Here on the plains of Oklahoma, we have legendary winds from the south. At certain times of the year, they can rip an opened door out of a person’s hand, send lawn furniture tumbling, and rip a flag to pieces in a matter of days. In fact, the common joke around these parts is that the few trees we have all lean to the north. This harsh environment constantly twists, tears, and ultimately shapes our trees and, regardless of the variety, they look pretty much alike. They have no choice when they grow to maturity in constant gale-force winds.
Most people have that figured out with their plants, but very few people figure that out with their children. The environment shapes trees and kids.
In fact, your children will grow to look like the people you surround them with. I don’t think that sentence is grammatically correct, but to make it so would take the focus off the important word “YOU.” You read it right. Your kid’s lives and what they look like are your choice. Unlike trees that have an environment that is unchangeable, a child’s environment is pretty much up to the parent.
On the surface it seems there are only two options for today’s parent – send the kid to public school and deal with the consequences or opt for Christian school/homeschool co-ops/church youth groups and deal with the consequences. None of those choices is necessarily a bad one, but the one thing they have in common is that the environment (the very windy environment) is kid-centric. It is a breeding ground for bad attitudes, slacker mentalities, peer dependency, skewed perceptions, and a great deal of drama. It is a setting where there is often very little intelligence shown.
However, because we don’t want our children to feel deprived, we make the choice (there are those words again) to drop them into these groups and are shocked when our kid starts to look like the other kids. Or, even worse, we see the group behavior and convince ourselves that it is normal.
Want to know a secret? You can make a different choice and change the environment! It took me awhile to figure out, but I eventually realized that the mob mentality wasn’t doing good things for my bright children, so we took some radical steps. We severely limited kid activities and instead invested the vast majority of their time with intelligent adults doing things in the real world. They hung out with science mentors, music mentors, adults in Bible study, and gifted online teachers. They worked real jobs and did extracurricular activities with grownups that impacted people’s lives.
As a result of those years without the wind, they grew straight and tall. They eventually entered the world of their peers in college, but by that point the root system had time to anchor deep into the earth of their faith and intellect. They had confidence in themselves and their own opinions. When the winds of peer pressure began to blow, they were totally impervious to the gale.
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