The Father's Role in Home Schooling
Marriage is a partnership. Husband and wife have different roles and responsibilities but neither is independent of the other. The husband's work is not just for himself, but for providing for the needs of his family. The wife's labors at home and with the children are likewise for the family as a whole. The things she does are mostly things that would be his sole responsibility to handle without her.
Even as it takes a husband and a wife to produce children, so also both are needed for the proper raising of the children. Without the husband's assistance, support, and encouragement, the wife is left with a huge burden to carry alone. He usually cannot devote anything like the time she does to the children, but what he can do, can make all the difference. Without this support, the success of your home schooling, your child raising, and even your marriage partnership is very much in doubt. Home schooling is not just the wife's thing. It is a commitment of both parents to an approach for teaching and raising their children.
I think the father's role in home schooling is really just the same as that of any godly father and husband. He is the head of his household and directly responsible to the Lord for everything that happens there. Among other things, he is charged with loving his wife as Christ loved the church, with bringing up his children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, and with teaching his children the Word of God (Ephesians 5:25; Ephesians 6:4; Deuteronomy 6:7).
Fathers, though your wife may spend the majority of her time caring for and training the children, the ultimate responsibility is yours. The father is the head of the home and his wife functions as his helpmate. The husband usually depends very heavily upon his wife for much of what is done with the children and the wife and mother is responsible to her husband. But the husband is responsible to God for both his own actions and those of his wife.
Authority and responsibility in the home are not that much different from in the workplace. In a business, a manager is held responsible for the work of his whole staff. No, the manager does not have total control over what everyone does, but he still has responsibility to do everything possible to direct, support and assist. Even as a good boss provides encouragement, support, direction and even hands-on assistance when needed, so also a good husband provides these to his wife. Just as a boss cannot delegate a task and jettison all personal responsibility for it, neither can a husband hand over the child raising totally to his wife and take no responsibility himself. Now there are limitations to this analogy - marriage is a lot different from an employee / employer relationship.
Husbands, are you doing all you can and should do to support and assist your wife? Are you helping her to succeed or blaming her for failures? If your wife is failing - you are failing too. You cannot just stand by and watch the ship sink as if it does not concern you! Loving your wife as Christ loves the church includes forgiving her failures and shortcomings. It requires being encouraging and supportive, it means helping her to find solutions when things are not working. Her problems are your problems. If she is struggling, she needs your sympathy, compassion, encouragement and help.
Husbands, don't be quick to panic when your wife is having difficulty or school is frequently being interrupted. Learn patience and wisdom - understand that there will be times of difficulty, times when you are both overwhelmed and unable to do all that you think you should. Don't be blaming or accusing, but rather be sympathetic and understanding. Provide help and encouragement, not accusations and discouragement. Turn to the Lord for help and solutions to the challenges you face. Trust Him. He can easily overcome the difficulties you face with teaching your children. Lost ground and time can often be regained fairly quickly. God is able.
Following are some practical areas in which the father can exercise his role as head of his household and loving husband to his wife as relates to home schooling
As the father, you are the leader of your family. The final decision concerning home schooling goals, direction and approach is yours. Now you desperately need the wisdom and counsel of your wife in this area. She will likely have much more insight into the children and what works and what does not. But she needs your leadership, for you to not only participate in these decisions but to also assume responsibility. Pray and discuss and plan together. This is a plan for your family, you both need to be involved and committed to the final decision.
Your wife badly needs your encouragement and support. She needs someone to talk to about her struggles and the problems she faces with the children. She needs some understanding and sympathy and sometimes a fresh outlook or a new idea. She needs to know her efforts are appreciated and valued. She needs to feel like she has your full support and that you are pleased with her and the children's accomplishments. This doesn't usually demand a lot of the husband's time but it requires a little bit each day - a little bit of listening and encouraging day by day.
