Dad to Dad
Here are a few messages to homeschooling fathers from men who have been where you are!
Looking Over My Shoulder
There are two specific lessons I wished I had learned earlier on our homeschooling path:
The first one is that change is inevitable. I will not be the same one, three or five years from now. I will either be serving God more, and in more sincere ways, or I will be heading away from the Lord. In every area of my life, God wants to sanctify me. I wish I learned earlier not to get comfortable with any station in life including our homeschooling. Embrace the changes that will have you thinking more about your heart, your marriage, your children, your community, and your church. Homeschooling is just a start of a life-changing journey that will turn into true discipleship of your family. Embrace it vigorously.
I also wish that I had learned earlier in my life what it means to sacrifice for my wife—the kind of sacrifice that Ephesians 5:25 calls us men to. The truth hit me not long ago that my desire to love and serve God was directly related to my gratitude and understanding of the sacrifice that Christ made for me. The more I looked upon the sacrifice, the deeper my love for Him grew and my desire to obey and serve Him intensified. The same was true for my wife—the more I truly sacrificed for her, the more she in turn wanted to selflessly serve our family. The change has been incredible for both of us.
A Note to Dads
The average homeschool mom does an amazing job of educating children at home, but homeschooling can be hard and scary work. How can fathers help their homeschools succeed?
After 20 years of learning in our own home and 15 years of full-time service to the homeschooling community, I’m happy to report that fathers can do a lot to lead their family through difficulties. In fact, it has been my experience that the homeschool father is increasingly crucial to success.
How can a dad can help his wife along the homeschool journey? Why does homeschooling seem so challenging, and how can strong and courageous dads overcome those challenges by means of praise, prayer, planning, and provision?
What Makes Homeschooling So Scary?
Dads can’t help their wives over the hurdles of homeschool unless they have some idea of why it can seem so hard. To understand that, you need to get inside the head and heart of the average homeschool mom. From the first day she decided to homeschool, she has heard voices—real and imagined—that prophesy doom: “Your kids will never learn calculus. You’re overprotective! What about socialization?” Whether it is a well-meaning family member or the militant feminist next door, somebody has made it their business to tell her she is ruining her kids.
Husbands often make things worse. Even the best husbands have bad day, and angry words can pierce the heart of a hard-working wife. “What were you thinking? I can&rsquou;t believe you were so stupid! No wonder our kids can’t spell!”
With all these voices warning her away, why would any sane woman keep homeschooling? The number one reason is spiritual. If your primary reason for homeschooling is to raise children who love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, then calculus and football just aren’t as important. Even spelling takes second place to sanctification—and the home provides the best possible place for parents to disciple their own children.
How Dads Can Help
Praise. That may be the biggest single thing a dad can do to help his wife succeed—notice what’s going right. 3 John 4 says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Have you ever noticed that word “hear” in that verse? Our wives spend all day every day seeing our children—and so much of what they see needs so much work! We all tend to notice what is going wrong. It’s hard—but important!—to notice what is going right. A good husband not only notices what his children are doing right, he tells his wife about it.
If you want your wife to keep homeschooling, then help her see the evidences of grace around her. When your son gets all excited about some project he’s working on, thank your wife for helping him to love learning by making it interesting for him. When your daughter forgets to come to dinner because she’s so caught up in a story she’s reading, tell your wife it’s all her fault—she’s the one who made her love to read! Children who enjoy education today become lifelong learners—which may be more important, in the long run, than anything else they learn.
Prayer. It sounds trite, but it’s still true—dads need to pray for their families. That’s especially true for homeschoolers. Homeschooling is always a little bit like walking on water. Although there isn’t technically any suspension of the laws of nature involved, it defies logic than an ordinary mom could do a better job of educating her kids at home than all the experts with all their millions of tax-funded dollars. As far as I can tell, the reason homeschooling succeeds is just because Jesus calls us to come to Him. Those who step out of the security of the public school system to brave the waves have Him—and Him alone—to thank if they survive.
Dads who pray for their homeschools get better results than those who don’t. That doesn’t mean that every praying father sends his children off to Harvard or that mothers with unbelieving husbands can’t homeschool. If you’re a dad who is reading this article and you don’t pray for your family, though, you’re ignoring your best hope for happiness. God is more eager to answer our prayers than we are to offer them—even the feeblest and most fitful prayers. Don’t believe me? Try it and see!
Planning. One reason homeschool was so hard for my wife was the fear of college. It’s one thing to do arts and crafts in kindergarten—it seemed very different to imagine writing high school credits onto our home-grown transcript. At HSLDA, I’ve handled countless calls from parents who want to know what they need to do to get their children into college. Some of these calls came from families where the oldest child was 5 years old!
Dads can help their wives enormously by taking responsibility for the “big picture.” I routinely encourage dads to start exploring colleges—the earlier the better. It’s easier than you think: pick some reasonably local college you could imagine your child attending some day, and call the admissions office. Say, “We’re homeschooling and like the looks of your college—do you have any special procedures for homeschoolers?” Most American colleges and universities now have some kind of process designed for the homeschool grad, and they aren’t intimidating. If you start now to develop a concrete plan to get your child admitted into one actual college, you’ll find most other admissions offices just use variations on that theme.
Knowing what lies at the end of the road makes day-to-day difficulties more bearable. Your proactive planning now can increase your wife’s comfort level for years to come!
If your homeschool has borne spiritual fruit in the past, there’s every reason to believe God can make it even more fruitful in the future. It can be intimidating, but that’s why God commands us to be strong and courageous. With a reasonable amount of praise, prayer, and planning, every member of your family can enjoy the blessing of a better homeschool experience!
The Most Important Ten Minutes in Homeschooling
So you and your wife have decided to homeschool, eh? Congratulations! You’re on the most important journey you’ll ever take as a family. And now you’re wondering how you can help, right? You’re already working overtime to make ends meet. There aren’t enough hours in the day to complete the many commitments you already have at work, at home, at church and elsewhere. So how can you make the greatest impact on your family’s homeschool experience?
It’s so easy, most of us overlook it. It’s those first ten minutes when you walk in the door from work. Your wife has been mentoring, teaching, encouraging, disciplining, testing, grading and changing diapers all day long. She needs to know that you understand the sacrifice she’s made today. She needs you to not look at the pile of bills on the kitchen table, to not look at today’s scores on ESPN, to not look at what’s on the stove for dinner and to not look at the lawn that needs mowing. She needs you to look her directly in the eyes and ask her, “So tell me about your day, sweetheart.”
And then listen. That’s it. Just listen and maintain eye contact.
She doesn’t need you to fix every problem or necessarily do anything. She just needs five minutes to tell you about all that she did today, and then have you say, “I’m so very thankful that of all the people in the world who could be teaching our children, it’s you that’s making the difference every day.” She will light up like you’ve seldom seen her just to know you care about what she’s doing—and that you approve.
So that’s only five minutes, but I said ten minutes, right? Right!
Now go spend the other five minutes with your children. Ask them about their day. Ask to see the work they did today, the projects they worked on, the tests they took. Remember: Maintain eye contact! Just let them tell you about their day—the discoveries, the achievements, the frustrations and the disappointments. Just listen. And then say, “Wow! You did all that while daddy was at work today?! I am so very proud of you. Thank you for doing such great work today!”
Your job is hard. You get paid for doing it, and hopefully you get some recognition for what you do. Well, your wife’s and kids’ jobs are hard, too. And a little recognition and appreciation from you each day will make all the difference to them tomorrow—and every day.
Thanks for all you do to make homeschooling happen in your home.
Publisher of Five in a Row curriculum and member of the Board of Directors of FCHM.org
The Golf Outing
I was invited to accompany three of my sons on a golf outing Sunday afternoon. Rhett, No. 3 son, works at a prestigious country club in North Texas and was finally taking advantage of the free golf perk.
