Author’s note:  Part two of our two part series on Oneness in Marriage will appear in Meridian in a couple of weeks.  Today, in response to the many questions we get each fall, we will discuss the do-it-yourself pre school curriculum called Joy School that has been used by more than 200,000 families and that is based on Gospel principles.

Almost every time we speak or make a presentation on parenting, and no matter where we are in the world, moms come up afterward and tell us their experiences with “Joy School.”

Joy School is a pre school curriculum and program that got its start back in the 80s and has been evolving ever since.  Moms form Joy School groups and rotate as teacher to form twice-a-week do-it-yourself preschools for their three- and four-year-olds. 

Most Joy School groups start in the fall and go through the school year, with three to six moms taking their turns as teachers. The idea was (and is) that rather than push early academics on their little kids, the best thing parents can do is teach them the social and emotional joys that can make their lives fuller and happier and that prepare them for kindergarten better than knowing how to read or add.

Children, in other words, deserve a real childhood before they get to the pressure of academics. And well-structured play and social skills will do more to help them succeed in school than trying to have them know everything before they get there.

In Joy School there are units on “The Joy of the Body,” “The Joy of the Earth,” “The Joy of Imagination and Creativity,” and “The Joy of Sharing.”  There are also units on things that may at first sound too advanced, like “The Joy of Goal-Setting” and “The Joy of Individual Confidence and Uniqueness.”

As it turns out, three- and four-year-olds have an amazing capacity to grasp the basic components of happiness in their simplest forms, and putting them in situations where they feel a certain kind of joy increases their interest in repeating the behavior that gave them the good feeling.

And more and more moms would rather find the time to take their turn as teacher and to have the other mom-teachers be their best friends than to send the kids off to an impersonal, more expensive professional preschool.

The origins of Joy School go back to the time we were raising the first of our own kids and happened to be living in the Washington DC area.  Our Northern Virginia suburb seemed to be a hotbed of early childhood education ideas, and we would get mailings and see posters and ads all the time for “Teach Your 3-year-old to Read” or “Get Your Child Ahead before Kindergarten.” 

There were also art and dance and music preschools, with everything a parent could ever want to choose from.  Some preschools apparently got access to doctor’s office obstetrician records, because while we were pregnant with a child we started getting mailings that essentially said “Get on our waiting list now (before your child is even born), or he or she won’t get in (which will pretty well ruin the rest of his or her life).”

It got us thinking about some very interesting questions:  “What do we most want for our very young kids?” “What will really prepare them, socially and emotionally, for school?” and “While they are so receptive and open, what is the most important thing we can teach them?

In connection with asking ourselves these questions, we were reading one evening in The Book of Mormon and came again to our favorite scripture: “Adam fell that man might be and men are that they might have joy”!

If joy is the most important thing — the very purpose of life — shouldn’t we get going with it very early in our children’s lives?  Are there ways to actually teach joy — to subdivide it into its various parts and make it so basic that it can be taught to preschool children?

For us, the answer kept coming back to joy!  Most of all, we wanted our children to be happy.  We wanted to expand their natural capacities to feel different kinds of joy.  That, we felt, was the best gift we could give them and the best preparation we could give them for starting school.

Joy Schools started out with bulky manuals and teaching and visual aids and cassette tapes that had to be mailed out to participating moms all over the world.  It was, to say the least, a bit unwieldy. 

Things are so much easier now. Since the internet, moms just download their lessons online, along with the songs and music and the visuals that go with each “Joy lesson.” Hundreds of thousands of parents and kids have now participated in Joy School, and the phenomenon just keeps on growing.

And of course the lessons and materials keep evolving, embracing the ideas from moms all over the world who keep finding better and more current ways to teach each of the Joys and to help kids internalize them.

For us, the fun thing is to now meet moms who were in a Joy School back when they were little kids and who are now teaching the same Joys to their own small children.

Most rewarding of all, both for us and for the parents who do Joy School, is the fact that, in our own small way, we are striving to help implement God’s own goal that men (and small children) might have joy!

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The Eyres’ new book is THE ENTITLEMENT TRAP*: How to rescue your child with a new family system of choosing, earning, and Ownership.  Richard and Linda are the founders of and New York Times #1 bestselling authors who lecture throughout the world on family related topics. Visit the Eyres anytime at