Independence is a fascinating concept. We celebrate the Fourth of July every year in America, but how many of us stop to think about the idea of independence?
Today I see people with purple hair, tattoos that destroy the natural beauty of their skin, rings hanging from all parts of their body, and I wonder if they think they are being independent by presenting themselves in such odd ways, at least odd according to Western norms.
The greatest independence is not manifest outwardly, but it's an inward state. It's an independence of being that we want for our children, not an outward state of anarchy. We should teach our children to dress well and to conform to outward standards of propriety, but to be nonconforming in striving to develop a sound moral character.
Virtue is the exception; it isn't the norm. It's easy to dress like a crazy rock star, but it takes a life time to develop virtue.
Learning to be independent requires courage: the courage to do what's right and just even in the face of ridicule, the loss of friends, or even a loss of income; the courage to speak one's mind and to stand up for truth even though it may not be advantageous to oneself; the courage to face fear rather than to hide.
Where you find a person who marches to their own beat, you will always find a courageous person.
To raise our children to be independent in mind and soul, we need to foster courage in our children. The independent nature will follow.
Homeschooling gives us the freedom to create an environment for our children that builds courage, and to introduce our children to experiences that will develop their moral character.
My children played piano, for example, and they were expected to do piano recitals twice a year from age seven onward. When they began, they were too young to think about how difficult it would be to perform in a big room full of strangers; they just did it.
By the time they were old enough to reflect on why it was difficult and possibly shy away from it, they had already developed the habit of performing and of being comfortable with the discomfort of public performance.
The more they performed, the more opportunity they had to develop their courage to perform. Exposing our children to situations like this when they are young whether its music recitals, poetry recitals, or theatrical performances, it helps lay the path for strengthening their courage as they grow older.
No matter how small an act, even if it's running into the local grocery store alone to buy a carton of milk at the age of nine, learning to swim, apologizing to an elder for doing something wrong without the help of a parent—all these acts will help to build a child's courage.
As we know from Aristotle, and as we can observe in our own lives, the little habits add up to the quality of our characters.
Some children are born with more courage than others. You always want to work from the place your child is at in his/her development rather than from where you expect them to be. For a very timid child, you will need to push less than you would for a naturally brave child.
Children like to challenge themselves, and we need to encourage them to do so. The more they learn to face challenges in spite of the difficulty or discomfort, the more they will practice being courageous. And courage will preserve their moral integrity.
And the quality of our character rests on our integrity.
As Shakespeare said in Hamlet:
If you enjoyed this, you might like my free download Ten Books Every Well-Educated Child Should Read.
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