Kimber schools for students K-12 mix spiritual with secular
PROVO — Nephi, Jacob and the brother of Jared.
Aside from being prophets found in the Book of Mormon, which is considered sacred scripture by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the ancient leaders have become learning resources for many Utah children who have found Christ in their school curriculum.
“The glue that holds knowledge to students is their religious belief,” explained Glenn Kimber, the founder of Kimber Academy — a collection of private schools that focus on reuniting church and state with a heavy emphasis on LDS scriptures.
In February, Kimber’s “Mormon method” will be coming to Utah County with a new academy, which will be located in either Provo or Orem depending on final student enrollment. Possible sites include a building in downtown Orem and a location near Timpview High School in Provo.
While Kimber couldn’t estimate the level of interest in Utah County, he said that typical school enrollment for the K-12 academies is around 150 students. The numbers continue to grow, Kimber said, as parents and students realize the academic importance of including spiritual beliefs with secular knowledge.
“When you don’t have religion and morality, the students do not have a reason to remember the material,” Kimber said. “Therefore, they remember it only well enough to get a grade and then they promptly move on and forget it.”
As a student in 1957, Kimber said he remembered taking pride in the American school system, which then ranked first internationally. Over the years, however, the U.S. began to lose its stronghold and by 1977 had sunk to the bottom of a list that ranked education in developed countries.
Kimber believes the quality of American education began to wane at the same time religion was being taken out of classrooms. With his curiosity piqued, Kimber focused his doctoral studies on investigating a possible correlation and said his worst fears appeared to be true.
“I was able to identify that when the politicians and the courts took religion out of the schools, academics went downhill,” said Kimber, who received his undergraduate degree at Brigham Young University. “I realized that BYU has a high standard and the kids coming out of there get a darn good education, so why can’t we do that in the high school or in the elementary schools?”
Acting to answer his own question, Kimber and his wife, Julianne — who is the daughter of author W. Cleon Skousen — started the first Kimber Academy in 1991.
Today, there are seven Kimber academies with five operating in Utah — in Murray, Layton, Logan, North Ogden and Eden — and two outside of the state, in Everett, Wash. and Farmington, N.M. Those academies are thriving and another will open soon in San Antonio.
While the LDS population outside of Utah is significantly smaller, Kimber said there is still interest in LDS religious schooling, even among those who are not members of the church. About 10 percent of total students are from other faiths.
“If you’re LDS and you go to a Catholic school, you know you’re going to get some Catholicism. If you send your kids to an LDS school, you are going to get some Mormonism,” said Kimber, who encourages students of all faiths to use scriptures from their own religion to enhance their learning experience, though a Book of Mormon class is mandatory.
Following that class, the academic school day — school is held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays — begins as teachers launch into the core curriculum, which consists of history, math, science and language arts.
By noon, the students have finished their day and are leaving school homework-free — thanks to a Kimber philosophy that claims “homework not only destroys a student’s love of learning, but it also invades privacy, destroys family relationships and family schedules, and does nothing to improve academic skills.”
It may sound like a child’s dream, but parents of Kimber students say the three-day school week and no homework is a real treat for them, too. Since students are tested with the GED every 90 days, Kimber said they have no reason to worry.
“Our boys were very unhappy in public school with rotten attitudes,” said Carolyn Whittington of Ogden. “Since coming to Kimber Academy, they are happy, open, excited about life and the (LDS) church and about going on missions. The difference in our boys’ attitudes is priceless.”