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Help! I'm Married to a Homeschooling Mom
Showing Dads How to Meet the Needs of Their Homeschooling Wives
By Todd Wilson
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2004 Todd Wilson
All rights reserved.
Your WIFE Needs: YOUR HELP
"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If [a homeschooling wife] falls down, [her husband] can help [her] up. But pity the [homeschooling mom] who falls and has no one to help [her] up!"
* ECCLESIASTES 4:9–10
WHAT I PICTURED when we decided to home-school was a whole lot prettier than it actually is. I envisioned my children sitting quietly at wooden school desks while my wife taught them. They would start the day in prayer, read wonderful literature, and cut pumpkins out of orange construction paper.
With me as the principal (which meant that I didn't have to do anything), I'd be a respected figurehead and receive an occasional progress report. Most of the time, I would reign from my office.
At the end of each workday, I would return home to a spotless house, where my wife would stop in the midst of the home-cooked meal preparation to greet me. The children would run to hug their old man, and I would sit around basking in the glory of the thought that "we" were preparing our children for the real world.
Then, reality hit. I realized that there was a lot of work for me, too! I thought it was "a wife thing" and that my life would stay pretty normal. Now I know that the only way to make it work is for it to be "a husband and wife thing." And now it's clear that my life is anything but normal.
It's not realistic to assume that every husband can help teach his children, but that doesn't let you off the hook. There is no reason why you can't be involved in the teaching and training of your children. Remember, it's not just your wife's job.
There are certain subjects that are easier for you to teach than they are for your wife. In my house, I'm the creative one, and my wife is the methodical number cruncher. She doesn't like crafts, but I do. So I do a craft with the kids every once in a while. She likes English, literature, and math. She teaches those subjects since I can barely count with my fingers and toes.
You might like teaching history, Bible, or science. Whatever your gift is—use it. If you work an odd shift, offer to teach one morning a week or to take the kids on an educational outing. Grade papers, listen to kids read, help with science projects, drill with flashcards, or take a trip to the library.
NO PAIN, NO GAIN
Even if you aren't able to share the teaching responsibilities, you can help in other ways. These sting a little more, but they are just as helpful. Housework. Yeah, you read that right —housework. You know—vacuuming, dusting, straightening, or even doing dishes.
When you do the dishes, your wife doesn't have to. When you vacuum, your wife doesn't have to. When you give baths, she doesn't have to.
"Yeah, but, I won't have as much time to work out, watch sports, be involved at church, or restore my 1956 Corvette," you argue.
Exactly. That's part of homeschooling. If you really believe in homeschooling, then you must be willing to make some sacrifices. Your wife does every day.
DOING MY DUTY
I've taken it upon myself to help ease my wife's load. She didn't ask me, beg me, or threaten to quit if I didn't pitch in. I'm committed to what we're doing, and I want to prove it. One of the areas in which I've chosen to concentrate my efforts is the homeschool room. It's in our attic, and every day by the time school is over, it looks as if a tornado swept through.
I realized that it would be helpful to my wife to start each school day with a clean schoolroom. My plan was to have the kids and me straighten it up every night before going to bed.
In theory, it was a simple and relatively pain-free way to show my dedication to homeschooling. In reality, it's just plain hard work. I've climbed those steps many times and prayed, "Dear God, please let it be mostly clean."
I'm not sure that He has ever answered that prayer.
But I keep praying, and I keep cleaning.
WANT TO HEAR A SECRET?
Dad, here's a secret. I hate straightening up the home-school room. I hate doing the dishes. I'd much rather be doing what I want to do than to be giving our kids baths and cleaning up the family room.
But, I am committed to homeschooling, and I love my wife. I know that if she is to do most of what homeschooling involves, then I'm going to have to do some things that I hate doing. In fact, in some twisted way, I am glad to do them, because I know I'm helping her.
It's true—I won't be able to do all that I want to do. I won't be able to have abs of steel, a golf score that would make Tiger Woods jealous, or watch every ballgame during the season, but that's the choice I made when we started this adventure. Sacrifice leads to successful homeschooling in the long run.
So, put aside the newspaper, turn off the TV, roll up your sleeves, and get to work.
Here's one last helpful hint: Don't expect any parades. What I mean by that is, don't expect your wife to jump up and down every time you do a little housework.
I confess that was the reason behind some of my "do gooding." I did the dishes, and then when my wife failed to acknowledge the job, I said something like, "Hey, I took it upon myself to do the dishes ... I hope it's all right."
When she failed to praise me for my selfless giving, I was a little more straightforward (and mean). "You're welcome for doing the dishes," I said.
She looked at me, having cleaned the kitchen a thousand times without any acknowledgment, and said with a smile, "Don't expect any parades."
