our family grew and the silly things we thought were so important at the time(my mom wrote in the book that my family business was how I wanted to be a model when I was 8).

I like the plan when there is no plan idea. We have a little family home evening jar we got for Christmas one year. Whenever we don't have a plan, we draw out a piece of folded paper. It has an idea for songs, a lesson, and an activity. That way we have tons of ways to plan when we feel like time is short.

Sally said...

Oh dear, family night is where I drop the ball A LOT! Our fall back is scriptures in a bag. It's a fun little bag that my Mom put together for us that has random items in it that go with a scripture story or principle. We let the kids take turns picking out an item and then we read the story that goes with it. Then we usually follow up with tickle time.

Heather said...

Lori...yes you make us all want to be better!!! We drop the ball A LOT too, but when we are on top of things we usually always have some sort of activity whether it be helping to make the treat, coloring a picture, or an actual outing somewhere (the duck pond is our favorite). I have noticed that you MUST keep it short and simple and straight to the point, with young kids it is mandatory.

Amy Jean said...

Our typical FHE:

Wife: We should do something for FHE
Husband: "Happy Home Evening."
Wife: No, we have to DO something. And have a lesson.
Husband: Our kids are 1.
Wife: But we have to get in the habit. Wes and Lori would have FHE. When are we going to be more like the Trumans?

And I'm not even exaggerating. We strive to be like the Trumans everyday. You can't find anyone better. You just can't. So maybe in honor of them we will make our plan for our future Monday nights :)

jeanine said...

Anne, I think that anyone who meets Lori goes away wanting to be better :) I hope to hear from her on this blog too!

William, my 4-year-old, knows that Monday = Family Home Evening. I asked him what he likes best and he told me treats and games. And I"d add to that singing. Our lessons are usually very short. I try to incorporate something that's going to happen soon (ie: the monday before school started we talked about priesthood blessings and then William got a father's blessing, a few weeks before General Conference we'll have our lesson on the apostles, the week of Pioneer Day we'll have a pioneer themed lesson, etc). As for our "plan when there is no plan"... we also love the gospel art kit. Sometimes we pick a story from the Friend magazine and read from there. And I have several FHE files that I can always grab with visuals for stories, etc. Sometimes we use the new nursery manual for our lessons... it's perfect.
Another idea (which I haven't done but want to start) is taking from the primary theme that year and base FHE lessons off of that. That's all I have for now. Maybe I'll think of some more ideas in a bit...

Nikki Douglas said...

It seems really cliche, but we bought one of those little books with one minute lessons in them. It's called "52 Weeks of Family Night" by Tamara Baggett, complete with a song, scripture and one-minute lesson for each week. We don't even go in order (you don't have to) and we thought we would just use it take the guess work out of it so we would at least build the good habit but have ended up using it more than we thought we would. True I do feel a pinch of guilt at times that I'm not preparing my own home-grown lessons each week, but, hey, with a 6 and 1 year-old and most times doing FHE by myself, it's a wonder I get it done at all. Something is always better than nothing, right? And of course when we're struggling with specific topics like telling the truth or something, we break from this and prepare something a little more directed to the kids. And sometimes we break altogether and let the 6 year-old do it, which is a little chaotic, but still wonderful. I actually posted about that today at douglasjournal {dot} blogspot {dot} com. Thanks to this post for even reminding me that it needed to happen. You're doing great things. Keep going!

Bloom said...

I love family night. As our family gets busier, it really is a treasure to have one night set aside when we can be together without distraction. We're not always great about formal plans, but we always come together on Monday nights and sing, pray, read, and talk about the important stuff of life :)

Tonight our lesson was about how service makes us happy; we made pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and delivered them to some families we thought could use a little cheer. It was so fun and I think it was a good way to help Henry get a little glimpse of what service is all about.

- Em

lori said...

Thanks for the great ideas, everyone!! (And for the kind words!) I'm taking notes on all these fun things to do together! Family night really is the best!

(Amy - don't forget that for a period of time you and Ry went to Disneyland every Monday night. That counts for something!

