What should a high school graduate look like? What are the qualities and characteristics that one can reasonably hope to expect from someone this age, and what level of learning can be expected to have taken place? Are these even reasonable questions?
Consider the following: your child, after graduating high school, will either go to college or take a full-time job. This means much greater responsibility for time and money management, as well as interpersonal relationships on a level he’s never faced before. He or she will likely marry, if they are going to, within the next five years or so, placing them in the role of potential parent. While in many ways you can’t really prepare a person for these things, you don’t have to send your child into the world thinking life is a party, or minus any sense that they have a lot to learn, which is kind of a starting place for maturity.
Although each child is different, here is my basic list of goals for my own daughter, prior to graduation:
- Some degree of humility
- An understanding of hard work and the “value of a dollar”
- An understanding that nobody owes her anything
- A working knowledge of the history of western civilization—who and what led to the way her generation thinks and acts? How did people in past generations deal with difficulties? This means a lot of reading and discussing between now and then.
- Thorough familiarity with the Scriptures and the doctrines of orthodox Christianity, including an understanding of Church history.
- Complete trust that she is part of a family which loves, encourages and supports her, and will be there for her when others let her down.
Note that there is nothing on this list pertaining to any particular athletic skill or opportunity, nor any particular field of study. This should not be taken to mean I don’t care about these things, but that I believe they will work themselves out as she matures and discovers her strengths and passions.
Of far greater importance is my continuing to foster a love for what I believe to be of greatest value, continuing to say “no” to the things that are not important, and to insist on her contribution to her family and others through hard work and service. Translated, this means seeing to it that she does chores around the house, spends a good chunk of time each day in study (and not much, if any, watching TV, texting, or checking out facebook), and that she continues to participate in the traditions and rituals of our family. It also means demonstrating an attitude of service and giving, rather than self-indulgence; if she doesn’t see it in me, my admonitions to her will be meaningless.
I can’t guarantee a life of happiness and fulfillment for my daughter. I can, however, give her tools for facing the difficulties that will inevitably come her way, the knowledge that she is not the first to experience them, and the confidence that those who love her most will be there for her no matter what.