This is a message to fathers who are homeschooling. The question I want to answer is: Does Christianity provide much guidance to fathers about homeschooling?
I am going to say yes, but first I want to back up a bit.
You and your wife are in it together, so let us be honest. In practice, much of the heavy lifting, the hard work, the long hours of homeschooling, falls squarely on your wife’s shoulders. If your home is like ours, then it is your wife who is the star. Too many husbands—including me—behave more like bystanders than partners. In addition, there is the tendency for mothers to be undervalued and taken for granted. Be honest, most of us know we do not appreciate our wives as we should—and they know it too—but they keep laboring. Then include the fact that most mothers also run the household, preparing the meals, doing the laundry, changing the diapers, providing oodles of emotional support, taking care of all that cleaning up…all on such a regular basis that fathers forget just how much work is involved. Now, add in the reality that our modern culture encourages men to abdicate their manly responsibilities for boyish pleasures. Men are discouraged from growing up, and wives see this.
What are men to do? What is the “secret”? How might the Christian worldview provide guidance to the homeschooling father? The answer to all these questions is that Christianity gives us Christ as our example. In Ephesians 5:25, the apostle Paul specifically says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (NIV, 1984). So here is the solution: show Christ to your wife and family through your actions. In a sense, we husbands and fathers are to be icons of Christ, true imitators of the one who is the perfect icon of God the Father to us.
That is the answer that Christianity offers—a simple answer that is straightforward and unencumbered. Of course it is also impossible, and any honest man will admit he is not up to the task. I must confess that, on all accounts, I am a failure at being an imitator of Christ. My family knows this, to my chagrin of course. But here is the crux of the matter: though we men are not going to be perfect (not yet anyway), we can decide to give it a try, and then we can keep trying over and over. In short, if you want to be a great homeschooling father, begin by constantly, sacrificially loving your wife as best you can.
In many little ways, this Christ-like love plays out in ordinary, daily living, but here is a possible list of things to do for your wife:
• Pay attention to what she is doing. Your wife is busy. Homeschooling has many moving parts. Classical, Christian education comes with profound underlying ideas. Know what your wife is up to. Understand what she struggles with. Listen to what she is thinking. Be in touch with how things are going. Talk to her. Check in frequently. Fully engage with her in the task of home education.
• Be in your wife’s corner. Homeschooling is also parenting. You and your wife must be on the same page. She will have hard days and unruly children. Step in. Be her champion. Fight for her.
• Do the chores. Homeschooling is extremely time-consuming and frequently exhausting. It is hard enough to keep the house clean, but more so for the homeschooling mom who is overwhelmed with the requirements of educating her children as well as herself. Help her clean the house, do the dishes, straighten up, and make dinner. You come home from a hard day’s work? Remember, she is tired too. Show her Christ by letting her sit down while you take over. Run the household for her so she can rest.
• Put aside your toys. Play should be a part of everyone’s life, not just for children. Nevertheless, face the fact that you are now an adult. Life is not about escape; it is about loving others. Love life and all the good things God provides, but love your wife and children more by being a man who takes his responsibilities seriously. Your children need to see what a mature man looks like—this includes both your sons and your daughters.
• Spend a great deal of time with your children. Your wife probably spends far more time with them than you do. Give her a break, and give your children a gift as well, by being with them. There is no such thing as “quality time versus quantity time.” There is only quantity time; the quality comes from just loving your children and letting them know you love their mother.
• Frequently rescue her. Take your wife away. It does not have to be elaborate. Go for a walk or a drive. Take her to dinner once in a while. Give her the opportunity to go out with her friends, join a book group, or do art with no children around. It does not take much, just do it, and do it frequently.
I do not, however, merely want to provide a personal “to do” list. Underlying this list, and characteristic of the Christian homeschooling father, are four key animating ideals that impel that man forward in his quest to love his wife as Christ loved the church. They are:
Christian men are servant leaders. They lead their families through sacrificial love and service.
Christian men are priestly. They call their families to worship, and they lead them in knowing God. They help their families offer up their gifts to God in service.
Christian men are prophets. They speak the good news of the Gospel—that Christ is King—to their families.
Christian men are martyrs. They take up their crosses every day as they seek to imitate Christ, setting aside their own desires for the needs of others.
The guidance Christianity provides the homeschooling father is not about curricula or organizational principles, nor is it specific to any subject; rather, it is about the character of the man. In other words, fathers, conform your lives to Christ and seek the ideal. In fact, that may be what we men have always been looking for—a deep and abiding reason to be passionately and honestly idealistic.