I’m a Homeschool Dad
- Monday, February 13, 2012
Hello, my name is Tim, and I'm a homeschool dad. (Other homeschool dads, please respond with a unanimous, "Hi, Tim.")
My wife and I have five children and have been involved in homeschooling since 1993. By the grace of God we have seen our two oldest sons graduate and are happy to report that they are well-adjusted, hardworking, intelligent young men. Our three younger children seem to be following suit. During our home education years, we have experienced many ups and downs, joys and disappointments, struggles and triumphs. Our lives have been deeply enriched at every bend in the road, but it didn't always seem like it at the time, especially when that bend spiraled down a steep mountain or took a U-turn back to Square One.
Running the Gamut
When we started out, my wife Jennifer researched and initiated the whole homeschooling endeavor. She answered all of my questions and kept me informed of all her ideas. It seemed as though, during this phase of our journey, I was the student. The most important part of my participation was to provide a listening ear and an open mind. I encouraged her as best as I could. We trusted each other because, at the heart of it all, our goals were identical: we both wanted our children to love God and serve Him. Desiring that their minds be shaped by biblical truth, and knowing that the standard options were not all that plausible, we gave homeschooling a unanimous vote.
From the fall of 1993 through the spring of 2000, Jennifer carried 99% of the burden. She taught our little boys to read and write, follow directions, add, subtract, multiply, divide, spell, study, memorize, and a plethora of other skills which have carried them well into life. While I worked 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at my secular job, she worked as teacher, mommy, and manager of a growing household. I had no idea how multitask-proficient she was until the autumn of 2000, when I became fully submerged into the Palla Home Educators Union.
January of that year brought an enormous blessing from God. The church which I had been pastoring for the past nine months voted to take me on full-time. The blessing enlarged when they allowed me to have an office in my home rather than at the church. It was during the summer that my wife and I decided to make some new arrangements in our homeschooling process. Starting September 2000, the two oldest boys would have desks in my study, making me their new supervisor and enabling Jenny to work closer with our two younger boys while caring for our baby girl. It was an unforgettable year for all of us, to say the least.
My reason for sharing this Palla family history is to provide some minor background on my involvement as a homeschool father. You see, I went from occasionally helping with flash cards and reading bedtime stories to becoming a full-fledged principal, music instructor, and school administrator. Both my wife and I made many vital discoveries during this operation: the most important was identifying that I was more effective at educating adults than children.
Resigning from my multiple positions at the end of my first school year was a decision Jenny and I made together. It was a wise one. My ministry at the church was growing, and the demands were increasing—which was a good thing for both of us. She was able to do miracles with our three youngest children during my short-term office, and she willingly resumed the Head Schoolmaster position in the fall of 2001. It's funny now, but even the children looked forward to her return. Even so, I was not off the hook entirely—nor did I want to be.
There are probably many fathers who feel left out of their children's lives. They hate being on the outside looking in, but they are not sure when, how, or where to make changes. They already know that God has commanded them to love their children and "nurture and admonish" them in the "things of the Lord." They are unable to forget the Lord's command to be the spiritual leaders of the home (thanks to all those little "As for Me and My House" wall plaques). They are even able to quote from memory a handful of Bible verses that exhort them to take responsibility for their children's education and spiritual development.
Nevertheless, adding one more scoop to their already overloaded plate seems to induce intense nausea and heartburn. For this reason, many fathers will deliberately choose to be left "outside." Odd as it may seem, it is an attractive alternative to jumping in, becoming overwhelmed, getting frustrated, and feeling like a total failure. A man's ego can be quite fragile.
Women may argue—and yes, I suppose there is some truth to the fact—that people find a way to do "what they really want to do." Dads can find time for hunting, skiing, fishing, boating, four-wheeling, mountain biking, camping, football, baseball, soccer, basketball, and (in my case) horseback riding. So if men really wanted to be successful and godly fathers and bless their wives, they would bite the bullet and be more involved in family leadership and home education. "Take the bull by the horns" . . . right? Not necessarily, so hold off a little before you start pouring that guilt gravy all over our plates. Allow me to speak freely from my heart.
