Each family organizes their family night differently. I will share how we organize our evenings. Since there are seven members of our family, we have organized our evening into seven parts which are rotated among the family members each week. Our seven parts are opening prayer, scripture, song, lesson, activity, closing prayer, and refreshments. We also start our evening immediately following the prayer with our family inventory. We discuss our calendar and any family business at that time. (This was when all of my children were home. Now, life looks different as they have grown. We now have four family members in our home. Our program is song/prayer, lesson, prayer and refreshments/activity. I have made this adaptable so that each member of my family can participate as they enter our home to visit.)
Each member of my family takes a turn doing each responsibility. I especially enjoy listening to the lessons that are illustrated by our younger children. (One of my favorite lessons was done by our then four year old daughter, Rhaine, who told the story of Noah’s ark. The story had pictures to go along with it. My daughter had drawn every animal that she could think of. The ‘lesson’ itself was about thirty seconds long as she narrated everything that she knew about Noah’s ark but the picture of each animal was careful discussed which lasted much longer.)
What should you teach? In my family, I have provided several options for my children. They are instructed that they can teach a favorite scripture story or principle. They can get their lessons from the Ensign, New Era, or Friend. They can read their scriptures, either animated or not, in order to learn and teach. We even teach each other from examples from our family histories which I leave out for their convenience. I also have provided for them some family night packets.
Our family night packets were created by me years ago when I had only two children. Each week, I taught a new lesson when they were too small to do the teaching. I made a lesson plan and an activity to go with each lesson. After family night was over, I put each lesson in a large manila envelope and labeled it with the lesson title. They were then filed away in a crate. Years later –with a family full of grown people, my children still love to choose a lesson packet from the crate. They have even added their own lessons to the crate. Our favorite Noah’s ark lesson by Rhaine can be found in one of those packets. Another favorite is Jonah and the whale. The whale has a slot of the mouth for Jonah is ‘eaten’ by the whale and later regurgitated to the delight of small children!
Lesson ideas don’t need to come only from the church magazines. I get our ideas from the LDS bookstores where there are many books published with lots of creative ideas. The church has also published a Family Home Evening Manual that is packed with ideas. Many times, we have taught a lesson from our own Sunday classes we attended or taught our family the lesson that we had prepared for a Sunday lesson. Some Mondays, I have needed to create a lesson about a particular topic that we are having trouble with in our home.
One week in particular, I taught a lesson to our family on negativity. For weeks, I had listened to language come into our home that degraded and frustrated the Spirit. My boys, in particular, had started calling their siblings ‘stupid’ and ‘dumb’. Our lesson that week talked about how such language made us feel small and not capable of having the spirit in our lives or our home.
By Tracy Atkinson
Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners. She has published several titles, including The Art of Learning Journals, Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.