Christian Homeschooling Issues for Both Mom & Dad
by Michele Hastings
[This "article" is composed of two different excerpts from Micheleís excellent book "The Homeschooling Trail". Please see it at her website, listed at the end of this piece. Ed.]
"Character" I often overhear homeschooling parents explain to others that although academics are important, developing character in their children is by far their first priority. This was the topic of our "Moms Encouraging Moms" meeting tonight, as we gathered to share our hearts and lift one another in prayer. Would you believe that issues such as character and morality are also the focus of some high school teachers in the Separate School (Catholic) system? I found myself passionately discussing this subject last night as I cut hair for a long-time client who is such a teacher. I donít know how we stumbled upon the topic but before his haircut was finished weíd discussed issues such as teen culture, peer pressure, sexuality, and drug use. He described disturbing things he saw and overheard in the halls and classrooms of the high school he teaches at. As he headed out the door last night, he made the comment that nowadays kids are at school because of social issues ó not academics.
I appreciate the teachers out there who do make a positive impact on their students. Many individuals have fond memories of past teachers who have influenced their lives in a beneficial way. My sister is such a teacher and, rumor has it, my dad was one as well. However, my client was quick to agree that a handful of creative and compassionate teachers couldnít possibly stop the surge of violence and promiscuity that rages in society today. He agreed with me that the problem begins when a child of six months old is dropped off at a daycare center to be raised by paid professionals and peers. That may sound harsh, but I believe with all my heart that children who donít get the opportunity to bond with their parents, bond instead with their peers ó who are just as emotionally deprived as they are! Much of my reading in recent years has led me to believe that itís the fatherís responsibility to affirm the femininity and masculinity of his daughters and sons. So many homes these days are fatherless, and due to the necessity of double income families, the majority of schooled youth have become latchkey kids. Itís a dilemma thatís not easy to resolve. I, too, have wrestled with the financial pressures that push their way into homes across our continent. But my conviction to be, for the most part, an involved, stay-at-home mother has allowed me thus far to provide the stability and nurturing I believe our growing boys still need.
My mom, who returned to the workforce after we were all well established in school, regrets doing so, because of the pressure that it put on me as the oldest daughter, to parent my begrudging siblings. She says that if she knew then what she knows now, she would have pushed back the temptation to "do something" with her life and stayed home. I appreciate the fact that we were older when she went back to work. I have warm memories of coming home for lunch in the early years, greeted by the tantalizing fragrance of chicken noodle soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Those tangible moments made an impact in my life, feeding my desire to pass on the same special memories to my own children.
I always wanted to be a stay-at-home mother. Itís not that Iím all that domestic. I donít enjoy cooking and cleaning and all those other household tasks, but Iím committed to being there for our boys. I want to be close to them and really know them. I enjoy our children. I truly like who they are. Itís not that we all get along perfectly. Both boys have characteristics that drive me crazy at times! Sometimes I feel "kidded-out", and crave adult interaction. Yet, I couldnít imagine having to rush out the door in the mornings, and scurry around at night, trying to get supper on the table ó catching minutes instead of hours to talk, and be together.
As a young woman contemplating my future, nothing captured my heart enough to endure years of education for a specific career. I longed instead for a family of my own. I admit I wasnít especially fond of the baby stage. Raising two boys so close together in age was stressful and challenging, but never once did I desire to do anything else with my life! Although I hadnít considered homeschooling our children before my husband suggested it, I had visions of walking my children to school, greeting them at lunch, and chatting with them over after-school snacks. I believe God knew what He was doing when He called us into homeschooling. I donít think Iíd have felt fulfilled, sharing only glimpses of my childrenís lives, had they gone to school. I think I would have grown bored and dissatisfied, seeing them for only minutes at a time before they whipped back out the door to re-join their friends at school after lunch.
Even during summer holidays I lose touch with them because of the huge chunks of time they devote to their friends. I believe that Godís call to homeschool our children is as much about developing and maintaining relationship as it is about educating. Itís also about modeling character, morals, and values and discussing social issues in the light of Godís Word. Homeschooling is our call to be a family and provide a light, and a standard, in a society that is slipping quickly towards destruction caused by brokenness and sin.