When we arrived at the course, I immediately identified it as one of those “links” courses and was fearful that Pete Dye was the designer. Sure enough, Mr. Dye even had his name on the flags on each hole on the course! A links course is one where they plant tall, native grasses in all areas other than the fairways. Any balls hit slightly off course is a gimme to Pete Dye and his friends, (we donated many balls to the pampas grass yesterday.)
After the first nine holes, Rhett showed us through the clubhouse, the locker room, the exercise room, the 19th hole and the fine-dining room. Having belonged to one of the top clubs in Texas when I was in college, through my excellent father, I was used to the opulence of a top country club. The ambience exudes wealth and makes a strong statement to members and visitors alike that, “All members of this club have made it big in life’s lottery; they have arrived!” In my unsaved college days B.H.S. (before home schooling), I shared that same sense of accomplishment with my father.
But, as I peered into the exercise room packed full of treadmills and barbells, one thought entered my mind, “They have everything in the world here to keep a man away from his wife and children. How sad!”
Have you arrived, financially? If so, how do you spend your time? How do you invest your money? Do you invest in others, do you spread the Gospel, do you serve your wife, your children, and others in need, or do you buy a new “toy” to play with for a short while?
Our pastor repeated one of my favorite verses yesterday in church, “To whom much is given, much is required.” Whether you’re a fat-cat or struggling to make ends meet, the income level is not the real determining factor. What counts is, “Where is your heart?”
Men, our wives and our children need us so badly. Let's invest in them. The dividends will pay benefits for a lifetime!
Husband of Jessica and father of four; president, KONOS, Inc.
Read more at Home School Mentor.
It’s All about Jesus Christ
As a young father, one of the risks that you will face as you train your children is the danger of aiming for the wrong target. So many before you have been sidetracked with good things. As you look at the families that you consider to be examples, as you listen to teachers and speakers who provide instruction and training, as you read and shape your own thinking about curriculum, activities, scope and sequences; you will be tempted to believe that if you dress your children right, train them to respond to you correctly, build great actions into them, that somehow it will all turn out wonderfully.
I don’t want to alarm or discourage you, but those things won’t cut it. The formulas that you will find out there may possibly produce effective businessmen, successful politicians, and unmatched craftsmen.
What you desire though, is to raise a generation that knows and loves the Lord Jesus Christ. You are aiming for children and grandchildren who walk humbly before the King of kings; people who know how to pray, people who know how to listen, people who know the times and seasons of the Father.
I know what it is like to get off track. I have shaped our family culture. I have orchestrated our speech, our dress, our cuisine, our schedule. We have been that family that “stood out” in public as a fine display of “what a family should be”. The penetrating question in the midst of the display: “Do your children love Jesus?”, and akin to that, “Do your children love people who don’t look like you, because they love Jesus?”
My dear friend, this short note is just a reminder to keep all of the other stuff where it belongs. Jesus Christ and His kingdom is what matters. You can talk about long dresses, whole foods, head coverings, courtship, milking goats, the benefits of Echinacea, etc., etc. Those things have their place. But please don’t end up with your hands full of that stuff and empty of Jesus the Christ.
He will be waiting for you in your quiet place in the morning. Meet Him there and then take your family with you into His presence. Join Him there every day. Then walk in His presence throughout your day so that the culture around you that desperately needs to know of His infinite redeeming love can benefit from what you possess.
Wife to Pam, father of seven and grandfather of five.
Director of ARCH, The Association for the Restoration of the Church and Home, Inc., an organization that serves to bring biblical restoration to the church and home.
How to Help Your Homeschooling Wife
Looking back over our homeschooling years, I can clearly see that our ultimate success was due largely to the time and dedication of my wife, in obedience to the Lord and submission to her husband. I also recognize that if my wife had not been “okay,” then we would have suffered and possibly failed.
