With Mindful Consideration

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by RI Editors

Emily Spackman joins us as a guest writer today.

RNC Protesters and CopsWe live in a society very focused on rights. It seems almost anything one can think of to want or to need becomes a demanded right. Unfortunately, we rarely discuss responsibility. From a gospel perspective, however, we understand that the great gift of freedom made possible through the prolonged protection of our God-given rights also requires responsibility. Doctrine and Covenants 82:3 states, “For of him unto whom much is given much is required….” It is a rare society in the history of the world that has been given as much as modern Americans have been. It follows that we have a great duty to use our freedom and prosperity wisely.

It is in this context I have been thinking about our obligation as parents to teach our children both religiously and secularly, and it is on the latter that I will focus. Does our stewardship extend beyond making sure our children get out the door each morning, and that they turn in their homework on time? Because we are taught throughout the scriptures that the sins of the children will be answered upon the heads of the parents if parents fail to teach correct principles, it is hard to imagine a more important stewardship or one with more lasting consequences.

A defining characteristic of modern America is the busyness of our lives. Tandem with that characteristic comes our desire to delegate some responsibility in an attempt to create more hours in the day in which to accomplish our to-do lists. One of the major delegations almost all of us have made is the secular education of our children. In the busy flow of our lives, we go to the automatic option of sending our children off to school. Because it is so common, we may not consider any other possibilities. We may see it as a welcome opportunity for our increased productivity. We may have a hard time imagining teaching how to find the area of triangle while wrangling younger siblings, taking dinner to a neighbor, and mopping the floor. We may feel others with professional degrees are more competent on academic subjects. While many of these reasons have merit, conventional practice may inform this decision more than mindful consideration. Without taking care in relation to this sacred stewardship, however, we might be in danger of going from delegation to abdication of our responsibility.

Delegation, a divine principle, involves a specific pattern of assignment, accomplishment, and accounting. A true delegation of stewardship would have a stated end goal and measureable steps along the way with which to judge progress and make course corrections. An abdication, on the other hand, has no destination and no checks. We may send our children off to school without a specific outcome in mind (no, graduating is not specific) and no plan to take an accounting from anyone involved. Even with the best of schools and the most dedicated, well-intentioned teachers and administrators, this
approach is dangerous. We have the right to educate our own children in the way we see fit, and so it follows that we have the responsibility for how and what they do and do not learn. Too often, when we abdicate our responsibilities, we end up losing our rights.

The heartbreaking path of King David can serve as a cautionary tale in the abdication of responsibility. David focused not on those powers granted him by God, but on the beautiful wife of another man. He cared only for her and how to make her his. He had received many blessings from the Lord throughout his whole life—where much is given, much is required—but he squandered his influence on the murder of his rival. David spent the remainder of his days caught up in the machinations of his own sons, fleeing from place to place. Where he could have led Israel in peace and security, he had to spend his energy on emergencies. This same tragic waste of energy may become our lot as parents if we focus on more
worldly pursuits over the foremost stewardship of raising and educating our children.

Even if we have not cared as much as we should have in the past, we can take hope from another scriptural circumstance. Before his death, the Savior had taught his disciples—especially Peter, James, and John—about their rights and responsibilities as the leaders of his church on the earth. They had been transfigured. They had received keys. They had been commanded to love one another, abide in Christ’s grace and had been promised the Holy Ghost and that if they asked, they would receive. And yet, after the incredible events of the Savior’s trial, crucifixion, and resurrection, he found them fishing in the Sea of Tiberius. In that short time, they had forgotten. They had given up the stewardship to take the gospel of Christ to all. In mercy, the Lord gave them a second chance and reminded them to be about his business, the supreme work of feeding his lambs. We, too, as parents can reassert our rights and take again our responsibility to educate our children both religiously and secularly.

While I, myself, have chosen to homeschool my children, I realize this is not advisable or even possible for many families. I hope that many will consider it, if it is possible. For those who could not make homeschool work, there are other ways to take responsibility:

  • Realize that even keeping them home through 2nd or 3rd grade gives them a really solid foundation and lets them go into school bearing the Gift of the Holy Ghost as a guide and teacher; homeschooling for a few years is not necessarily a commitment to do so forever.
  • Be in your child’s school as often as possible.
  • Truly know your child’s teacher(s).
  • Be familiar with curricula used and the worldview that informs them.
  • Know your school board representatives and attend meetings; research issues they will discuss and make your voice heard.
  • Have meaningful discussions as frequently as possible with your children about what they are learning; do not dismiss their feelings of discomfort over school, teachers, subject matter, etc.
  • If you feel uncomfortable as a parent, trust your instincts; you know your child far better than any teacher/administrator ever will (despite their degrees)—stand up for your opinions.
  • Be aware that you may have to unteach your children at times.

