Feature Article – 18 Years and Counting by Marlin Detweiler
Educational Helps – by Laurie Detweiler
18 Years and Counting
Eighteen years seems like a long time. If you told one of your children to hold his breath for 18 years, well. . . . Or, if you and your spouse sat down to plan out the next 18 years of your life based on the last 18, you’d probably be in a quandary. So much can happen in 18 years, and it does seem like a long time—at least on the front end.
However, 18 years doesn’t seem so long when one looks back on it. Many things we’ve done seem like they happened only yesterday, even when they happened many years ago. No doubt you have vivid memories of things that happened in high school or college. I sure do. I remember conversations with my father, trips we took as a family, my childhood bedroom and many other things all as if the memory was from last week. That’s the way God made us.
Eighteen—that is basically the number of years we have with each of our children before they are gone. Eighteen—that’s it. I honestly gave it little thought until recently. But now the empty nest is clearly in view on the horizon. Where did all the years go?
Next week we ship Travis, our third of four, off to college. Number four is a junior. Two more years and all our children will have completed high school. And the empty nest experience will begin—at least during the school year.
Laurie and I have learned much from the experience of parenting. Near the top of the list is that time truly does fly. Now at this point in my writing I could launch into a homily on the need for us to treasure the time God has given us with our children, and that would be a message that we can’t hear too much. I could encourage you to tell them you love them more often. Or even that we should be careful not to work to the point of being workaholics to the neglect of our family. These are all good, in fact necessary, lessons. We do well to heed them.
But I’d like to go a different direction. Contrary to what you might think from the first paragraphs, this article is not about empty nesting. Nor is it about cherishing the few years we have with our children.
It’s about extending them. Not extending them by not letting go, but by creating common bonds and common interests that will cement parent-child relationships indefinitely.
Have you considered what life will be like when your children become teenagers? What will hold their interest? What will they like to do? Will they want to do what they like to do with you?
I play golf. I enjoy playing golf. Few things focus my attention more than preparing for a good golf tournament. I would have loved for all my boys to enjoy golf as much as I do. After all, it’s a great sport that can be shared with others for many years. Unlike football or basketball, golf can be played at any age.
Yet not all my children were interested. If I am perfectly honest, I was partly to blame. It was hard for me to just have them enjoy golf. I wanted them to be good at it, to take it seriously enough so they could compete, too. Frankly, some of them were scared off. I blew it.
Several years ago a professional golfer named Johnny Miller wrote in Golf Digest that he had great success by taking his young children to the golf course, allowing them to hit a few balls, drive a cart (with him) and mess around in the nearby streams, all the while being careful to take them home before they were ready. This made them hungry for more. It seems he was on to something.
At a young age children naturally want to do what their parents like. That’s the easy time. But they grow up. They want (and need) to establish themselves with their own interests and by using their own God-given abilities. We need to prepare them for that time. We need to find those things that they enjoy and seek to help them develop in them. And, if we want to establish the parent-child relationship that prospers during teenage years, we need to enjoy the things they enjoy with them.
We need to develop things to do with them. If you have a child that develops a love for horses or history or herbs, you had better develop a love for horses or history or herbs. When they enter their teen years, they become capable of leaving. That’s a good thing. They aren’t going to be under our roof forever. What is not a good thing is if they have to leave in order to do what they enjoy.
It is one thing for children to honor their parents as the Fifth Commandment teaches. It is another for them to enjoy their parents. What’s being suggested here is that children who enjoy their parents and enjoy doing things with their parents come from parents who have worked at it. Parents must inculcate such a mindset and must plan such a desire.
We are very grateful to have four very active sons. We are also very grateful to be healthy enough to be active with them. So, if one wants to go skiing, we can go with him and enjoy the day on the mountain together. If one wants to go to New York for the day and take in a show, we can enjoy the day together. Many families today struggle with maintaining togetherness. Even Christian families find themselves going in different directions far too often.
The basic question is this, What are you doing now to assure that your parenting will prove beneficial, in fact, a blessing as your children grow up? Will they look back on their childhood with gratitude for a wonderful education but still see you as a somewhat detached parent, or will they see you as someone who loved what they love such that you will continue to enjoy the blessing of togetherness for many years?
To be sure, we don’t expect that our kids will want to do everything they do with us. They need time, space and peers just like we do. The concern here is that they will want to do some things with us. It is our job to see to it that they do. Many homeschool families have been quite successful at various aspects of building relationships like are described above with their children.
Sometimes the problem is the other extreme. The one where children become underachievers and remain dependent for far too long. They prefer the safety of home and the company of their parents out of fear and insecurity. I’m certainly not advocating one extreme over the other. Getting the balance right requires time and attention.
