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Filling the Gaps

Filling the Gaps

Recently our family was watching a game show. The contest was based on contestants guessing names of famous people. The players knew rappers, TV roles, and all the current and former partners of something called a “Kardasian.” One name they needed to guess was Abraham Lincoln.  The host began the clues:

  • “A very famous president”
  • “President during the American Civil War”
  • “Was assassinated”
  • “Gave the Gettysburg Address”
  • “On the penny”

They could not guess it. Eventually he had to make up a silly name to form a final clue.  “His name sounds like Brabraham Plinkon.” That is when one contestant buzzed in and hesitantly gave the answer. She was still obviously unsure of the answer. Later in the show the name was Harry Truman, the lack of responses were worse.

My boys were as amazed as I was and said they would have known the answers on the first clues. I complimented their teachers, but they insisted it was more than that – it was we, their parents. I knew what they meant, but I asked them to explain anyway.

“We did learn about Lincoln in school, but there were many other things we learned at the dinner table. There were big gaps in our education – you filled the gaps. You made sure we talked about school. Sometimes I learned more about some subjects at the dinner table than I did the classroom.”

This didn’t happen by accident; I have been intentional about this. Many parents make the mistake of turning the bulk of the education of their children entirely over to others – initially through children’s television, then to the education system. I had reason to not do this.

I learned this by watching negative behaviors – one in particular was a former teacher of mine who was paid to teach a specific subject, but actually spent an excessive deal of time teaching atheism. He openly mocked me for my beliefs and used his grading to extenuate his spiritual animosity.

There are gaps. In numerous schools, history takes a huge hit. Many of the college students I teach have not taken a single history course in high school. Others took classes that were called “history” but were really actually full of biased political propaganda.

Not only are my values not taught, but sometimes the complete opposite. Now, by way of a disclaimer, I want to make it clear that there are some great teachers out there. I know many of them (and hopefully have been one of them). Nor is this a call for anyone to confront their child’s teachers.

But, as a parent, I needed to be on the lookout for the lessor representatives in the system. I didn’t want to blindly turn the entirety of my child’s education over to others.  School lessons (and church teaching) needed to be an extension of their mother and me, not the other way around. As well, I didn’t want to just fill in the gaps; I wanted to be fully engaged in my child’s education.

Do you feel the same way? Here was/is my method:

It is important to talk and ask questions.  Never just say, “How was school?”

Ask what was taught and how they felt about it. There are two reasons for this; you can gauge the institutionalized teaching and create a connection with your child.

Try to avoid questions that can be answered by a definitive “yes” or “no.”

Don’t just say what you think when given a debatable topic, ask them what they think and why.

Don’t have a strict agenda – let the conversation flow.

Don’t become lazy – learn stuff if you don’t know it. Learn with them. Perhaps, as they get older you can decide to read the same book. My son and I have both read the historical books of Bill O’Reilly and Doug Peterson – and discussed them together.  What a great connect that has been!

They won’t always want to do it so try and choose your times wisely and make sure there are enough casual times together away from distractions to allow for “idle” conversation.

Take advantage of all you have to offer to the education of your child. Your life is a history book. Your life is a moral compass. Your life is a path to knowledge. Freely walk that path with your child.

By: Dave Trouten is the married father of two teenage boys and a Division Chair & Professor of Communication at Kingswood University.

Join us at www.just18summers.com for our parenting blog each Monday-Friday and for info about the Just 18 Summers novel.

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