It is a time filled with conflicting currents of freedom and fear, opportunity and obstacles. Younger children are finally old enough to follow older brothers and sisters off to school with their own backpack of books. College freshmen are finally off on their own, away from home, their heads spinning with dreams and doubt.
Babies become children, let go by weeping parents. Houses that vibrated with teen-age noise surrender to the silence of an empty nest. And college freshmen are shocked with the stabs of homesickness. It is, of course, the stuff of life: joy and sorrow, celebration and challenge, learning and growing.
I am a fan of public schools. I like the fact that, in our imperfect system, every child has a chance to learn. I love movies about public school teachers and the difference they make in students’ lives, like Freedom Writers or Mr. Holland’s Opus. My wife is a career public school teacher. Across the years she has taught high school, third grade and kindergarten. Her last assignment was to teach pregnant and parenting teens. Her students had a ninety percent graduation rate.
Even though schools take summer breaks, school is never out. Children and youth are always learning, and sometimes the most important lessons they learn are the moments when parents and adults are least aware. They learn honesty, generosity, courtesy and faith by watching us in check-out lines, by observing how we react in rush hour traffic and by listening to our conversations at home. They are always watching and always learning, even when we think they are tuned out.
Churches and schools, public or private, cannot replace the important role parents play in teaching their children. That is why the Bible says, “But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, That they should put their confidence in God. (Psalm 78:4-6).
To the children, the Bible says, “My son, observe the commandment of your father
And do not forsake the teaching of your mother; bind them continually on your heart;
tie them around your neck. When you walk about, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk to you.” (Proverbs 6:20-22)