405 | Hold Tight (But Not Too Tight) (Sean Allen)
One of the things that the homeschooling movement has sought to address is the inordinate degree of separation that modern society has inculcated between parents and their children. Bringing children home has helped to restore the privilege of acting as the primary influence in their lives back where it belongs–with the parents. However, as good as the desire is to hold tight to our children and shield them from harmful influences, we must be careful not to hold them too tight (particularly older teenagers) and thereby restrict their access to those who might influence them for good and who may be the only one who can finish the work of truth in certain areas of their lives.
Sean Allen is the founder of The Well Ordered Homeschool, husband to his beautiful bride Caroline and a proud father of eight. He has a bachelor of fine arts in graphic design and is passionate about creating materials to assist parents in the incredibly challenging, yet surpassingly beautiful, work of schooling and training their children at home.
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Sean Allen Hello. Welcome to the Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Sean Allen and I am one of the many hosts here on the podcast. Since you're listening to this, I'm guessing you already know that homeschooling is both incredibly challenging and incredibly beautiful. Every week we're here doing a little guidance, some helpful counsel, and a whole lot of encouragement your way as you navigate this busy, yet blessed journey of educating your children at home. Now, even though the show is called Homeschool Solutions, it should come as no surprise to you that we do not have the answer to every homeschool related question. But if you come away with nothing else, our hope is that today's episode will point you to Jesus Christ and that you will seek His counsel as you train your children in the way they should go.
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Well, hello and welcome. Welcome, welcome to the show today. Thank you for joining me. You may have already picked up on the fact that I don't sound that great. I do not. I don't feel good. I'm sick. And but, you know, the wonderful producers of this show, God bless them, they put up with me and I'm such a procrastinator, I hate to say it. I've got too many irons in the fire. And before you know it, I get a little text message from his wonderful lady, one of the producers of this show, and she's so good to work with and she says, "Hey, Sean, when are we going to get your episode?" I'm like, Oh, drat, drat, drat, drat. I thought I just recorded an episode and now it's, you know, we're three weeks, four weeks down the road and I need another one. And they do such a great job, they're so patient with me and I'm such a...I feel like I'm the black sheep of the whole...the podcast roster on this show. But I told...they send out a little reminder like, hey we need an episode. And I said okay I'll get to that. And then I didn't get to it. And then they said, You know, just a reminder, we really need your episode. And I said, I'll get that to you tonight, got to wait till everybody goes to bed, because a lot of times it's just...it's too noisy around here to record anything. And I got back home late last night and I said, I got to record this day. I was getting sick. I felt terrible. And I said, I can't do this. I just went to bed. I was hoping, hoping, hoping that I get up and I feel a little better. I don't feel that much better, but I've got to get this episode to them so that's why I sound bad. I apologize. I'm really sorry that I don't sound that great, but I have to record this and I do have something to say so no worries there. I don't know how long I'm going to talk. I'm going to try to keep this short, but you know I've said that before and the mouth just keeps running.
So anyway, I've usually...the episodes that I present to you come from a thought or a circumstance or a situation that's cropped up of late that I'm just like, Hmm. And it just kind of gets you to thinking. And I had one of those here recently and it really caused me to be so grateful for something. It made me reminisce. It made me think back to years gone by and it made me so grateful for where we are now, and in particular where my children are now. And let me be quite honest with you, I could talk to you about this...maybe not this subject in particular, but the things leading up to it for hours and hours, because it really has everything to do with Caroline and I's history, our past and where we came from, where we were when our firstborn came into the world and where we are now 20 years later. We've learned so much and I'm so glad and thankful that the Lord is so patient with us. Me in particular, I'm the worst offender because...I'm trying to think where to go with this. Depending on where I start, this could get really lengthy, but let me just start what I'm thankful for. How about that? I am thankful that my children, my oldest children in particular, because I think they've grown to the age to where they're benefiting from this the most, that my children have access to good influences outside of myself. And that really was the impetus behind the title of this episode: Hold Tight (But Not Too Tight.) Because here's the thing, let me be careful with how I present this, because, again, it could really morph into something very lengthy. So for the longest time, if you've been at homeschooling for any period of time, let's say you were being homeschooled in the 90s or you were homeschooling in, you know, 90s, late 90s, early 2000s, anywhere in there...and there are still elements of these these belief systems in existence today, but it's not nearly as prevalent as what it was during those times. You're going to pick up on what I'm talking about. If you're new to homeschooling and this is all kind of fresh, you might be scratching your head a little bit, but...
