The first few weeks of the school year stimulate discussions of our children’s hopes and dreams for the year. Some say they want to learn how to be better at making friends, some dream of improving their basketball skills and some want to improve in reading Rashi. The excitement and nervousness of entering a new situation, dealing with new personalities, and anticipating more challenging learning tasks are part of the experience that heralds a year ahead of growth, maturation and development in character as well as academics.
The same should hold true for the parents. As adults, we may have stopped growing physically, but we can never stop growing spiritually, emotionally or intellectually. Our children will respect us and learn so much more from us when they see us learning and trying to improve. Just as telling children “do as I say, not as I do,” is hypocritical and ultimately counterproductive to their development as a mentsch, so too is coercing a child to attend school, to be a diligent student and to complete homework while the parent is lax about learning , about attending shiurim, and about working on self-improvement. If you want your kid to grow, you must be growing yourself.
School may be only for kids, but learning is for everyone. We, as parents, need to commit now, at the start of the school year and less than a week before Rosh Hashana, to rededicate ourselves to Torah learning, to setting solid goals for the entire year. Just as your children’s teachers have a curriculum to guide them through the year, we adults need to consider at the outset – what are our learning goals for the week, for the month and for the year.
Families that celebrate learning at any level, and respect Torah and secular knowledge have a better opportunity to produce children who are successful in school – not because they’re smarter or have more facts in their head, but because their children are enabled to be excited about learning and to love the process of learning new things. Attitude is a small thing that’s very important. And the children’s attitude begins with what they see and experience at home.
Best wishes to all of us for a successful journey in the year ahead.
Kesiva V’Chasima Tova
May this last Shabbos of the year be filled with learning, Simcha and Nachas,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann