Faith & Learning Blog
Connecting Faith and Learning Blog
I occasionally get asked by friends or family members about when I plan on “doing something better with my life.” I am experienced enough at this point to know the intended direction of the question. What they are really asking about is whether or not I am still happy about being at Calvin Christian School.
I have been attending Calvin Christian School for 18 years. I was a student at Calvin for 7 years, and I’ve been teaching at Calvin for 11 years. My wife, also an alumni, has taught at Calvin for 3 years and is starting her 4th. I am also blessed to be a Calvin parent as all three of my children now attend Calvin. Looking at all of this can cause people to realize that Calvin has been a part of my life for more than half the years that I have been alive.
My answer to the question about whether or not I’m still happy with Calvin is “yes, absolutely.” Calvin Christian School is a blessing to my family. My wife and I are both employed by Calvin. It’s a wonderful place to work, but Calvin would be a part of our lives regardless of our employment. Calvin is more than just a place to work or a place to send our kids. Calvin is a community and an extension of my own family. I know that not only are my children going to receive a top tier education from master teachers, but they are also going to be loved and raised by those same teachers in the Christian faith.
Now that all three of my children are in school, they will be spending more time with their teachers and friends than with me or my wife. That can be a scary thought; however, I know that through Calvin, my kids will be surrounded by teachers, families, and friends that have the same biblical beliefs and values that my family does. Calvin Christian School is going to help raise my children to be lifelong learners and children of God.
"I get to work with young people on a daily basis and inspire them about God’s creation. "
As a teacher at Calvin, I get to be a part of that family and process. I get to work with young people on a daily basis and inspire them about God’s creation. I don’t feel the need to move up to a “better career.” I already have that amazing career, and I get to go back to it in two weeks.
There is a reason why top Silicon Valley executives are saying no to the smartphone until high school for their children. In fact, there is a long list of reasons.
SMARTPHONES ARE ADDICTIVE
New research shows dependence on your smartphone may produce some of the same addictive brain responses similar to alcohol, drug and gambling addictions. 60 Minutes recently featured a former Google manager warning America about the addictive nature of smartphones. He compared smartphones to slot machines in your children’s pocket constantly persuading them to crave more. The tech industry intentionally designs smartphone apps and social media for people to use for long periods of time because this is how they make their money.
SMARTPHONES ARE AN ACADEMIC DISTRACTION
Elementary and middle school years establish the foundation for your child’s academic success. Children learn how to productively manage time, projects and homework. Introducing a constant distraction with a smartphone is paving a path for academic mediocrity. Studies show that after a child receives a smartphone the child’s grades are likely to suffer. Another study found that children who attend schools with smartphone bans did better on tests.
SMARTPHONES IMPAIR SLEEP
Studies show that the use of smartphones and other portable devices with screens affects the quantity and quality of sleep in children and teens. Adolescents are likely restless because they anticipate receiving texts and social media messages from friends, which affects their nighttime routine. Some children even wake up in the middle of the night to check texts or social media. Sleep disturbance in childhood is known to have adverse effects on health, including poor diet, obesity, weakened immune system, stunted growth, and mental health issues.
SMARTPHONES INTERFERE WITH RELATIONSHIPS
Many parents regret allowing their child to have a smartphone because they have experienced the way the smartphone is destructive to relationships. The parent child relationship suffers. Children are often inattentive with the constant distraction the phone brings. Face to face relationships dwindle as children shift their time and energy to investing in their online “friendships.”
SMARTPHONES INCREASE THE RISK FOR ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION
Children are not emotionally equipped to navigate tricky social media waters at such an early age. Viewing someone else’s highlight reel on social media often leads youth to think they are missing out or are not enough compared with their peers. Research shows that the more time someone uses social media the more likely they are to be depressed.
In addition, when children overuse technology, the constant stimulation of the brain causes the hormone cortisol to rise. Too much cortisol can inhibit a child from feeling calm. The loss of tranquility can lead to serious anxiety orders.
SMARTPHONES PUT YOUR CHILD AT RISK FOR CYBER BULLYING
Bullying is no longer limited to the playground or locker room. Bullies seek to harm children through social media and texts often making retreat for the victim impossible. The most common medium used for cyber bullying is the phone. Nearly 43% of children have been bullied online. Only one in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse.