As the father, you can be a major help to your wife just by holding the children accountable for what they do. It should not be just Mom who assigns work and takes an interest in whether the work gets done and the necessary material is learned. The children need to see that their school work is important to Dad as well as Mom and he expects them to work and progress. So how can a father do this? Regularly ask them about their progress, where they are in the material, have them demonstrate reading and math skills, check their knowledge and understanding with questions. You may even want to have them record or check off each day the assignments as completed. Then you can easily review where they are and discuss their progress (or lack thereof). Particularly as the children become older, the father may want to make many of the work assignments himself.
Deuteronomy 6 speaks of teaching your children when sitting in your house, when walking by the way, when you lie down and when you rise up. Some of the most effective teaching occurs informally. As the father spends time with his children, he should try to always be ready to teach. (I know it can be hard just to disengage your mind from other things and use these times to benefit - my record is far from great on this count!). Simply talking about spiritual truth, wisdom, practical skills, how things work, etc. can be very effective instruction. While driving down the road you can repeat Bible memory verses, can discuss Bible stories or literature and lessons learned, current events, politics, your ancestors, science and math concepts - actually most anything. These times can be key for transferring facts, beliefs, convictions, understanding, and wisdom. Some of these short conversations may be the most important instruction our children will ever receive. Share your life with them - what you have experienced and learned - give them the opportunity to learn wisdom earlier and with fewer "hard knocks" than you did!
Even as public school parents help with homework, the father can sometimes help at night with work the children are having difficulty with. Perhaps one of the father's strong areas in school corresponds with one of the mother's weak areas. If so, help out in that area as you are able. For my wife, some of the higher math was more of a challenge for her to help with. So I would help with some of the more challenging problems in the evenings sometimes. But then when our oldest had been through that material, he was usually able to help the younger ones.
Occasionally dad can be a big help by serving as a "guest teacher" for a given subject. This might involve teaching for one hour a week in the evening or a couple hours on a Saturday for a few months. Where possible you may want to teach the same subject matter to several children at once (to the extent they are close enough in age ). This can be especially helpful when your wife is struggling with getting certain material across or just overwhelmed. This will also give you more insight into the learning styles and problems of your children.
Fathers are especially responsible in this area. Your children need to see your faith - to see that you really believe, and to hear first hand from you as to the importance of the Bible and spiritual things. If you really believe the Bible is the Word of God for our instruction, then you should be faithful to teach that word to those you love and to consistently study it yourself.
Your teaching can be as simple as reading a Bible story or a chapter of the Bible and then briefly discussing. The purpose of discussion is to ensure understanding and to see relevance. You may just ask a few simple questions (who, what, when, where, how ,why). You may want to emphasize a point or share a personal experience or something from another part of the Bible that sheds more light. You may even want to bring up an illustration from a fictional story they know.
As your children get older, it would be good to sometimes teach them key doctrines or topics supported from many portions of the Bible. This will require more preparation work on your part, but may be good for your own instruction and growth as well. You need to safeguard your children from false doctrines and teach them the whys behind important Biblical convictions you hold. When grown they will encounter all manners of false teaching and worldly philosophies. Teach them what they need to avoid being deceived before they leave home or otherwise encounter these much.
Fathers can play a role in teaching practical skills, especially with sons. This can often be done by just having one or more of the children assist you with projects around the home. Yes, it may slow down progress a bit, but it is essential so your children have a chance to learn how to do these things.
I know many fathers would like to do these things but feel that they have no time. I understand the pressures and long hours sometimes involved with work. Over the years I have sometimes worked very long hours and also for a time attended college at night. It is not easy to make time to do even the most important things! But we don't have to do everything at once. If we make our families a top priority, ways can usually be found to make a meaningful contribution in these areas, even if much less than we would desire. Purpose to do your best to fulfill your responsibilities as husband and father and pray to God to bless and multiply the results.
Fathers, are you doing your part? God understands your limitations and the constraints you work under. He is able to help you find solutions to your time problem and to multiply the results of your efforts. Remember that your contribution to the home schooling of your children is also critical.
Don't expect your wife to carry this burden alone!