I wrote recently about the difficulties I am experiencing as the daddy of a girl who is dealing with mean girls (http://tinyurl.com/7tpm63u), and with a little time to reflect I know that I should probably take the post down and rewrite with a more appropriate title:
“The Making of a Future Mean Girl.”
That’s really what this is all about.
How does a beautiful, sweet little girl suddenly morph into a Teaser, a Baiter, an Instigator? The answer is that it doesn’t happen suddenly. The world tells us to blame everyone for this change. It’s television. It’s her friends. It’s her school or the teacher. While I can sit back and think long and hard enough to squeeze out some blame in all of those things, the bottom line is that we as her parents are called to train her in the way she should go and bring her up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
I figured that this was all handled in the after-school hours, you know, after 3 PM Monday through Friday and the weekends, especially Sunday, right?
Wrong. Very wrong.
I’ve learned over the years that my prime awake hours of every passing day are pretty much spent at my desk at work. When the workday is finally complete I fight traffic to finally get home to my family, only to find myself fairly spent, mostly burnt and straining to reestablish some semblance of relating to my family. As an adult, I’ve matured enough to recognize the signs of burnout and I know how to make the necessary adjustments to get right again. I’ll eat better, get more exercise and make certain to get enough rest so that the stressors of the typical work day don’t get the better of me.
In other words, I’ve had to learn how to not leave the best part of me in my cubicle.
But how do you teach that to an 8-year-old girl who is spending the prime hours of her childhood at a desk?
How do you teach a little girl to dismiss the classroom and playground influences that are telling her how to navigate through life and deal with its complexities?
Again, I always assumed that all these lessons were to be taught by us after school, that school was for learning how to spell, construct sentences, math, history and science and learning how to be a good citizen with morals and respect for authority would come from us.
Well, yeah it really should work that way, but school as I remember it is actually no different today than it was back in the 70’s and 80’s. It’s not any better or worse, as there are kids who are immune to the taunting, teasing and bullying and can simply focus on their studies and be perfectly fine. And then there are the rest of us, who are easily influenced, care about what people think and say, yet still manage to get fairly decent grades so the problems get ignored, pushed aside until finally you graduate from high school and the opportunity to disciple, influence and provide a moral compass has passed. Then they are grown, have a pretty good G.P.A., but they are completely lacking in any sort or virtue or Biblical world view.
In other words, it’s just another kid with a diploma and a bad attitude wading out into the waters of society to add to the increasing number of citizens who simply don’t care about people, laws, morals or family.
Enough is enough I say.
God is calling us to take a stand. He is reminding us that our children are a gift. They are His creation and He has selected us with the earthly responsibility to raise them His way. Knowing that, why are we choosing to disciple our daughter during these critical years by proxy? It is just so troubling to see her growing by leaps and bounds academically while sinking into a pit of lethargy and cynicism, the likes of which I did not expect to see this soon.
Then again, why would I ever expect to see that?
It’s funny. People are always asking the ages of our kids and if the person asking has grown kids he or she will usually tell me to enjoy this time because soon enough they will be teenagers and will hate us.
Right there is the problem.
Society, the world, tells us that the way it all should work is thusly:
1) The baby is born. 2) The toddler is cute. 3) The kindergartener is precocious. 4) The elementary years are all homework. 5) You lose them for the junior high and high school ages and you hope they survive so that they will one day come to respect the parent that you were.
How messed up is that?
I didn’t sign up for that path.
I don’t want to raise a punk and a princess. I want to raise kids the way God intended. I want to set them up to succeed and if pulling Emily out of a school for a few years to reestablish both our relationship and the relationship that she has with God and the world then I have to believe it is the best thing that we can do.
It’s scary though.
Ask me a year ago and I would define homeschooling as the cruel act of removing a child from a stellar academic environment and creating a socially inept being.
Yet, even though I had that stereotype and bias in my heart and soul when it came to the subject of homeschooling children, God somehow planted the seed…
And when God plants a seed He always has a way of watering it to harvest.
Since moving back to Torrance He has surrounded us with dozens of homeschooling families, and instead of odd, zombie-like children with eccentric and crazy parents we have had the pleasure of befriending some of the most gentle, loving, smart, polite, social children and their supportive, encouraging parents.
So the idea was planted in the midst of our “mean girl” dilemma and the watering began with a little research and the families that we encountered along the way.
We would get excited about the concept and then we would get scared. So He watered a little more. Samantha fixated on the story of Jonah being called by God but rejecting His message, so you better believe that during our time of thinking and running and coming back and fleeing once again from the idea that pretty much every sermon, lesson or Bible reference during this time pointed right back to the story of Jonah. Sam didn’t exactly come kicking and screaming to the decision to homeschool as much as she questioned God’s calling of her specifically to handle the task. Self-doubt and the lies of the enemy have a way of doing that, but He has brought so many wonderful homeschooling moms alongside her to answer all of her questions. It certainly doesn’t hurt that God placed us in a neighborhood featuring a homeschooling family who have sat down and prayed with us on a regular basis about the decision and walked us through many of our fears.
I thank God for them daily.
As for me, well I had a lot of peace about the decision early on, but I’m still struggling with some of the puzzled looks and odd questions about our new adventure. But I have to cut people some slack because I was exactly where they are with their thinking only a year ago.
Yes, I understand your concerns about the social aspects of classroom education versus homeschooling.
Yes, I understand that public and private institutions have been educating for centuries and do a fine job to teaching our children.
I’m not saying that Samantha and I will be a better third grade teacher for Emily than the person she would have learned from at her current school, but I can guarantee you that we have higher expectations for her as a person and as a child of God than any other person on the planet, and it will be those expectations and that God who will guide us through the next phase of her education.
For those who are worried I promise you that there will be a great focus on language, mathematics, science, theater and music among the many topics that will be covered. But we will also start each day with a family devotional, and there will be weekly Bible studies.
In other words, the emphasis will be on God, family and learning – in that order.
We are excited about this new chapter of our lives together – as a family – and we are eager to get started. While we are going to miss the daily interaction with the families from her current school we know that we are not saying goodbye to Emily’s friends and their families, rather, we are asking for their support and continued friendship as we walk down the path set before us by the God of the universe.
I welcome your questions, raised eyebrows and curious glances, but I also ask that you come talk to me in a year when our daughter’s moral compass has been reset and her heart softened.
Children are a reward from God.
The best thing you can do with your reward is take proper care of it, be proud of it and forever reflect on how it came to be.
And that’s what we intend to do.