From Transaction to Transformation: How We Can Redeem Childhood

by Janet Newberry

When I was a young girl, I loved watching the Olympics. I counted the years between summer and winter games like I counted the days to Christmas.

The honed talent of the competitors touched a place deep in my soul. I cheered for Nadia Comaneci as if she were my best friend. I had a front-row seat to artistry in motion.

And then I heard the stories of small children in some countries, chosen at very young ages because of a glimpse of talent, who were required to become these amateur stars.

It was about compliance, not dreaming.

Their country depended on them; their nation wanted to win a medal count. The best coaches in the land would make sure these children grew up to win.

Some of the children enjoyed the training. Most of them feared the consequences if they failed to climb to the top of the medal platform.

This training method isn’t much different than our current education system.

Performance-Driven Education

Every child in the United States is selected to be a performer; there is no choice but to find their place in the standardized line. Strong ones get to be first; strong ones get to stay first. Schools are counting on their test scores. Parents are counting on their grades.

Some children enjoy the training, although many are overcome with the anxiety of a 13-year climb from preschool / kindergarten to graduation.

How to Reduce Performance Anxiety in Children

That’s why so many parents choose homeschooling, isn’t it?

We know intuitively that scoring well on standardized tests isn’t the key to happiness. Success alone doesn’t offer us a full and free life. Yet we still take some of that performance mindset into our home education environment. Why? Because we simply don’t know any other way.

What if we stopped aiming at the target of academic performance? What if there’s a better target?

In my 30-plus years in education, I’ve discovered one undeniable truth: When we aim at the target of performance, maturity always suffers. But when we aim at the target of maturity, performance always goes off the charts.

[bctt tweet=”When we aim at the target of performance, maturity always suffers. But when we aim at the target of maturity, performance always goes off the charts.” username=”janetnewhope”]

So how do we aim at the target of maturity?

By taking these two steps:

End Transactional Childhood

Our children’s primary need is to experience love, not success. Love will mature them—and help them to succeed in healthy relationships. Love offers attention, acceptance, commitment, and significance.

Children get because they need—and because they are loved. “I get because I earn” works great in business—not in childhood.

[bctt tweet=”Our children’s primary need is to experience love, not success.” username=”janetnewhope”]

Offer Transformational Childhood

In transformational relationships, children don’t get because they earn, they get because they need. Love builds the capacity to persevere when they struggle. Unconditional love offers children what they need to grow up. Love is the fuel of maturity.

Homeschooling parents, we have an edge when it comes to getting our kids off the performance treadmill. We create the learning and living culture in our homes.

The most valuable lessons are the ones experienced while cooking a meal together or working out in the yard. Here’s another important lesson: allowing an older child to care for a younger sibling while Mom and Dad run errands.

These experiences are guaranteed to come with struggles—by design. Our children won’t make 100 on cooking or mowing or babysitting, but they will experience significance in a world bigger than they can manage with perfection.

Better than perfection, our children will experience these truths:

  • I am trustworthy
  • I am needed
  • I am growing up
  • I am a dependable helper

Behavior is the mirror of belief. When children trust the truth that they are dependable, they behave in dependable ways. When they trust that they are needed, children experience the satisfaction that comes when they meet the real needs of a family, a friend, or a community.

[bctt tweet=”Behavior is the mirror of belief. When children trust the truth that they are dependable, they behave in dependable ways. ” username=”janetnewhope”]

Tests can measure what we know.

Grades can reflect the current skill level.

But tests never offer what only God can offer—a valid identity, based on relationship, not performance.

We learn the truth of who we are from relationships with people—not test scores. We can offer our children transformation through love. We can offer our children an honest childhood, and thus offer the world trustworthy adults.

Janet Newberry is an educational consultant and author of Education by Design, Not Default: How Brave Love Creates Fearless Learning, which aspires to redeem childhood by offering tips to cultivate transformational experiences for our children. She is also the founder of John 15 Academy, which supports the success of homeschooling families. Find out more at JanetNewberry.com. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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