SMARTPHONES EXPOSE CHILDREN TO SEXUAL CONTENT
Smartphones have enabled children to view pornography anywhere. Pornography marketers intentionally target youth online to lure them to dangerous images and videos. One study showed that 42% of online youth users have been exposed to online pornography. Of those, 66% reported unwanted exposure to pornography often through online ads.
Not only are children viewing sexual content with their phones but they are creating it as well. More and more children are “sexting” (sending sexual text messages and or explicit images). Also, various apps open the doors to sexual predators seeking to track, groom and harm our children.
TECHNOLOGY EXECUTIVES BAN SMARTPHONES FOR THEIR CHILDREN
According to a New York Times piece, many technology executives wait until their child is 14 before they allow them to have a phone. While these teenagers can make calls and text, they are not given a data plan until 16. If leaders of digital giants like Google, eBay, Apple and Yahoo are delaying the smartphone then should this not give us pause? Executives that flourish on the success of technology are protecting their children from the smartphone. Should we not do the same? Also, Bill Gates has spoken out in an interview recently saying he doesn’t think children should have their own smartphones until they’re 14. The move has been lauded by technology and parenting experts, who have argued that parents should resist the urge to indulge children in tech for as long as possible.
Interested in taking the pledge? Check it out here: https://www.waituntil8th.org/
Just saying the words brings me frightening flashbacks of puberty and pimples. Of insecurity and awkwardness. (not to mention, bad hair and braces.)
Really, there may be no more challenging time in life than those middle school years.
(For my international readers, this is roughly from age 10-14.)
Raising four boys of my own, I am keenly aware of all that they go through to transition from boyhood to manhood. Their body, mind, and emotions are changing so quickly, it’s hard to keep up.
And parents, here’s what I know: If there is ever a time your son needs your support, it is in their Middle School years.
Your Middle School son may be pulling away more now…He may be telling you that he’s really grown up now, and ready for all kinds of freedoms. He might tell you that his friends get to do this and that and play this and that, and you’re the a really lame parent if you don’t do the same.
I know, I know.
Because, many parents hit the middle school years and then step back. Maybe there is an awkwardness to this new season in their son’s life, or perhaps the parents just get busy or hit burnout (I get that,) but pulling away and giving kids too much freedom at this age is premature, and can be extremely dangerous.
Sure–you may have taught your kids basic values and morals in their younger years, but now is the time to help them apply it all. Middle School is an ideal time to mentor your son in how to practically work out the character qualities that he learned as a boy.
So even if it seems like the other parents are giving freedoms and privileges that you are not–I say to you, Mom and Dad: Don’t feel pressured to do the same.
You’re better than that.
You know your son better than anyone, and you can make the call when the time is right.
The tricky thing with middle school boys is that there is a huge spectrum of developmental and maturity level among them. You may have a sixth grader who is developmentally still like a fourth grader. On the other hand, you may have an eighth grader who looks and sounds like a seventeen year-old. Things are happening at an inconsistent rate, wildly varying from one young body to the next.
And perhaps your greatest job during these years is to study that boy, and determine just where he is on that spectrum. You, the parent, will know the very best where your son is developmentally and maturity-wise, and you must parent him accordingly. Not according to a number (grade or age.) Not according to what his friends are doing. According to what is the very best thing for you son, in the stage he is currently in.
Hitting the middle school years is like getting to half-time of an important game: You may be ahead now, but the game’s not over. Towel-off, get a big drink of water, and then gear up for the second half. You want to finish strong.
To be fair—There are some middle school students who are very mature, responsible and self-directed. (They’re probably also first borns, but that is another post.) If you have a super mature middle schooler, then open up my “teenage son” post, and begin to incorporate those ideas into your parenting….Slowly, but surely.
But here’s my thing: If they think they are so grown up, give them a chance to prove it.
Example, from a home near mine.
A middle schooler wants an iPhone. His parents had originally told him the soonest he would get one was when he turned thirteen. They told him what maturity level they wanted to see before they would get him a phone. “Most thirteen year olds aren’t that mature yet, but we’ll let you decide.”
Thirteen came, and the parents said no.
Not because he is a bad kid, but because there were a few areas they wanted to see their son mature in. And a phone is a perfect way to help speed up the process.
They reminded him that the phone was dependent on a maturity level, not an age.
And they reminded him that the kind of maturity they thought an iphone-bearing Middle Schooler should have looked like:
Doing chores without being told.
