What makes some people seem to soar, excited to learn, to grow, to take on one challenge after another and still be capable of more? What makes a person so satisfied and enthusiastic about life that he wants to share his knowledge with everyone, knowing he has something worth sharing? How can you take your children to that place? For that matter, how can you get there yourself?
God did not design us to idle away in endless boredom with no challenges, waiting for life to happen. Nor are we designed to exist in a state of distraction, always being entertained. We were not created to live like pigs in self-indulgence. God expects more from his creation. There is no joy or satisfaction apart from personal growth, fulfilling the yearning to know. God instilled in us the drive to excel.
Life is best in the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom, in sharing what we learn, in hopes and dreams and a struggle to overcome. Winners feel better than losers, and God created us to win—not in a contest with others, but in our struggle against the world, the flesh, and the devil, against the demons of doubt, ignorance, and inaction. As we strive to know, we will grow. This brings glory to the one in whose image we are created, and it prepares us to be worthy and interesting sons and daughters in his coming kingdom.
We should be constantly stimulated with possibilities. Man performs best when focused and committed. How can I build a better boat, construct a more effective website, write a better musical, or win the world to Christ? Perhaps I shall do it all! Ah, but when a couple shares a dream and the burden of making that dream come true, they are functioning in the highest calling. When the entire family—with all the children—shares the pursuit of a vision, it grows the children into strong leaders. This is what sets some families apart from all others—a vision, a purpose, and a willingness to work together to realize something greater than themselves. A family that lives unto itself with no vision beyond surviving will wither and waste away while the children peek through the curtain at the world they distrust and fear.
The truly successful family shares a dream and pours its combined energies into making it reality. I have observed families excel in this regard. No one had to tell them they needed a dream; it was just a natural part of their makeup. I know other families that have raised well-educated but useless daughters and weak men who lacked confidence. Both extremes were sincere and wanted what was best for their children, but one family invested their talents while another buried them out of fear.
Children’s success starts with Mom and Dad. It starts with the parent (one or both) ready to lead the charge. Most things are more easily caught than taught. Living a life with vision is one of those things that must be caught. A child can catch small visions from a friend, a pastor, or another kid, but vision comes most readily when parents take the little guys by the hand and say, “See? Isn’t this neat?”
For example: As I sit here typing, I look out the window down to the herb garden and watch Jeremiah playing with the other children. He suddenly lunges into a prostrate position, landing with his face inches from a small pool of water. I can tell that he is lost to the noises and movements around him and the hard, chilled feel of the rocks beneath him. He is still and silent, watching as the first tiny tadpole escapes its transparent cord. From where I sit I can’t see the tadpoles, but I know they are there because we have studied the cluster of eggs for the last several days and have excitedly observed the transformation as they develop into tiny fishlike creatures.
Jeremiah’s fascination with tadpoles did not start at this moment. Although he would not remember the occasion, it started before he was two years old. I know because I was there when the mystery of the tadpole was first discovered. He was just a stumbling toddler the day one of his older cousins (a four-year-old) took him by the hand as they made their way along with five or six other small children to watch a thousand tadpoles all wriggle free into the murky waters for their very first swim. He was there again, standing at the side of the mud hole, when tiny frogs began to hop out onto dry land. He was at the water’s edge that day because he had been there every afternoon watching and waiting for the coming day. The reward was breathtaking. To those children, the wonder of watching tadpoles turning into frogs transcended the ordinary. The children came away wiser than their less-experienced peers because they had seen with their eyes, touched with their hands, and discussed with adults this miracle of life.
It is these moments of discovery that bring satisfaction to a soul. They satisfy the need God put in us to know. This should be an hourly happening in a child’s life. Something as simple as learning to turn the water tap on and off, breaking an egg into a bowl, flushing the commode, or answering the phone in the proper manner and bringing it to Mama can all be moments of growth for the child.
A child who is highly involved in the adventures of firsthand learning will be less self-centered and more interested in the world around him. A child left to himself is inclined to be silly, self-conscious, and have feelings of inferiority. Knowledge—real, firsthand knowledge that says, “I know because I experienced that”—imparts power and confidence and a greater desire to learn and share.
Today’s child is prodded out of his warm bed and told to dress for school. He is fed a bowl of sugared cereal and loaded into a vehicle. At school he is just one of the herd; he sits in a row, stands in a line, plays on asphalt with all the other sad, bored kids. When he gets home in the afternoon he sits in front of a screen in a dumbed-down state, watching some other kid sing, dance, have an adventure, or do something interesting or heroic. But he feels himself to be the guy outside looking in through the window. The wonder in his soul lies dormant; he FEELS that life happens to the cool kids. Adventure is not his. He never considers that he might hold a tiny frog in his hand; he can’t conceive that he might watch a snake slowly swallow a mouse. All he knows are the animals at the zoo boringly observing him observing them. It is a freeze-frame experience. Most children live regulated, packaged lives, never feeling the awe of the moment. Their young life is spent “killing time” and trying to stay out of trouble.
