To be honest, the atmosphere which prevails in the average public school is not exactly conducive to promoting civilized behavior, much less Christian conduct. The greater part of what the Orthodox parent tries to convey to the child at home will be quickly unlearned at school because of the child's desire to fit in with the herd. Hypocrisy and shame will often have the child leading a double life if the parents are not extremely vigilant and careful. Ideally, Orthodox children should be schooled at home but the ideal is not always attainable. Accordingly, here are some guidelines for helping a child maintain his identity as an Orthodox Christian within the public school system.
3) Make the child think always in terms of acting as a Christian and pleasing Christ with his behavior. If the child does something wrong at school, he should admit it and be willing to take the consequences. A child who blames others for his behavior or lies to escape punishment is developing a pattern of moral cowardice. A parent who blames others for the child's behavior (The teacher doesn't like him. It was the other kid's idea. He just went along), or shields the child from the fair punishment he deserves is training him to be a moral coward, or perhaps training him to be immoral. Encourage the child to forgive the children who wrong him and tease him. Help the child to try and see things from the perspective of the teacher who always seems so grumpy and hands out so much homework. Never give the child an excuse for not meeting their obligations at school. If he misses class to attend Divine Services, make it clear that he must make up the work. Try to have a good relationship with the teacher so that if problems arise, the communication lines are open to discuss them.
4) Teach your child that he must never be ashamed of being an Orthodox Christian. Wearing a cross, saying a blessing before eating, refraining from blasphemy or cruelty, these are all things which set him apart from an unthinking crowd of young people who have no idea who they are. Do your best to convince him that confusion and fear of ridicule are not enviable motivations for living.
Ideally, the Orthodox Christian family should spend some vacation time each year at an Orthodox monastery or convent. These visits are especially important in helping children establish positive role models and sparking in them an interest in monasticism. For all Orthodox Christians, monastics represent a spiritual ideal which help us to put into perspective the very few sacrifices required of us as lay people. When children see monks and nuns acting in obedience and humility, being of cheerful service to others, and gladly spending long hours in prayer, they understand much better the attitudes and actions required of them. Of course, we always hope that some of these children will decide to become monastics themselves but it would be unrealistic to expect them to evince such a desire if they have not had the opportunity to see this life for themselves. Whatever sacrifices of time and money it may require, a visit to an Orthodox monastery or convent should be a priority for every Orthodox family.