Of course I wanted to be involved. I'd gladly take on the responsibilities of home leadership. It was my desire to bless my wife and children, but taking the bull by the horns does not necessarily make someone a professional matador or a cowboy. In my case, the bull was taking me down, scaring me, trampling me, humiliating me, and ultimately, causing a rift—no, a death—to the relationships and calling that God had given to me. Was it truly God's will to push me into utter failure? I was frustrating everyone, most of all myself! My sincerity and genuine love for my family could not possibly be judged by my level of involvement at this time. Being a part of my children's social, academic, and spiritual development would have to manifest itself gently if I was to grow into a respected, godly leader.
Discovering a Niche
After I relinquished all my involvement as a homeschool father, God began flooding me with His wonderful grace. Believe it or not, He started a completely new work in me by using skills which I already possessed—and felt comfortable teaching. As my children and I spent time riding and showing horses, building fences, working in the yard and garden, hiking the hills and spending lots and lots of time on 4-H projects (a.k.a unit studies), the Lord revealed to me that I was already a qualified home educator. The passion and gift to lead and train were already in me. Leading devotions and training for sports events was a breeze, because I had confidence in those subjects. Even so, as my children's interests grew outside of my areas of expertise, I began to grow with them.
Little by little, my involvement gained new territory. Soon I was helping with grammar and composition, not just flash cards and spelling words. About this time I began doing some freelance writing (for HSE) and decided to take classes at a local college to polish my written and oral communication skills. This naturally led to more active engagement with my children in their essay assignments, literature requirements, and creative writing projects. This dad was no longer a casual observer, on the outside looking in. My self-confidence was now lifting me to a new level of homeschool participation—one which I had never thought possible—and this time I was enjoying it.
A new day had dawned in my life. I had uncovered a talent which had been there all along. Now instead of taking the bull by the horns or avoiding the bull altogether, I could lead him around gently, calmly, confidently. Even the bull seemed to enjoy the new me. It became increasingly easy to make more room on my plate for those high-priority, healthy portions from God—without feeling overwhelmed and under-qualified. No more nausea, heartburn, or even hiccups. Oh, what a relief! I still devoted the main portion of my day to the work of the church ministry, but I no longer shirked or shied away from my responsibility as a father who is commanded to train up his children. The abundance of grace which God gave to me was now flowing freely into the lives of my wife and children.
The Goal that Unifies
The one special key that turned my attitude around was most certainly the grace of my wife. Jennifer is a wise and godly woman who saw my struggles as a homeschool dad and sought for simple, guilt-free, depressurized solutions which would enable me to save face. She truly lightened my burden. I may have been ignorant about a lot of things, but she never let me feel like a failure. Although she (and my children) desperately needed my help at times, I never felt pressure to be Superman. Perfection was not the standard, nor was it the goal. Giving my best—or close to it—was the acceptable, reasonable service. She seemed grateful for any amount of participation I gave, which made me want to give more. She frequently shared her homeschool "discoveries" with me (without any condescension), which piqued my renewing interest. My ideas were always considered and many suggestions were implemented. Jennifer successfully drew me back into the process of homeschooling with her consistent display of grace.
In many ways, homeschooling is nothing more than learning to "bear one another's burdens" and fulfilling the law of God (Galatians 6:2). It is one more path the Almighty uses to unify a man and his wife, enabling them to become one whole person. As they seek to meet each other's needs, their marriage relationship grows stronger. Should either spouse become selfish, the process backfires and two emotionally wounded individuals end up parting ways (figuratively or literally). Remember that God originally designed man to be lonely and in need of gracious help (the Bible calls a wife a "helpmeet" or "suitable helper"). God also designed a wife to need affection, support, and family commitment from her husband. As homeschooling fathers and mothers ingrain these eternal truths into their hearts, they will begin to lift each other's burdens with Christ-like grace. This act of faith will always please God, and He, in turn, will enable them to succeed—for His glory, the harmony of the home, the good of the children, and the testimony of Jesus Christ. And that is what being a homeschool dad is really all about.
*This article published February 1, 2010.
Timothy Palla is a pastor, freelance writer, horseman, artist, and musician, but his greatest joy is serving the Lord and loving the "wife of his youth," Jennifer. They have five children: Drew, Dane, Aidan, Ethan, and Meghan. Together, Tim and Jenny have been committed to homeschooling since 1993. You may contact Tim at email@example.com.
Originally published in Home School Enrichment Magazine. Now, get a FREE subscription to HSE Digital by visiting www.HSEmagazine.com/digital Every issue is packed with homeschool encouragement, help, and information. Get immediate access to the current issue when you start your FREE subscription today!
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