Bedtime. As I put down my precious child for the night I think, and far too often these days since he joined us in the world, what do I want for the education of my son? For any child?
I want my child to walk through life with the confidence that he is a worthy person who can meet challenges. I want him to be able to think for himself, but listen to the ideas of others. I want him to walk tall, with confidence in his body as well as his mind. I want him to earn his living. I want him to care about others. I want him to be unafraid to try. I want my child to be at peace with God.
I want his education to develop his mind, his body, his hands, his spirit, and his heart.
Schools all over the world struggle to develop the mind of children, changing their methods in an effort to meet the needs of each generation. Whether I send my child to school or choose to home school, I want him to understand the basics of a well-schooled person in this society. Rote learning and memorization aren't bad skills in themselves. How else, other than memorizing, can we learn the sounds that the letters of our alphabet stand for? Calculators are good, but there's no substitute for knowing that seven times three is twenty one. Anyone can read a poem, but it always seem that a person who has memorized a poem is somehow richer.
But I don't want the education of my child's mind to be only about memorizing facts and vomiting them out on a test paper. I want him to be able to think and reason with those facts. I don't want him to mindlessly follow those who lead him, but to analyze the direction he is being led, or in which he is leading others. And, having weighed the facts, I want him to make an informed decision about that direction, and have the courage to change that direction by leading in a different direction, by encouraging those who lead him to alter their course, or by striking out on his own.
I want my child to be comfortable in his body. I want him to have a discipline, or several disciplines that will make him one with that body. Sports, dance, karate, gymnastics, ice skating, the list is endless. Alone and in a team I need him to be comfortable with this temple of flesh that must take him through his life. I want him to respect his body, to nurture it, and to know that it will answer to his needs when he calls on it.
Both his body and mind must have skills. What can his hands do? Can he cook a tasty meal? Can he build his home? Draw a picture or play an instrument? Make or repair his clothing? Fix his car or lawn mower or furniture? Could he survive in the wilderness? I know that his chances of actually needing to survive in the wilderness are pretty slim, and that he may become one of those adults who pays others to change the oil in his car. That's OK. But he will walk taller, with more confidence, if he knows these things.
I want him to know challenge, physical challenge. I want him to know risk. Shoot the rapids, brave the sea, get back up on the horse, face the wilderness. These are not necessarily survival skills of the 21st century. But knowing that he can survive risk, think on his feet, knowing that he has both physical and moral courage, will help him meet those more modern challenges unflinchingly.
I want my son to know compassion. I want him to care for others, his friends, his elders, his teachers, his pets. He needs to feel for those less fortunate than himself, and equally for those more fortunate, because they hurt too. I want him to see the environment and the planet he inhabits as a body that needs nurturing, just like his own body. Take from it and give back in equal balance.
I want my son to walk with God. And if his concept of God changes over they years, as mine has, I need him to have that stepping off place of knowing that he is not alone in the universe. That, however he ultimately comes to know God, he comes with the understanding that there is, somehow, an ultimate Guide to whom we all must answer.
How will I give you all these things, my son, my precious new life asleep in your crib? One way is to know in my heart the directions in which I must encourage you. To know the sorts of people I must seek out as a part of your world. To seek experiences for you that will help you grow.
But maybe, ultimately, I must seek out and embrace these skills, experiences, and compassion myself, because much, most, of the knowledge you take with you into the world must be filtered through the groundwork I build for you here at home. Much of what you become rests on the example that I set for you.
Maybe the most important thing I can do for your education today is to go down and learn to fix the lawn mower. It can't be that hard. Ultimately, the best way to teach anything is to set a shining example.