By Angela Baker
My 12 year old daughter, our second child, was visibly disgruntled about something during our meeting.
I met with her afterward and we had an enlightening heart-to-heart talk.
She expressed a lot of disjointed frustrations until we hit on the real issue.
She wanted very much to have the same privilege to study as her older, 15 year old brother.
I was surprised by this because she already spends many hours of her day reading, writing, painting, gardening, cooking etc. and I try very hard not to interrupt her activities.
What she wanted was to be recognized as a scholar and given the privileges and responsibilities that go with it.
When I asked her what phase she sees herself in, she determinedly, and with a hint of an excited smile, told me she is a scholar.
She asked if she could go to her room and write out her summer study plan and then show it to me. I, of course, encouraged her to do so.
Later, as I passed her closed bedroom door, I noticed a newly posted sign that read: “Leader in progress. Please do not disturb.”
A few hours passed and I received her written study plan in my “mail box.”
She started by saying, “Mom, you and I think differently.”
I wanted to cheer! I must be doing something right! I am so glad that we do think differently and that she still owns and courageously uses her ability to think independently.
I am glad this has not been squelched right out of her and I love and appreciate (most of the time) how we do think differently.
The whole experience took me so much by surprise. She is now a recognized scholar in our home.
She has a family stewardship and she studies with a great deal of vigor and even direction.
Really I don’t see a lot of difference in what she was doing before and what she is doing now.
The biggest difference is in how she is regarded and treated in our home and this is very important to her.
She now has a responsibility and stewardship and is accountable to me on a daily basis for these.
She also has the privilege of structuring her own study time and the assurance that if she acts the part of a scholar, I will not disturb her study time.
Though my daughter’s sign said, “Leader in progress, please do not disturb,” she wants and needs me to be involved.
Her sign did not say, “Please ignore.”
What she wants is the space to grow and the opportunity to develop her self-leadership skills.
What she needs is the uninterrupted time and space in which to dig deeply into her studies. Yet she wants and needs my involvement.
There are leaders in your homes as well as mine. How can we be involved without disturbing our “leaders in progress?”
Let me offer three suggestions that have guided my involvement with the scholars in my home. The first has to do with the structure of our time.
As my six children have gotten older, and I find myself balancing the needs of youth as well as toddlers, it has become increasingly important to have a method to our madness.
We have a daily time structure that supports who we are and what we are working to accomplish.
Woven into that structure are the family activities we feel are essential to our purpose and growth.
We have time for family scriptures and prayer, a time for work, a time for family reading, a time to unwind, and ponder and connect with one another, and especially a good-sized chunk of uninterrupted time for individual study/projects/play.
( I should qualify the word uninterrupted. It bests describes this time for my children and hints at the adjective I wish described my personal study time.)
We are fairly consistent with this structure though we may not follow it exactly every day of the week.
We are consistent enough that the children notice when something is missing and consistent enough to make it possible and very fun to bag the structure for a day or two opting for activities out of the ordinary.
This structure has made transition into scholar phase a natural process for two reasons.
First, it gives the love of learners time to get involved in their projects, books, and study.
This leads them to develop interests and passions that other wise could not grow.
These interests and passions are the spring boards into scholar phase and give pretty good hints about personal mission.
My daughter has often chosen to paint during this chunk of uninterrupted time.
Repeatedly, after hours of involvement in a painting or creative project she has suddenly run for a pencil and paper and written a poem.
In each of these poems she intuitively explores a different aspect of who she is, gets hints of her personal mission and what her place in the world might be. The following is one of the poems she wrote as a result of these uninterrupted chunks of time.
Through my window I can see
The many things of majesty:
Poems of children written here,
For their friends and loved ones dear;
Poems of fairies—run and leap!
Poems of love for all to keep;
Poems for young and poems for old;
Poems that tell of hidden gold!
Of all these things I’ll write for you
Poems that inspire you to do
What helps one through life,
Helps one fight the hidden knife,
That makes of life a thing of woe.
And so it’s time for me to show
What I can do and what I know:
The poems that through my window I see,
Can only be written that way by me.
My daughter has a natural inclination towards writing and other creative expression and her uninterrupted chunks of time have allowed her to explore and strengthen these.
My son, whose interests are in science and math, has spent time taking machines apart then studying the various technologies connected with the machines.
The discipline to use time effectively and wisely is an essential self-leadership skill and one that is only developed by doing it.
Through our family time structure the children learn the value of a schedule, how to put first things first, and how to be spontaneous when needed.
When they transition to scholar phase their time becomes more fully their stewardship and they learn through trial and error how to wisely use this precious commodity.
The second reason structure facilitates scholar phase is that almost instinctively my young scholars begin to structure their own time and study.
In fact that is one of the privileges of a scholar in our home—to have full responsibility to structure their time.
They may still participate in certain family activities, but they get to structure their time.
As long as they are true to their scholar stewardships they have the assurance that I will honor their personal time structure and will not disturb their studies.
The second suggestion is best described through the analogy of a seed.
This year our family garden has struggled because of the weather: too much rain and cool temperatures actually discouraged the growth of certain seeds in our garden.
We planted corn in late May and waited expectantly for it to come up.
Weeks of cooler, rainy weather passed and nothing happened.
We planted again in June and once again waited for weeks for the little seedlings to show themselves.
Finally, almost instantly, our garden sprouted neat little rows of tender corn seedlings.
Like magic our corn seedlings appeared.
That is how it seemed.
It seemed to be an all of a sudden thing.
Really there were principles at work, and growth taking place for weeks before we actually witnessed the wonder of the tiny seedlings unfolding from the crusty earth.
Similarly, the seeds of leadership can only germinate under certain nurturing principles.
Like our first corn seeds, too much of one thing and not enough of another, disrupts the growth of the seed.
Our job is to put the principles of leadership education in place and allow the seeds to grow.
If the principles are in place the seeds are very likely to thrive and grow to their God-given potential.
To trust this process is easier said than done, especially if we are unsure of the process of leadership education because we haven’t really experienced it ourselves.
Putting the principles in place and allowing them to work without disturbing the process takes faith.
It just wouldn’t work to be digging up the seed every so often to analyze and inspect and see if it was growing.
Obviously this would disrupt the growth of the seed. Trust that if the principles are in place the seeds will grow.
Each seed has its own growth time table and special needs.
Some need more water, others cool weather, still others need the heat of summer to come to their full potential. This is very true of the children—leaders in progress—in our homes.
One reason my daughter’s transition to scholar surprised me so much is that for my older son, scholar phase has been much slower in coming. His transition was not as dramatically marked.
His transition took years and I still wonder if he is really a scholar even yet, but I am trusting his timetable and working the principles that can make his leadership education a reality.