Every parent is a teacher

The oldest of our brood of six grandchildren, oldest being the wise, ripe age of four, sat in church during the first part of a Crayonsservice with her parents recently and observed a baptism.

Later that afternoon she was found standing on a chair in the living room holding a bowl of water. Asked what she was doing, she told her mom and dad that she was going to baptize them.

Our son relayed the story, as it reminded him of his youngest sister. On several occasions she was found with a silver pitcher we had received as a wedding gift, a pitcher identical to the ones our church uses, along with a pack of saltines in hand, about to serve communion.

Sweet in both cases, but not entirely appropriate and so the girls in both scenarios were gently redirected. What the children were attempting to do was laudable: they were imitating the beauty and sacred moments that they had seen.

Every family, with its habits, practices and routines, is every child’s first classroom. Mothers and fathers are every child’s first teachers. In most cases, for better or for worse, parents are often a child’s most important and most influential teachers.

As one-time Secretary of Education Bill Bennett used to say, “Not every teacher is a parent, but every parent is a teacher.”

When people grouse, “What’s with kids today?” I often want to answer, “Look at some of the parents behind them.”

The school buses have been roaring through the neighborhood. I watch them round the corner and wonder what kind of school year they’ll have, not just the students, but the teachers. Some teachers will experience rewarding years and others will have week after week of headaches and misery.

It’s not a great mystery when young children use filthy language and rampage in the classroom. They most likely saw it at home, heard it at home and learned it at home. Nor is it a great mystery when children have an appetite for learning, a measure of self-control and a penchant for kindness. They, too, probably saw it at home, heard it at home and learned it at home.

When a parent abdicates the role of teacher and good things are no longer taught and reinforced in the home, peers without boundaries and a coarse culture with a ravenous appetite eagerly fill the vacuum.

There’s debate across the country right now over the Common Core State Standards, federal education standards for achievement. Every family has standards for achievement or a core curriculum as well.

Maybe that’s the greatest challenge of parenting—having to think on your feet and teach your core curriculum while juggling laundry, dinner, oil changes and that strong-willed kid with arms crossed, sulking in a chair.

In some homes, parents implement a core curriculum of respect, kindness, apologies, appropriate language and helpfulness. In other homes, parents may have forgotten the bar is theirs to set.

A new school year is always a fresh start, a time to regroup and reorganize. It’s a good time to ask what’s in your family’s core curriculum.