A WORD TO HOMESCHOOL FATHERS IN NZ
Written by Kris Baines 12.7.13
When Christian homeschooling families are asked their reasons for educating their children at home, there are varied responses. Some say it is to “get out of the system” that would otherwise corrupt their children. Some argue that it is the most effective way to build and increase their child’s academic ability. Others may state a certain special need their child has, and therefore is catered for best at home. However, the least common response I hear is that as believers in Jesus Christ, we have been given the primary responsibility for educating our children – simple as that. Taking this a step further, it is even more rare to hear a philosophy that is based on the leadership and responsibility of the father to disciple his children in the ways of the Lord, of which homeschooling is a natural by-product, or outflow of that conviction.
My sincere hope and prayer is that many fathers would read this article. But sadly, that won’t likely be the case. It will be mostly mothers who read these words. Many of those mothers will have a response with anything from “Right, my husband needs to hear this and I am going to make sure he does”, to “How can I respectfully encourage my husband to read these words without usurping his leadership or nagging”. Ladies, may I suggest the “leave it open on the kitchen benchtop and pray” approach over the “wear him down with suggestions and if required withhold necessary food” approach!
“My sincere hope and prayer is that
many fathers would read this article. But sadly,
that won’t likely be the case.”
There are 2 main areas in which I believe we are losing our way in regard to Biblical home education. Firstly, The Leadership of Home Education, and secondly, The Goal of Home Education:
THE LEADERSHIP OF HOME EDUCATION
One of the few exhortations about the responsibility of parenting in the New Testament is Ephesians 6:4…and you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” The interesting thing about this verse, is the specific command towards fathers, in regard to their responsibility to train their children.
Then, in Deuteronomy 6:6-9 we have the “classic” and often quoted passage about the discipleship of children…“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” This passage is not simply a list of principles for a happy home. It is a strong call for obedience to His commands, and also to be pass on those commands to our children. It is a command that “assumes” the constant interaction of a father with his children, in daily life, intentionally interpreting life through the lens of Scripture.
God has a pattern and a plan for Biblical family life, and that consists of a father, who bears and carries out the responsibility to lead his family, love his family, and disciple his family in the commands and instruction of God’s Word. Under that “big picture” it goes without saying that the home educating of children, should be a natural outflow of that structure.
“…God has a pattern and a plan for Biblical family life, and that consists of a father, who bears the responsibility to lead his family…”
This is not to say (and I want to be clear on this), that there is a difference in ability or worth between a father and mother who homeschool their children. But there is a difference in responsibility, and therefore accountability towards God. Look through the book of Proverbs and you will notice that nearly all of the instruction, is given in the context of a father to a son. What does that tell us? Simply that it is again assumed that fathers are the primary authority in the discipleship of their children. Therefore, if homeschooling in essence is discipleship first (training children to know, trust and obey Christ in all things), and academics second (which is the Biblical pattern), does it not go without saying that fathers are to exercise leadership in the home education of their children?
“…homeschooling in essence is discipleship first (training children
to know, trust and obey Christ in all things), and academics second…”
Sadly, we see less and less of this today. Many mothers reading this know this to be true. Any fathers reading this, may not have even got this far! As difficult as it is to admit – as men, and as fathers, I believe we have largely abdicated our role as leaders in the home. This then affects us in the arena of homeschooling, because we have unbiblically separated discipleship from education. That leads us to the second main area in which I believe we are losing our way…
THE GOAL OF HOME EDUCATION:
When I make the statement “discipleship of character first, and academics second”, that might not make sense to some people. After all, we want our children to be bright, competent and academically successful don’t we? Well not at the expense of godly character we don’t. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”- Mark 8:36. Please don’t think I am saying the academic is not important. Not at all – I am just saying that it is secondary.
Is there anything more important to us, than the salvation of our children? If I compartmentalise my life in such a way that all I focus on is “bringing home the bacon”, or get distracted with career goals and personal hobbies at the expense of engaging myself in the discipleship and education of my children – what is it all worth? Fathers must be actively involved in the formation of godly character in their children, and therefore homeschooling should comfortably mesh and intertwine with the consistent practices of family worship, the study and application of Scripture, and purposeful involvement in the local church – all under the leadership and direction of the father.
“After all, we want our children to be bright, competent and academically successful don’t we? Well not at the expense of godly character we don’t”.
How do you define success for your children? Is it doing well in exams and competitions? Is it achieving a good paying career with great prospects? Worldly success is allowable, and possible when it comes under submission to God’s will, God’s ways and God’s work, but it is never to be pursued to the neglect of God’s will, God’s ways and God’s work. Our greatest desire should be that they grow to understand and know the God of the Bible, are proficient in studying and applying His Word to their lives, and grow to be godly and wise, glorifying God with their lives.
What does it look like then in real life, when a father takes leadership in the home, including home education? Well it doesn’t mean the father needs to quit his job, and takes over all the activities his wife has been doing from day to day. It is quite right that the mother spends the majority of time with the children (particularly when young), and is their “primary” teacher. What does make the difference, however, is when a father accepts his leadership role within the home, and takes on board the responsibility of oversight and delegation, evidenced by meticulous engagement with his children in all areas of life. His wife may be far more able and equipped to educate their children in various subjects, but she is more happy and secure under the loving oversight and leadership of an involved husband who casts the vision, and “steers the ship”. When a father does this he is saying by his actions, “I am primarily responsible before the Lord for how our children turn out, and I’m not just dumping that burden on your shoulders alone”.
For example, when a father comes home and sees his wife pulling out her hair from having a “bad day”, he doesn’t respond by saying “Hope tomorrow is better!” Instead, he takes responsibility in the situation, and sits down to talk and pray through a solution. In other words, the husband is aware of what is going on and he is actively engaged in the process as just one part of the whole of his discipleship efforts. He may have much less involvement when it comes to practically “delivering the goods” but his loving leadership has a presence that is felt throughout the day even when he is absent or working. When possible, fathers should be encouraged to include their children in their work/vocation. Some fathers have made great sacrifices to allow for this, and have reaped the benefits.
“…the husband is aware of what is going on
and he is actively engaged in the process…”
On August 2-3, we are hosting a conference on fatherhood. Within the schedule, we will get together with all the homeschool dads in the Christchurch area to meet one another, and hopefully form some beneficial relationships/ provide mutual encouragement. It would be great to see you there if you can make it – more info can be found at www.fatherhood.org.nz.
Kris Baines is a homeschooling father who lives in Rolleston, Christchurch with his wife Becky and their 6 children. In addition to his primary calling as a husband and father, Kris works as a paramedic, pastor, and composer, and also runs a ministry for Christian men called The Psalm 12:1 Project (www.psalmtwelveone.org.nz). Kris can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org