Friday, January 29, 2010

The Wisdom of Planning Ahead

I'd like to introduce you to a young lady named Alexandra. She's utterly adorable, nearly always happy, and she's only spit up on me once. She's 3 1/2 months old, and she's my niece.

Alex is the daughter of my husband's brother and his wife, and for the past few weeks I have been keeping her while her parents are at work.

The other day, when Diane, Alex's mom, picked her up, she was telling me that there are three things she wants to make sure Alex learns: to swim, to speak Spanish, and to type.

There was a part of me that had to smile. Here was this little tiny girl, who can't even sit up yet, and her mom is already planning for her future. But then there was the part of me that thought, "Well, good for you! There are still parents in the world that think about these things!"

From the moment I found out that Eddie and Diane were expecting a baby, I knew that this kid would be smart. Her parents are both very intelligent, they have a solid marriage, they compliment each other wonderfully (Ed is loud and dramatic while Diane is quiet and calm, which is the exact opposite of Tony and me--I'm the loud, dramatic one at our house!), they have varied interests, and they're just fun and interesting people. I knew that their baby would have parents who loved her immensely and took an interest in raising her into a well-rounded, competent person.

But the sad fact is that so many parents these days don't think in the long term for their children. They do their best to just get through, day by day.

I just try to blunder through today - meeting today's deadlines,
tending to at least a portion of today's chores.
I'm not so much raising them as just puttering about while they grow up.
And what an irretrievable waste of opportunity this is.

~Jo Carr & Imogene Sorley,less this Mess and Other Prayers,
Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1969, p.70.

There is great wisdom in planning for your child's future--as long as you know is whose hands the ultimate decisions lie. Who do you want your children to be when they are grown? The seeds for those fruits must be planted now. What knowledge do you desire them to have, and more importantly, what wisdom? What skills do you think will be beneficial, which ones absolutely necessary?

As homeschoolers, a certain amount of planning is required. To know that you take in your hands the entirety of your child's education, everything they will do and learn to either help or hinder them in their lives ahead, it is a weighty burden to bear. But ALL parents--homeschoolers or not--must seriously consider who they want their children to be and how to help them grow toward that goal.

There are some extremists (and in many cases I consider extremism a good thing, but not this time) who would say that to plan anything for the future is to defy God's absolute power. I just can't agree with that!

There are some things we have no business trying to control: birth and death, namely. It is not to us to try to either hinder life or force it, but once that life has been conceived and delivered, it is up to us to ensure that our children are prepared and equipped for life.

It is good to plan in order to be prepared. It's easy enough to say, "God is in control." And He is! But he gave us intelligence to help us along! You cannot expect your child to learn history if no history books are available. You cannot expect him to master math if he's never presented with mathematical problems. You cannot expect her to develop her artistic talents if she's never handed a paintbrush!

God loans our children to us, entrusts them to our care for a time, and expects us to do what is right and best for them. This includes preparing them for life. Each family will have different ideas as to what is most important to learn, but surely for all Christian families, the top spot must go to God. Teaching our children who God is and what He is like, reading the old stories from the Bible and discussing theology at age-appropriate levels must be the most important things we can do to prepare our children for life.

After God, things can go in a thousand different orders of importance. Academics are of course important, but which subject areas matter most to each family will differ. Some will put more emphasis in language, others on math. Some will find American history more important, while others think world history matters more. One family will spend much time in nature study while another plays with chemistry sets.

The arts will hold greater or lesser importance depending on the family, and even then specific forms of art will be held in more or less esteem.

The point is, that as parents we need to truly sit down, take a long hard look at life, spend much time in prayer and studying of God's word, and evaluate and determine what things are most crucial for our children to learn and master before they are old enough to be on their own.

All planning must be done with God's will in mind, and with the knowledge that at some point in time, God may call us suddenly to something different altogether.

Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."
~James 4:13-15

What things are important to you for your children to know, and to love? Make a point to provide the proper environment and materials to hone this knowledge and skills, and to model whatever actions and values you want them to have in your own life.

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