The most important thing is the most important thing. Right? So what is it? What is the most important thing we can do in preparing the next generation?
Get out of the way.
Look how easy it is.
But it’s not that easy. Getting out of the way means releasing control. Shutting your mouth. Allowing mistakes to happen. Being supportive but not controlling. Drying a lot of tears when mistakes happen. And mistakes will happen along the way to success.
Let’s look at two possible futures together. The base assumptions are that I have a herd of cattle generating a positive cash flow for the farm and a child who is interested in taking over.
Child (boy or girl): “Dad, I’m anxious to find my place on the farm. The part that interests me most are the cattle. In fact, I have a few ideas in mind that could really push the ecology, the genetics and the profit margins forward. Is there room for me to explore these ideas?”
There are two paths before me. I could get out of the way or I could be an obstruction to my child’s progress. Let’s be an obstruction:
Me: “You know, I’m glad you want to find a place on the farm. Your mother and I have prayed for a long time that we would be able to make room for you here BUT…I have spent X years building that herd! We are finally to a point where I can say our shorthorns are relatively uniform and well-adapted to our environment. My gosh! those cows cost us a fortune! And you want to just step in after all the work I’ve done and expect me to start some new business to support myself? Further, you are going to change what I have worked all these years for in favor of your crazy new ideas?”
Obviously we want our kids to make their home near to us…here on the farm if possible. That’s going to require some planning between all of us and a measure of sacrifice. I’m going to have to release control, reserve judgement and allow things to go new directions. If I won’t do that…well, why would my kids stick around? And why would they want to buy me out and argue with me about control of the farm when it would be simpler and less emotional to just go buy a farm of their own?
So I have to get out of the way. I have to plan for this and plant the seeds now. At some point, sooner than I would like, my children and I will have this conversation. They will be ready to manage the farm, turning to me for advice but making decisions on their own. I’ll be the janitor.
To wrap up the home school theme of this series, the same thing has to happen with our children’s education. At some point, sooner than I would like, the kids will direct their own learning. We work through several phases of learning with our children. At first we work to show them love and give them a frame of reference for the world they are discovering. Simple concepts, lots of time: You are loved. There is right and wrong. There is truth. You were created and were created for a purpose. Work is valued as is your contribution. The world is an interesting place. While teaching these things we spend large quantities of time playing games, reading aloud and exploring the world together. This progresses through learning a broad array of information and skills largely at the student’s pace…everything from algebra to housework to positive interactions with others until they are fully-trained young adults. Around ages 13-15 we let go of the reins and allow each student to sort of major in a topic. Note the part about letting go of the reins. Our 13 or 14 year old child has a strong foundation of education and necessary life skills and is able to pursue their educational passions. We let go early so college, if attended, won’t be an overwhelming experience…away from home, away from loving guidance. They learn to do it on their own…to discover their own passions. Then, if they choose to go to college, they will have both direction and independence…purpose.
Like the cow thing, the time is coming when I will have to stand aside on education. I’m still around, I’m still able to advise but the direction is chosen by the student. I just have to get out of the way…standing back to watch them stretch their wings…however hard it is for me to do that.