So, Dad, when you ease the burden from your beloved bride's shoulders, don't expect a celebration in your honor.
Twenty practical ways you can help your wife:
1. run errands
2. go to the grocery store
3. do laundry
5. clean tubs and showers
6. give baths
7. wash dishes
8. replace burned-out lightbulbs
9. balance the checkbook
10. make sure her car is gassed up
11. answer the phone
12. get up in the middle of the night to meet the needs of a child
13. pay bills
14. pick up the kids and the dry cleaning
15. take the responsibility for any problems (car/utilities/repairs)
16. do the banking
17. straighten up the house at the end of the day
18. get breakfast for the kids
19. empty the dishwasher
20. read to the kidsCHAPTER 2
Your WIFE Needs: YOUR HELP
"[Homeschooling moms and dads] encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today."
* HEBREWS 3:13
DURING THE SUMMER of 1996, all eyes were glued to the television set for the final round of women's gymnastics. It was a battle between petite gladiators for the all-around gold, and it was down to two teams: America and Russia.
The last event determined the gold and the silver. Both teams performed spectacularly. The last event, the vault, was up, where one step backward could result in defeat.
Kerri Strug, at 4 feet 9 1/2 inches tall, stepped to the line. Her eyes blazed with determination as she stared down the lane. The pressure of the moment weighed heavily upon her, but she was up to the challenge.
With a deep breath, she rocked back, sprinted down the path, hit the horse, spun into the air, and landed in a bone-crunching heap on the mat with a scream. She had badly injured her ankle. Her thick-accented coach raced to her side as the crowd gasped at the horrible timing.
THE REST OF THE STORY
Kerri Strug was out, and the Americans had lost—at least that's what everyone thought. A deafening cheer erupted ten minutes later, when Kerri hobbled to the line with a heavily bandaged ankle and tears in her eyes.
The crowd stared in disbelief. How could she endure the pain of another run, let alone the landing? It was insane. But she did it! She stuck the landing and hobbled to the platform with her teammates to receive the gold medal.
Somehow, she had done the impossible.
I believe the reason for her success was her coach who stood on the sidelines repeating, "You can do it, Kerri! You can do it!" He didn't tell her how or why; he just told her she could do it—and she did.
YOU CAN DO IT!
Mark Twain once said he could live for a week on a single compliment. It could be said of a homeschooling wife that she can teach for 180 days on a good supply of encouragement.
Your wife wants what everyone wants—an encourager. She needs you to stand alongside her and tell her often, "You can do it! YOU CAN DO IT!!!"
That can be done through appreciation notes tucked into lesson plans, a bouquet of flowers sent to the house for "the world's best teacher," or the simple praise of a man who is grateful for all the work his wife does to educate the children.
Praise her through the good times and encourage her through the bad. Snuggle up to her in bed at night and whisper in her ear, "You're doing a great job." Let her know that you realize that the task is difficult and that you thank God that she is your wife and your children's teacher.
When she feels unable to start the day, say, "You can do it!"
When she isn't sure which curriculum to pick, say, "I believe in you!"
When she isn't sure if she is doing a good job, say, "You're doing great!"
And when she is ready to throw in the towel, say, "We need you."
Cheer her on often, and you will both stand on the platform to receive the gold.
Ideas for encouraging your home-schooling wife:
Brag about her when you are in a group (especially when she's with you).
When you pray at the dinner table, thank God (out loud) for your children's good teacher.
On National Teacher's Appreciation Day (May 6) celebrate with cake, dinner out, or a gift.
Leave an apple on her desk with a mushy (no pun intended) note attached.
On the first day of school, surprise her with a bouquet of flowers or some fun teaching supplies.
Drop her a note requesting a romantic parent/teacher conference.
Write a message on a sticky-note thanking her for all that she does. Place it on her lesson plan or her toothbrush.
Pick up something special for her on your way home from work.
Call her from work just to express your thankfulness.
If she's having a tough day, have something delivered to the house.
Insist that she go out with a friend for dinner or dessert while you watch the kids.
Buy her a card and write something personal on the inside. For example, you could write "You're My Hero" and list the reasons behind the statement.CHAPTER 3
Your WIFE Needs: YOUR HELP
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."
* DEUTERONOMY 6:5-7
You are the head of your family, the king of the castle, the captain of the ship. To some that looks like a job of a person who is highly celebrated, but we know better—it's not. It's a bum deal most of the time. If you're like me, you get tired of taking all the blame, and every once in a while, you'd like to pass the buck to someone else.
But since it's God's idea, you're stuck with it. To be the head means you're responsible. You're responsible for the household's safety, tangible needs, spiritual training, and (gulp) education.
Repeat after me, "I am responsible for the education of my children." Again. Louder. Taste the words in your mouth and get used to them.
