"Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the LORD do that which seemeth him good." 2 Samuel 10:12
Greetings in the glorious name of Jesus the merciful One who does justice and is compassionate!
I wanted to take a minute to say hello and to share a bit about a father's role in the homeschooling journey from my personal experience. No matter your background the blessing of children comes with the responsibility to care for the education of our children. God has given husbands and wives this duty and our children's futures really do depend on our choices and how much we choose to be involved in their lives.
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."
Deuteronomy 6: 4-9
Kathy and I started homeschooling sort of by surprise. We had our first daughter and we loved spending time with her, she grew and the thought of school never crossed our minds until she turned 4. One day we realized it was that time, we had to make some decisions about the direction we were going to go for school. We looked at our choices. Public school was free but we didn't feel we wanted that for her, you get what you pay for. Private school was expensive and would require more time apart to cover the costs. Homeschooling was novel to us and in my case I had had a bad experience when I was homeschooled in the 2nd grade. For my wife homeschooling was out of the question, she didn't feel qualified and the thought scared her.
In my view homeschooling was the only option that let us have the freedom to be together as much as possible and have the best influence on our children. My wife was not convinced. Now, I know my wife pretty well. She is amazing and when she puts her mind to it she really can do almost anything, and do it well. She also often feels like she cannot do new things. Because our youngest was 4 and we had a year to decide I asked my wife to try pre-school. If she didn't like homeschooling we could look at other options and we were not planning to put her in preschool anyways, so nothing would be lost if we didn't like homeschooling. We started to peruse homeschooling and asked around to find out how to get started.
What proved to be the best advice was this, "You guys need to go to a CHEA conference." (CHEA stands for Christian Home Educators Association of California and every year they have a convention in Northern and Southern California.) We took this advice and went to our first CHEA conference in San Jose. It was an awesome and eye-opening experience for both of us. There we walked into the world of homeschooling. We went from not knowing what to do, to being overwhelmed with options and different approaches for our school. My wife was able to look at the curriculum and for her the pieces to the puzzle started to fall into place. She could see much of the work she had been worried about was done for her by those who had gone before. All we had to do was to choose the curriculum style that we wanted.
Being new to homeschooling and knowing very little about curriculum or our child's learning style we made a decision to go with the type of curriculum we had when we went to school. We chose Abeka to start. It was very structured and had a great lesson plan and workbooks. Teaching was laid out for my wife. We were both experienced in this type of curriculum and so it made us confident in what we were doing. The choice to start in preschool really paid off and by the time we were half way through the school year my wife felt very confident. We made the choice to homeschool at this point. I don't feel like this was the best decision making process but that's what happened. I will talk more about this later.
I wish I could say I stayed by my wife's side and that we walked this path together until this day but that just isn't what happened. To my shame I got my wife started and then turned to my own interests. My last instructions to her were, "What I want most is that my children are good readers, if they struggle with reading I want to know right away." I was/am a poor reader and this has plagued me my whole life. I didn't want my children to have to feel stupid because books without pictures scared them. I am also poor in math and this too bothered me. My wife was smart, she finished college, and I was the worker so off I went to work and for the next few years paid little or no attention to my homeschool. I read the Bible in the morning and evening to the family and looked at school projects and told my wife she was amazing and doing a good job, but that was it.
We joined Calvary Christian School shortly after this and we continued to have children. The children grew, as they do, and soon my wife was schooling 3 children and had one in tow. After a few years I realized my mistake, I saw my wife needed help. I stuck my nose in to offer her assistance but found that I was not wanted. This was frustrating. I could see she needed me and could use my perspective but she resisted. I didn't realize what had happened and it took me a few years of trying and many arguments where she would explain what I did wrong but I still didn't get it. What I learned was that from her perspective I had abandoned her in homeschooling after getting her started. Then when I did offer to help I always forgot or something else came up. I would start and then I didn't follow through.
This was tough to hear and I felt horrible when I realized that, whatever I thought I was doing, from her perspective she was right. I had abandoned her in "our" school. She also saw how excited the children got when I said I would help and how disappointed they were when I didn't follow through. She was protecting them from me disappointing them. Now, I understand I had work to do and that my plate was full. I was doing what I thought was best for my family. In reality I was not prioritizing my family properly. You may be thinking that you do not have time to school your children all day, I understand that is a fear, but in reality that is not what my wife wanted or needed. In my case what she really wanted was for me to sit with her and look over curriculum, she wanted to bounce ideas off of me and hear my thoughts, she wanted to share concerns for our children with me and talk about what to do.
The trouble was I didn't know what any of the things she wanted from me looked like. How do I do this? I started to give some direction to her to help and that led to fights. I imagined I was doing what she wanted. What I later learned was that even though I could see things different then her and that my solutions and advice would help her she could not receive my help because I was giving it to her from far away(arm chair quarterbacking). Before she could receive my advice I needed to demonstrate that I was with her and invested. I started to listen to her and ask her questions. I started a date night so we could get away and talk. We went to another CHEA convention to get back on the same page. I make sure if I commit to helping, I show up.
Recently I realized one of our obstacles is that we have two different projects, mine is my business and hers is the schooling. My goal is to integrate those two things. Use the business for schooling and use the schooling for business. This will give my wife a break at times when the children are working on the business and it will put us all on the same page together. Though my wife and I are not "there" yet, our trajectory is toward togetherness and this is very exciting. This is our homeschooling story and we are not yet half way, we have a long way to go. We have much to learn. Your story will be unique. That is one of the greatest things about homeschooling, you are free to design your school to best fit your families needs. There is no one size fits all approach.
In hindsight I realize that the way I decided to start homeschooling and my reasons for doing so were, let's just say, not the best. I had no vision for my children's education. I had not thought about what God was directing me to do. What does God's word say about teaching our children? In the passage above from Deuteronomy we see we are supposed to teach our children God's word, "Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." How can we do this if our children are not with us? Who else will do this if we don't? What I now realize is that home educating my children is not one of many good options, rather, it is the default. It is the way God intends for children to be taught primarily. I understand in the world today there may be reasons we feel we cannot take this on, it is not my goal to tell anyone they are wrong. However I do want to point the way to what God's word says. As parents we are equipped to educate our children and the process of educating them, will educate and refine us. I now see homeschooling as a duty and my prayer is that more fathers will lead their families on this adventure.
Fathers, my advice for you is to get involved and stay involved with your wife and children on this homeschooling journey. Do what you have to do. Play the man. Sometimes I hear men say, "That's her thing." and it makes me cringe. Our wives are fully capable of home educating on their own, however the best place for them is walking beside us, as our help meet. This not only breaths life into your wife, it also invigorates the children to see their parents working as a team and it also strengthens the marriage. I realize you may feel unwanted or inadequate to help, that is common but it is untrue. You are the man God has chosen for your wife and children, you are adequate and you can become even more so by getting involved. You may need to take a back seat for a long time to learn how best to work with your wife, learn what she needs and what she doesn't.
Men, let's do this!
Sincerely Danny Ehinger
Director and homeschooling father of 6.