You know, when Caroline and I were first married, early 2000s, we...I've told a little bit of this story before, but we were like...parents and teenagers are very similar, let me put it that way. New parents! New parents, I should say. New parents and teenagers. How are they similar? They're similar because. They think that they've got pretty much everything figured out and they don't. Not all, but most. This is usually the...I don't want to be too critical here, but that's just the way that it usually is. And well, how could it be otherwise? They haven't had the experience that you and I have, they haven't been through the things that we've been through they haven't been... They haven't had their ears clapped back, you know, 500 times to get to where they actually learned the lesson, you know, that the Lord is trying to get across to them. And so, you know, for teenagers, they've got a lot of time on their hands. They don't have a lot of responsibility. And I remember one time counseling with a young man and he was wrestling with harsh judgment towards those that were around him. And he was just very frustrated with the way that the adults, the parents and those who were older than him that were around him were living their lives and it just got so frustrating for him. Well, they're not doing this or they're not doing that. And why are they so lax here? And so on and so forth. And so I was listening to him and he said, I don't want to be this way, I don't want to be this angry. And I said, Well, let me let you in on a little secret. Like the older you get, the messier life gets. And what I meant by that is that the more difficult it gets to be able to rein in all of the goings on in your life, and really what it amounts to is have control over the goings on in your life. You begin to lose control. But in other areas you gain it. And what it is it's a sifting period and you begin to gain control...more control over areas that present themselves as being absolutely necessary. And those things that are not absolutely necessary begin to slough themselves off.
And so it's a whittling down. And you have...because you have so much to be concerned with, you begin to pour more and more energy into and begin to recognize more and more things that are actually important. And the rest of everything else, you just have to let go of. And for young people, when they see that letting go, they feel—some young people—they feel like that's sloppy. Like, why are you living such a sloppy life? You should be more conscientious about this, that or the other. It's like, well, you don't…I don't know how to communicate this to you. Young parents are the same way. And so they look at the parents that are around them, and particularly if you fellowship with individuals who are large family-minded, and you're looking at the poor mother who has six, seven, eight children, and she is just, you know, she looks tired, she's got the dark circles under her eyes. She looks, you know, she doesn't look very well put together, maybe she didn't get makeup on that morning. She's happy, but she's tired. And you're looking at that and you're like, you know, that doesn't seem right to me. I'm not going to be that way when I'm a mother. Well, you don't have six children. So quite frankly, let me just say this for all of you out there who wouldn't say it yourselves, you don't know what you're talking about. You don't have a clue. And so you will eventually, if you allow the Lord to work with you, just as he worked with that mother. That mother probably had, you know, the best intentions in the world. She had all these high hopes for what her life was going to look like and what motherhood was going to look like, and then, you know, one child after another came and you begin to alter your expectations. That's not bad. Now, I mean, some people can spin out of control. There's no doubt about that. But what you're seeing is not necessarily what you would term 'out of control'. Maybe in your estimation it is, but not in hers. She knows better. The fact that she's raising these six children and they're bright and happy and well-adjusted, and she's happy. And, you know, she’s saying to herself, I have six children. You know what? I'd have another. You know, that's success. It really is. Because she has found her calling and she knows that she is where she's supposed to be.
