Before The First Bell Rings

‘So strange to be starting this new school year with Logan but without Roger. Today was our annual back-to-school-family-meeting and how I missed Roger being here for this. He was a master at goal setting, plan making and disciplined undertakings. Just ask our boys!

At the beginning of every school year since the boys were in elementary school, Roger and I have sat down with them to discuss their goals and our desires for them for the coming year. We would share expectations and encouragements, and the boys would work with Roger to develop personal goals for the coming year (regarding whatever they were involved with–school, church, sports, music, etc.). Roger always believed it was a good idea to have a plan to help keep you headed in the right direction, otherwise you might end up where you never meant to be without ever understanding how you got there.

Unfortunately this year, Roger is not here to add his wise input and encouragement. But Logan is here and he still needs to be encouraged and understand clearly the path he should walk this year. It’s certainly his choice whether he walks it or not, but the pathway is there and illuminated well for travel.

So we went to lunch today, just Logan and me, and discussed the coming school year. Well, perhaps I should say that I did most of the talking and Logan, in typical teen fashion, did most of the listening (adding in appropriate teenage “grunts” as warranted). But hey, if I’ve learned anything from raising two other teen boys, it’s to be happy that at least he’s listening.

So we started out discussing–what else?–the kind of grades that should be his goal for the year. After establishing that, we moved on to what it would take to reach those goals. How hard would he have to work? What kind of time would he need to commit to accomplish this? What might he have to sacrifice in order to meet those goals? In the end, it was great to draw from one of the books Logan read this summer, Do Hard Things; A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations, because we agreed on what and how many hours each evening would be reserved for doing the “hard thing” of working towards good grades.

As a rising sophomore, we also discussed some of the “future” reasons he should do this hard thing—one being that in just a few years he will begin applying to state colleges and good grades will help provide him a better chance of being accepted into one with a reputable program in what he wishes to major in. To relate it back to his goals for this year, he has to set a shorter goal of solid grades this school year to help him reach a longer term goal for a few years from now. We unpacked again how we reap what we sow, we reap more than we sow, and we reap later than we sow. So because the payoff for doing hard things usually comes later (and greater–yay!), it’s important to stay the course, often without benefit of instant gratification.

We also talked about what our family schedule will look like this year (even though it is just he and I)—what his schedule will look like (school, extracurricular activities, church activities/services, volunteering, etc.), and what my schedule will look like (with work, Christmas production rehearsals, etc.). Armed with this, we’ll be better prepared time and commitment wise, and both on the same page as the year begins.

But here’s the most important thing we talked about and the most important goal set. It was prioritizing how God will fit into Logan’s schedule this school year. When all is said and done, the most important and meaningful accomplishment Logan (and I) can have is to know God more deeply so that he (we) may love Him more generously. And although I do want Logan to get good grades and accomplish his other goals, what I want most is for him to know God—to follow Him obediently, love Him sacrificially, and continue to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” –2 Peter 3:18

So how will we work to accomplish this goal? Well, I am thankful first of all for the spiritual strategies and teachings my church has in place to walk along side us in this undertaking. (Have I mentioned that I Love My Church? 🙂 ) Logan will continue to regularly attend church services, participate weekly in his small group studies, and enjoy the extra teen events provided periodically by the high school ministry there.

But beyond the church’s contribution, Logan and I have committed to set aside a small amount of time most weekday evenings right after dinner to meet with God. Sometimes we will read spiritually appropriate books aloud, sometimes we will study a brief passage of Scripture, sometimes we will discuss the spiritual slant relevant to an event or happening from the day, and sometimes we will simply particpate in whatever creative way God draws us to Himself. Always we will pray together (yes, this will require more than a few “grunts” from Logan!). But basically, we will honor God with our time and attention. I did share with Logan that this is a responsibility that God holds me to as Logan’s parent—to “train up a (my) child in the way he should go so that when he is old he will not depart from it.”Proverbs 22:6. So even on those evenings that Logan doesn’t feel like doing this (and especially when I don’t feel like doing this!), we must make the commitment to do the hard thing and meet with God anyway.

So there you have it, that’s the beginning of our school year this year. I have no doubt that at the end of Christmas vacation, we will have to revisit and reaffirm our goals and commitments for the year. But at least it’s a start. We know the path we need to be on to get to our destination. After all, as was shared in our services this past weekend, “Direction, not desire, determines our destination.”

So if you’re a parent, what about you? What do you do at the beginning of each school year? How do you prepare yourself and your children for the year that lies ahead? What path are you on and in what direction are you heading? And what hard things are you teaching your children to push through—and rise above—on any given day?


4 Comments on “Before The First Bell Rings

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Debbie. You say a lot of great things in this post which I take to heart. My kids are already in school, but I start back tomorrow. It’s good to read things I didn’t think of.

    You write well. I just wanted you to know that. It’s clear, to-the-point, and interesting. Better than a lot of my textbooks in school! Love you and will be praying for you continually. Terry


  2. Aunt Debbie,

    This being our first year with Alyssa in school I cannot express to you how beneficial this post has been. We are only just starting kindergarten however, there is still so much of this that I can reiterate to her in certain ways and I thank you so much for that. After reading this it really has taught me other ways, rather than just taking her to church, that I can be involved in her life positively so that she (and I) may be the best that we can be academically, spiritually, and personally. Thank you again : )



    • Tiff, I’m so glad if I can be of any kind of help to you in this parenting journey. And yes, you are right, it’s so important that you be involved spiritually in her life–you and Ceaser will have the greatest impact. The church only has her for 1-2 hours per week. Think of all the remaining hours in the week that you have her! ‘Hope her first day of kindergarten was awesome!


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