being the religious fanatic type that i am, i thought i’d start this post with a little religious reference.
and being the homeschooler that i am, i thought i’d be inspired by the fact that it’s almost time to start another official year of schooling.
but i first would like to backtrack (can you backtrack when you really haven’t said anything yet?) and point out that, as part of my homeschool orientation, i really don’t believe that learning is confined just to the months of september through june.
if you are in a traditional school setting and you are cramming factoids into kids heads so they can be spit out on cue and then promptly forgotten (since there was really no context for them ever to be actually remembered in the first place), then it is completely appropriate- even praiseworthy!- to limit that and bracket it into a finite timespan.
but if you look at learning as what happens organically, as one is exposed to life and its experiences, then you realize that learning happens all the time.
so learning in our house happens when we cook together and also when we eat meals together. it happens when i correct a misconception about putting salt into the pasta water, and when we discuss why eating horseradish clears your sinuses.
it happens when i ask my kids to show me how to do something on the computer and when i explain to them the physics behind CDs (even when a certain one of them rolls his eyes and says, “but why do we have to know the boring parts???”).
learning is what happens when i let my kids pick which documentaries to put in the netflix line-up, and then i watch it with them, and then we pause it to discuss certain parts because we have the luxury of taking the time to do it.
a homeschool philosophy guides me when we pick out crafts or games or toys that i know will help their minds (which grow stronger with exercise) even while they have fun, and it helps me bite my own tongue (which is too strong from too much exercise) when they want to play one thing over and over and over because that’s how kids develop. yes, really.
but here’s the more biblical part: let’s just say that God made man (you don’t have to believe this at all, and it really doesn’t matter a lick. but let’s just stipulate it for a moment, and you’ll see how completely irrelevant it is for anything but my literary needs for right now…). the biblical account is that He says to the angels, “Let Us Make Man…” but guess who else becomes a partner in the transaction of creating “man”? the parents.
so here are the parents, blessed with a baby, granted this tiny life, and this very un-tiny, very large and very important mission. not only are you entrusted with getting this kid fed and clothed and whatnot, but you are actually creating a person.
you are making a human.
you are making a future man or a future woman.
holy cow, right?
if you believe in God, you literally have a divine mission. if you don’t, you still literally have the weightiest mission you could possibly have.
either way, this is Realsville big-time.
so you read all the books (which all conflict with each other) and you listen to tons of unsolicited parenting advice (which i’m about to give you more of), and then what? you still need to figure out how to create a future adult.
but the answer is in the question.
if you keep your eyes on the prize, you will have some guidance in developing a mission statement.
and that’s where some of the non-fun parenting comes in.
and that’s one of the reasons we give our kids chores. because we are developing future adults.
each day each of our children has a job.
we try to make the job a bit challenging, but not overwhelming. we try to make it something that contributes to the running of the house, rather than just busywork (nobody likes to just waste their time. it is the ultimate in degradation to make someone do sometime petty and useless just to exercise your power over them.).
every day, one child has the job called “mommy’s choice”. that way i know i will have a helper for whatever arises that i didn’t anticipate ahead of time (of course having daily jobs doesn’t exempt the kids from other helping, like bringing in groceries, taking out trash, etc. but it’s nice to have someone whose job it is to go above and beyond those things…).
sometimes i’ll admit that i feel guilty having the kids do chores. sometimes i’ll admit that i want to just swoop in and do it myself. it would be faster, more thorough, easier, or whatever.
but that conflicts with my mission statement. that would not help in creating a capable adult.
so i either let them muddle through or i offer advice (if i feel like i can do it in a productive way- otherwise i go in another room). i keep my eyes on the prize. i ask myself, “will this kid thank me for having this skill when they are 30?” and if the answer is yes, i leave them to it.
i don’t love seeing my son outside in the heat trimming branches. but i know one day he will be the man of his own home and he will need to know what it takes to maintain a property. i don’t love watching my daughter in the kitchen sometimes when i know she is struggling and i could do it for her. but i know she is building a sense of herself as a capable manager and it will serve her well in her own home one day.
and that’s really the thing. being a parent is not about my comfort. it’s about my commitment to building human beings.
some days it’s awesome. when i hear one of my kids explaining something to someone else that i taught them i fly high for the rest of the day.
some days it rough. when i have to argue non-stop to get my kids to do the simplest things and i want to give up and just do it myself so it will just be done and i can quit fighting i feel like a worthless parent, and i have to remind myself that even kids are entitled to have bad days.
but when we walked our son down the aisle and he became someone’s husband, and i could see the way he looked at his wife, and i knew in my heart that he would take care of her and protect her, look after her, and do all the right things, i knew then that this is what it’s all about.
at the end of the day, being a parent means making human beings.
and i wish you all good luck and a good mission statement!