For a people that values educational choices, I find it surprising that we accept very limited options for seminary programs for our teenagers.
I live in Provo, Utah, the home of several charter schools, some private school options, and many homeschooling families. My freshman son has the option of early morning or released-time seminary. Although there is an online seminary program and a home study course of study, neither of these is available to my family because of the first two options.
But neither early morning nor released-time is a good fit for my son, and it has become a source of frustration and contention in our home.
We signed him up for early morning seminary because as an eighth grader, he was up bright and early every morning, just waiting to go to school. But his body is changing, and now it’s all but impossible to get him up and out before 6 a.m. four mornings a week.
His school has an early morning intervention time from 7 to 8 a.m. in which kids may go to their classes to get extra help or do make up work. Seminary kids must either miss half of seminary or three quarters of intervention time. The one day that intervention is not offered is the day that there are no seminary classes.
Release time is not ideal either. To take it, he would have to give up one of his very few elective classes like computer programming. It seems an impractical punishment for a kid whose teenager biology makes it difficult to be up and alert crazy early in the morning.
I write this as a person who never had either early morning or released-time seminary. I grew up in a rural area, with only a few other Mormon youth in my ward who lived in a couple of different towns fifteen to twenty miles away. We did home study seminary. We had packets to work on during the week and met for an hour on Sunday for class. My mom was the teacher, and she was fantastic. Home study is not a perfect option; there were times that I would fall behind and have to spend a Saturday getting caught up on my reading and my worksheets. But I did it all, and I learned a great deal and got a solid sense of the scriptures. I am also unfamiliar with most seminary videos, something I have never thought of as a disadvantage.
The online seminary program has completed its trial phase, and is now being implemented on a wider scale. The students are required to log on everyday or they get locked out and need the teacher to readmit them. This seems like a good course, one that would correct the tendency to procrastinate and binge that I (and probably many other homestudy teens) fell into. I haven’t been able to examine the program more than this brief description because it is not available for my child or any child who has the option of daily (generally early morning) or released-time seminary.
My first run in with seminary came last summer with the parental consent form. First a quick definition from the agreement:
You and your child (collectively “you”)
Then my problem:
Release to Use Image
You assign and irrevocably grant to us the right and permission to use and—without limit to time, number, language, geography, and/or medium (including now unknown and future media)— reproduce, distribute, display, perform, create derivative works from, or sublicense any images or recordings made of you in connection with seminary. You authorize us to interview you and record your interview; to use or record your name, voice, image, likeness, and performance; and to copy, reproduce, adapt, edit, and summarize any recording for use at our sole discretion. You authorize the reproduction, sale, copyright, exhibition, broadcast, electronic storage, and/or distribution of images or recordings without limitation, at our sole discretion. You hereby release us from any and all liability from such use and publication, and you waive any right to compensation for any of the foregoing.
If you would like your child to participate in seminary but you do NOT accept all or any portion of this Agreement, please email your concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact your local S&I Administrator for assistance.
I was not comfortable with this very broad release to use image and the idea that my child could be interviewed or photographed without any further notice. I followed the instructions to allow my son to participate without accepting that part of the agreement, which turns out to be a fairly common sticking point. But then a very sweet senior sister missionary came to my home to confirm my son’s registration and clicked that I had accepted the entire parental agreement while I was trying to explain to her why I hadn’t. There is no way I can revoke that check mark; it’s still in the system. I had to go through another round of emails to confirm my original partial acceptance.
I worry that that experience predisposed me to be critical of the entire seminary program. I thought I had overcome it, but my intense frustration that some well-meaning person thought she knew better than I what I wanted for my child may still be a factor.
I would like very much to pull my son out of seminary. I would happily go through the home study packet with him; I already spend time every day reading and discussing the scriptures with my children, and I think this would be good our whole family. It would be much better than getting that sinking feeling every time I get an email from my son’s seminary teacher (who is a lovely person) because he has been counted absent because he had to go make up a math test or was out of town on a band trip. The measurable good he gets out of seminary–scripture mastery verses memorized, scriptures read (which I think he does instead of paying attention in class), feels less and less sufficient with each new notice I get that something is wrong.
I hesitate to take this step. I want him to have the option of going to BYU, and I am under the impression that graduating from seminary helps with admission. (Please correct me if I am mistaken.) But something is wrong in the relationship between my child and this program. I want him to learn to read and love the scriptures as I did when I was in seminary. If seminary isn’t working for my child, perhaps like parents who homeschool their children because of the deficiencies of the public education system, I should take this responsibility into my own hands.
Note: This is not the first T&S post about seminary. See here and here and here and here, and for an especially pithy post, look here. I’m simply writing now because I finally have a horse in the race.