But for a young parent, again, there are certain cues and certain characteristics that they pick up on in other people's lives that they misinterpret. And I was…Caroline and I were like that, too. Even with parents that to this day, I would say you wouldn't characterize as being good parents, I mischaracterized them and how they were handling their home life and raising their family. So that's why, you know, when we started out, you know, a lot of these...getting back to the movements and, you know, these institutions or these programs that were very prevalent, I think, in the conservative Christian world at that time. There were a lot of books and a lot of seminars and whatnot that was presenting material that was slanted a certain way. And the whole motivation, or at least part of the motivation behind these movements was like, Hey, look, the underpinnings of our society are beginning to crumble and we have participated in a lot of the more modern and humanistic versions of the institutions that have been in our society for, you know, 20, 30, 50, 60 years now, and it's not working—we're talking about public school and pop culture and, you know, all those sorts of things—and there was a backlash against that. So there were a lot of movements that rose up to push back against the influence of those institutions. And really, what it all amounted to was is that these institutions, these programs, this media that we have been partaking of and participating in for lo this many years has had the effect of separating us from our children or our children from us. There's a division. And that is still very prevalent today, I will say. If you have eyes to see, you can see that the, you know, one of the main objectives of a lot of these bad movements, I will say, is to get your children separated from you, separated from your influence, separated from your physical presence. You know, just get them away from you. And so, you know, that's been going on for the longest time and so these counter movements cropped up and said, Hey, that's not right. We need to do the exact opposite. We need to get the children back home. We need to get them back in your presence as much as possible because you're the ultimate authority over their life—earthly authority, I guess you should say—and, you know, the more influence that you could have over them, the better off you will be, the better off the church will be, the better off society will be.
And so we listened to and read a lot of this stuff, and it just really made a lot of sense to us. And there's a lot of truth to it, but here's one thing that...maybe an unintended consequence that came as a result of some of these movements was that we felt we were holding on too tight. And again, getting back to the title of this episode—Hold Tight (But Not Too Tight)—I was holding too tight. What I mean by that is, as I said, you know, I became very mistrustful or mistrusting towards anybody who was not me. And so there were certain teachers, the heads of certain movements were acceptable and trustworthy. We listened to them because they're very magnetic, very well spoken, had amassed these huge followings and, you know, their programs and their institutions were flourishing, or so it seemed. And, you know, they'd fill arenas—and some people football stadiums full of people—and you're like, Well the message is ringing true here and so we listen to them. But everybody else was, you know, even your closest friends and your confidants, we would diverge on certain issues. It's like, I'm not going to allow you to teach my child, I'm not going to allow you to have any undue influence over his life because that's my responsibility. And he or she, you know, my son or my daughter they're mine and your sons and your daughters are yours, and we'll just agree to go our separate ways and have, you know, the ultimate sway over the upbringing of our children's lives and leave it at that. And that was a positive movement in the sense that it's far better than sending your children off to, you know, a government institution for, you know, six, seven, eight hours a day or longer and just having them for the evenings and the weekends and, you know, sitting in church for one hour on a Sunday. You know, that's much better. But you've got to be very careful. I really do believe that the pendulum swung too far the other way.
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And here's the thing that I'm so grateful that—I don't know exactly how to describe it. I'm so grateful that I had ears to hear, I guess, or eyes to see. It took a lot. It took far more than what it should have because the Lord is trying to work with me and teach me that that's not the way. Here's the thing, Sean. You're not trustworthy all the time. And you're not the best influence over your child's life all the time. That you're human—you're man—and you're not the earthly representation of Me to your son or to your daughter. You make mistakes. And here's one that you made. And, oh, here's another one. And, oh, the way that you reacted to that, that was not Christ-like. And, oh, you misinterpreted that thing, that one particular thing that your child did. You thought that they were being deceitful or dishonest or cruel. In reality, it was the exact opposite but because you have a natural inclination to believe the worst in your children and that it's your responsibility to stay about all on godliness from the soul of your child, you take it upon yourself to be, you know, judge, jury and executioner. It's just...it's a road too far. You don't understand. You're a child just like they're a child. You're my child. And I'm trying to teach you the same way you're trying to teach your child. I'm trying to teach both of you. And I have to go through you oftentimes to get to your son or to your daughter. And let me tell you something, that's rough. It's rough, Sean, because you don't see things clearly all the time. You go through periods in your life where you see things very unclearly most of the time, because you're clouded by a belief system or by a set of doctrines that is not founded or rooted in truth.
