When Christian, homeschooling parents are asked why they educate their children at home, they give 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 their child’s academic ability. Others may mention a special need their child has that can be best catered to at home.
The least common response I hear is that we (as believers in Jesus Christ) have been given the primary responsibility to educate our own children. It’s as simple as that. It is even more rare to hear that fathers bear the primary responsibility to disciple their children in the ways of the Lord. Yet homeschooling flows from these convictions.
My sincere hope and prayer is that many fathers would read this article. But that probably won’t be the case. Mothers will primarily read these words. Their response can be anything from “My husband needs to hear this and I’ll make sure he does” to “How can I encourage my husband to read this without nagging him?” Ladies, may I suggest the leave-it-open-in-the-kitchen-and-pray approach over the wear-him-down-with-suggestions-and-withhold-food-if-necessary approach?
There are two areas in which (I believe) we home-educators have lost our way.
Let’s consider each.
THE LEADERSHIP OF HOME EDUCATION One of the New Testament’s clearest exhortations regarding parenting is Ephesians 6:4. There Paul writes:
“...and you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”
Note that this verse is addressed specifically to fathers, and concerns their responsibility to train their children.
In Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (the “classic” discipleship passage), we read:
“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 God’s commands. Commands which are to be passed on to our children. This passage assumes constant interaction between a father and his children -- every day, the father intentionally interpreting life through the lens of Scripture.
God has a pattern and a plan for Biblical family life. That plans consists of a father bearing the responsibility to lead, love, and disciple his family according to the instruction of God’s Word. And our home education should be in accord with that model.
Let me be clear. I am NOT saying that fathers and mothers are different in ability or worth. What I am saying is that there is a difference in responsibility (and therefore accountability) before God. Look through the book of Proverbs. Nearly all of the instruction is communicated from father to son. What does that tell us? Simply that fathers are the primary authority in the discipleship of their children.
Therefore, if our homeschooling is discipleship first and academics second (this is the Biblical pattern), fathers must exercise leadership in the home education of their children.
Sadly, we see less and less of this today. Many mothers reading this article know this to be true. And many fathers who started reading this article probably didn’t get this far! As difficult as it is to admit, we men have largely abdicated our role as leaders in the home. This affects our homeschooling, for we have unbiblically separated discipleship from education.
And that leads us to the second area in which I believe we have lost our way.
THE GOAL OF HOME EDUCATION When I write that we parents should focus on character first and academics second, I no doubt confuse some people. Don’t we want our children to be bright, competent, and academically successful? Not at the expense of godly character! In Mark 8:36, Christ says:
“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”
Please don’t think that I am saying academics are unimportant. Not at all. I am just saying that they are secondary. Can anything be more important to us than the salvation of our children? If I compartmentalize my life so that I only focus on “bringing home the bacon” -- if I get distracted with career goals and personal hobbies and don’t engaging myself in the discipleship and education of my children – what is it all worth? When possible, fathers should include their children in their work. Some fathers have made great sacrifices to allow for this, but they have reaped the benefits.
Fathers must actively work to form godly character in their children. Therefore, our homeschooling should be intertwined with the consistent practices of family worship, study and application of Scripture, and purposeful involvement in the local church. All of this should be under the leadership and direction of the father.
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; it is possible when one submits to God’s will, God’s ways, and God’s work. However, success 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 our children know the God of the Bible, study and apply His Word, and grow to be godly and wise, so that they may glorify Him with their lives.
IN SUMMARY What happens when a father leads in the home and involves himself in home education? Well, he doesn’t quit his job and take over all of his wife’s activities. It is quite right that mothers spend the majority of time with their children -- they are the primary teacher of their younger children.
However, when a father accepts his leadership role within the home, he will take on board the responsibility of oversight and delegation. He will be meticulously engaged with his children in all areas of life. His wife may be far abler and better equipped to educate their children; nonetheless, she will be more happy and secure under the loving oversight and leadership of an involved husband. By his actions, a father should say to his wife, “I am primarily responsible before the Lord for how our children turn out; I’m won’t just dump that burden on your shoulders.”
When a father comes home and sees that his wife is having a bad day, he doesn’t simply wish her a better day tomorrow! Instead, he takes responsibility over the situation. He may sit down to talk about and pray for a solution. In other words, the husband is not only aware of what is going on -- he is actively engaged in it. It is simply one part of his discipleship efforts. Though his work may prohibit his involvement in some elements of family life, his loving leadership can be felt even when he is absent.
May each of us, as men responsible before God, and equipped by God, fulfill our duty as the loving leaders of our homes. It is a sacrifice that will yield eternal benefits.