The life of a homeschooling mom is extraordinarily stressful, so one of the most important things I can do to ensure success is to make sure that my wife is emotionally, physically, and spiritually okay. By doing this, I affirm her as the most important thing in my earthly realm and present a priceless model for my children. I believe this model was given to us from God in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
God—as our heavenly Father—supplies all of our physical needs (although not necessarily our wants!). As husbands, we have the primary responsibility for meeting the physical needs or our families. Women need physical security to function at their best, so if we take care of those things properly—including what she needs to educate the children—it provides a great deal of security and reassurance for our wives. Even in times of unemployment or underemployment, you and your wife can grow in faith and your wife can have confidence that she and your children will be taken care of if she trusts that you rely on God for provision and you show her that you are purposing to provide for her.
Jesus provided the ultimate sacrifice for us. His love for us and for the Father is without condition and completely selfless. As men, we must model this unconditional and selfless love: In Ephesians, the Bible tells women to respect their husbands but tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. When I got married, I set aside many of the leisurely activities and hobbies I had previously indulged in, not because there was anything wrong with them but because they took my focus off of my wife and placed it on things which served me. This is a decision I must reaffirm daily.
After several years of marriage I purchased our first computer and very quickly began to spend more and more time on the computer and away from my wife and children. When I realized what I was doing, I sold the computer and did not get another one until I had the discipline to use it as a tool and not place it over my time with my wife. I also set aside one evening each week to take my wife out on a date; It usually was not extravagant but it was our time, and the fact that I set it aside sent the message to my wife that she was worth it. Too many times as husbands we feel like we have the right to leisure, but I don’t find that as a scriptural promise. A funny thing will usually happen, however, if you set aside your wants and desires to put your wife first: She will encourage you to take time off or participate in something you enjoy. The key is that she is confident in your love for her and knows that you put her ahead of yourself. When you do this, she is okay.
The Holy Spirit has been given to us to enable us to walk faithfully and be everything that God has called us to be. The body of Christ is made of many members and parts. Remember that she has set aside her self to be a wife and mother to your children. But in that—and sometimes beyond that—she has gifts and talents of her own, given to her by God for a reason, so help her find healthy and family-honoring ways to explore and use them. Otherwise, she may feel restless or like something is missing, and this can be extremely discouraging for a woman who knows she is fulfilling God’s role for her as a mother and a wife.
If you follow this model—providing for her physical security and needs, loving her unselfishly, and enabling her to be all that God has called her to be—then she will be “okay” and your children will be blessed with a model of what a wholesome relationship should be, as well as an example of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in our lives. And when your wife feels taken care of, loved, and enabled, she will be able to stand strong against the winds that might rage against your homeschooling, and your entire family can be blessed.
Three Things I’m Still Working On
Danielle and I both had a pretty good idea of what we were getting into when we started homeschooling—having been at homeschool conventions and working with homeschool students for several years. Still, there are three things I’m still working on today that I wish I’d thought about much earlier:
1. How much encouragement my wife needs to know that she’s on the right track. Homeschool moms worry—Am I doing enough? Am I doing right by my children? What about all the things that are slipping through the cracks? It’s important to make sure she knows that I believe in her and that I believe we’re doing the right thing to homeschool our kids.
2. The importance of family togetherness. Studies show that families begin homeschooling for a variety of reasons, but they continue homeschooling because of what it does for their family. As the dad, I’m responsible to create a culture of blessing in our home—we want our family to be a blessing to all nations and I’m the leader of that.
3. The significance of my spiritual leadership. I travel a lot and am very busy, but I have consistently led my family in a time of worship each evening I’m home. Sometimes we read Scripture, sometimes we read a missionary biography, and sometimes we read a book that contains a strong Christian foundation. The whole family looks forward to this time and we’ve found that it creates a strong foundation for everything else we do in our home.
President of Passing the Baton International.
Respected speaker and author, and homeschool dad.