And again, I know I'm being a little cryptic with some of these things, but I didn't necessarily want to call out names or, you know, various movements. Again, if you know, you know. And if you don't, just let me...the whole point of this episode is to make you aware that, you know, there are other influences outside of yourself that your children should be exposed to. Now, do I think that ultimately you should be the one, you should be the predominant influence over your child's life? Absolutely. Absolutely. Because you are uniquely qualified to be that influence in such a way that no one else is. And you have gifts and callings and strengths and you have—I mean, you gave...the child was born into your home. They're blood of your blood and flesh of your flesh. That alone makes for a very mysterious and enduring relationship, the likes of which, you know, no other person on earth can compare to. But that being said, you are still flesh. And you are libel and capable of erring, of making mistakes, of misjudging your children. There are also nuances to your relationship with your child that in some situations it makes it unlikely that they are going to listen to your counsel. And I know that that's frustrating to you. It's frustrating to me because...well, let me just speak for myself—you know, I think I'm somethin'. And I think I'm your dad. And, you know, it's this mentality of I brought you into the world, I can take you out kind of a thing, which I never...you know what I'm talking about. Parents used to talk like that. And if you don't listen to me, you won't listen to God kind of thing. Well, like you are taking too much on yourself. You really are. You have a very great degree of authority over the life of your child, but you're not the ultimate authority over their life. And that resides in heaven.
And so that being the case, really what your duty is as a mother or as a father is to get out of the way. Get out of the way. But sometimes when people hear me say that they're thinking like, well, what do you mean? like, just leave my child to themselves? No, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying there needs to be less of you and more of the Lord Jesus in the way in which you deal with your children. See, when they see you, they see him. You know, there's a very fine line of balance that most parents walk when they're trying to be like Christ in the life of their child is that they...some of them actually believe that they are Christ or they act like Christ. In the sense of I'm going to take on to myself the same degree of authority that Christ ought to have over your life. And that's inappropriate. That's dangerous. That's toxic in the life of your child. Now, when I say be like Christ, I mean submit yourself to him and ask him in any given moment or any given situation, what would you have me do here? How would you have me to act? Does this child need mercy or do they need judgment? And sometimes they need one and sometimes they need the other, sometimes they need the opposite of what you think they need. Christ is the only one that knows for certain what would be best for them. And sometimes—not all the time, I want to say that this is certainly more rare but maybe less rare than what you were thinking— sometimes what they need is counsel from someone that's not you.
So hold tight, but not too tight. And that is what I've been so thankful for of late is that my two sons in particular, they have...there are probably four, five men, maybe more, at church, the church that we go to who are older than them, but not too old. And then there are some older gentlemen as well, but in particular, the ones that are like, oh, I don't know, eight, nine, ten years older than them, right in that range. They have gotten so much good counsel from them and have been so blessed by their influence in their life. And you know something that is very striking about that is those men are not me. And I want to desperately be a good influence in the life of my sons, I want them to be able to trust me, I want them to be able to know and to feel in their heart of hearts that I have their best interests in mind, that I would die for them, and that I'm trying to lay my life down for them on a daily basis. And I fail, fail, fail, fail but I'm trying. And I want them to know that. But I also want them to know that God is working in other men's lives as well. And he has shown them things in ways that he has not shown me. And they have a peculiar perspective on various truths, and the way in which I present them to them may not be as palatable as what another man might present. And I may have told my son, you know, tried to get something across to them on multiple occasions, and it's not until that selfsame truth is presented to them by another brother or another individual that it actually clicks. And I have to humble myself and say, thank you, God. It's not about me. It's about what's true. And now my son has acquired that which is true. He's accepted that for what it is. And as much as I would like to be the person, you know, my selfish, prideful self—as much as I would like to be the one that can gain the credit for that, I have to leave it aside because that's not what is important. That's foolish. What's important is that your child acquires truth. From whatever source that it might be found.
