I have many opportunities speak to mothers on the subject of homeschooling their children. Some are investigating and want information about what homeschooling entails. Others need encouragement to stay the course and are eager for suggestions about curriculum, courses of study, or ideas to help a challenged learner. An increasing number come to me in a desperation mode, ready to throw in the towel. Usually this group has become convinced that the reason for their children’s defiant behavior is as a result of how they have chosen to educate them. If only their children were in a “regular” school setting, the reasoning goes, all problems would miraculously vanish.
In my experience, a mom at her wit’s end is suffering from lack of support for her homeschooling endeavors. Often, she and her husband have failed to take the first step toward successful homeschooling: establishing a mission statement declaring why they are homeschooling, what they are eager to accomplish, and how they will measure progress. More often than not they have made their highest priority attempting to get their children to like homeschooling. A better approach is to establish with their children that the homeschooling approach has been chosen after considerable thought. Thus, the method of education does not become a negotiable point. Very few day school teachers would get much instruction accomplished if they had to focus on getting children to like being at school.
In our homeschool, my husband assumed the role of principal and I that of primary teacher and director of academic studies. This worked well, because I did the lion’s share of the teaching. But, like many of the moms I counsel, I would run into times when my children would become openly defiant to a request or assignment and I became frazzled. I would often make the mistake of “reasoning” with them as if the problem was an intellectual one. We quickly learned that these types of issues were moral in nature and that Dad had to be a huge part of the equation as far as the authority structure went. My husband made it clear to the children that disobeying him was going to bring repercussions. However, if they disobeyed me in his absence, the consequences would be more severe. He made it clear that my authority came from him and when they disregarded something I said or disobeyed me, they were in actuality disobeyed him.
Some might say that this takes authority away from the mother, but it actually enhances her position and supports her in a truly biblical fashion. Christian parents are under the authority of God, with the husband as the primary representation of God in the family. It follows that the authority flows from the husband/father to the wife/mother. A family that is on this sure footing will be teaching their children how to be good family members, church members, community members employees, and citizens. Since the family is the first school, workplace and culture, older children will have the opportunity to exercise godly, delegated authority with younger brothers and sisters. This establishes the reality that all people everywhere are under authority.
When approached in this fashion, the inevitable difficult circumstances that arise in family life can be dealt with more effectively without confusing the issue where education is taking place: homeschool or day school. Only when there is a united, biblically orthodox structure in place can it be determined whether an unpleasant or difficult situation stems from rebellion or the need to change a policy or focus.
This concept may sound foreign to families new to homeschooling. That is why it is useful to have interaction with families who have embraced this biblical model. Not only can the veterans serve as an encouragement to the novices, but older children can serve as model/mentors for their younger counterparts in other families. My daughter has often done more to remedy tumultuous times for another homeschooling family just by interacting with the children and giving them a model of a “cool” grown-up homeschooler who doesn’t bristle under the authority of her parents, but embraces it.
Lastly, it is important that the primary teacher in the homeschool gets support as she continues to grow spiritually and in her role as teacher, learning how to incorporate biblical wisdom into each and every subject taught. By studying God’s law-word with an eye to make her a better teacher, she will learn how to differentiate between a defiant child and a confused one. As a homeschooling mentor, I can help. Write me at [email protected].
- Andrea G. Schwartz
Andrea Schwartz is Chalcedon’s family and Christian education advocate, and the author of eight books including: A House for God: Building a Kingdom-Driven Family, The Biblical Trustee Family: Understanding God’s Purpose for Your Household, Empowered: Developing Strong Women for Kingdom Service, Woman of the House: A Mother’s Role in Building a Christian Culture, and The Homeschool Life: Discovering God’s Way to Family-Based Education. She’s also the co-host of the Out of the Question podcast, and Homeschooling Helps (weekly live Facebook event). She can be reached at [email protected].