Jeanine - you are maybe the QUEEN of FHE! Remeber Faji's and Fajitas? I hope you do come back and share more ideas!

Em...our FHE tonight was IDENTICAL to yours, only we made cookies instead of pumpkin cc muffins. Are you SURE we've never met before? In another life, perhaps? Cracks me up!)

Honey said...

I'm a first-time-commenter here. I really enjoyed this post and wanted to add my two cents. :)

FHE is something that I am so passionate about. While I believe that it's important to spend time together as a family, we MUST be taking this time to teach our children the gospel.

Growing up, my parents were INCREDIBLE at holding FHE every Monday night. My dad would "threaten" a 3 hour lesson, however his motto was - short lesson, BIG treat! (Age appropriate length, of course). If FHE ever went long, it was because we (7 children) were asking questions. And, we knew Mom would have a treat for us.

I have 5 children of my own now, and holding regular, planned FHE's is hard! Whether we think our kids are too young, or we think they won't understand, I don't think they're ever too young to teach the gospel and I think often times we don't give our children enough credit with what they learn from us - intended or not.

I love this quote from President Faust ("Enriching our Lives Through Family Home Evening" Ensign June 2003.) It really brought things into perspective for me.

"I wonder if having unplanned and infrequent family home evenings will be enough to fortify ourselves and our children with sufficient moral strength to meet the complexities of our day. Infrequent family scripture study may be inadequate to arm ourselves and our children with the virtue necessary to withstand the moral decay of the environment in which we live. Where in the world will we learn chastity, integrity, honesty, and basic human decency if not at home? These values will, of course, be reinforced at church, but teaching them in family home evening can be particularly consistent and effective. To combat the world’s evil influences, we need the strength that comes from family home evening."

Sorry for the novel of a comment. I'm loving Bloom!

lori said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lori said...

So well said, Honey! Thanks for your comment!

kira said...

Our kids are 4 1/2, 2 1/2 and 9 months. We decided to use the sharing time manual as an outline for our FHE. It is so awesome and super easy. You can pick up a free manual at the distribution center and it gives a theme, scripture and song for each month and a topic for each week. BONUS - at this age they need the repetition. We choose a song each family night and then we sing it each night when we have prayers. We've been doing this for almost a year and it is the most consistent we have ever been at having FHE.

Megan said...

well, Bloom, readers, and Lori, FHE is one of those things that I don't do well and don't understand how to implement at this point in life. I have a 15 month old and a special needs child who is almost 3, but at a one year old developmental stage. I have not figured out how to teach them to sit yet, I have not figured out how to teach them to pray yet, I have not figured out how to teach my 3 year old not to rip books apart. I haven't figured so many things out and so I end up not doing a lot of things I know I should. Like FHE. Yes, I love having family time together. But how do I start working on teaching the principles or even just holding a picture...its so hard in my mind to go through the motions so that they can start to see the routine before they understand and can interact the way I imagine it should happen. How did those who have had success with FHE, start to teach their children or start to hold these family times? A little guidance and encouragement would be appreciated. Thanks!

jeanine said...

Megan... my oldest is 4 1/2 and I feel we're just getting to the point where he can really interact to do some fun lessons. When we first started doing FHE with him it was simple--a few primary songs that he knew (I am a child of God, Popcorn Popping, Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam) and then we'd pick a story from the gospel art kit--we'd tell the story in about 1 minute and that was Family night... it took all of 5 minutes. Keep it short and simple. The new nursery manual is perfect... it has the pictures, coloring page and lesson all right there for you. I wish I had had that when I first started. It's hard when they are little but just keep at it! Most of the time we're lucky to get our 2 1/2 year old to sit down for any of it (he is BUSY!) Good luck!

CarolAnne said...

As a recently released Stake Nursery Leader, I highly recommend the new Nursery Manual for FHE. Short lessons, beautiful pictures and activities. The lessons are simple enough that grade school children can prepare and teach them to the family. It's okay if you have nursery age children, repetition is important and every parent/teacher presents lessons differently.

Our children are all grown now, but they remember the favorite songs and games and the fun we had together. Some nights were better than others, but we were consistant and rarely missed a Monday night together.