Joy School Guru, Grandma Ruthie turns 90.

On August 9th our darling Grandma Ruthie had her 90th birthday. The past few years have been so hard for her! She has gradually lost her memory to the point that she doesn’t know any of us anymore, but she does know that we love her and she clearly loves being surrounded by people who adore her.

Even though she suffers with dementia, she is still almost always good-natured, patient and kind, and still has her sense of humor, is great at asking questions (usually the same one over and over…and over) and is doing her best to enjoy her grandchildren great grandchildren. She can’t see much any more and her ears aren’t good either. Even though her quality of life isn’t good, she carries on. Sleeping about 18 hours a day is a huge blessing since when she wakes up, it’s like living in an old-fashioned London fog!  Old age is the pits!

Grandma has now been a widow for 50 years. Her husband, our beloved Grandpa Dean died of colon cancer when she was 38 and he was 39. They were just getting started in life. Her oldest son was Richard who was fifteen at the time his dad died. Four younger siblings ranged in age from thirteen to three.

Grandma raised those five children on her own with faith and strength. Next to that great feat, probably her greatest accomplishment is having written the original lesson plans for the Joy Schools which were based on our book called Teaching Children Joy which we wrote 37 years ago, just before we left the country because of a call from our church for Richard to be a Mission President in England.

Incredible people came out of the woodwork to help us with music and art way back then when we were crafting the Joy School idea. And while we spent those three years in England, Grandma Ruthie used her expertise as an Early Childhood Development major at USU to write minute-by-minute lesson plans that included finger plays, creative dance, stories and fun activities to teach 12 Joys in life that every pre-school child could and should experience!

After writing the plans, she taught the lessons for many years at the very first Joy School in Logan. Even though the lesson plans were designed for moms to use in their homes as they rotate teaching with their friends and neighbors to teach their children JOY, she used this school as a laboratory to see if her ideas worked. They did!

We had no idea how far that idea would go. We have now had about 200,000 parents who have or are presently participating in Joy School since that first experimental school began in 1975.

So for her birthday we took her back to that cute little original Joy School. Many of her great grandchildren sat where so many of her students had sat for so many years where, much to her delight, they sang her favorite Joy School songs to her. And somewhere back in her memory came all the words to the songs which she sang along with them!

From there we journeyed to Adam’s Park across the street from where this stalwart matriarch has lived for fifty five years. She still resides there with her son Kevan who cares for her 24/7. How grateful we all are for that guy!

At the park we had a short program when all of the adults remembered good times and good things about the life of Grandma Ruthie. All happy memories. Dad/Rick shared a beautiful poem he had written about her life called “Nine Decades of Courage” which was heartfelt and delivered with his usual gusto.

Joy School has gone farther than we could have imagined in our wildest dreams! After every speech all over creation, moms come up to say that they did Joy School when their kids were little or that they are currently doing Joy School. Below is Joy School graduation from our daughter-in-law’s group this year in Hawaii. They look pretty joyful!

The program is now all online,. It’s cheap and a great way to give children a joyful childhood with your favorite people (your friends) as their teachers. If you have any interest iin forming a Joy School group of your own or for more information go to


Thanks to our extraordinary Grandma Ruthie for her contribution to the world! We know she is sad every day that she wakes up and hasn’t passed on to the next world to the arms of her precious Dean, but we’ll keep her as long as she can stay. What an inspiration she has been to us and so many throughout the world.

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