Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Boy and His Manifesto

We have officially entered the high school years in the Brown household. It's all strange, new, exciting, and for me....scary!! Overall, they are doing really well and seem to actually be enjoying it so far. Where my concern lies is that while they're good kids at this point, my boys are very low key, laid back guys. The school they're in....not so much. Lately, I have really been feeling like they need a game plan in place to keep them as on top of things as I can.  

So, I wrote a high school manifesto for them.  Yes, I realize that a manifesto, by definition, should be written by the person who is making the declarations, but did you catch that my boys were very "laid back."  I am going to go over it with them point by point and have them sign it at the end. I figure that will take care of at least some of the harping that I would have to do saying, "you need to do this", "you should try this", etc. I wrote it as much like a high school boy as I could, but I'm sure some of the 38 year old writing mom came through. Ideally, at least some of it will resonate with them and give them some tools to make the most of their high school years without any major setbacks! Every mom's dream, right? 

I just wanted to share it with you all.  You're welcome to use any part of it you'd like with your kids, either in writing, if you want to get the eye rolls like I'm sure I will, or you can just discuss them in conversation.  I copied it over from Word and the bullet points look weird, but you'll get the jest of it. Before I print it for the boys, I'm going to add some blank lines to each section in case they have some ideas along the way that they'd like to include.  I only ask that you pray it is well received and effective in our home, too!  I will keep you posted!

Having spent a long time mulling over this, getting teary eyed, laughing at what's ahead, and just loving these boys even with written words, I can tell you right now what a High School Mom's Manifest would consist of: Daily prayers for wisdom and a commitment to listen, guide, laugh, discipline, and love without end.  


My High School Manifesto 
I, ___________________________,am at the start of my 4 year high school journey.  I am excited to see what these next four years hold.  I have plans and dreams for my future and my high school years are going to play a big part in getting me there.  So, I don't want to just "make it through." I want to give it my all.  I know I can't possibly predict or plan for everything. However, I also know that if I want to be successful in high school or anything else, I can't just float through and hope for the best. I must live intentionally.  This manifesto outlines 4 areas where I will prepare myself for the workload ahead and the many things I may encounter so I will not be easily knocked off course.  Or, when I am knocked off, I can use these tools to get myself back on track. There are 4 areas in which I must live particularly intentional: 
  1. Schoolwork  
  1. Sports/Physical Fitness 
  1. Social Graces 
  1. Spiritual Mindset 

  1. Academic Commitments  
If I'm going to be successful, I have to be intentional about my schoolwork, obviously.  I can't just say I'm going to be intentional, though.  I have to anticipate that many things will compete for my time and attention and I must have at least a minimum strategy to stay focused.  Sure, I may have to alter the strategy to fit my classes and schedules along the way, but there are some commitments I can make to be successful in all of my classes. Ultimately, I want to alleviate a lot of the stress that comes with a challenging workload by taking charge of my time....using my free time at school and home wisely and committing myself to simple study habits to keep me on track. Below are simple ways that I am going to navigate the workload and minimize stress.   
  • I know that writing things down helps me commit them to memory. So, as much as I may hate it at first and may often think I can remember everythingI will make myself take a few extra minutes to write things will write EVERYthing down that I can! I will take notes in class AND when I'm reading or doing homework.  I will keep a daily log of all assignments.  When I go to class, I will get my agenda book out and write down any assignments.  Then, I will go over it every afternoon when I get home to make sure I'm caught up.  I will keep rings of notecards for all subjects that require vocabulary and flip through them daily until I'm tested on them.    
  • I will NOT allow myself to wait until the last minute to finish an assignment or study for a test. Multiple short study sessions are better than one long study session the night before a test....and much less stressful.  If that means I have to study or work ahead a couple of hours on the weekends, so be it.  I will not feel sorry for myself or allow myself to resent that time.  I know it will ultimately make my life easier and the week ahead of me much smoother.   
  • I WILL allow myself short breaks at school to let my mind relax and regroup. Then, because I am not supervised closely during free periodI will discipline myself to get as much done as possible during my free time at school. When I have multiple short assignments, I will try to get ALL of my written work done during my free period so I can look forward to more free time in the evenings. This will also help me on busy after school day.  I won't have to stress so much when church or games take up a large portion of my afternoons and evenings.    
  • On the days that I can complete all written work at school, I will still take at least one hour at home to practice Spanish, review math, prepare for upcoming tests or quizzes, or knock out some required reading. Then I can really enjoy my downtime.  Just 15 minutes per subject those days would go a long way toward keeping me on top of upcoming tests, assignments, and quizzes.   
  • Note taking will be a large part of my study daily study routine going forward. If we read or discuss a section of the textbook or literature book in class, I will come home and make notes that evening as studies show that 80% of what I write down within 24 hours, I will commit to memory for tests. Therefore, when test time comes, I should be able to simply review my notes and do well on any test.   
  • Some days it may be harder for me to focus than others. Things like being tired, bombarded with work all of the sudden, or stressing over personal issues, can make focusing challenging.  During study sessions, anytime I'm working and feel my mind wandering or I find myself re-reading something several times to understand it, I will take a 15 minute break and return promptly to finish the task.  During the break I can grab a snack, throw the ball around, ride my skateboard, etc., Sometimes it may be as simple as being bored.  Then, I can try switching subjects and go back to the more boring one later.  
This manifesto is all about how I'm going to succeed in a challenging new school setting.  Again, I don't want to just get by, I want to do well.  I admit that I would like for it to be as painless as possible, but I realize I am going to have to make some changes that I'm not particularly thrilled with in order to be successful.  One of the first, big adjustments for me will be how I use my time on the weekends.  Weekends can no longer be considered totally "free time" Friday night-Monday morning.  I will have to discipline myself to carve out time every weekend to study, read, or work ahead on assignments.    
  • I will read on Saturdays and on Sundays, in order to stay on top of my subjects so I don't have to cram for a test. I will make good use of Saturday and Sunday mornings in particular.  When I am fresh, rested, and alert, I can knock out big chunks of my required reading in a much shorter amount of time.    
  • When sports, church, social gatherings, etc., begin taking up my time, I will need to carve out extra time on the weekends, beyond the time that I’m already doing, for projects, written work, reading, etc. That way, I can continue to do the extra things that I love.....without the extra stress.    

