Transitioning Responsibilities of Parents and Students: A Practical Guide to Home Education – Finishing Strong (Part 3)

Following his famous dissertation on love in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, Paul points out that things had changed in his life, as one would expect of every life.

His description of this change was summarized this way: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

A child “grows up” to become a man or woman, eventually ending childlike behaviour to begin speaking, understanding and thinking as an adult. As the child demonstrates greater amounts of responsibility, mommy and daddy morph into mom and dad, taking on a different role.

There comes a time (not a point in time) when children should be looking to the Heavenly Father as their source of life and to parents for godly wisdom in living it.

Growing up means the adult student must eventually assume all the responsibility for seeking and coming to the knowledge of the truth.

Increasing self-motivation will soon lead children to take ownership of their own education. As this happens, the parental role as the teacher diminishes into more of an advisory role as a mentoring older brother or sister.

Although all adults must understand the importance of respect for others and the roles we play in life, it is also critical to understand that we all want to be appreciated as equals. Children morphing into adults greatly desire to be treated as equals, even if in the eyes of parents, they demonstrate moments of immaturity.

This is the reason they so much desire to be a part of some kind of social group, school if necessary, and want to join the adults in conversation in family social events. They just want to be treated as equals rather than dependent children.

The solution is simple. Treat young adults as adults in need of relatively more guidance from older mentors. Scolding parents is not what they need now, but rather friends, more importantly, someone who believes in them.

This is the common cry of the human heart, the very thing parents of pubescent children need to prioritize, especially the father, whose job it is to validate all of his children as the super special beautiful creations that they are.

Everyone needs to know they have an intrinsic value, an important purpose and a place in God’s kingdom. Obviously, how this important task is done will depend on whether the father is validating a man or a woman as well as the individual’s personal character and love language.

This may be a hard pill to swallow, but it must be stated. In failing to validate children, fathers fail in their role as God’s representative on earth. Nothing has a more lasting negative effect in the life of a man or a woman than the father’s failure to lovingly validate him or her as the most important person in his world.

God’s loving his children so much that He would be willing to die on the cross for them is the example dads need to follow.

Even more important is the fact that children will judge God by how parents, fathers in particular, behave. When the father fails to demonstrate a perpetual, unconditional love, acceptance and pride for his child, that child moves forward in life with a vacuum in his heart that cannot be repaired outside of divine intervention.

However, no one is perfect and all one can do is the best that one can do. That is all that is required of anyone, including mom and dad.

Now that we have addressed the spiritual needs of the pubescent child, we need to look at the most common fear and concern related to having a child transition to the secondary (or high school) level. This concern has everything to do with the child’s future, which, incidentally, nobody but God really knows much about.

One of the most confusing aspects of parenting is that while we need to prepare our children for their future, we are mostly clueless about what that future entails. It escapes most of us how, while fully aware that we have little knowledge of our own future, we could even have an idea of someone else’s!

This is because we have confused two things. We mix up “eternity” with the “future.” God asked us to direct our children to Him, the eternal God who is the only one who knows the future.

Schools, mostly operating outside of an acknowledgement of God, have no interest in eternity, so will focus on the children’s future they, obviously, also know nothing about. Our thinking that our task is to prepare children for their future is another hang-up we bring home from school.

Jesus gave us some “good” advice. After questioning our focus on the future need for food and clothing, He states that if we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (or shall we say, eternity) all our concerns about the future will be simply added unto us.

It should not escape our notice that the future is included within the eternal, therefore it should make sense that if we take care of eternal matters, future matters become non-issues.

However, in fairness, we are all concerned about potentially handicapping our child’s future and so we very often default to what we know and what we know is how the world takes care of this concern.

Once again, it is much wiser to put our trust in the eternal Lord, who knows the future, than to put confidence in temporal man, who does not.

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.

Training For The Race: A Practical Guide to Home Education – Running the Race (Part 2)

The most common issue that arises during the “Running The Race” phase of home education is familiarity. The mother is always with the children and the children start to see her as one of them. Fathers have to be especially diligent in having the children keep a healthy respect for their mother during this time.

Dad also can become a little complacent, since mom is doing such a good job. It is true that if “something isn’t broken it is not wise to fix it,” but it is also true that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The overriding principle at this stage becomes “if momma isn’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”

Dad should take mom out on a date, giving her a chance to bounce some ideas, vent a little and to enjoy some “adult company.” It is probably a good thing to make a habit of this. Mom needs to be encouraged too and there is no one who can do this better than a loving, faithful, caring and responsible husband.

The father HAS to be involved in the training, teaching and discipling of their children, at all times, as this is HIS responsibility and not the mother’s, even though the mother does most of the work involved in the home education.

The mother’s role is simply to be a helpmeet, that is, to help the father meet his goals for the preparation of his children to be good citizens of this world while serving God in every way.

I have found that if the father is not seriously involved in this part of the training, he is largely disqualified from being taken seriously by the children after puberty. Fathers may not be physically there, in the home, on a day to day basis, but their authority, which comes from God should be omnipresent.

I cannot overstate the importance of having the father take and demonstrate responsibility in the education of his children, with mother actively performing the task on his behalf.

It should also be noted that even though academic study is important, it pales in comparison with understanding who God is and how He desires to be part of our lives.

Let’s take a close look at a couple of Bible verses to get a vision of our goal as Christian home educating parents.

Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,” is the most quoted verse in the home education world. Although we may quote it often, do we truly understand what it means?

It says train, not teach, up a child, not an adult. Training is just that. The repeating and repeating of things to the young, until it is finally absorbed. Training is aimed at the heart, not the head, which is the target for teaching.

Training the heart is what should take place before puberty arrives. There is plenty of time for teaching the head afterwards. If the heart is not trained before puberty, you may end up with an educated person, yet someone without a moral rudder. This is becoming all too common, these days.

It may be instructive at this point to expose the fact that schools constantly talk of teaching, and almost never, if ever, mention training until the post-secondary level. I believe this shows that the status quo education system is either not interested in training children, or fully understand that the heart is what needs to be targeted, secretly perhaps, with the Godless, unbiblical, anti-Christian message it advances under the banner of neutrality. Think about this.

Back to Proverbs 22:6. I interpret the “in the way that he should go” portion as “in keeping with whom I have created.” God has already created the child who does not need to be improved upon. God saw that His creation was not just good, but very good, after he had created man. I believe God sees every child as complete and very good.

It is not our place to create something of our child, but to develop what has already been created. As stated by Abram’s coach in the movie Chariots of Fire, “it is not a good thing to try to put in what God has left out.”

The training of a child is therefore best described as writing the truth in their hearts. This is done constantly not only in word, but also, in deed.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9, also a commonly quoted verse in the home education world, tells us just what should be written in the hearts of children, stating that this is the responsibility of parents, fathers in particular, and that it can only be successful when constantly reinforced in daily living. Sounds like home education to me.

Once the truth has been written in their hearts, even if they deny it, run from it, pretend it doesn’t exist or simply turn their backs on it, it remains etched on the walls of their very being. That is why it states “and when he grows old, he shall not depart from it.”

No matter what, truth written in the heart of a child is there to stay. They may be adults before they return to the fold, so to speak, but it will happen because the truth written in their hearts by loving parents cannot be erased.

Train up a child, in keeping with what God has created, by constantly reiterating, demonstrating, reinforcing and writing the truth on the walls of his heart, before he reaches puberty.

Making this training a part of Running The Race stage of learning will best prepare children for that day when, having gone through puberty, the teaching phase of the home education can proceed in earnest.