I Carved the Angel from the Marble
Part 1: The Dream Poster
In my first book, I Saw the Angel in the Marble, I wrote an article entitled, Identity-Directed Homeschooling. If you are reading this and don’t have access to the Identity-Directed article, I will do you a favor and give you the short version. Then the comments that follow will make more sense.
By the way, as you read the next three articles keep in mind that they are two sides of one argument. If they are not read this way, either might leave you thinking I am saying something I am not intending to say.
Anyway, in the Identity-Directed article I pointed out two opposing versions of how to think about a child. One is to see the child as our culture sees him: As a blank slate on which will be written all that is necessary for him to become a useful citizen. Said another way, the child is an empty vessel to be filled with all that society has decided is “necessary” so that he can grow up into a productive adult.
I would like to suggest a different approach: The child is neither a blank slate nor an empty vessel. Rather every child comes into the world with a fairly complete set of giftings, talents and callings that his Creator wants him to express during his life. One could articulate it this way: “The infant you hold in your arms was created, by His Father, from the foundation of the world, and in that child the Lord has put all the giftings, talents and callings He wants expressed from this individual so he may serve his generation well.” At a point in time, God said, “OK, [insert your child’s name]. This is your generation. Go into it and serve it well with what I have already put within you. Then return to Me for a ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’.”
The reason this is so important is that, should a set of parents realize the truth of this idea, a dramatic change occurs in the way that child is going to be raised
In the first few decades of the 1800’s a new philosophy entered into the intellectual community of our country and it permeated the halls of government. This was a new idea that children were more the responsibility of the State than of their own parents. Therefore the State had a right to determine what children should learn as they grew up. Eventually, the accepted definition of “education” became, “passing the culture from one generation to the next.” This culture included a well-defined set of academics. All children were to learn the same information. As our culture slowly shifted away from its Christian bearings, what children were to learn also shifted (slowly and subtly) but the requirement to “learn it” remained.
Most parents would never admit that they are “filling up” their children with all that our society (including our educational system) has determined needs to be “put into” the child. If, however, that child’s parents come to accept that the child already contains specific things from his Creator, the parents will seek to determine what is “in there”, will prioritized them in the child’s life, and will spend whatever time and resources are necessary to bring those giftings, callings and talents to maturity.
[Again, don’t hear what I am not saying: I am not saying there aren’t very important things every individual needs to know in order to live in a 21st century world]. To continue…
Each of these perspectives, “filling the bucket” or “identity-directed”, dictates an entirely different set of experiences during the years our children are growing up in their home.
One says, “Long ago, our society decided what a child should know and learn, and we must be sure these things are what gets put in him before he leaves our home.” The other says, “Let’s discover this child and give him the time, the resources and the encouragement so that, when he leaves our home, he has become awesome at what God has already put within him to do.”
One says, “The highest form of child rearing is to create an employable individual. Everyone already knows what kids need, so just purchase someone’s Scope & Sequence, prepackaged curriculum and make the child learn what it contains.” The other says, “”Train up a child [finish using Amplified Bible]. And, “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; not before ordinary men”
Most home schooling parents will give more thought to what they will use to teach a subject then they will give to why they are teaching that subject in the first place–or to why they are teaching it now. They just assume that what was done to them in school is what should be done to their own children. When this goes on for years, the child eventually decides that an adult will tell he what is important in life and what he should be learning. Finally, the child will come to believe that what he has a heart to do is not important and he will eventually disconnect from his own heart’s purpose. If asked, “What do you want to do?” he will say, “I don’t know.” And he will be telling the truth.
In many of our seminars we make an attempt to get children to reconnect with their heart by having them create a Dream Poster. This exercise has done wonders for both the children and their parents as each literally comes to see what is “hidden in the heart” of the child.
What is a Dream Poster?
The easiest way to describe the Dream Poster is to describe the components that go into making it. They include a white poster board (like the ones used for science experiments), a pair of scissors, a roll of double-sided removable tape (removable is the operative word here) and as many magazines as one can find from as many sources as possible.