II. Athletic Commitments    
Athletics have always been a part of my life and, God willing, they will continue to be in high school.  High school sports, however, will be different than what I'm use to in previous recreational leagues. They will likely require a lot of my time and energy during high school.  Therefore, I have to be intentional with how I handle those extra commitments in order to have an overall successful high school experience.  I will meet many new people and I will be challenged to improve myself and my skills in many areas.  As I progress, there will be certain expectations I will have to meet.  So, as I adjust to these changes and demands, I need to have a working plan to help me maintain balance, commitment, and perspective.  The following are some things I will be mindful of going into high school sports and will intentionally remind myself of along the way.  
  • High school athletics will no doubt require a lot from me physically.  I commit right now to being good to my body.  I will be very intentional about maintaining proper rest, hydration, and nutrition in order to perform optimally in my sport and reduce my risk of injury. This triad has a huge impact on my overall success as an athlete (and as a student) and is something I must maintain.   
  • Many times a day I will have to be mindful of my decisions about my health.  I may have to deny myself something I really want, such as reaching over an ice cold coke for a bottle of water. There will be other times I have to make myself do something I'd rather not, such as drinking milk or eating vegetables that I don't always want, simply because I know my body needs it. 
  • Because I know I will be working my body hard during certain seasons, I will turn off phones, tv, etc., and allow my body the rest it needs at night to recover and store up energy....and still allow me to get up on time in the mornings.  
  • As a freshman, I will be patient with myself.  While I am strong in certain areas, I realize there is still much I have to learn.  Just as professional athletes never stop learning and practicing, I will remind myself as I continue on through each level, that I am a work in progress. 
  • Playing sports is a privilege.  Because privileges must be earned, I will remind myself of this as often as necessary to keep me on task in meeting both the physical and academic requirements of my sport.    
  • I will remember that I "play" sports.....meaning.....I am meant to have FUN!!  So, if there comes a time when I am so tense or frustrated that I am not having fun, I will take a step back and remind myself of the things I love about the sport, and then go out and show others why I love it.  
  • I will NOT fall into the trap of comparing myself with other players.  I know we all have our strengths and weaknesses along with good days and bad days.  Remembering this, I can remain confident in my own talents, abilities, and potential when a teammate has a great day, even if I don't. I will especially remember this when I’m having a bad day and use it as motivation to practice.  Therefore, I am going to be genuinely happy for any big moments that my teammate has and cheer him on for helping our team, just as I enjoy the encouragement from my teammates when I’m doing well.     
  • Likewise, when I have a good day, I will learn from it and be thankful for it.    
  • Whatever the situation, I will be intentional with my words and actions with my teammates.  I want to be a leader in building them up in order to contribute to their success. It not only helps them, but it contributes to the overall success of my team. I will intentionally focus on the strengths of others, as well as my own.   
  • I will not have a critical spirit towards my teammates and I will be a leader that speaks up in regards to a critical spirit in others.  While I may be able to help teammates along the way, I will not criticize shortcomings. That is up to the coaches.   

