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A recent national survey revealed that only 10% of the fathers of home-educated children are actively involved in their children's education. Unfortunately this is in keeping with modern-day trends. Perhaps you are like the typical father who is dynamic at work, but when you get home you want your private space. School is over and it is time for your peaceful and quiet little castle--your deserved retreat from the stress of the day's activities. Is it possible that mothers are teaching the children, keeping up the home-making duties, maintaining the discipline, and trying to be a super wife at the same time?
What has happened to the idea that training children is primarily the father's obligation? In colonial America fathers not only taught children trade skills but also taught basic academic skills and decided what advanced training the children would receive. Now it is rare to see fathers involving children even in routine daily activities.
Consider the Biblical implications of a father's role in education. One of the first references to educating children is God's speaking of Abraham as His choice to be the father of a godly nation. "For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord" (Gen. 18:19). God trusted that Abraham would diligently teach his children to continue in the way of life that would be pleasing to God. This aspect of fatherhood is stated emphatically in Deut. 6:7 where the law is to be conveyed to children by the fathers in every waking moment. As the Scriptures indicate for any long-range results, you must train your children in the knowledge and holy love for the will of God by becoming directly involved with activities and concerns that demonstrate your love for your children.
As a father you have a tremendous opportunity to make a positive impact on the quality of instruction that takes place in the home during the day. The more interest you display to the family about each day's events, the more likely the home schooling situation will be a success. This point cannot be overstated. When you come home, you should add freshness to a school day that has had its delights and triumphs but also its struggles and discouragements. This means initiating conversations and giving your undivided attention to each family member as he talks about his learning experiences and the events of the day. Carefully give positive signals to every visible attempt each child has made in his school work. Your approval is essential to the vitality of the overall program. Without it, school will become stale, Mother will burn out, and each day will become a drudgery.
The Biblical role of a leader, and especially that of a father, is based on servanthood. Learning this concept is essential because it is a far cry from the norm today. The tendency of many men is to expect to be indulged, to seek self-fulfilling activities, and to demand their own space. One of the first reasons given by men who want out of marriage is that their wives and/or children are not meeting their needs.
There is no comfort in the Scriptures for this attitude. If you are not willing to sacrifice your own desires to meet the needs of your family, your sacrifice to any religious activity will be regarded as phony by your wife and children. This is evident in the requirement for the office of deacon: I Tim. 3:4 "One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity." Gravity means the characteristics which entitle one to reverence, respect, dignity, and honor. I Thess. 2:11 shows a parallel between Paul's exhortation for deacons and that of a father: "we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you as a father doth his children." The word comfort means to entreat or to call to one's side. It was common practice during Paul's time for fathers to affectionately instruct children, even when they were disobedient. You need to show that you possess a compassionate heart set on placing the needs of your children and wife as priorities.
There are several incidental ways you can directly influence the quality of your children's education. Supper time is prime time to stimulate thinking skills and discernment. Children love to be a part of adult conversations. They like to hear about your work life, the interaction you have with fellow employees, and the decisions you make. Rather than just casually mentioning these things, engage the children's thoughts by creating a questioning system that develops decision-making skills. Discuss a set of circumstances and ask, "What would you do? What could have been said or done to make things better? What are the Biblical implications?" Keeping up on current topics that are of interest to children and weaving them into normal conversation allow issues to be treated easily and objectively. Politics, current events, or controversial topics can also be part of this interactive talk. The key here is to handle this discussion in such a way that no one thinks it is a teaching opportunity but just an enjoyable conversation.
Another opportune time for you to teach is when your children help in the home, auto, and yard upkeep. Why hire a plumber when there is so much to learn by doing it yourself and involving your children? There are hundreds of do-it-yourself books that make things quite simple. Most of these books will tell you when to call in the expert. Children do not learn just by watching, nor will they retain interest. They need to help in the diagnosis, repair procedure, and hands-on experience with tools, taking into consideration their age and abilities. While my children were teenagers and in their early twenties, we built our own house. There were many things we didn't know, but there were experts everywhere willing to share information. Now that my children are grown, they have the know-how to build their own house and do most of the home repairs.
One of the more frequent complaints I hear from teaching mothers is that they do not have enough time each day for planning instruction. The question is not how to develop a program that needs no planning time. The effectiveness of the school day is equal to the quality of planning provided. Each evening, an hour before the children's bedtime, the father could take over the exclusive supervision of the children. This can be a time to read aloud, conduct Bible class, or any area of instruction that you might like to teach. It is also a good time to play games, sing songs, tell stories, get out the family album, write letters to friends and missionaries, and do similar activities. Mother can go off and prepare lessons and activities for the next day. Following the bedtime rituals, which both you and Mother will want to participate in, the evening is then free for additional preparation and a most desperately needed time for personal communication with each other. Any mother who has been exclusively with children all day, needs an adult to talk to. It is important to talk about the educational efforts, but you will be wise to reserve some of this time for maintaining and building a personal relationship with her.
In addition to the daily involvement with the family, the overall structure and planning of the home-education effort is your responsibility. This means involvement in studying curricular choices, setting goals, evaluating progress, determining schedules, planning breaks, and maintaining the delight and joy of the home environment. You will need to do research on educational choices, investigate curriculums, subscribe to and read current educational journals, establish a written philosophy, and plan for the educational aspects of the home school. It is your responsibility to communicate with school and state officials, establish legal protection, and direct other official business in regard to the school efforts such as setting up a budget for school expenses and purchasing materials. This does not mean that Mother, the teacher, has no voice or opinion in these matters, but saving her time and freeing her to concentrate on teaching will make a major contribution to her well-being. You also will automatically develop a high interest in what is going on.
The tone for control and discipline in the home rests on your shoulders. If mother ends up with discipline problems along with carrying the biggest load of teaching, she will soon become weary. The question here is how can you make your influence felt even when you are not present? My dad worked long hours when I was a child, but he was frequently on my mind, especially when I contemplated doing something I should not do. This is accomplished first of all by maintaining a visible personal relationship to God. Children know you will do the right thing regarding discipline regardless of the consequences. In this walk with God you are a type of prophet to your children in that they grasp Biblical standards of behavior. The children will know you are sensitive to violations and are prepared to deal with them. Many men will look the other way when children violate rules or display unacceptable behavior because they want to avoid dealing with the problem. Being alert to certain sounds and actions that mean delayed obedience is an important skill to develop. You do not need to raise your voice or repeat instructions that you know were heard the first time. Children will drift from obedience just as far and as soon as a non-alert father will allow; so when there is an obvious delay in obedience, take immediate steps to correct the situation. When this atmosphere is maintained in the home, the mother will have little difficulty with obedience during the day.
Children's respect for their mother rests almost totally on the tone you set. The right tone is created first by your example of respect and devotion to her. There is not a child in the world who will not at some point test the strength of this issue. Both you and your wife need to keep your antennae up for violations and deal effectively with them at the first occurrence. When the pattern is set for respect, children will not be tempted to take advantage of their mother as the teacher. She will be honored and respected with little effort on her part.
Because of our modern-day lifestyle, there is no question that mothers have to be the main teacher in a home-education setting. But she should not be expected to carry the burden all alone. There are Biblical mandates that are most effectively taught by the father, and she needs a husband that demonstrates a genuine interest and direct involvement with the whole effort to train and educate their children. Words of encouragement and appreciation need to be backed by action. You are not an outsider in this home-education effort: you are a vitally important part of it.