I am certain that “an account of this stewardship will the [Lord] require of [us] in the day of judgment”. Let us have the courage to own our responsibilities, so that we may retain our right to the education of our children.

0009_spackman_2012_20121128__DSC1420Emily Spackman is a homeschooling mother of five, an amateur student of history and economics, and a joyful disciple of Jesus Christ. She loves crocheting and target practice, but hates cooking. This is her first foray into any kind of online writing.

5 Responses to With Mindful Consideration

  1. Guy Vestal says:

    That is the key to successful delegation, the oversight of those assigned the tasks. My 5 Daughters have, and are still going to the same rural school, and the teachers and administrators know for a fact, that they can expect to see me at least 3 days a week in that building. So assured that I am involved, that most of them deliver messages and documents to me in person, because it is faster and easier than through the mail, or handed to my Daughters.

    All schools will give you the option to “opt-out” of something you do not want your child involved in, you just need to stand your ground in the office, and offer them no other options then the ones you provide. I am a single Father, and it is yet another hassle to go through traveling back and forth over there, but those are my baby girls, and as I answer to God, the school answers to me in like authority…

  2. Bonnie says:

    I’ve spent the last months helping my 17yo son pass classes so that he can graduate from high school (part of the long story of my abdication of this responsibility) and I can testify that we will reap the whirlwind if we slack as parents.

    Even in my humbled position, however, I also know that the atonement will find us, and our children, as we come to ourselves. He and I sat together over his government packet and had the opportunity to discuss the freedoms we think we have, but don’t any longer. It made a HUGE impression on him when we discussed a millennia of habeas corpus underlying the struggle to form egalitarian governments (the text itself chronicled this journey and called out this as the single most important right undergirding our collection of individual rights) and then we discussed what happened in our congress last Fall. I have no interest in having a political discussion here, but we most definitely had one then, and perhaps in the timing and with my prayers it had an even more profound effect.

    The Lord can forgive sin, and he can repair some of our shortcomings when we repent visibly with our children. The conversations we’ve had of late have seemed to have a profound impact on my children’s view of their obligations and mine in their education. They have a lifetime to make up for this falling short. I wouldn’t have wished that on them for the world from our better beginning, but I do cling to what we can do now.

  3. Deborah says:

    we should reread Elder Christofferson’s Ricks Devotional in 2000… incredible and convenient for these days. Wonderful article !

  4. Michelle says:

    I appreciated a friend’s example in her proactive-ness in being deliberate about her children’s educational options. It helped me open myself to being more deliberate. For us, even that desire seemed to open up options that sort of found us. I have felt God’s involvement, and it’s been amazing.

    We’ve considered homeschooling since before kids were even born to us, and it’s never felt right. I say that not to be personally defensive, but to underscore a principle I feel strongly about. I really liked your exploration of principles here, but in the end I felt like your real message was that homeschooling is somehow the superior choice for ‘responsible’ parents. If I am reading that right, I disagree. I think personal revelation is key and I think there are many good and right choices that righteous, responsible parents can make.

    I agree wholeheartedly with being involved and not being passive about teaching and engaging your children, though. But I think the primary way that happens is through the basics that we are counseled to do by our prophets — daily spiritual rituals, daily meals where possible, church involvement, seminary, parental crossroads time, and just plain ol’ time working and playing together. This responsible parenting model is much broader than how schooling happens. It’s all connected, imo.

    I love that we have options. To me in some ways I think it’s as simple as that. Realize there are options, but don’t have fear about doing the ‘wrong’ thing or compare your life or choices to others’. God cares about your children much more than you do and He knows them perfectly. Stay open and God will guide you.

    p.s. In our case, along the way we also invited our children to be involved in the process of seeking revelation about the direction we were headed in with regard to their education (even at young ages like 3rd grade). It has been remarkable to see true principles unfold in their young lives and to see and watch them feel and know that God was aware of them and gain their own answers along the way about their education. The shared revelatory experiences have been remarkable and anchor-building in myriad ways in our family.

    • Emily says:

      I am sorry you felt that way, Michelle. I hoped the seven action points that apply mostly to public schooling would balance my brief mention of what our family is doing. There is no way to talk about everything one could possibly do in one short blog article, so I am sure I left much out. I didn’t focus on spiritual learning as that wasn’t what my topic was, but yes it is certainly all related. My intent was only to encourage people consider the decision carefully. Sounds like you have. Kudos!

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