Training Our Children In the Way They Should Go
Kathryn L. Stout, B.S.Ed., M.Ed.
Published: August 2001
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My children are grown, so my homeschooling days are behind me. At least until I have grandchildren. As I reflect, I know that I am grateful most of all that both of my children are self-confident and have unwavering faith that God has a special plan for their lives. All of my efforts to teach them academic concepts and skills would be of little value if they did not recognize their potential and then desire to use it to make a positive difference in this world. As I work with parents whose teen-agers are aimless, without a sense of purpose or meaning, I find myself sharing some of what I did with my own kids. Perhaps these ideas will be helpful to you as well.
As long as they can remember, my children were continually reminded that God made them for a special purpose. With each and every difficulty, I tried to offer advice based on God's Word. Some of those physical (health) obstacles are still being battled, but we pray together and remember that every difficulty makes us stronger in Christ, building us into even more effective soldiers. I look back in my prayer journals and am encouraged to see the positive outcomes of some battles that lasted years and years, or the direction that finally came after wondering when, when, when? We would talk about times of struggle and how God was faithful, encouraging each other to keep trusting.
I prayed daily about the children in order to establish priorities both in their schooling and in shaping their character. My daughter would have preferred spending her days reading and writing with no exercise at all. I regularly signed her up for extracurricular activities despite her protests—art, violin and piano lessons, swimming, gymnastics, etc. I insisted she continue with gymnastics and piano lessons for several years. She even competed as part of a gymnastics team. She was obedient and worked hard, but always under protest. Now, at 24, she says she has to homeschool in order for her kids to have time for all the outside lessons she plans to enroll them in.
There were plenty of days that I wearied of being the drill sergeant my son seemed to need in order to stay focused. And plenty of days I gave in, only to have him tell me years later I should have been tougher!! And there were tangents I felt it necessary to allow, even though every part of me was anxious to get certain academics completed. For example, since he was six, my son and his father have been making movies together. They were major productions, requiring not only their time, but mine. I had to take over many of their household responsibilities as well as help with props and clean up extra messes. By the time my son was 14 and involved in violin lessons, orchestra, and chamber music, I shouted, "No more movies!" Then, during prayer, I realized that I was to agree to one more, for my son's sake. In the past these had been something father and son could enjoy together, but I viewed it primarily as a gratifying hobby for my husband. Now, however, our son was planning to study music composition in college in order to compose scores for films, so I didn't see how acting in another movie would help him, or how we could fit everything into an already full schedule. But, I tried to be obedient to the Lord and supportive to my family.
My son helped write, direct, and edit their final movie. Like their previous movies, it was then shown at Philcon, a science fiction convention in Philadelphia. As it turned out, by 17 my son felt led to become a filmmaker—a writer and director. He is now entering his final year at the University of Southern California as a cinema-television major with a calling on his life to be one of those involved in turning the movie industry around, taking it over for Christ. Now I can look back at those years as a reminder to obey even when I don't first understand why.
Because I believed as a teacher that it was my job to find the way for each student to succeed, my children had always worked toward understanding, not for a grade. I had also varied methods and resources, choosing those most appropriate for each of their needs. So my son was used to a nontraditional approach. At 16, he was eager to join other high school homeschoolers at a school that met one day per week. Always sociable, he saw this as a way to be with friends. I convinced him to wait until his senior year, and then agreed to three classes, physics, precalculus, and an elective he choose because it was a forum for discussion of current issues—a chance to talk. He did enjoy being with his peers, and has kept in contact with several friends he made while there. He enjoyed being a part of various school events, including the graduation exercises. But, he also confided to me that the traditional approach was making it difficult for him to continue to love learning, something which really surprised him. He then agreed that just a few courses his senior year had been the best decision.
I never had all the answers, but I did have the habit of prayer and trusted that even when I was feeling uncertain, God was guiding. And, although I always listened to and considered my kids' complaints, changes that were made as a result of prayer are the ones that I can look back on and say, "Yes, it was worth being obedient in spite of the struggles that followed." We weren't perfect parents, but we always told our children that we loved them no matter what. That and our willingness to listen, I think, has kept communication between us open. As they continue to study (both are still in school, my daughter is finishing her law doctorate this year) and prepare for their futures, they continue to actively minister to friends and family. They know that God uses each of us right where we are at every age, and so they have always tried to share their knowledge and experience with others. They didn't always have a vision for their life, but they always had meaning—to love God and serve Him—and waited expectantly for Him to reveal His plan in His time.
The youth of America have been bombarded with wrong values, told that they are pond scum, a mere product of evolution not a creation of God, and encouraged to live selfishly, letting their emotions be their guide. As Christians, we have the awesome responsibility of training our children to stand and make a difference. After all, we are all more than conquerors through Christ (Romans 8:37). We just need to keep on reminding each of our children that he or she is of value, and that one life can make an incredible impact when that life is surrendered to God.