Industrial Waste… part 4

Last Saturday, Nate spent his Birthday working in a booth selling the coloring books he helped make for the Church fundraiser (for more on that click here).  Today is Sam’s Birthday and he, on the other hand, has opted not to lift a finger for anyone.  While the contrast is clear, it is also inconsistent.  Nate is by no means a captain of industry and Sam is hardly a sluggard.  I think they are each just the right combination of plough horse and puppy.  In fact, if we ere on any one side of the work/play equation in our family we tend to be heavy on the play.  Actually, I should probably say since moving to Hawaii we’re leaning REALLY heavily on the play side.  Hopefully some good hard work in the mountains of California this summer will remedy that.  The point is, there needs to be balance, especially with kids.

Playing Piñata in honor of Nate and Sam's Birthdays.

Playing Piñata in honor of Nate and Sam’s Birthdays.

The child-labor laws enacted in the early 1900’s did a lot toward bringing some of that balance into children’s lives, many of whom were spending a full days labor in factories and fields for substandard wages.  Unfortunately the compulsory education laws that soon followed, however well-intentioned, eventually served to throw off whatever balance was achieved.  Today, the average child will spend about 7 hours a day in the classroom with about 20-30 minutes of recess and 15 minutes for lunch.  Add to that the typical 1-3 hours they will then spend doing homework and squeeze in an hour of practice if they happen to play a sport, and that 9-5 job with an hour long lunch break Mom or Dad complain about is a cake walk.  American children are spending more time in the classroom and other school related activities than almost every other country on earth.  With the remaining spare moments devoted to screens of various shapes and sizes, actual play time has become a thing of the past.  For all our humanitarian efforts, how much have we really improved the lives of our children in the last 100 years?  With obesity rates, behavioral issues, and childhood stress at epidemic levels it seems this new life style is wreaking havoc on the body, minds and souls of our kids.  Especially our boys.

I want to pause here to emphasize two things.  Number one:  I am speaking in generalities.  While my own education was exclusively in the public realm, my husband’s was public K-12, private for University, and he has taught in Christian schools, primarily at the high school level, for almost 12 years. That said, the choice we have made for our own family is to homeschool.  I do not think this is the appropriate choice for ALL families.  The most important thing to me is that families have the freedom and the courage to choose what’s best for their own children.  The advent and subsequent evolution of compulsory education has done much to limit and obscure those choices.  So when I speak of compulsory education I am not merely targeting public schools.  I am targeting the GENERAL  practice of forcing children to spend the bulk of their entire childhoods in a classroom and doing school related activities, whether that be in the public sector, the private sector or even in a homeschool setting.  Good grief, just how many thousands and thousands of hours should it take to make a kid literate?  But I digress.  Number two:  from now on I am going to be speaking very specifically about the effect compulsory education has had on boys.  Now of course, in specifying boys I will once again be speaking in generalities :).  There are multitudes of boys who thrive and show great success in the modern classroom setting (I’m related to some of them), but a vast majority do not and those are the ones I am addressing in general.  Why just boys?  Click here for an explanation.

Now that everyone’s feathers are sufficiently ruffled, I have to leave you all dangling one more time because I have some serious Birthday business to attend to.  But before I go I wanted to inform all you kind folks that requested copies of the coloring books the boys made that we have some available for $4 each plus postage.  Just email me your request or leave a comment and we’ll work out the details.



Industrial Waste…part 3

This week my boys completed their biggest project ever.  They did it together and they did it for the Church.  In honor of Mokuaikaua’s 195th Anniversary Celebration I wrote down the true story of the coming of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Hawaii which the boys then illustrated, copied and assembled into coloring book form.  They then spent all day Saturday at the street fair selling the books to raise money for the church.  It was a real 9-5 job and the culmination of hours of labor and more than one late night standing assembly-line-style putting these things together.  Needless to say, a lot of school books lay neglected for a couple weeks as they poured over Hawaiian history texts studying pictures and then creating their own renditions.  They even came up with some cool shadowing effects using clear overhead sheets.  Each boy contributed their own artistic talents to the project and then worked tirelessly to see it from conception to production and then on to sales.  Our goal was to share the amazing story of God’s redeeming work in the islands with 195 children and we nearly met that goal in just two days!

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Obviously Tom and I were super proud of their artistry, hard work, team effort, and willingness to contribute to a greater cause.  But mostly I was struck by how my children have so much more to offer the world than I gave them credit for.  It seems like all my work from morning till night is all about turning these boys into men of God.  Teaching them basic manners and social skills, how to take care of themselves and the space around them, educating them in all the subjects a liberal education requires, cultivating their talents, encouraging them in their gifts, protecting them from harm… all so they can make it into adulthood and start doing whatever work God has prepared for them to do.

But what if He has work for them to do right now?

When I started this series on Industrial Waste (hopefully the title will begin to make more sense as my thoughts unfold) my intent was to explore how the modern education industry is depriving our boys of the satisfaction, self-confidence, independence, and practical skills that productive work can provide.  But after researching this story and learning how God used a couple Hawaiian boys in their early teens to bring the Gospel and the written word to these shores, how both spread throughout the islands like wildfire culminating in a 95% conversion rate and 75% literacy rate where 30 years prior there had been no alphabet and one of the ugliest forms of paganism imaginable, and then after seeing first hand how my own boys could be used in building up Christ’s Kingdom, I was struck by an even greater form of waste.  Not only does compulsory schooling deprive the workforce of a huge percentage of potential workers, it deprives the Kingdom of some of it’s most valuable laborers as well.

I am not at all saying that all Christian children should be pulled out of school and sent out on the mission field (after all schools themselves are a field ripe for the harvest).  But I am saying that forcing every child to give up more than 12 years of their life to a system that isn’t fully designed for their personal benefit doesn’t show much improvement over the circumstances the child labor laws were designed to prevent.  And further, if compulsory education is stifling a child’s God given talents then we as parents and teachers are doing nothing short of quenching the Spirit’s work in their life and the lives they could be impacting for His glory.

As I am preparing our lessons for this new week I realize that the boys are now a bit behind in their math, grammar, and geography texts and we are going to have some major catching up to do in the weeks to come.  But there is a dear Hawaiian lady on the little island of Molokai with a stack of coloring books that she is eager to distribute to children in her community.  Another Hawaiian “Aunty” has a stack set aside to put in the shoe boxes she fills every Christmas for Samaritans Purse.  Who knows how far around the world this true story of God’s love for an isolated people in the middle of the Pacific might go?

It’s time for me to reevaluate our education goals.  Are my efforts to turn these boys into productive citizens and godly leaders of the future hampering the work God has gifted them to accomplish for His kingdom RIGHT NOW?  I’m not talking about forcing my kids into religious servitude.  That’s not any better than child factory labor or compulsory schooling.  But is my drive to make sure they measure up to some bureaucratic standards squelching their opportunities to develop the talents God gave them for His glory?  I was truly humbled to see what they could accomplish when given the freedom and opportunity to step up and serve in this way.  And I’m more than excited to see the ways God will be using their gifts, not just far off down the road, but right around the next corner.