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Raising Independent Followers

You heard that right. Independent Followers.

Our generation has seen the dawn of some amazing societal advances including but not limited to things like the computer, video games (quick shout-out to Atari!), cell phones, the Internet, electric cars and safer child car seats, to name a few.

But our generation has also witnessed, in my opinion, the downfall of trust (in children and in parents ability to, well, parent).

Take, for example, President Obama signing the Every Student Succeeds Act, thus signing into law the first federal Free-Range Kids legislation, in an attempt to give parents back the freedom and authority they should already have in granting independence to their own children.

Here are the key words you need to be concerned with: “GIVE BACK.”

When was it taken away, you ask?

Let’s look at the The Meitiv family, who came to national attention in January as they faced a Child Protective Services neglect investigation for letting their two children, Rafi, 10, and Dvora, 6, walk home together unsupervised from a park about a mile away. In April, their children were detained by police for again walking home alone, the Washington Post reported in regards to their “free range parenting.”

Parental authority and trust in children, as they should be enjoyed and exercised, have been slowly cascading away from families as the media sensationalizes and broadcasts horrific stories every minute of the day; as people move into the cities and away from land toward offices and away from communities and places to explore; as fear follows parents daily thanks to “experts” who maintain their view that government should replace parenting in all aspects because so many dangers lurk around every corner and we, as parents, definitely don’t know what’s best for our kids (including education oversight and overreach with things like Common Core).

As I spoke with a Montessori teacher yesterday, at a highly-acclaimed school here in Portland, she gave me an example of one way they “grant their students” with independence and authority. It’s called a “Going Out.” They have each child (in grades 1-3) choose a destination they’d like to visit, map out the route in which to take, call the office at their destination using a script they wrote, call a parent to drive them… etc. Once they’ve embarked on this journey “they feel so empowered,” she said.

Ok. While I think this is a wonderful idea and love Montessori (both my kids enjoyed Montessori pre-school), I think schools and parents are missing the point.

Unfortunately, schools only have so many resources (1 teacher to 15 kids, usually), and their focus (even in Montessori), is to manage the classroom, keep the peace during social squabbles and continue to “help guide and shift the child’s focus if they become too engrossed in something,” another teacher said.

Whoa. Hold on a minute. So you’re telling me that:

1) kids should wait to explore the world of commuting and communication until they’re told to and even then, do it from the confines of their school?

And, 2) If a child is passionate, and I mean really passionate about something you’re going to try and steer them elsewhere, in the direction you feel is more appropriate?

And again, these words are spoken by Montessori teachers who pride themselves on helping each child achieve their maximum potential, allowing each kid to dive deep into their passions.

How many times have you read that same statement on a private school website?

Keeping this in mind, I can’t even begin to think what the public school system does… all sense of independence in how to conduct oneself and any self decency is completely lost when you have to raise your hand and ask to be excused to use the restroom (and be sure to return to your seat within an allotted time period or you get a slap on the wrist).

Our kids deserve space. Freedom. The ability to challenge themselves and make mistakes independently. The chance to explore their passions to no end without someone standing over them telling them to “look the other way.”

I have to say, although I’d never be a fan of raising my kids in Japan, I do love their culture in raising independent kids and where “many city children continue to take the train to school and run errands in their neighborhood without close supervision. By giving them this freedom, parents are placing significant trust not only in their kids, but in the whole community,” reported this Atlantic article.

Kids know more things about life and learning at a much earlier age than we give them credit for. They also know when they have to pee. And they know, by living in the real world with mom and dad (here’s my usual nod to Christian Unschooling), how to do real tasks, such as use the phone, cook, clean, travel, fold laundry, grocery shop, do important work and choose their path in life – which will always result in happiness if they heed the Lord’s calling and direction. “For know the plans I have for you,” says Jeremiah 29:11, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

If you don’t trust your children now, when will you? 10 years old? 13, 15, 18? Never?

But first, you have to trust God’s will for them…

Please help your children gain their independence early. Communicate with them and show them how to live in the real world with guidance from their Savior and other adults who follow Him.

Have conversations about what to do even role play. Keep them alongside you as you live life, work and play so they know what it’s like and experience it firsthand.

If you lock them inside a school, confined within the same four walls day in and day out they can’t truly see. And they definitely won’t hear the Word.

This teacher, although still a teacher and offering , said it pretty well how academic teaching doesn’t prepare students for life. She also quotes “The Power of Why” by Amanda Lang, stating:

Curious kids learn how to learn, and how to enjoy it – and that, more than any specific body of knowledge, is what they will need to have in the future. The world is changing so rapidly that by the time a student graduates from university, everything he or she learned may already be headed toward obsolescence. The main thing that students need to know is not what to think but how to think in order to face new challenges and solve new problems (p.14).

It doesn’t take an expert. It takes parents who care about their child’s ability to navigate our world once they’ve been shown, and then create new solutions to our ever-evolving problems.

And it takes trust. A whole lot of trust. Trust in God and trust in our kids and trust in our ability to parent.

Let’s raise a nation of independent Followers of Christ.

Because we as parents care more about our own children than anyone, especially our government.

So let’s prove it.

In His Love.

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