When I tell people that my wife and I homeschool our boys they usually don’t know what to say. It’s not like they think we have leprosy or anything; it’s more like they aren’t totally sure what the word even means. Wanting to be nice and not knowing how to engage in conversation, they usually say, “Well that’s a tough job … for both of you!” Because I’m not quite as nice and never want to take credit for my wife’s incredible work, I usually respond, “Nah, she’s got the hard part. My job is easy.”
And let’s be honest, the father’s role in most homeschool situations is pretty easy by comparative labor. I am a pretty involved homeschool dad, but the list of things that I do—actually, physically do—is dwarfed by the list of things that my wife does on a daily basis. Because the to-do list is fairly short, we fathers have a tendency to ignore the list altogether.
Not cool, man! Our homeschool jobs may, at times, feel too easy and therefore beneath our awesome manliness, but nothing could be further from the truth. God has uniquely gifted men to lead their families (and yes, even their homeschools) in a way that He has not gifted moms. I’d like to point out three unique contributions that we dads can make to our homeschools. (That will get pretty lengthy, so I’m going to split this up into three parts and take a look at one point at a time.) As homeschool dads, we can encourage people, evaluate procedures and, when appropriate, fix problems.
“I’m really good at math, but every time I do math I have to pay really close attention. When I don’t, I make careless errors, and I get the problem wrong.” That’s what I should have said to my son. I should have tried to identify with him and let him know that the issue can be overcome.
Instead, what I said was, “You have got to pay attention. When you do, you get the problem right. When you don’t, you get the problem wrong. Every time!” The result was that my son (who struggles with math) broke down into tears even though he was actually making some progress. He felt like he would never be good at math because he has to pay such close attention or he will get the problem wrong.
Do not Provoke
On a couple of occasions, scripture tells us dads to not provoke our children (Eph 6:4, Col 3:21). There is a reason for this. Men can speak harshly to other men; it’s kind of part of being one of the guys and taking it like a man. We can speak frankly and hear frankness and compartmentalize it all without taking anything personally. However, our kids are not men nor are our wives. Scripture warns us men against provocation because we tend to be provocative with the words and tones we use.
And it’s OK to talk like a man. Do it! Be direct, but when talking to our wives and kids we should temper this with love. We should have an eye towards encouragement. My unfortunate conversational partners from the opening illustration are absolutely right. Our wives have incredibly difficult jobs. They need encouragement, and they need it from us. They need us to notice, appreciate, empathize with, compliment, brag on and exhort them in their work as homeschool moms.
Do not fix … yet
I once overheard a gaggle of ladies conversing about how many times they almost quit. Their husbands would lie, saying they would help, but that never worked out. One poor husband, trying to be the spiritual leader, told his wife he would pray for her. “Oh great!” she had replied. “Now I feel guilty!”
We men tend to jump the gun and want fix things, don’t we? That’s something we’re good at—”Mr. Fix It”—but there is a specific time for that. You’re familiar, of course, with a batting coach, aren’t you? He observes his players, makes a determination on what could help and then implements those changes—he fixes it. However, he doesn’t make these tweaks while the player is up to bat. During those times, when the game is in play, he just says, “Alright, alright! Way to go. Homerun!” Our wives are up to bat … a lot. They need to hear us saying “Way to go” … a lot.
Don’t be stingy
Our kids too need our encouragement. Children live to please their dads and to hear them say, “Good job.” Let me be clear here: Do not make lies out of your compliments, but don’t be stingy with them either. Look for appropriate times to lavish your kids with compliments. Encourage them so much they take it for granted. Let them never be able to question whether you are pleased with them and who they are.
Encouragement may not come as naturally to us as it does to others, but its importance is never diminished. Remember that your family knows you better than anyone else on the planet, so you don’t have to pretend to be someone else; they’ll see right through it. Encourage in a way that is honest for you and effective for your family. Do that, and you’ll be ready for the next contribution we will discuss in my next post.
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