Taking good care of your things, and not losing or breaking them.
Treating your younger siblings with a mature attitude.
Making good choices on t.v. shows, games, and use of your iPod–without constant supervision.
So, they explained, if you are thirteen and doing all of that, you are probably ready to handle a phone. However, if you are thirteen and bickering constantly with a younger brother…or forgetting to take out the trash…or losing your iPod every other week, then you are probably not ready for a phone.
And they made it just that simple.
My parenting MANTRA: WITH FREEDOM COMES RESPONSIBILITY.
You want more freedom? Show me how responsible you are!
(Please keep in mind with the iPhone example–this son is homeschooled and he is not away from his parents very often He really doesn’t “need” a phone. Some kids in different situations actually need to use a phone, so no judgement. The freedom they have with that phone is still something to consider, but…moving on–)
WHAT EVERY MIDDLE SCHOOL BOY NEEDS MOST FROM HIS PARENTS:
1. Love and support. Tons of it.
2. Supervision; with ever-so-gradual increasing freedoms.
3. Help with friends! Give them guidance and counsel. My favorite quote: “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” Meet their friends, and get to know them as well.
4. Self control. Talk about it. What does it look like? How to apply it.
5. Lots of communication. Talk to him about growing up. Puberty. Choices. Girls. PEER PRESSURE! Please get Dad in on this. Talk to him and let him talk to you.
6. Activity!! Your Middle Schooler is all pent-up with energy, stress, and hormones. Get him moving every single day and it will help tremendously.
7. Laughter. He may not have a fully matured sense of humor yet, but he is getting there. Laugh with your son and enjoy him.
8. Hugs and touch. Mom AND Dad–he needs these from both of you.
9. Healthy food. A Middle Schooler is old enough to understand that his food choices will affect his health, his acne, and his moods. Try hard to have healthy food at home, and help him make good choices when he is not home.
10. Positive places to hang out. Middle Schoolers begin to crave fitting in and hanging out somewhere besides just at home. Find a good youth group, sports teams, or clubs. Not just hanging out down the street, at the skate park or beach, but give them opportunities to connect with good people in good places.
11. Tons of encouragement. “You are growing into such an amazing young man!” “Wow, look at your muscles!” “I’m so proud of WHO you are becoming.” “You are making really good choices!” Etc etc etc. Do not hold back on encouragement!
I should add here that as for our family–faith is woven throughout each item on that list. Our kids know that we love because God first loved us. We use Bible verses to teach self control, and to help them make choices, and so on. So, though I did not specify this in each point, there is very naturally a spiritual element to each thing on that list!
Middle school can be awkward, and challenging–with moods swinging and hormones cranking. It can also be a positive time, as kids gain self-confidence and maturity. Be involved in your kids’ lives to make these the best years possible!
Read more from Monica Swanson HERE.
In a couple of weeks I will retire from the United States Navy after serving 30-years. As I reflect upon those 30-years filled with changing jobs every 3-years, moving multiple times to include from Virginia to California to Japan to Virginia, finding a new church to attend, my daughters changing schools, changing doctors, changing or finding new friends there is one constant in the whole process and that is change.
Change is a part of my family’s life and my life. Change is also a part of your life as well. Whether it is moving to the next grade in school, graduation, changing schools, moving, changing jobs, or getting a job no matter where we turn change is a constant in all of our lives. there is a wonderful little book that I have read over the years entitle “Who Moved My Cheese.” This book speaks about how we deal with change through the four characters of Hem, Haw, Sniff, or Scurry. What one learns in reading the book is not only does Change happen but, you need to anticipate change, monitor change, adapt to change quickly, move with the cheese (be adventuresome), enjoy change, and always be ready for change again and again. This is all well and good.
What this book does not talk about, and in particular as Christians, is that there is another constant in our lives of change. A constant that I have seen and continually experience over the past 30-years of living change in the United States Navy is the presence of God. As the Israelites were being led by Joshua and facing all sorts of change coming into the promised land the Israelites were reminded: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go,” (Joshua 1:9).
Throughout Scripture, in particular the Old Testament, we see and hear how God is always present. Whether it is journeying with Abram (later Abraham), Joseph, Moses and Joshua, or Mary and Joseph headed to Bethlehem, and later with Jesus to and from Egypt change is a constant. As constant change is, there is a greater constant in our lives: God.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go,” (Joshua 1:9).