Always Real, Parenting Gone Awry, School

He Speaks

AD and I think it is important for Sean to learn how to stand up and speak in front of others with confidence so that he might grow into a man who can influence others for good, so that he will have the tools to articulate his ideas, dreams and visions with clarity and confidence.  No matter where his life’s journey leads, we think this is a valuable life skill that requires practice more than anything else, and that it’s never too soon to start.

Since Sean was about three, we have had what we call Family Fun Night or what non-geek families would likely term as misery.  We start off by reading a Bible story, then we talk about it a little bit and then we take about 15 minutes for each person to draw a picture of what they got out of the story, what they thought the story was about or whatever they found in the story that inspired their artistic spirit in some way.  Then each person has to present their work to the others.  And by presenting, I mean you are required to stand up in front of the group, identify yourself and then talk about your work.  (You should know, being a guest in our home requires you to participate in FFN.)  I have gathered these tiny works of art into a collection and it has been fun to look back upon them and see Sean’s artistic and conceptual growth.  And I have to say, when I look at his art, I am awed; I have a glimmer of clarity about what Jesus meant when he said that we are to be like little children.

Having said all that, we are always looking for opportunities for Sean to practice speaking in front of groups larger than our small tribe or other friendly folk who might be at our house.  So the other day I arranged for him to read Snowmen at Night to the kindergarten class at his former school.  We had him practice a few times, coached him to make eye contact and to speak slowly, loudly and with expression.  And he did a great job. So if you are looking for a speaker, contact me and I’ll put you in touch with his agent.

As we were driving to take him back to his school, we passed a nursing home.  On a whim, AD whipped into the parking lot.  “Let’s go in here and see if they need a reader!” he said.  “I’ll bet they would love to have a little boy read to them!”  So we did and they did and Sean did.  The activities director was delighted to see us and gathered up a few of the residents in the dining hall to hear Sean read.  He stood in front of the small group, told them his name, the book he was going to read and who wrote it.  Then he sat down and began reading the book with joyful expression, taking care to show the pictures.  And those who were not borderline comatose were thrilled.  And those who were comatose, well, I know they were thrilled in their hearts even though they could not express it.

At one point, one gentleman got into a coughing fit and I became slightly alarmed and concerned that he was going to code out right there in the dining room and what a bummer it would be if on your first public speaking engagement someone DIED.  But Sean did not miss a beat and kept reading.  When he finished he thanked them for their attention.  They clapped and said what a good boy he was and my heart swelled with humility that God would bless stupid old me with such a marvelous little boy.  Grace is the only explanation for that.

When we left the nursing home, Sean was enjoying the speaker’s high.  He had done well and people liked him and he was energized by the experience. “I’d like to do that again!” he said.

We returned Sean to school about two hours beyond tardy so I checked him into the office.  The office lady asked me if he had a doctor’s appointment and for a split second I was tempted to lie and say yes so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the impending disapproval, but Sean was standing right there, so I told her the truth:  He had a speaking engagement.  “Well, you know he’ll be marked tardy, don’t you?” she said.  And I said, “Oh. I see. You think I care.”  No I didn’t say that because how snotty would that be?  No, I said I did not really care about tardy marks, I only care that he is learning and that we felt what he was doing today in the community was important.  In retrospect, ‘yes ma’am’ would have been sufficient.

I understand the school’s view that punctual attendance is important, but important things are also learned outside of the classroom.


43 thoughts on “He Speaks

  1. That is great! My girls (3rd and 2nd grade) love to read to the students who have their former teachers. Such a great exercise for everyone. Tardies are lame.

  2. What wonderful blessings you’re depositing in his life bank! As I continue to say: he’s going to be an outstanding man some day.

  3. My mom was an activities director at a nursing home for many years when I was little, so I spent a lot of time there with her. I remember how much the residents’ faces would light up to see children. Thank you for thinking of it!

  4. I love love love this! I wish you all lived close enough that he could come read to the elderly sisters in our convent. They would LOVE him and totally boost his self esteem!

    Such a wonderful idea!

  5. How wonderful, of you, AD, Sean, and our Heavenly Father to have blessed you all with each other. Wonderful parents, wonderful child, you have truely blessed me today :o) Thanks so much.

  6. You know, I have told you that our family, also, has gone the public school route. It has been a WONDERFUL experience. However, it appears that your little elementary school has the EXACT SAME secretary as our little elementary school. I smile a lot and kill her with kindness, but she ain’t dead yet (durn it).

    Yes, you are giving your child a skill that public school simply cannot. I LOVE that he enjoys it, and I bet the nursing home would be THRILLED to have him as a regular. I dare you to make it an 8:30 a.m. time slot! 🙂

    * * *

    Awwww-uh! Thanks for ‘dem nice words sister! We would be happy to do an 8:30 time slot, but his former school where he was scheduled to read starts at 9am. Sean’s school this year starts at 8am, so we’d be tardy either way. I think it was my friend Big Mama who recently said on Twitter something like, “While I admire perfect attendance, I don’t quite get it.” I hafta agree.

  7. Speaking as an professional educator with two degrees in education, I can say with absolute certainty that much of learning takes place outside of the school, and some things are much more important than always getting to school on time (which is not to say that excessive tardies are a good thing).
    And I once said to a school secretary “because I am his mother and I said it was okay”

  8. ABSOLUTELY! I am so glad I kept my boys home so much when they were little… I even took them out of school for a year! We did important stuff, like playing in mud and shovelling manure and helping the neighbours and lying around doing nothing. The two older boys are now at one of the best schools in Dorset (they had to sit an exam, along with a county of other hopefuls) and their work load is HUGE. They can’t take days off any more, but they are so happy. I wouldn’t change anything I did when they were little.

