Those of you who know me, or who follow my blog, will know I have no problem stating things as I see them. I’m a
pretty very open person and you’ll pretty much always know where I stand on an issue. While blogging gives me time to think and articulate my thoughts (I’ve written about this before), when speaking, I may not be as articulate. The thoughts are there, oh yes they are ALLLLLL there, and quite jumbled. While I know what I want to say, it doesn’t always come out quite right. So ummmmm, I might have put my foot in it with some people in the school community recently. Sigh.
Our three youngest children go to a Christian school. Part of the way schools work in New Zealand is that parents are consulted and able to feed back on the health curriculum – yep, all that puberty, boy/girl stuff. So there was a meeting last week. As a Christian school, we obviously take a biblical stance on, well, everything. When you’re talking about teaching 11-14 year old kids about puberty etc, it raises some pretty interesting/controversial issues.
As with any community there is a range of viewpoints across a broad continuum. Apparently, as a parent in our community, I might stand at the liberal end of this continuum – which I didn’t really realise until I opened my big mouth and spoke freely.
On homosexuality and pornography. Yes, big topics. And the conversation around these issues has set my brain to thinking a LOT in the days since.
The question came up, how would the staff handle questions on delicate issues if the students raised them. Some parents were concerned that their kids wouldn’t know what homosexuality or pornography was, or that they weren’t ready, or didn’t need to know. Ppppfffffffttttttttt says I.
So I piped up and said that we talked to all of our children about these even the younger at age 7-8 (remember this meeting was about classes for 11-14 year olds). In a nutshell I said we’re very matter-of-fact but don’t give them more detail than they can handle. We do refer back to what we believe i.e. the bible. My point was to reassure, that kids can handle the info if it’s delivered right – my opinion was kids DO need to be aware of these things but I think they need to learn about them at home, preferably within some context.
Just FYI, to put it in context for our kids (and I briefly explained this at the meeting) my cousin is gay and our kids were curious about why he had a boyfriend. We just explained that they love each other and while that’s not what works for us in terms of God’s teaching, it doesn’t take away from the great people they both are and while that aspect of them isn’t for us, we love them regardless (God IS love after all). That was enough for our kids, they understood, they didn’t need to know anymore and we as parents were able to show what we believe. Not too radical I don’t think.
On pornography, we talk to all the kids about keeping themselves ‘safe’ on the computer from ‘grown up things they don’t need to see’ and not communicating with strangers (same as in real life). We don’t mention what the ‘grown up things’ are but teach them they’ll probably know if they accidentally (hopefully accidentally!) come across something that doesn’t look proper and it’s good to tell us straight away. Richard has had the ‘dad’ talk with the older two boys so they’re a little more clued up. Again, nothing too radical.
We really are about educating our children giving them information at a level they can understand so they can make their own choices and decisions. Obviously we’re trying to influence those choices as much as possible for what we see as the ‘right’ direction (yes, our opinion). We also understand that eventually our kids will fly from the nest and their life is in their hands – the choices they make and the subsequent consequences are on them. But I refer to an earlier post about words to my children: I will always love them regardless and I will always be their safe place.
So back to the meeting, I was surprised when I was pretty much shot down after giving my thoughts on the matter. I made a comment about kids are going to see things on TV anyway. This was met with ‘some of us don’t have TVs’. I heard the words ‘insulate our children’ so many times I wanted to throw up. THIS is what got me thinking.
Don’t get me wrong – I FULLY RESPECT THAT EVERYONE IS ENTITLED TO AND HAS THEIR OWN VIEWPOINT. This blog is about my view-point. I genuinely can not see the value, logic, or benefits of shielding children from matters of life that at some point they are going to have to face. They are going to have to have an opinion, they may need to take actions (i.e. internet porn). Why would you tell them after the fact. Why not help them protect themselves ahead of the fact?
I believe in God. I believe in and live by His word, the Bible. I live to please my Heavenly Father. But I don’t want to live in a bubble and I don’t want that for my children. I want them to grow to be strong individuals who will take a stance on an issue because it is what they believe, to be aware of the whole world and have empathy for those with lives different and (especially) less privileged than their own, to be compassionate, to be altruistic. Yes, we send them to a Christian primary school (up to year 8). They learn awesome values and are part of a lovely community. We also live outside that community.
I think I’m a little stunned at just how insular some people are and how they don’t seem to live outside their church community. (I did hear the comment ‘un-churched children’ thrown around at the meeting the other night as if that was a bad thing – in my opinion, not bad, just different). I don’t think this is what God wants for us either. I refer back to His word:
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”.
Why why why hide away among a church community? And I’m not saying everyone does this but clearly, many do. Why why why only let your children hang out with church friends? Would our children not have richer lives for meeting a wider variety of people. More empathy and understanding. And could they not be a light to others just by being themselves? And what happens when your children leave home and are faced with all the things in life their parents have shielded them from? They find themselves without their support network and unable to process so much at once, unable to make considered informed decisions they’ve thought out and grown firm with over time.
This is why we choose not to continue our children’s education in the Christian schooling system beyond Year 8. For Years 9-13 (high school) James will go to the local Boys High School. A brilliant school. A huge school. He has so many opportunities open to him and in the first term alone, learnt a couple of valuable life lessons. I see his confidence growing as he makes new friends – while still remaining strong with his childhood buddies. We want to guide him through this part of life as he experiences it fully. The same for the three children following behind.
So I guess this post turned into a rant/reflection on how much of the world we want to expose/insulate our children to/from.
My stance: we all live in the same world, they need to know what’s going on. Give it to them in a steady flow, when it’s right, in age-appropriate pieces they can digest easily.
In the case of faith: let that light shine, out of the church community!
Where do you stand on these points? Surely someone will have something to say about this post (if you’re still reading!).