Now, again, I want to be clear—I think certainly when your children are young and as they grow, you know, into their teenage years, most of that influence should come from you. But as they grow older, you can begin to relax your grip on their upbringing. And I hope you understand what I'm saying, I'm not saying turn them loose. You've got to be careful with that. I think I had a whole nother episode on that because you can absolutely ruin all the work that you've put into your child if you let loose too soon, but look for those trusted advisers. Look for those individuals that you have discerned and that perhaps God has spoken to you about them and said, Here is someone that you can rely on. Here is a good confidant or here's a good counselor for your child. Here is someone that has a voice that is especially tuned to the hearing of your son or your daughter. And he'll point those people out. Because again, if you go through this experience and you go through the years and your child's growing older, like I said, you know, life gets messy and you only have control over so much. And I'm looking to my older children and, you know, currently we have eight and God willing, we'll have nine and in the spring—but I'm looking at my older children and I'm saying to myself, I cannot be there for them as much as I'd want to. And I try to be there as much as I can, but I also know now and respect and I'm grateful for the fact that they also hear truths from other men, from other individuals. It might be a sermon, it might be a friend, it might be a family member. And here's the other thing, folks, is that you may have invested years into helping your child to understand a certain thing or trying to get something across to them, and it doesn't click until it comes from somebody else. But the power that comes, it may...what I'm trying to say is it may have never clicked if you had never presented it to them in the first place. It's the voice of confirmation. You may have triangulated this particular truism in their life. They heard it from you, they heard it from your husband or from your wife, and then they heard it from a third party. And it was just like they needed those three sources of influence for it to finally take in their heart.
So don't despair and don't get discouraged when you realize...I've done this before—I've had times where, like, my wife, for instance, will be talking about something and I'm trying to, you know, well, this is this, that or the other, this is the way that it is. And she's like, oh ho hum. And then she'll hear a service and say, Did you hear that? When he said this, that was just like, wow! and I'm looking at her like we were just talking about that the other day. And well, we need to get over ourselves, don't we? That's not the point. It's like the fact that it clicks is the point. That's what's most important. And we should thank God for that realization of their life. So hold tight, but not too tight. Hold very tight. Let me emphasize that. Hold tight because your children need you. They need you to be the best influence, the most reliable influence, the most trustworthy influence in their life, but not too tight because there are others that the Lord is going to place around you who also have a voice and have a means whereby that is given to them by God to be able to reach down into the deep recesses of your child's heart and speak something or influence them in such a way that it becomes a part of them. And you should rejoice in that moment or in that time. Then you can step back and see what God has done. And most likely, again, it will be a confirmation of something that you have already tried to implant in their life long ago or over the course of many years. And you're the one that planted the seed—you're the one that dug the ground, planted the seed, fertilized it, watered it, and someone else gets to come along and they get to reap the fruit. And that might be hard for you. Like, I wanted to be the one. But praise be to God that there is fruit to be reaped, that there is a crop that sprung up out of the ground and that now your child is able to there from take that and move forward with that fruit and hopefully implant it in the lives of others.
So I hope these thoughts were beneficial to you in some way. I never know who I'm talking to exactly. I always pray that there's, you know, I say something that reaches somebody out there that might be going through this or be struggling with this or maybe you’re just holding too tight. And maybe you need to look around and offer a prayer to your Heavenly Father that he would guide and direct you to maybe find...maybe you're just beating your head against the wall like you're trying and trying and trying and your child...it's just not getting through. And maybe, again, you're not the one that's going to pluck the fruit off the tree, there's someone else that's going to do that. And just look around and the Lord will open your eyes and show you. And I hope that you will rejoice at that time and be grateful for the blessings of God upon the lives of your children because he has so many voices and he works in mysterious ways.
Thank you for joining us this week on the Homeschool Solutions Show. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at Homeschooling.mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share because you deserve health care you can trust. To learn more about Medi-Share and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch, go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/Medi-Share. That's GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/Medi-Share. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast. And while you're there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. This will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected to our community. And finally, tag us on Instagram @homeschooling.mom to let us know what you thought of today's episode. Have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the Homeschooling events of the year offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topic, and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit halls in the US. Find out more at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. I'll be there. I hope to see you there too.