There was an article this week in the local rag about parents who take kids out of school in term time to go on holiday. Our local council imposes fines for such deviancy and, when asked, the council representative said ‘If they’re not in school, they’re not learning, and we take that very seriously.’
Now, firstly, I do softly hold the opinion that if you put your kids in the system you probably ought to play by their rules. You pays your money (or taxes), you takes your choice – you can’t really ask them to move the goal posts after you signed up.
That said, I take issue with the idea that ‘if they’re not in school, they’re not learning.’ Such a statement betrays an incredibly narrow view of education – a view which has infected the contemporary parental mindset – a view which says school is everything, and it’s the state’s job to educate my kids. Nope, it’s my responsibility to educate my kids, and school is really only one, arguably small, part of what it means to grow in knowledge and understanding.
Training happens all the time. Parent to child, peer to peer, media, sport, music, books are all ways in which children learn stuff about the world, themselves, others, and how to live.
This is an area where I think we parents need to more thoughtful, proactive, and intentional. Our children pick up everything and interpret it accordingly. If we spend all our money on flash cars and holidays our children understand something about what is important and valuable. Similarly if a family never eats together because Dad works a 70 hour week something is being communicated to children about the relative importance of work and family life. Kids start learning to drive from the age of 0 – they see what you do and how you do it and interpret things accordingly – scary eh! Now, don’t panic – our kids are more robust than we think, and, by God’s grace, our mistakes don’t irreparably mess up our kids. But the point is this – education is happening all the time. School is but a part – and we invest enormous amounts of energy and worry in that sphere – but we often don’t think about the rest of life, and the ways in which we’re passing stuff on to our kids.
For the believing community church is a ‘school’ in this sense. Listen to this quote from M.Daniel Carroll R:
“The community trains its people in how to think, feel, and live. Character for religious communities is oriented by an established set of traditions and sacred texts, which explain what life is like and what is its end.”
Get that? The believing community has a set of texts (the Bible) and practices (local church life) that train people in what life is all about and what really matters. So if you attend your local church only once a month you communicate far more than you imagine to your kids. If you encourage your kids to miss small group/church/youth group to do that piece of coursework you just ‘educated’ you children in what life is about and what really matters. I’m not talking about the one off occasion – I’m talking about consistent patterns – they are what shape young hearts and minds. So, parents, take half a chill pill concerning what your kids pick up in the 30 hours they’re in class, and think about what they’re learning in the other 50.