The “Notwithstanding Clause”: A Practical Guide to Home Education – Finishing Strong (Part 2)

As discussed in another series of this blog, learning seems to occur in phases. As the word suggests, each phase or stage of learning comes without a distinct beginning or end, simply transitioning to greater levels of learning ability.

Although there are some exciting events that take place in the pre-pubescent years, puberty ushers in dramatic increases in the development of cognitive abilities. In simpler words, as children transition to adulthood, there are some major changes, not only in the way they learn, but the speed with which it happens.

In the primary stage of learning, the fundamental skills are learned. You will remember our exposition of Proverbs 22:6 where we are instructed to “train up a child in the way that he should go” and how it was made clear that most of this training occurs during childhood. You also learned that the foundation of truth was more important than the ABC’s or 123’s.

Now that the children have been trained in the foundational truths you wrote on their hearts and have been taught the basic skills you put in their heads, the time has come to apply these fundamental skills in this next, secondary phase of learning.

This secondary stage of formal learning, what the “school system” calls junior and senior high, generally phases in with puberty and phases out with a driver’s license. There are, of course, variations on this theme, but this new phase of learning means that new directives for home education will need to be employed.

Children need serious training and parenting, but adults are taught and mentored. Please note the differences as these young adults will not respond well to being “trained” as children. The time for that is past. You have likely done the best job possible by simply keeping them home and daily modelling truth to them.

Even though puberty finds the child drifting in and out of childhood and/or adulthood, the balance is now being tipped in favour of more permanent adulthood along with greater demands for independence. This is a difficult place to be, both as the child and the parent, especially when going through this for the first time.

A general rule that can be followed during this transition is that as more personal responsibility is assumed by the child, more privileges are granted.

However, it is not wise to assume that because the children now live in adult body, that they possess the wisdom of adult minds. While we will want to allow them the ability to make more decisions for themselves, we must also be ready and willing to invoke the parental “Notwithstanding Clause.”

This involves the “priestly” role of the father which says “I will encourage and honour the decisions that you make for yourself, but if I determine that you are making a decision that is potentially harmful and not in the long term best interest of yourself or your family, I will exercise my parental authority, I will intervene, and direct you to make a better decision.”

Needless to say, this role also transitions with the maturing of the child.

Even with the “Notwithstanding Clause,” it is a tough call to make, especially if you value freedom for yourself and for your children. This is usually a prayer intensive time for parents and it should also be for the child.

The most common, major issue where the “Notwithstanding Clause” will have to be invoked is when the child muses about the idea of going to school or back to school. Assuming that the foundational premise for home educating was to ensure that the children would be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, parents must be prepared to simply say NO.

Girls are usually the ones who want to go to school and the reason is almost always friends rather than academics. Boys usually don’t care, but may also seek school for essentially the same reason, especially if they are the last one at home.

The biggest concern is when parents, themselves, lose their resolve to trust in the Lord and start putting more confidence in man and his institutions.

Whether it’s the girls or the boys or the parents who desire a return to school, the best answer is still NO. In keeping with Paul’s admonishment to the Galatians, having spent the primary years “in the spirit” so to speak, one must ask why we would want to be “perfected by the flesh” in the secondary years?

Besides, if you had even an inkling of what is transpiring in schools today, as a loving parent, you would do everything possible to keep your children out of there.

There is no doubt that parenting during these transitional years will be exciting and at times challenging. It will not be long before it’s all over and the child is gone. This is not likely something that you want to hear right now, but the alternative is not good!

When considering that most parents have always had the greatest influence in the life of their children and the fact that the next four to six years will move at a speed much faster than the last, it can be a bit overwhelming to think about all the responsibility you carry. But is it actually your responsibility?

Simply put, God knew before He gave you children that raising them was going to be a difficult task! That’s why He instructed you to lead the children to Him, so He could lead them in their lives.

Once again, we need to remember that while our parental job description may be simple, it is in fact, not easy. Impossible? Maybe, but what is impossible for man, is not so for God.

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