So, whether it be sports or music, balls or books, we need to recognize that there is a time when our children will do what we like because we like it. But there comes a time where we may need to like what they like and do what they do to maintain the loving relationship that we all seek through the transition from dependence to independence.
The start of a new school year is upon us, along with all the enthusiasm that it brings. Before you get into your routines, why not kick off the year with a historically themed party to capture the children’s interest and imagination. Older students can be a great help by helping choose the menu and by getting in the kitchen to cook. There are many recipes on line; see the following sites for ideas:
Colonial American Recipes
It would even be fun to have a “Taste of the Ancient World” party and make recipes from different countries and time periods. This would be a great time to invite other families, an entire class or have a co-op sponsor it. Of course, if it’s only your family it can be great fun, too. This is a wonderful way to get your children to be excited about what is in store for them over the next nine months.
If you want to really get into the theme, get out your books and have the children design a “set” for the party. At one party I attended, the children had made a Roman temple and house to set the stage. They had made and borrowed columns, covered them with ivy and painted backdrops of the temple and houses on refrigerator boxes. Lounge chairs make for great Roman recliners. You get the idea. And what party would be complete without costumes to set the stage. We have put together some ideas for using paper bags to make costumes for younger children. (Click here to access our download page. Then click on the Paper Bag Costumes link under Free Helps.) The Historical Headgear, Hats and Helmets CD in the Free Offers section below is a great addition. For teenagers, we have found that they enjoy renting period costumes and turning the party into a full-fledged masquerade ball or period dance.
Remember the History or Bible Project Competition held earlier this year? One of the winners did such a great job, we asked them to turn it into something we could offer. And the Historical Headgear, Hats, and Helmets: The Ancients CD was born. This remarkable and fun tool will really bring home the history lessons. The CD-ROM sells for $12.00. You may have one free upon request when placing an order in September of $200 or more. Orders of $100 to $200 may have a CD at half price. When placing your order ask for the “Hat CD.”
Q. I’m not very creative. I see all these wonderful hands-on ideas, but it just is not my thing. Do you have any suggestions for how to get these done?
A. Sure we do! First of all, you might find that if you try it you will like it. Give yourself lots of time to organize the projects. Go through and pick out all the projects you would like to do in the first twelve weeks of school. Then make a list of all the materials you need, so you can go shopping once instead of twelve times. I find that half the battle is just getting every thing in my house. Then a few days before you need to do the project get every thing out and organized. Make sure you leave plenty of time in your day to set up and tear down the project. Of course the children should help in these things, also. The process of making and cleaning up is an important lesson to learn. Secondly, see if you have a friend or a co-op that would like to do these projects with you. Many times it is more fun if the work load is shared with others. I hope you enjoy this next year. I’m sure your children will really appreciate your branching out.
Q. I am having a difficult time scheduling all my children’s work. Do you have any suggestions?
A. Excuse me for turning your question into a sales pitch, but you threw me a good one. That is exactly why the Veritas Press Scholars Lesson Plans were created. In a school setting, the first year is always the most difficult for a teacher, because he has to organize and plan everything for the first time. Then, the second year he tweaks what he did the first year. By the third year, if he’s been faithful to document what he’s done in the past, the sailing gets pretty smooth. In the homeschool setting every year is a first year—at least with the oldest child. The organization alone takes at least a couple hours a week. So you have a choice: be well organized and do all the planning you can on the front end, or take advantage of our lesson plans.
Please submit any questions you’d like answered here to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Veritas Press Scholars I - Lesson Plans Have Shipped
Well, we didn’t make August 1st as projected but we have shipped all lesson plan orders. Our thanks to a large cadre of writers, proofreaders and editors who made it possible. Here is early customer feedback:
The arrival of the Scholars' Lesson Plans has been much anticipated throughout the summer. I was eager to get them early so that I could plan and organize our school year. What a great surprise! They arrived today and after spending some time this evening looking through the plans, I realized that they are everything we needed—and more!!! For the first time in 7 years of homeschooling, I am free from writing detailed lesson plans for each week! Not only will I not have to spend hours of planning each week, but these plans are so incredibly well coordinated, thorough and complete! Thank you all so much for the incredible effort put into this project. Know that your work will be a huge blessing to this family.
The Veritas Press Scholars Online classes begin September 4th. There are a few classes with a few openings. Information for online classes is available on our web site, click here to view. If you are interested in “visiting” an online class for future consideration and to see how they work, we can arrange it. Let us know your interest by sending an email to email@example.com. We will be glad to have you sit in.
Hawaiian Shirt Winner
You may recall we instigated a drawing for a $200 gift certificate to Paradise on a Hanger in the August epistula. The winner was randomly chosen from all orders in August of $200 or more. The winner is Christine Henry of Livonia, Michigan. Congratulations, Christine.
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