Trust The Children

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

OK, So Now What?

Today, I want to share some thoughts about who is responsible for the education of an adult or a child. Read on in that context.

We've had our own melt downs around here from time to time. They come in all kinds and shapes. While they may come at any time during the month, they often do come in February and March. The melt down I have been thinking of this time, however, was the one that came from our then teenage daughter, who will remain nameless, but has red curly hair and has broken more hearts than Carter has pills. She is beautiful, engaging and capable.

Anyway, one evening it all came out. "All the kids at the high school know more than I do. I haven't even studied American History. I don't even know a thing about it. Not one thing. This home schooling thing has put me behind them. I will never catch up. And the sky is falling and yada yada yada." Considering we had 4 girls in a row and 3 of them in the teen age years at any one time, this wasn't the first time I experienced emotional disintegration. It wasn't the first time I was the brunt of it as well. As a dad, you have a couple of options. However, you really have only one. You have to try and be compassionate no matter what. (For me "try" is the operative word. This is not a gift of mine.) Further, you can't try to fix it, no matter what. You can only listen really. You know this is the only way, because you have tried it the other way before. The fallout from the other way lasts much much longer, believe me.

Nevertheless, this one caught me at a moment where I did venture something else besides dropping all that I was doing, looking her straight in the eye and taking it all in. So I quote, "That's right, you don't know a lot about US History. But guess what, there are all kinds of things you don't know a lot about. And guess what? There are all kinds of things the kids at school don't know a thing about, even if they took the class. You may not know a lot about US History, but they have probably forgotten it all over the summer anyway. And guess what? If sometime you need to know it, you can study it then and learn it then and you will probably appreciate it more. And guess what? (Newsflash!!!) I am 53 years old and I still don't know everything. I am still learning. I actually taught myself how to program AFTER college. OK? So you don't know about US History. OK. So now what? Now that we know you are US History challenged, what are you going to do about it? Because for the rest of your life, when you run into something you don't know, you are going to have two choices. Either you can blame us as your parents, or you can decide to buckle down and learn something on your own. So, what's it going to be?" (By the way, Cyndy read this and wanted you to know this wasn't a perfect quote of the conversation. So stick with the spirit of it. The point is worth cutting my memory some slack. Also, she said that the daughter involved will certainly have a different memory of the incident. So be prepared for some kick back from her. OK. So I am prepared.)

Now I am not sure that I've given you the response, word for word. But it's close. I actually got some silence out of her for a minute or so. And in that minute I felt so good about articulating a decent come back I almost didn't care how it turned out. But in this case, our red head settled down. Time has passed. She went to BYU-I. On a mission to Ecuador. Graduated. This fall she is working on her masters in Public Health. I am not sure if she ever studied US History. I really don't think she did. But she got accepted into a masters program that is tough to get into and she is prospering so far.

As home schoolers, we often worry that some day our children are going to miss out on opportunities or get after us because somehow they were shortchanged in some aspect of their upbringing or education while at home. We ask ourselves, "How am I going to feel when they needed some answer and didn't have it while I as their parent was on the 'educational watch'. They trusted me and my decisions and now they end up forgetting some minor factoid or idea and as a result some consequence plays itself out in their lives. And they are going to say that it is my fault."

Well maybe we did mess up at one point or another. I don't think we did really bad, but let's get that possibility on the table. OK? That wasn't so bad. I mean admitting things don't always go perfectly. (You know what? You want another News Flash? They don't go perfectly in the government schools either) For me the real question is, and I mean the question for the child involved, "NOW what are you going to do about it?"

If home schooling teaches our children anything, I hope it teaches them to take responsibility for their own lives and education now, and into the future. They want to know something? Why wait to look around for a teacher? Get started! We live in a world that has libraries and librarians. We've got the internet. There are other people who can be resources all around us. We are living in a world that is awash in information and access to it. So what are you waiting for?

As to our children, we hope to find them asking themselves, "OK, so now what?" We hope to find them deciding for themselves on a course of action to get the information they need and move forward with their lives. And I hope our children end up comfortably telling their own children some day, "OK, so you don't know something. So now what?"

After all, our job as parents was to see to it they developed tools and had the will to go to work using them. Tools to use long after we are dead and gone. And a work ethic to use the tools, long after we are dead and gone. Right? Isn't this home schooling success too?

Got you thinking? Got you wondering? OK.... So Now What?


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