Mamaís Boys (Dadsí Issues)
It has been mentioned to me that I donít seem to talk about my husband Ted very often. People wonder how much input a father has in a familyís homeschooling lifestyle. Although every family is different and I can only speak from our own personal experience, a fatherís role in the raising and educating of children is extremely important. In our situation, homeschooling happened to be Tedís idea, not mine. He had a book about homeschooling on his shelf before I even met him! He was the one who brought up "discussing our options" concerning the boysí education. He attended a homeschooling information night and found out about a locally held conference, before I ever agreed to take on such responsibility. I dragged my feet for at least a year before I was willing to research it for myself. Thankfully, by the time Tymon was five and ready for kindergarten, I was ready and willing, albeit not yet eager to step onto this unconventional path. Everything Iíd read and heard about homeschooling sounded engaging, but without the initiation and support of my husband, homeschooling is never what I would have set out to do. I couldnít imagine home-educating our children without the support and encouragement of my spouse. Some are able to do it, and I commend them for their determination and perseverance, but I wouldnít be strong enough to withstand the flow of criticism against homeschooling, without a united home front.
Another vital requirement in successful homeschooling is financial support. I appreciate Ted working hard every day as it enables me to be a mostly stay-at-home parent. Despite the fact that weíve always struggled financially, I know I have his support. Although he appreciates the ways Iíve found to add to our income, and we depend on my input, he is still convinced that itís in the boysí best interests to home-educate. Working in the school system has only confirmed this conviction.
As well as emotional and financial support, a fatherís presence at home affords a sense of security for children. Much of societyís problems, I believe, spring from lack of positive male role models in the home. Although children would be better off living only with their mother if their father was abusive, itís obvious to me that children are even more likely to thrive in two parent families.
Does this mean my husband spends as much time with the boys as I do? Or that he sows as much into their lives as I do? Well Ö I definitely have time on my side and I believe my influence is powerful. But I also believe that as they get older, their father will have more and more impact on their lives. In biblical times, children stayed home with their mothers until they were twelve. After that, while daughters remained at home and continued to learn homemaking skills, the boys went with their father and learned his trade. In addition, the spiritual aspects of parenting fell more on the fatherís shoulders once the kids matured.
Itís important to note that fathers influence their children even when they arenít present. From their fatherís actions and words, the children learn about supporting or not supporting oneís family. They learn about how to maintain, or not maintain, relationships. They learn about integrity, responsibility, self-control, money management, and priorities in either positive or negative ways.
Iím thankful for my husbandís role in our boysí lives. Iím thankful that he loves God and expresses that through loyalty to his family, honesty and integrity, the way he stands up for truth and justice, and the way he defends the weak. Iím thankful for his steadiness, his faithfulness, his perseverance, and his patience. Iím thankful for his kindness, his tolerance, his vision, and his faith.
Iím also thankful for the more active ways he contributes to our boysí lives. Ted drops them off at basketball practice Monday nights, and I pick them up after my dance class. He takes them to and from Thursday night floor hockey most weeks, and shows up for their basketball games on Saturdays, although I always take them there and bring them home. Heís friendly to neighborhood kids and rarely gets annoyed with their constant presence in our home. Most of the boysí friends donít even live with their dads.
Ted is always on the lookout for interesting things to do, and finds resources for the boys to use. Working in a school, he is privy to information about programs and activities that are happening in the city. His passion for alternative music and holistic health has also paid off. We have access to plenty of excellent music, and havenít been to the doctor for about five years, apart from Asherís broken arm last summer, and my annual physicals. His dental plan enables us to keep yearly appointments with the dentist.
It was Tedís interest in computers that exposed us to that "brave new world", and the little boy inside of him is the reason the kids were blessed with their Sega Dreamcast gaming system, much to my chagrin! Asher has a more- than- adequate set of floor hockey pads and gear, due to Tedís generous Christmas gift.
When I complain to him about the boysí lack of enthusiasm over their academic work, he reassures me that theyíll learn everything theyíll need to learn, in their own way and in their own time. He affirms the good job Iím doing and all the effort Iíve poured into their lives and their education. Our differing parenting styles and perspectives also lend balance to our lifestyle and the disciplining of our children. Our weekly attendance at church and home group lends stability and unity to our lives.
Although I wish he would take on even more responsibility around our home and with our kids, Iím thankful for his input. Despite the fact that Ted is rarely mentioned in my musings about our homeschooling lifestyle, he is present, behind the scenes, making this all possible and as successful as I usually think it is!
Michele Hastings is the author of "The Homeschooling Trail" a new
book that recounts she and husband, Tedís, adventures with teaching their 2
sons in Saskatchewan, Canada. For more information, please visit Micheleís
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