During the past few months I have been voraciously reading books and articles and watching documentaries about John and Abigail Adams and have been enjoying myself immensely. This coming week’s podcast about their life as a couple and their marriage has been especially compelling to me as I have considered my own relationship with my husband and how homeschooling has had an impact on it. Considered to be one of the finest statesmen and perhaps the greatest patriot the United States has ever seen, Adams himself stated that he could not have accomplished all that he did apart from the partnership he enjoyed with his wife.
Though Abigail died several years before their son, John Quincy Adams, became president of the United States, John lived to enjoy that moment of parenting success. After the inauguration, someone approached John Adams and commented that certainly he must have been quite proud of his son and remarked that he must have had tremendous influence over his life and education. John’s only reply was “He had a mother.”
When I read that wonderful encouragement, one that would be appreciated by all mothers who have given their lives to raising and teaching children, I couldn’t help but see a stark contrast between Adams’ simple response and the emphasis on fathers and their children as discussed at the Homeschooling Leadership Summit.
This week, John Holzmann has added part one and part two of his assessment of Kevin Swanson’s comments and, though there are several things I could address, one thing really bothered me: the one on one discipleship of children is described as the father’s role rather than a joint effort between the father and the mother. Let me explain my concerns:
1. There is no biblical precedence that discipleship of children is the sole responsibility of fathers. In fact, we see both commands in Scripture to the contrary as well as praiseworthy examples of mothers spiritually training sons.
Children are admonished “honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 21:12, Matthew 15:4 and Ephesians 6:2) and are commanded to “forsake not the law of thy mother” (Proverbs 1:8 and Proverbs 6:20). If the children are Christians, they are commanded to put the one anothers of Scripture into practice even with their moms…love one another, bear one another’s burdens, exhort one another, forgive one another, etc.
Eunice and Lois, the grandmother and mother of Timothy, were praised for having raised this outstanding young pastor in the faith since his own father was not a believer. And we cannot forget that Proverbs 31 is instruction that was given by a mother to her son, King Lemuel, as she admonished him how to find a godly wife. Are fathers to disciple their children? Absolutely! Are mothers to do so as well. Of course we are.
2. Secondly, in practical terms and borrowing the word “normative” from Mr. Swanson’s vocabulary, most “normative” homeschooling situations involve a father who works outside the home and a mother who is home full time.
I know many homeschooling families where moms work part time and some who work full time, either with the moms doing the schooling themselves when they come home or the dads doing the teaching. A few families enjoy having both mom and dad home, sharing in the teaching responsibilities. But, by and large, dad goes out the door to work in the morning and mom’s full time job is homemaker and homeschooling mother.
If we are to take Deuteronomy 6 seriously as homeschooling moms, we will seize every opportunity to counsel and instruct our children in the ways of the Lord all throughout the day. Some of my fondest memories with my children involve time we traveled to and from music lessons or other commitments. These times were full of rich, one on one conversation about all the important matters in life: choosing a spouse, seeking God’s calling on your life, theology, personal relationships, Biblical worldview, etc. To this day I enjoy a spiritual and intellectual relationship with my grown children and share times of rich fellowship with them.
In looking back over the past 33 years of parenting, I am exceedingly grateful that the Lord has always provided a job for Clay that has allowed us to live on one income. I am even more blessed that the Lord has blessed Clay with talents, abilities, and gifts that He continues to use in a very specialized field of work, one that he really enjoys. For me to lament his not being home full time would demonstrate a spirit of ungratefulness to God for all He has done to provide for our family. And to imply that my children have been shortchanged by having a mom do the bulk of the teaching rather than dad would also be an act of ungratefulness. I am concerned that many who are considering homeschooling are getting the impression that dads MUST be home in order to raise godly sons and this is unfortunate and I hope this message deters no one.
3. Kevin Swanson has stated that building solid relationships with children is at the core of homeschooling and I heartily agree.
While my desire is to raise children who are autonomous and productive citizens of society, I personally believe that enjoying a close relationship with my children is the icing on the cake, the cherry on the top, of all the academic, character, and spiritual efforts we have sought and achieved.
But I am confused about the nature of the relationships Kevin and others within his homeschooling community are promoting and I want to know just what he thinks those relationships are supposed to look like. There is continual talk about “turning the hearts of the children toward their fathers” but no mention about building the relationships of children with their mothers or between mothers and fathers.
It has really saddened me within the last few years to hear of one homeschooling family after another experiencing divorce, often with the mom choosing to leave home and sometimes her young children. The other day someone, having recently learned about a family she cared greatly about who had experienced this, asked me why I think this happens. My response is that I believe there has not been enough emphasis on what a true, godly home looks like, one where each serves one another, each seeks to put the needs of others before themselves, each seeks to help the other prepare for and answer Christ’s call on their lives. Since so much emphasis is placed on the unbibilical view that only men, specifically dads, have a calling from the Lord, it takes a Herculean effort to prop up this skewed perspective, much to the detriment of the family, especially the homeschooling mom.
I also believe that there has been so much emphasis on the “non romantic” nature of marriage, ie courtship and betrothal paradigms, that parents often choose to downplay the “sparks” that healthy marriages must have. Women who long to be treated like sweethearts and lovers are thought of only as mothers and housekeepers themselves and long to be “courted” by their husbands. Instead of the marriage being emphasized, it appears that the relationships between fathers and daughters is a top priority and I am not sure why this is.
My guess is that many daughters are at risk and are finding themselves frustrated by their dad’s vision. They are not being intellectually or spiritually challenged. Many of them are finding themselves in impossible situations, being in their mid to late twenties with no marketable skills, drivers’ licenses, or college or even high school diplomas. Many of them know all about running a household but little about properly socializing with young men, enjoying them as brothers in the Lord. While I have no concerns about young women choosing to stay home until marriage, I am concerned about whether or not some of these girls are making these choices themselves or are feeling pressured to fit into a paradigm.
Adding to this strange mix of relationship emphases, look at this clip from Voddie Baucham talking about fathers and daughters: “A lot of men are leaving their wives for younger women because they yearn for attention from younger women. And God gave them a daughter who can give them that. And instead they go find a substitute daughter….you’ve seen it, we’ve all seen it. These old guys going and finding these substitute daughters.”
To say I am stunned by this is an understatement. (I HAVE seen this often and believe me the guys were NOT looking for substitute daughters!) I am trying to understand what this says about the “core of homeschooling is in relationships.” I have never heard of this “need” Voddie is talking about. Where is it supported in Scripture? Maybe someone could explain this to me.
I look forward to more of John’s good insights on the Homeschooling Leadership Conference and will share here as they are available.