III.  Social Graces 
I know High School is not supposed to be a popularity contest, but I know it is going to test my social skills in many new ways. Considering all of the teachers, coaches, and classmates I will meet, I fully expect to come across some awesome new people…..and probably some not so great people.  I also realize that the high school environment challenges people like me who are generally quiet and reserved around new people.  This year, I really want to learn to open up and be myself.  I want to be comfortable in all situations from asking questions in class to striking up a conversation with someone new.  However, if I’m going to be successful, like everything else, I am going to need a game plan in mind.  
One huge goal I will work hard on this year is that I learn to be confident just being myself.  It will require many small, conscious decisions every day.  However, I will not allow myself to obsess over how I look to others or others’ opinions of me in other areas.  I am aware of my areas of weakness but I also am aware that I have many attributes and strengths that leave me with no legitimate reason to be uncomfortable in my own skin.  2 things I can be sure of: 1) There will almost always be someone who does not like me….for a variety of reasons. 2) There will almost always be someone who does like me.  I have no control over the thoughts and actions of others.  Therefore, I can’t constantly change myself to suit others..... the best thing I can do to be successful socially, is just be myself in every crowd and every situation.  Apart from that basic principle, there are things I can do to prepare myself for various encounters and social situations that will allow me to one day look back on myself in high school and be proud of that young man and the way he handled himself.  These are just a few: 
  • I will not be unkind to anyone, for any reason. I can be firm without being cruel. That's not me and I will not allow myself to stoop to that level.    
  • If a group of people are picking on someone or gossiping about someone, not only will I not be a part of it, I will speak up to put a stop to it.  
  • As part of being more open, I will not form an opinion about someone based on the opinions of others.  I will not be a victim of "group think".  I will take their advice into consideration, but an opinion is just opinion.  My experience with someone may be different and I will not limit my circle of friends and sphere of influence until I get to know them for myself. 
  • Since I am working on simply being confident in being myself this year, I will talk to kids who might not normally be spoken to or included.  In fact, if someone seems particularly alone, I will make a point to acknowledge them and make them feel welcome.  I don't want to miss out on the funniest kid, the genius kid, or the kid who loves some of the same things I do or is easy to talk to, simply because I didn't want to be associated with someone "uncool".  I also don't want to assume that  because someone isn't into the same things as sports.... that they aren't a lot of fun to be around.   
  • If I am having a problem with someone and I can't figure out how to handle it without resorting to mean or cruel tactics, I will pray about it and ask my parents for advice before addressing that person.   
  • I will do my best to remember that going along with a group when something inside me tells me it is wrong - is never a good thing and will quite likely leave me with a consequence that I don't want.   
  • I am aware that things that would be detrimental to my high school success and overall well being as a person such as drugs, smoking, alcohol, sex, etc. are things that will often be introduced and/or encouraged by people I consider friends.  Therefore, they will be harder to turn down...or may even seem less harmful because of who's involved.  Since I am aware of these things, I can respond confidently with things like, "Thanks, but I'm not interested", "Sorry man, I just don't want to get into that stuff", or "No, it's just not a good idea.", etc.  I might even be so bold as to ask them why they think it's a good idea.   
  • Speaking of friends, starting now, I will be intentional about the new friendships I create. I want to be able to talk to everyone, even if they're very different than me.  Hopefully I can be a help to kids who don't have a lot of friends and an example to kids who don't know Jesus.  I just have to be sure that they are not rubbing off on me in unhealthy ways.  
Special Considerations: AKA - The Ladies   
I will admit that I can't help but take notice of the girls around me. This is another area where I will have to learn as I go, but it is one where having a game plan and  a little thought would help me feel more comfortable with some of the daily things that will come up as I get to know them better and make good decisions in the bigger issues that come up.  This way I can be more relaxed, confident, and just be myself.    
  • Where ladies are concerned, I will make every effort to remain the gentleman that I was taught to be.  I will treat ALL females as ladies and with the respect that God desires for them to have, even at times when the girls may act as though they'd prefer I treat them differentlyI will look past the surface and treat them with the respect and dignity that God gave them.     
  • I was taught to open doors for them and other gentlemanly things, but that's not all it means to treat a girl with respect. One of my biggest challenges in this area is probably going to be maintaining respect for all females while I'm often in the presence of a bunch of teenage guys. I will be committed to maintaining proper respect for all women and their bodies. Whether pictures surface, or conversations turn to specific girls, one thing that may help me is looking at it through this lense, "What if this were my little sister in high school?"  If I would want to hurt someone over what they were saying or doing, I will not be a party to it regarding any other female. That's my rule.   
  • Just as I need to have answers ready for my male friends regarding partying and other things that will eventually come up, I need to have answers ready for special issues with girlfriends that will come up. Some girls are more assertive than others and in the opportune situation, may try to take things too far.  In those cirumstances, I will be prepared to practice my OWN self control and respond with something like, "I think you are beautiful, great, (etc.), but we should slow down." As unpopular as it may be, I may have to explain that I just don't believe sex before marriage is right for me.   
  • Now, I know that I'm not perfect and it won't always be the girl who needs to slow down.  Studies show girls are often inclined to sexual advances because they think that's what teenage boys are interested in.  Which, who can deny that those thoughts cross our minds at times? However, there may be times when I am the one seriously overcome with temptation to take things too far.  While it is my responsibility as the young man to take charge of the situationif my own conviction and self control fail me, I can always refer to my own rule and ask myself, "If this were my sister in high school, would I want some guy leading her down this road?" 
  • They say a good rule of thumb with dating in general is not to spend any time dating someone you would never want to marry. If you wouldn't want a "party girl" wife that you can't trust, don't date one; If you wouldn't want a controlling, demanding wife, don't date one; Or, if you want a sweet, easy going wife, it's probably best not to date a drama queen that stirs up trouble.  I'd say that's a pretty good game plan for me to use.  
  • When it comes to who I should/shouldn't date, another good rule of thumb is from Proverbs 31:30: "Charm is deceptive, beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."  So, that tells me that I may be really attracted to a young woman, but it would be in my best interest not to base my opinion of her on beauty alone. Likewise, just because I'm not initially really attracted to someone, the attraction may grow if I take the time to get to know her.   

