For this first post in my series about home educating in different circumstances, I am delighted that Kondwani has written about where both parents share home education:
‘Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord’ Ephesians 6:4
‘The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him’ Proverbs 23:24
The Bible provides us with wisdom and guidance regarding how we raise our children – and it is interesting to note that the direct instructions are given to fathers. When considering family structures, we are also taught that the husband and father is the spiritual head of the home (Ephesians 5:23). This was a fundamental consideration to us when we considered how we should raise our family in a God-centred way. Whereas for many families, practicality (and perhaps tradition) means that the husband works full time out of the home and delegates the majority of domestic and child-rearing tasks to the mother, we were open to prayerfully consider an alternative model.
When we had our children, we were both junior doctors. We completed our postgraduate training at 60% of full time. This meant that one of us could always be home with the children (you might be thinking that 3 days a week each doesn’t make a 5 day working week, but the beauty with our line of work is that it goes 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so often through careful use of night shifts, lieu days, Bank Holidays and so forth, we have been able to make things work).
As we have become more senior, we have continued a similar working pattern. One parent will be home whilst the other works. It is not always easy – at times the co-ordination of diaries and shifts feels like a military operation; however, it always works out even if no two weeks are the same. In terms of the boys’ education, I believe this has been a huge asset.
Some advantages have been:
1) As discussed earlier, the father is the spiritual head of the home, and the boys have plenty of time to see him in that role, to see him model the roles we hope that one day they grow into
2) We have complementary strengths. I was always very good at English (both the technical and creative aspects), whereas my husband is dyslexic but extremely competent at practical tasks (for example, he installed the central heating and wiring in our home, simply from reading a book, and recently made the boys some dress-up costumes having never used a sewing machine before).
3) We have complementary personalities, with both strengths and weaknesses. The children need to see that even their parents are sinners in need of salvation. I think I tend to be a bit softer on the boys and too emotional at times, whereas my husband is very firm in discipline and occasionally shows his anger and frustration. We will both apologise to one another or to the boys when we think it is required. I think it is helpful that the boys see this as they grow
4) We have plenty of energy and enthusiasm – we don’t seem to get burnt out or jaded in the home schooling, and so are perhaps more physical and active than other families we know. My husband might take the boys camping overnight, whereas I might take them on a long bug-hunting expedition. I think because we share this role, we bring freshness. We both have things that we tend to do more of with the boys, and this brings balance.
5) I believe we are also more productive in our workplaces – whilst this blog post is about home education, and whilst I appreciate that home education involves quite a lot of sacrifice and hard work, we both find that when we are in our professional roles, we have freshness, creativity and energy. Since being part-time have not struggled in terms of ‘success’, and indeed my work has positively flourished through the experiences of parenthood (for example the challenges facing pregnant and breastfeeding women who require medication, and the difficulties in feeding an extremely unwell infant).
6) I see other families where one parent is less keen on home education than the other (often the father is the one who is less keen, and this can bring challenges regarding the structures of authority in the family). We are both utterly aligned in terms of our vision and priorities for the boys, and that support is not to be underestimated
7) Our family is strong and have shared interests. Every morning the boys ask, ‘Is mummy working or is daddy working?’ If we are both off, then the next question is, ‘Are we going hiking?’ – and we usually are, because it is something we all love! Similarly, we cook together, play music and sing together and enjoy family read-alouds (for example the Little House on the Prairie or Swallows and Amazons series). I believe these shared pleasures will continue as the boys grow.
8) Both of our jobs involve travel – both within the UK and further afield. On many occasions we have taken the whole family, and whilst one parent has worked, the other parent and the boys have enjoyed an unique opportunity to learn from another part of the country or the world.
Challenges can be:
1) We don’t always see much of one another. Currently between us we are working until 10pm three or four evenings a week. By the time we have had a mid-week church meeting, and some dinner guests, the week has passed. We don’t always have enough time to talk, plan, pray, hope and dream. (More recently, we have started to block ‘our’ time off in the diary. It sounds a bit rigid, but it does help)
2) Time together can feel like a ‘business meeting’ – by the time we have co-ordinated the diary and work rotas, discussed the practicalities of our current methods of education, particular challenges with each of the children, plans for our next major move – there sometimes hasn’t been much relating to one another on a deeper level. But at the same time, I do wonder whether this can be a bit of an idol of our current generation. My understanding is that my Biblical responsibilities are to God, to my family, to my church and to any work I do outside the home. Anything else should not be presumed.
3) We may focus too much on certain areas, and too little on others. My eldest has just turned six – so until now we have been quite relaxed in what we are doing, following the interests of the children or the opportunities which arise. For the next academic year we are going to use a curriculum (Sonlight) partly so that one can pick up where the other left off
4) As in the point above – there may be some inconsistencies in what we teach. I remember an unnecessarily heated discussion about whether an ‘l’ and a ‘t’ should be the same height as one another, or whether the ‘t’ should be shorter. Again moving to a standardised curriculum should iron out some of this!
5) We don’t always have the time we would like to spend with friends who are in need. When awake, we are either with the boys or working – so it is not a season of life where we can spend intense time with a friend who really needs to talk or who is ill and frail and needs company (but not lively children). However, I have come to realise that we are able to reach and serve a different group of people – often students who enjoy the chaos of a family home and who will join us late afternoon, stay for a meal and then go home to study when we put the boys to bed. I think we need to remember that no person (or family) can do everything all the time.
As the children grow, we are increasingly seeing positive fruit resulting from the choices we have made. It is not always an easy or well understood choice, but we are convinced that this is how the Lord wants us to raise our family in a way which honours Him. We have no regrets, but rather excitement as we see how the adventure unfolds.
I am a Christian mother of four, and our highest goal as a family is to serve God in every aspect of our lives. Jesus promised His disciples 'life in all its abundance' (John www.homeeducationnovice.
blogspot.com, a blog which remains open; I pray these posts continue to challenge and encourage and I continue to respond to comments. However, we have come to realise that education is just one area where our faith shapes our choices and direction in life. www.anabundantadventure. blogspot.com seeks to share our adventure as we grow in all areas of our faith – particularly relating to living for God in an ungodly generation; being counter-cultural; finding encouragement; discipleship and mentoring; some particular challenges we experience in our own family dynamics (for example relating to global mission, the death of a child, and adoption) and of course through home education. I hope you find encouragement there!) - that has been our story, a rich life, not devoid of challenges, but certainly abundant. During our first three years of home education I wrote at