Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Self-Directed Kindergartners

When our oldest had completed his first year of middle school, we decided the time had come to change schools. We had become increasingly concerned with the direction he school district was going. And then came the 6th grade English teacher, whose notes from school included spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. For seventh and eighth grades, he attended the local Catholic school (and we’re not Catholic).

Then came our youngest, eight years behind his brother. He had attended a local pre-school, and it was time for kindergarten. We had him on a waiting list at the Catholic school, but the odds of getting him in were long. We weren’t members of the church, and the early grades were the most crowded. So we expected to send him to the local elementary school.

A friend who was a teacher aide at the school had warned us about one particular kindergarten teacher, the one who believed in and practiced self-directed education for kindergartners. He class was chaos, the friend said, and children learned nothing. The previous year they had “self-educated” themselves into learning to play with toys better.

The letter assigning our youngest to a class arrived. It was that teacher. I called the Catholic school principal in desperation. Was there anything at all available? Anything?

It just so happened a spot had opened up that very day in the kindergarten class. A family had suddenly been transferred to another city.

Sold! I said.

The chaos of a self-directed kindergarten class was almost too painful to contemplate. To throw a child into a class where he or she had no previous relationship with the teacher, might know a few of the other students, and be told to develop their own education plan was a bit over the top, even for some of the experimental things being tried in the school district at the time. (This craziness was generally abandoned once the first grade teachers discovered the problems of self-directed kindergartners becoming first graders.)

There was no relationship, and no rules. There was chaos.

We don’t normally associate relationships with rules, but as Andy Stanley points out in The Grace of God, rules followed relationship in the Old Testament. We thing of the books of Moses as crammed with all the rules, regulations, shalt nots and do nots. And they are. But they came after God provided relationship. And the rules, also known as the Ten Commandments and the Levitical law, were designed for a people who had not been a nation for 400 years, who had previously been slaves, and did not have the first notion of how to govern themselves as a people.

The rules followed relationship. Grace was there first, before the law. In profound ways, the law was a demonstration of God’s grace. The law was not a tool for God to micro-manage their lives, but to help people live and work together.

God saw what happened with the people while Moses was with him on Mount Sinai. The self-directed Israelites decided to build themselves an idol, like the surrounding nations and tribes had. They whined and complained and pitched temper tantrums. They wanted their toys, and they wanted them now.

Imagine what their first-grade teachers would have thought.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’re discussing The Grace of God. Too see more posts on this chapter, “Redeemed by Grace,” please visit Sarah at LivingBetween the Lines.

Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Maureen said...

Such an interesting and deft way you have of moving your discussion from kindergartners to grace and God. More than once I needed both to deal with my only.

jasonS said...

What a great analogy, and so true. The deeper the level of relationship the more costly it is to violate trust. The rules aren't meant to restrict our freedom or make sure we don't have any fun, they help us maintain relationship. Great picture you painted here. Thanks Glynn.

TC Avey said...

I have a friend who parents her child like that...going out to eat with them is a nightmare! Plus now that my own son is getting older I don't want them to mingle because her child's behavior is NOT acceptable to me.
This is a great way of explaining our relationship God. He loves us enough to give us rules.

Rundelane Blog said...

Relationship first. Grace first. Rules as a demonstration of that grace. Thanks for the way you break it down for us.