Real Learning Happens at Home

Every Sunday evening, I meet with a small group of parents. There are about twelve of us, one of several such groups for parents of teens that gather every week at my church. We spend a little more than two hours together; listening, sharing stories, learning, and praying for one another. Recently I asked them where they had learned the most, growing up. The answers were varied, and included The Dining Room Table, The Kitchen, Wherever My Dad Was, The Front Stoop, and Sunday Afternoons. Nobody, interestingly, mentioned school.

Even with perfect attendance, the average Middle School student spends less that fifteen percent of a given year at school. The rest of the time, a whopping eighty-five percent of the year, is time elsewhere, under the supervision of their home.

The meaty lessons of life, the ones we were talking about as a group of parents, are the moral ones. Right from wrong, fairness, justice, primary relationships, morality. And these lessons were learned, for the most part, in the ebb and flow of life that emanated from and returned to the basic family unit.

The direction of our discussion this particular session was the role of “parents as leaders”, of how we understand and implement the opportunity we have to deliberately raise, direct and guide our children – even though all us now have teenagers marauding around the house!

We talked about fairness, justice, accountability, values, boundaries, virtue. We discussed leadership styles, leading by example, building foundations, mutual respect. And we talked about the ultimate role of God as head of our households, about how all of us, parents and children, are equally accountable to the imperative to walk deliberately in the light.

And it was interesting, because it never occurred to us to suggest that the schools were in any way responsible for our children’s behavior, that accountability ended up anywhere else other than our dining room table, that the profound lessons we had learned at home were anyone else’s lessons to teach but our own.

And we wondered about what we can all do to help restore the sense of duty incumbent on families in raising their children. Education reform might be getting a lot of press, but the real place where the rubber meets the road is right here at home.