To sum up the social issues, I ultimately want God's best for my life.  I know in my head that certain paths that I will come across with my friends and/or girlfriends could lead me off of His path for my life. I also know it won't be easy. Not agreeing to party, have sex, or other popular things may put me in a position of being made fun of or even alienated by people I call friends. It is certainly easier to just go along with the crowd. That's called, "the path of least resistance." However difficult it may be at times, I will remind myself that I don't just want to "make it" through high school, I want God's best for my life. I don't want to miss anything He has planned for me because I chose the path of least resistance.   
IV.  Spiritual Mindset 
This is the one area that, if I can be intentional on a daily basis, it will help me in the other 3 areas and in every other possible circumstance or situation that I can't even think of right now. My schedule is demanding, though, and it is hard to find time to read my bible or even pray.  So, there are some simple things that I want to commit to right now at the beginning of high school based on the principles stated in Proverbs 3:3-6  
"Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.  So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.  Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths."   
  • This tells me that I need to try to commit to memory what I learn from Him in sermons, lessons, and in my own reading of Scripture. One way I can do that is similar to how I take notes to commit biology to memory for a test, I should take actual notes about what I am learning about God simply because I know that these are things that I will certainly need to recall for the rest of my life 
  • I will commit to being plugged in.  When I'm at church on Sunday morning, or in my small group during the week, or any time I feel the Lord urging me to spend time in prayer or in His Word, I will set aside my daydreaming or distractions with friends and commit to acknowledging His presence and plugging in to learning about Him for that time.    
  • Just like in sports, when I have to be coachable and not easily offended in order to learn and improve, I have to be open and teachable in spiritual matters, too. These verses assure me that if I make the effort to get to know Him and let Him teach my heart to be more like His, then the result of that will be finding favor in His eyes AND in the eyes of man. That not only means God is free to bless me, but when my name is spoken of by others, it will be a good name. It's my reputation at stake.  A good name is something that brings you good throughout your entire life and who wouldn't want that? Some kids my age don't think that far ahead, but really, the benefits of having a good name, a good reputation start immediately....right now while we're in high school. Proverbs 22:1 says, "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold."  I'll buy that.  
  • accept that right now, there's a lot that I simply don't know and things that I don't have the experience and knowledge to handle on my own. If I want to be a wise person, I have to admit that.  As I go through high school, there may be problems with friends, personal struggles, plans that don't work out like I thought, etc., These verses tell me that I should accept that there will be some things that I simply can't figure out on my own and leaning on my own understanding would be pointless.  That's when I need to be sure I include God and acknowledge my need for His wisdom. I will also be brave in asking for help from people that have been walking with Jesus longer than me.  I know I can go to my parents with anything and that they already pray for me daily. I can also seek advice from church leaders and even my brother and other Christian friends.    
  • When things are going well, I will be SURE that I acknowledge Him, then, too. Those are really good times to be a light for those around me that may not know much, if anything, about Jesus.   

These verses tell me that if I acknowledge God in all things, He will set me on the path He planned for me. So, I commit right now to take charge of my spiritual development. That is where I will find His best for me.  With all the hopes and dreams I have about high school and the future in general, I'm declaring right now that of all those things, there's nothing I want more than God's will for my life.  I fully intend to remind myself and will accept being reminded of this by others when I start to stray from that path. My main objective with this manifesto is to ensure that I don't just float through high school or miss a single thing God has for me.   

Name: ____________________________ 


Date: _____________________________________ 

Witnesses:  _______________________________________

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