As a little boy, I knew what I would be asked when I was met by my parents after school, including Sunday School. Most of my friends were asked the same question. Here it is:
“Joel, what did you learn today?”
As a young adult, I became the Sunday School and Vacation Bible School teacher. I also did some substitute teaching at a private school. I noticed a momentous change in the after-school question kids were asked. Somewhere along the line, parents had been reprogramed. Here was the new question:
“Honey, did you have fun today?”
As an older adult, I direct a summer Bible camp for teens. This involves intense teaching and teacher training. It also happens to involve a lot of fun. This enables me to interact with many of the best parents out there, by far. Yet, when camp concludes and the parents arrive to reclaim their kids, it’s usually the “fun” question I hear them ask. Okay, maybe the “learn” question comes during the drive home. One can hope. In an y case, I am generalizing (fairly, I think) to spark reflection.
It’s like millions of parents got the same memo and follow it to a tee. There are exceptions but most kids today anticipate the “fun” question. After a quick ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ the process of forgetting what they just learned is s underway.
I had no trouble having fun as a kid, although it got me into trouble a few times. I am grateful for the freedom I had to have fun. But “fun” was never promoted to me as a mission in life. Learning was.
I lived in a world that needed to be explored. That was fun. Still is. I also lived in a world that needed to be understood. That became a mission. Sometimes it was fun but most times, it was hard work. Still is. But the mission remained.
Today, I am grateful to my parents and all those old fashioned adults who wondered what I had learned and then listened. Now I recognize their wonder as love. While picking up a few facts along the way, I learned the value of learning and the importance of finding meaning behind the facts. My teachers at school fed me valuable facts and helped me with their meaning, but it was mainly my parents who taught me my mission.
Memo to parents: No matter how many schools you send your kids to, you are their primary teachers (for good or ill). Take up that role in earnest and for good! Ask good questions and listen well. Give your kids a mission in life beyond having fun. Tell them:
“If you love to learn, you’ll learn to love.”