Mangled Schedules and Grateful Hearts
- 2009 9 Nov
"Are you finished with school? Want to ride with me to the dump?" my husband Donald inquired, poking his head into the schoolroom. Pencils flew everywhere as the boys jumped up, ready to go. We hadn't finished school, of course, but they were taking off to enjoy another type of education—how to be a man.
From the very first year we started schooling, a big part of my education was learning to loosely hold the schedule and plans I so carefully crafted at the beginning of the year. Left to myself, I tend to be overly fond of a structured routine and sometimes find myself overlooking a greater good in pursuit of maintaining the schedule. Fortunately, my dear husband was faithful in wanting to share in the boys' lives, and he persisted even when I didn't see the value of what he offered.
I've heard many homeschool moms talk about wanting their husbands to share in the homeschooling process, but when Dad does participate, these same moms aren't happy with what he does or how he does it. I've heard all sorts of complaints, and when one mom starts, others usually join in. Recently, I caught portions of a conversation in which a group of moms swapped horror stories about what their husbands had done to mess up the school day.
"Can you believe he took the boys outside to fool around with car parts when they hadn't even finished their math?"
"He said he was going to help with their history this year, and all he does is take them to his grandma's house and let them play in the barn and the attic!"
"I bought a science kit so we could do an experiment every week, but since my husband took over teaching science, they haven't done any of the experiments out of the book. They just play with the stuff in the kit. I don't know if they're going to learn anything, and they make such a terrible mess!"
That conversation brought back memories of my childhood and my mother's dismay at some of the things my father chose to do with me. She was often horrified to find that I'd been on the garage roof "helping" to set the weather vane, over in the garden digging for sow bugs, or in the machine shop playing with the pretty, curly metal shavings from the lathe. She was appalled that Daddy had stopped to help someone change a tire on the freeway while I was with him (we could have been killed!). Needless to say, Daddy and I often came home tired and grubby, but we had such fun.
What stands out to me is the fact that my mother saw only the danger, the wasted time, or the very dirty dresses, while I remember the joy and sweetness of the shared time, the deep conversations about the Lord, and the close relationship my father took time to build with me. Because of these childhood memories, I realized fairly early in our homeschool journey that my husband could provide the boys with things I couldn't offer, and I tried, with varying degrees of success, to keep a place of honor open for him in our homeschool. I wasn't always immediately gracious about an upset schedule or a postponed lesson, but when I remembered to focus on the ultimate goal of our schooling, I was able to rest in my husband's choices.
Let me share three things I wish I'd known about husbands and homeschooling when we first began.
1.) No matter what subject your husband offers to teach, he will not be doing it your way. This is okay. My husband's interests and natural abilities are different from mine, and my boys needed his input. He would never offer to teach literary analysis, but his quiet, steady logic encourages analytical thinking. He doesn't schedule his life, but his boys can observe his awareness of things that need to be done and his gracious, proactive meeting of the family's needs. It's good for children to see that there is more than one way to approach life and learning, and they will learn a lot from your respect of your husband's approach.
2.) Schedules and routines are a good foundation, but it takes a lot more than rigid adherence to a schedule to become a loving, well-rounded human. I can't tell you how often I've seen schedule take precedence over relationship, and I believe that's wrong. There are dozens of verses in scripture about building relationships, showing love, being kind, patient, and forbearing, but I find nothing that encourages us to place a schedule before the heart-needs of our family. Instead, we are admonished to say, "Lord willing" when we make plans, indicating that our time is in the Lord's hands (James 4:13-15).
If your husband is moved to invite the children on an exciting excursion to the dump, be thankful. There may be someone there they can minister to, just by their joy in being together. There may be something wonderful waiting for them (some of my best presents have come from the giveaway spot at the dump!), or they may be able to help someone lift something heavy. What they learn by going with Daddy and learning to be alert to opportunities is juicy learning. Learn to want a juicy education for your children rather than a perfectly kept schedule, which tends to breed desiccated humans who can't allow spontaneous moments of love and joy during math time because cuddling and fun are scheduled from 7:45 to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday.
3.) As a wife and mother, a big part of your job is to love your husband and children (Titus 2:3-5). Loving your children includes allowing your attitude and life to show them that you love and respect your husband and his judgment. Even if he's not perfect (surprise!), the Lord has called him to lead his family and can use him mightily. We wives have not been called to stand in our husbands' way with a schedule and checklist!
As you learn to love your husband, you'll notice that there aren't any instructions in scripture for teaching, molding, or shaping him—in fact, the Lord asks you to shape yourself to fit him. Therefore, when your husband's educational ideas disrupt the schedule you've crafted, remember who is ultimately responsible for the family, and rest in his judgment. If you're stressed over all you feel needs to be done, take that burden to the Lord and ask Him to help you truly rest in your husband's decisions. To resist your husband's input in your children's education or try to mold him to fit your plans is a sure recipe for more stress, as it's contrary to what the Lord asks of us. When you release cherished plans and rest contented with what you have, you'll find peace and joy—the Lord has promised it, and I've experienced it.
Looking back through the years, I am grateful that my husband took time to round out the boys' education with practical, hands-on lessons and spontaneous fun. As parents, we have about 18 years to share life and learning with our children. Academics are important, but they are far from the principal thing. The experience of helping Dad take apart the lawnmower is likely to be remembered a lot longer than the neat and tidy science experiment we labored over, and what we model in attitude, flexibility, and the willingness to be led by the Holy Spirit will be with our children far longer than the Pythagorean theorem.
My boys are pretty much grown now, and as I look back, I can see a few things even more clearly. Many times during our homeschooling years, I accepted my husband's help only because I had limited energy and I truly couldn't do it all. I learned to trust that, even if his lessons didn't look like mine, they were meeting a need. My mother didn't understand the importance of all the things Daddy shared with me, but his life and lessons had an immeasurable impact on my vision of who God is and what having Him as a heavenly Father can mean. I've had to trust that my husband's input would have a similar impact on our boys, and I'm grateful that he was wise enough to persist, even when I couldn't see where we were going.
Although I had good plans for the boys, time with their father was always more important than another grammar worksheet. Learning continues throughout life, and I trust that we've provided the tools they need to learn anything they may have missed. By stepping back and allowing Donald to work with the boys to the degree that I did (and I wish I had been more trusting and willing to let go—hindsight is 20/20), I found that my husband is a wise man. By sharing his life with our sons, he has provided an education that is far richer than I could have offered alone, and I'm grateful.
Janice Campbell and her husband Donald homeschooled their four sons from preschool into college, and they have enjoyed sharing what they've learned with other families who are homeschooling teens. Janice is the author of Excellence in Literature (www.ExcellenceInLiterature.com), a classics-based college-prep English curriculum for homeschoolers in grades 8-12, Transcripts Made Easy, Get a Jump Start on College, and Evaluate Writing the Easy Way. She also directs the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (www.NAIWE.com). Visit www.Everyday-Education.com to sign up for a free twice-monthly newsletter on homeschooling through high school!
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!