What follows is the set of instructions I hand out when this exercise is done in groups:
- If the child is mature enough, this exercise should be done without the parents’ supervision. Children have a tendency to self-censor, meaning the child might not be honest if the parent is looking on and the child thinks something he would choose might be seen as inappropriate by the parent.
- Instruct the child to look through the magazines. The idea is to cut out any pictures that show a person doing something that, if your child were allowed to do the same activity, one of his or her interests, desires or dreams would be satisfied or fulfilled.
- When the child has found all the pictures that depict the child’s interests, desires and dreams, he should place them on the poster so that the most important one is in the very center. Place the rest of the pictures moving outward from the center as they assume their relative importance to the center picture.
- When the child has decided on the arrangement of the pictures, he should paste them down with the removable double-sided tape. This way they can be removed or rearranged later on, if necessary.
- Let the child show you his poster. Spend time allowing him to share the reasons he chose the pictures and their placement on the poster.
- Allow your child to remove, replace or rearrange any pictures on the poster so they meet the child’s criteria for the assignment.
- Put the poster in a prominent place. Encourage the child to adjust the placement of the pictures at any time, or to add and delete pictures as the child’s interests change their value or new ones become more important.
- Continually look at, and discuss, your child’s Dream Poster.
- Let each child make a poster.
- Make a poster for yourself.
Sometimes, as time permits, I ask parents to choose one child they think they know well and make a poster as if they were that child. When the child has made his own poster, the child and parents compare posters. It is often interesting for the parent to see how well they knew the child.
One of the points above: Continually look at, and discuss, your child’s Dream Poster, is very important. A family was attending one of my conferences. Several months earlier the parents had led their children through the exercise of creating Dream Posters. When I announced to the gathering that the children would be making Dream Posters, the mother confessed, “We put our children’s Posters in their bedrooms; but, after awhile, they had just become part of the walls.” To this remark, her twelve-year old daughter said, “Mom, I change my Poster all the time, but you never noticed!”
Consider that your child’s Dream Poster may be more important to him or her than you realize. When a group of children in Australia made Posters, not one of them would allow the gathered group of parents to even see what they had made. Why do you think this was so? I concluded that the children had put their very souls on their Posters and the Posters were too important to them to be treated lightly. (You may even discover that a child has added things to his poster to satisfy what he perceives are his parents’ desires for him).
The entire purpose of the Poster exercise is to discover what God has put within this child so that you can do with the information what is suggested above. This is by no means the only way God will show you what He has created in the child. Simply try asking Him and He will tell you in all sorts of ways: what your child enjoys doing in his spare time; what he doesn’t enjoy doing (now, don’t hear what I’m not saying. See the next article!); whether he likes people or machinery; etc.
There are also many resources that can help you with your discovery process. I would suggest the following:
Discover Your Children’s Gifts by Don & Katie Fortune
Dreamers, Discoverers & Dynamos (Formerly titled, The Edison-Trait Child) by Dr. Lucy Jo Palladino
Identity-Directed Home Schooling by Chris Davis (Seminar on CD)
Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
The next question you shoulb ask is, “And what do I do when I “find out” my child?”
“Finding out” is not something that is ever totally accomplished as the Lord is always fine tuning His own work. However, the end product of all our parenting should be to give each child the things an institutional setting (traditional schooling) cannot do: give them the Resources, and give them the Time, to work with those resources, in other words, to become awesome at what God has already put within them to become. This is the ultimate “win-win”: God receives glory because the child has been allowed to grow up getting to do the “good works” which God prepared beforehand that he should walk in because he is God’s workmanship. (Ephesians 2:10).
“But,” you say, “My child needs to live in this 21st Century industrialized world. Doesn’t he need to learn more than what he wants to know?
The next article, Part Two: Creating Our Own Scope & Sequence, will address this question.