When to Remove Your Child from an Activity

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A very upset mother once called me concerning what her daughter was being told to read in class. The book was on Indian spiritualism. The mother had already gone to the superintendent of the school district and told him to have the book removed or she'd see to his dismissal.

To get a better handle on the situation, I asked her three questions. First, in what course was the book used? Second, how old was her daughter? Third, had the mother read the book? To my astonishment, she answered that the book was used in an elective course on mythology; her daughter was a senior in high school; and, no, the mother had never read the book, but she felt the cover looked spooky. Obviously, she was overreacting. I explained how, since the daughter was certainly old enough, she could use the book as a teaching tool to discuss their family's religious faith with her in comparison to Indian spiritism. I pointed out that this could actually be an opportunity from God to strengthen the girl's faith, not an invitation from Satan to abandon it.

Knowing when to remove your child from a classroom activity is subjective. Only you will be able to gauge when your child should not participate in something. In many situations you may be able to reach a compromise with the teacher, such as an alternative reading assignment. However, at times, you may have to decide to temporarily remove your child from the class. 

You need to consider the five factors listed below when deciding whether to remove your child from a classroom activity. Try to be as objective as possible when considering these factors. Trust your sense of what is right for your child while at the same time considering whether you may be overreacting. It is best not to rush into a decision to remove your child because it can cause a disruption in his education in other subjects as well as in his social community at school. Here are the factors to consider in prayer as you decide whether or not to remove your child from an activity. 

1. How truly bad is the activity? 

Establishing an activity's suitability requires discernment and objectivity. A case could be made for claiming that almost every subject is being taught improperly. The teacher could slant the subject too much to one political viewpoint, or emphasize student self-reliance too much, causing you to fear that it borders on promoting rebellion. He may encourage world interdependence just a shade more than you feel is patriotic. You have to weigh how truly wrong the teacher is and how important the perceived error is.  

On the other hand, teachers or counselors can handle some subjects, such as sexuality, so poorly that it is not good to have any exposure to their ideas at a young and impressionable age. This is a subjective and difficult decision for you to make. My advice is to not make it without complete information. If your child is young, be sure to verify what he tells you happened in class by talking directly with the teacher. If you confront the teacher based on what you think happened in the class, you might be embarrassed to find out that you reacted to false information. 

2. How emphatically is it taught? 

You need to measure how strongly the teacher pushes a particular value or philosophy. The book in the above illustration was not taught as true but as one culture's mythology. A good education will include the views of others. However, sometimes the teacher's opinion is taught as the proper way to think when, in fact, it is seriously in conflict with your family's beliefs. This is when action might need to be taken. 

3. How long will the lesson last? 

Sometimes a subject that you object to is covered very briefly and its long-term effects are small or nonexistent. It is hard to believe that a two-week drug abuse course that uses nondirective decision-making techniques (a poor approach for young people) will wipe out the years of moral character development you have built in your child. However, if a value-neutral approach to decision-making is emphasized week after week for several months, you may need to take action. 

4. What demonstrated effects is it having on your child? 

Do you see your child exhibiting behavior that concerns you because of the program in question? Does your child seem upset when he comes home from school? Is he withdrawn? Does he act out with defiance? Is he more aggressive? Is he lethargic toward homework? Has he changed his thinking about a subject that you feel is a core value of your family? Try to list actual behaviors or actions you think might be linked to a particular program. This will help you see if a negative impact is being made. 

Again, are there specifics you can point to, or are you being too sensitive to what you fear may happen due to the program? This may depend on the age of the child. Young children may be affected more by a program than older, more independent children. A teenager should be able to separate himself from the teacher's lesson and realize that the teacher is not always right. 

5. Can you teach your child to be discerning about what is taught? 

Webster's dictionary defines the word discern as meaning to perceive something hidden or obscure. Ask yourself if the activity in question could be used as an opportunity for you to teach your child discernment. In college, I took an astronomy course that met in a planetarium. The instructor would display the stars on the ceiling and point out various constellations. Only by knowing what to look for could we see a pattern of stars emerge from the night sky filled with dots of light. Once I knew what to look for, spotting constellations became easier.

With your help, your child may actually demonstrate greater character and conviction of thought because his beliefs are being tested in the classroom and you are helping him think it through. Only you can judge whether he is ready for this. 

In order to answer these five questions accurately, I suggest you obtain a copy of the material in question. Be sure you have examined all the information related to the lesson, and then you can make the best decision. 

If you want to talk to the teacher about your concerns, I suggest you read my online article, "Talking to Educators about a Concern."

© Eric Buehrer