Here are a few tips on ways you as a father can help out with your family's home education journey. I've found that friends of ours that tend to stick with home education all the way tend to be families where the dads lend as much help as possible, both on a practical, emotional and spiritual level. Thus, I exhort all you dads, both those new to home education and those further along, to keep helping as you are. I also encourage you to consider adding a few more areas in which you can help based on what I say below and by finding out from your friends how they help their wives. In what follows I'm assuming that for most of you your wife does most of the hands-on teaching. Despite the fact that as husbands, we generally have less time with our kids, I've found several ways to contribute.
Alberta Home Education Association
In a recent story in the Edmonton Journal, a scientist discussed his impending death and how he would not be continuing dialysis treatment: “What are two more weeks worth? You see? They are nothing.” Well, with all due respect to that scientist – who has since passed on – I disagree. Every minute is important.
Let me contrast the scientist’s view with the story of a successful businessman attending a conference in a large city far from home. After the close of the first day of the conference, the businessman spends some time networking with those in the same business as he. A group then heads to the subway to take a train back to the hotel where they are staying.
The businessman drops his binder of notes on the stairs leading down to the subway, and so he tells the rest of the group to go on ahead and he’ll meet them at the hotel. He picks up the scattered notes, continues down the stairs, and comes to the nearly deserted platform. Nearly deserted, except for a young man in his teens who is sitting on one of the benches smoking a cigarette.
The businessman doesn’t smoke, doesn’t like the smell of smoke, and notices that smoking is prohibited in the subway station. So he decides to go over and speak to the young man. As he approaches, he sees that the young man is shaking. When the young man looks up, his face is wet from tears.
The businessman was prepared to deliver a lecture and a rebuke. Instead, he sits down and says, “What’s the matter?” That question leads to a conversation that takes several hours. It lasts out of the subway station (because the station closes after the last train leaves), out to a nearby doughnut shop, and then into a taxi to take the young man home.
The businessman is saying goodbye, shaking the young man’s hand, when the young man tells him one last thing: “I don’t know why you came over to talk to me, but I want you to know something. That cigarette was going to be my last one. I was going to jump in front of the next train that came into the station. I’d be dead right now if it wasn’t for you.”
Every minute is important.
I know home-educating fathers already know that, because one of the reasons we educate at home is to spend as many minutes as we can with our children, forming them and helping them grow into good and godly men and women. But it often seems that the rest of our world has forgotten what is truly important.
If my life is only for me, then one minute or two weeks may not be worth much. But when we become adults, and especially when we become parents, we learn that our lives are not for ourselves. As fathers, we know that our lives are not meant to be focused on self but focused on others: our focus is on our wives, our children, on God. If we try to make our lives God-centred, then we will naturally become less me-centred.
That’s not easy, of course. As I write this, the countries of Greece and France have just held national elections where the people of those countries chose political parties that would not impose cutbacks on the country. “Turning away from austerity” said the headlines. “Turning away from adulthood” is what I thought; the people want more even though governments can’t pay for more.
We all want more. Our children want more. But as they grow into adults, one of the things we need to teach them and model for them is the nature of adulthood: adults try to be selfless, adults know how to sacrifice, adults know what it means to serve.
Fathers can show children that there is another path to follow instead of the easy road of the world. Through our example and our teaching, we can show just how rewarding a God-centred life can be, how much better it is to give than to receive, how life-changing and world-changing it is to sacrifice and serve.
Home-educating dads know the value of selflessness, sacrifice, and service. We need to teach it and to model it. The world needs us.
Paul van den Bosch is a member of AHEA’s Board of Directors. He and his wife Mary have home educated their seven children for over 18 years.
This article was originally written for the Summer 2012 issue of Home Matters. For more articles, go here.