    What you do outside of school IS education.

  9. Yes. Exactly. There’s being tardy cuz mama has a hangover (frowned upon) and being tardy because one was out spreading joy (good!) or because one went to visit the grandparents and the flight got in late (also fine) or, my favorite, because Mum and Dad and kids stopped to by the teachers chocolates for their Christmas thank-yous. We did that the year we were in France. The French in general do not flow with tardies, but they also don’t do teacher-appreciation gifts, and sending our 3 in over an hour late but armed with chocolates meant they were greeted with smiles.

  10. This is AWESOME! It is not just that God has blessed you by giving you Sean for a son— further God has blessed Sean with very special parents. This really made my day, thank you for sharing!

  11. Love it! Hey, similar strategies worked for Rose Kennedy and her famed dinner table lessons. Thanx for reminding me that it probably isn’t that hard to stop by the nursing home and get this whole thing into motion. We’ve been practicing for the spelling bee, and reading to others would probably help with the stage concept. Great work, your antiqueness!

  12. Practice makes all the difference… what a wonderful opportunity y’all have provided for him.
    Rest assured I’ll vote for him when he runs for President!

    * * *
    You’re funny Howdy! His slogan? Vote for me! I don’t read from a tele-prompter!

  13. Yay for you and Double Yay for Sean! We used to take our girls out of school for field trips–their teachers weren’t impressed, but I still feel that education comes in many forms that public schools can’t provide.

  14. What an excellent idea! I’m inspired. There is a memory loss care center in our neighborhood, we will be paying them a visit. You, AD, and Sean did not just do one good thing – you have done many with the inspiration you provide! Merry Christmas! (And “yes ma’am” to school secretaries everywhere.)

  15. I couldn’t agree more about teaching children to speak in front of others. And I completely relate to: “my heart swelled with humility that God would bless stupid old me with such a marvelous little boy. Grace is the only explanation for that.” I often wonder why, when it comes to my children, He didn’t give me what I deserve. It could only be grace! Merry Christmas to you!

  16. I vote you and AD Parents of the Year—actually make that Parents of the Decade. Would that all children be so led!

    * * *
    Oh such sweet words! Thank you so much. If you knew how often I lose patience and turn into a screaming mimi you’d surely reconsider!

  17. Excellent!! After 34 years of teaching 7th graders, I know that all kids should be doing this! More important than the speaking is the heart to do for others!! WOW!!!

  18. This is going to be the single best thing you have done for him. Well, beside all the other things. My son is in high school and has had to give two short speeches. He has to be dressed formally (shirt, tie, dress shoes). He hates it with a passion and is sick each time. Just nervous sick not really sick. Again, this is wonderful!!

  19. I just wanted to say that I think the way in which you are raising Sean is so very wonderful, especially in our culture. Ever since I can remember my Dad has held a church service on Saturdays in a local nursing home and my sisters and I were introduced at a very young age to “public speaking”. We were up singing trios at a age even younger than your son. And if it weren’t for my parents’ time and effort they put into raising me I wouldn’t be half the person I am today. Totally appreciated this post!

  20. I’ve been an elem teacher, and I totally agree with you. I agree that the heart knowledge along with the head knowledge and support he gets from you and AD are more imp than a few more hrs in school. Way to go! Wish I’d done that stuff w/ my children.

  21. Yes, it does seems that school secretaries must have some kind of convention where there are break-out sessions on how to deal with tardy parents. We’ve actually gotten a letter threatening us with social worker visits because our children had so many absences. I say, bring it!

    And, I love that you are teaching Sean the art of public speaking. I was a debate nerd in high school and did the whole trio deal with my siblings in church, and I am forever grateful that I don’t get (too) nervous when called upon to be in front of a group. An outstanding skill, taught by outstanding parents! Way to go!

  22. What a lovely thing to do! And I love what a previous commenter said, “Because I’m his mom and I said so” … to the secretary. I really like that. Letting ’em know who’s really in charge of your little guy, without being rude. 🙂

  23. What a lovely thing to do! And I love what a previous commenter said, “Because I’m his mom and I said so” … to the secretary. I really like that. Letting ’em know who’s really in charge of your little guy, without being rude. 🙂

  24. This is just adorable. My mother used to have me speak at a young age too, and it definitely helped! Your story is beautiful, and I love reading about it.

  25. okay — pity party here — I’m going thru a rough patch right now in life as we all do. This post was EXACTLY what I needed…with all my heart,I believe God directed me to your site at 3:25 am in the morning. THANK YOU — hats to you and AD. As a former teacher, of course, I LOVED having my former students “come back” to read, etc….BUT it was the nursing home that had big ol’ fat tears coursing down my face. Wishing you all a blessed and Merry Christmas and throwing in a little “tender Tennessee Christmas” for good measure!

  26. *that’s “hats off to you and AD”….it’s been a loooong night…lol

    And,I forgot to say that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Snowmen at Night. My assistant got it for ME as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago.

  27. Wow, not even sure I could handle speaking merely in front of the “Antique” family for FFN, kudos to Sean! (and brava to you for teaching him in such a way, that I don’t even think he realizes how brave many of us see him now)

  28. Amen on all accounts. I especially love that you read to the nursing home residents. My grandma passed away a year ago and it made me think of how much she would have LOVED something like this … and how it would be a wonderful way to honor her with my future children someday. Thank you!

  29. That is way too cool. I love children’s art (being a Sunday School teacher of 3rd & 4th graders).

    My MIL is in a nursing home and any time a child comes to visit is big. Sean would have been a huge hit there.

    Thank you for instilling good values in the upcoming generation.

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