Children need an environment that stimulates the natural wonder in their souls. They need time to investigate, play in the mud, share a song, dream a dream.
Wonder is as close as a flushing toilet. I remember the day our grandson Laife flushed our commode for the first time. I pulled the top off the water closet and showed him how the chain pulled the small plug out of the hole at the bottom, allowing the water to rush into the toilet. He seriously studied the whole workings, manipulating the mechanism, his mind captivated with the construction and flow of water. He wanted to go outside to where the septic tank lay deep in the ground. Every day, every occasion, every new thing should be squeezed for all you can get out of it. Children need to know why, how, what, and they need to participate.
As a parent you are the commander-in-chief of your child. Commanders communicate vision. Most dads are at work during the day, so Mom becomes the default vision imparter. The sad fact is that many moms live in a fog of nothingness. They lead halfway lives. They halfheartedly homeschool the kids while they intermittently scan their Facebook page, reading and writing useless messages for people they don’t even know. These moms are trapped in a net of daily boredom, so they have little interest in unearthing the unknown. It is a continuation of their youth—still killing time. They experience nothing to share with their children.
Hey, Mom, you were created to reflect God. It’s time to start living with eternity in your eyes. You can’t impart a vision to your sons and daughters unless you have one yourself. Regardless of your youth experiences, you CAN have a vision.
Start today pouring into your children. Tell them stories of your youth or the exciting, challenging stories of a person in history; even better, read missionary stories. Get the children together and listen to Mike’s Alabama Seminar CD or watch the Good and Evil DVD. Take a walk of discovery and stop to examine the things that capture their imagination. A follow-up trip to the library or the Web is usually in order. Don’t spend your time talking on the cell phone while stealing the light of discovery from your children. This is a moment of change. Take them to a farm and ask the farmer if you can help clean a stall with your children. Show them firsthand where the eggs and milk and chicken you eat come from. Pick strawberries and blueberries, and then go home and plant your own.
When you happen to see where beavers have built a dam, by all means STOP and investigate. Go home and watch old YouTube videos or documentaries about how beavers changed the landscape of America, making it a more fertile land. Let the children dig ditches in the yard and run water through them, adding beaver-like dams to show other children how beavers have played an active part in the ecology. Facilitate enough learning in your children that they become the teachers.
Dance in the rain and then study what weather patterns bring the rain. Build a fire pit and cook out once a week, letting the children plan, prepare and cook the food, and then clean up. Get old cooking magazines from yard sales and let each child start making his own cookbook from cut-out recipes glued into notebooks.
Plant a garden, but first study with your children several seed catalogs. Talk about the evils of GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds with your four- and six-year-olds. Tell them how God created seed but man changed it to do weird things that are now known to harm the human body, animals, and insects. What? You don’t know much about GMOs? Where have you been, Mama? Wasting your minutes, hours, and days screen-gazing or standing outside a window watching someone else have a life? No more!
Homeschooling has lost its edge. Now it is just school done at home. What a drag! What a loss! Before the age of “ten thousand curriculums,” there was the library or the second-hand store for books. It was a glorious age because kids still had space to learn real stuff like where a butterfly comes from. They learned not out of a book, but by catching caterpillars and putting them in boxes. When a child’s mind is totally captivated, his soul positively motivated, and his body engaged in the moment, he will learn instantly and it will stay with him forever. I guess if I had to narrow it down I would say learning facts fills the brain but hands-on learning builds confidence that you can know and do anything. Leaders are not born; they are created through experiencing knowledge, thus gaining the confidence to lead.
Small discoveries turn into middle-size dreams, and middle-size dreams realized turn into eternal visions. And it all starts in Mama’s arms. One little guy is waiting for you to open up life to him so one day he can step out on a huge mission with the confidence you built into him one shared discovery at a time.
As eternal beings, we were not designed to function in an endlessly boring, non-challenging daily life—kids included. Nor were we designed to exist in a state of entertained distraction—kids ESPECIALLY. God put into us a yearning to grow to be like him, to learn, to discover, to share, to plan, to struggle to make our vision come true. He made us with a desire to rise above the mundane. We were designed after God’s nature, in his image, to be like him, to be his friend. We were not meant to just survive. Every one of us—man, woman, and child—can be satisfied only by living on the cutting edge of discovery.
This is the skinny on child training: Every child needs to have his mind full of possibilities. Every day, on every occasion, open the door and share real life with your children. This is where wise sons and daughters are made, leaders opening the door for all others. Take your children by the hand and set out on a journey of discovery.