Children and youth have returned to school. Summer vacations are over. Silent buildings and empty playgrounds echo with classroom lectures and children’s laughter. It is a time to put away the lazy days of sleeping late, TV, video games and camp, to wake before sunrise and wait for the bus. The rumble of yellow buses mark an annual rite of passage along with the smells of erasers, crayons, markers and freshly painted classrooms. It forms the rhythm of our lives, as surely as the first crisp scent of fall and the turning of green leaves to gold. We wake up to the echo of school bands, coaches’ whistles and the smack of shoulder pads getting ready for the big game soon to come.
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.
Houses that vibrated with teenage noise surrender to the silence of an empty nest. And college freshmen are shocked with 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 taught high school, third grade and kindergarten.
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, “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)
Bill Tinsley reflects on current events and life experience from a faith perspective. For more information visit www.tinsleycenter.com. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.