TO LEAD OR NOT TO LEAD
One of the best ways to encourage your wife is to take the lead in educating your children. It's one thing to be in favor of homeschooling; it's another thing altogether to take the lead in homeschooling.
Ask most men why they homeschool, and they'll answer, "Because my wife wants to." That's an answer, but it's not a very good one, because one day the tired wife will change her mind, and then what?
She'll look to her husband for answers and support. All he'll do is shrug his shoulders and say, "I guess it's up to you."
What our wives need is a "lead dog."
THE LEAD DOG
Perhaps you've seen a movie with this kind of scenario ... A man is trekking across a frozen wasteland in a desperate struggle to get from point A to point B. The dogs bark and tug at their lines, pulling the sled that is loaded down with medical provisions to save a dying community.
The Eskimo stops the sled and walks along the line of dogs to get to the lead dog that stands alone in front. He leans down and talks to him about the graveness of the mission (as if the dog can understand him) and returns to his position.
With a crack of the whip, the dogs begin to pull, led by the lead dog. They count on him. He doesn't pull any harder or get more food at the end. He just receives his instruction from the master, leads the others, and gives direction.
Dad, you are that dog. Your wife is counting on you to lead and so is God. Leadership comes with a price. If there is a problem with the dogs pulling the sled, the lead dog is the one who feels the tip of the whip. He is responsible, and so are you. So if there is a problem in your homeschool or your wife is frustrated with the kids, then it's your responsibility to fix it.
As the lead dog, you have to know where you're going, why you're going there, and how you plan to get there. You need to know the reason for home educating your children. When you're in a group and someone asks why you home-school, your wife shouldn't have to think about what she is going to say, because you should have an answer ready.
When she looks at you with tears in her eyes, convinced that she is ruining the children and doing a terrible job, you must remind her why you decided to homeschool in the first place.
There are as many reasons for homeschooling as there are homeschoolers. Some families homeschool to give their kids a better education. Some want to stress the basics, while others want to teach classic languages.
Some homeschoolers came out of a public school setting and are determined to protect their children from that environment. Others want to play an active role in giving their children a biblical worldview since they won't be taught that in a public school.
Still others are doing it for financial reasons. They don't want to put their kids in public school and can't afford private school.
And I suppose there are some who just like the idea of teaching their kids, day in and day out, working themselves to the bone, while surrounded by runny-nosed kids.
The truth is that most people homeschool for a variety of different reasons. Take us, for example.
When we were fresh out of the starting blocks as parents, we assumed we'd send our kids off to public school. My wife attended a Christian school, and I attended a small-town public school. Both of us had good experiences plus a few experiences we wanted our kids to bypass.
We didn't have much of a plan. We just assumed that our kids would do what most kids in America do. They'd reach a certain age, and then we'd stick them on a bus only to see them a few hours later after they got their "book learning."
But our plans began to change as our children grew older. We opened our eyes to see the other kids that would become their school peers. We gulped in fear.
We saw kids who came from broken homes, drug-using homes, godless homes, foul-talking homes, and we were not about to surround our naive children with those kinds of influences. And that's not even mentioning the anti-Christian teaching they would receive in some of their classes.
Some people would argue that we are to be salt and light in the dark world—which is true—but nowhere are we told to subject our kids to utter darkness. In fact, we believe that our job as parents is to prepare our children to be salt and light. But if the salt loses its saltiness (even at a young age), then it is worthless and unusable (see Matthew 5:13).
It's like preparing soldiers for battle. When a new recruit enlists, he isn't immediately given a uniform, a gun, and sent to the front lines. That would be suicide and would lead to defeat. Instead, the soldier trains for months until he is ready for battle. We believe it is our job as parents to prepare our children for the battle and not stick them in the heat of it until they're prepared. If we stick them in too soon—they'll lose.
So it was settled. We would send our kids to a private, Christian school where godly people would educate them and they'd be surrounded by other kids from godly families. It didn't matter that we would have to sell the house and live in a cardboard box under a bridge to afford it—we were committed to raising godly children after all.
We had a plan.
Then something happened along the way. We opened our eyes and saw that some of the kids that we worried would poorly influence our children were Christian-school kids.
We didn't want to be judgmental, because we knew a lot of good, godly Christian parents who sent their kids to Christian school. That wasn't the problem.
The problem was those other families who were simply trying to get their kids out of the public school and into a better, safer environment.
Even as young parents, we knew that kids "rise" to the lowest level. Take a room full of decent kids and introduce one disobedient, foul-talking child and guess who they emulate?
Excerpted from Help! I'm Married to a Homeschooling Mom by Todd Wilson. Copyright © 2004 Todd Wilson. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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