In the homeschooling world where homeschooling mothers are the norm and homeschooling fathers are an enigma, it would do well for fathers to consider their role in the light of Scripture.
This article is not meant to disrespect or downplay the sacrificial contributions of mothers, without whom homeschooling would not even be widespread enough to be a point of discussion. Numerous Scriptures point to a mother’s role, but that topic will be reserved for another discussion.
Rather, this article is intended to encourage and strengthen the role of the fathers in homeschooling as its value is indicated in both Scripture and in the relevant literature.
Pastors and other church leaders may find in this article practical ways in which they can help the fathers in their congregation maximize efforts to impact the lives of their children, and by extension, the next generation of believers in their congregations.
This article addresses two-parent families and assumes an audience with a Christian worldview as is prevalent among most homeschool families. Again, there is no intent to disparage single-parent, non-Christian or mixed-faith families. There may even be a tidbit or two of information in this article for those homeschoolers to glean as well.
What is a Homeschooling Father?
Although there are some variations, this article distills the various possible descriptions of “Homeschool Father” into two manageable categories.
First, and most abundant, are fathers in homes where homeschooling occurs, generally under the direct tutelage of the mother, while the father works full-time to provide for the family.
Second, and far fewer, are the fathers who provide the direct instruction to their children, while the mother is employed full-time or otherwise unavailable for instruction.
Obviously, there are numerous variations (both parents working, single-parent homes, etc.), but to simplify this discussion these two will be the only ones addressed and neither is presented as superior to the other.
Also, the practical applications at the end of this article are equally applicable to both.
In the interest of full disclosure, this author started out as the first type of homeschooling father and is now the second type.
Historically, a father instructing his children is not such a strange concept.
Going back to our colonial days, Gaither (2008) explained, “For the first forty years of Plymouth Colony’s existence there was no school at all. In the 1670s…most learning occurred in the home, as mother and fathers passed down values, manners, literacy, and vocational skills to their offspring” (p. 9).
Cox (2003) reinforced this assertion when he stated, “The main and central characteristic of colonial education was to equip students to believe in Jesus…and to know the wisdom of God…Children were educated by the father and the mother” (p. 218).
The one area where fathers were particularly relevant to the training of children in the early days of our country, was in the moral aspects of upbringing.
Unfortunately, that responsibility has subtly shifted from the father to the mother over time (Gaither, 2008, p. 14).
“For most of biblical Christian history the majority of children were discipled or educated in the home as well as into the trade of his father…Both in the case of ancient Israel and Christian history, parents were the predominant educators of each new generation, teaching according to God’s design in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 while they went about daily life” (Anderson, 2016, p. 15).
Scripturaly, the Buck Stops with the Father
In taking up any discussion from a Christian worldview, the first place we must go is to the Scriptures.
The fact of the matter is this: biblically, the “raising” of children is a responsibility directed specifically to fathers.
Ephesians 6:4 states, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
This doesn’t mean the mother has no role, but that the ultimate responsibility lies with the father.
As it pertains to education, other Scripture passages, such as Proverbs 1:8 and 4:1 clearly indicate an instructional role for the father in the upbringing of children.
Deuteronomy 6 and 11 both speak of this instructional responsibility (clearly directed at both parents) and that it should be day in and day out, sunrise to sunset, in and throughout all of life’s daily activities.
Psalm 78 clearly indicates fathers (vs. 5) should pass God’s Word from generation to generation (vs. 6-7) to show the wonderful works of God (vs. 4) and to prevent a recurrence of previous sins (vs. 8).
Abraham is given as an example of one who “command his children and his household” (Genesis 18:19) in the ways of the Lord that they might keep and perpetuate them to the generations that followed.
It is clear that “God has called parents—and particularly fathers—to function as primary faith trainers in their children’s lives” (Hinton, 2016, p. 39).
Numerous authors concur that fathers are to take the lead role (Lutzer, 2012, p. 236; Schanzenbach, 2006. p. 12; Steenburg, 2011, p. 33; Wayne, 2018, p. 87) and ultimately will be held accountable to God for their action or inaction (Sproul, 2004, p. 48).
Some might argue that training in the faith is not related to academic education, but the following section will show that all education is inherently religious and therefore portents to discipleship in one faith or another.
Even atheism is a theology (a belief about God) and the attempts to secularize education have only created a state sponsored religion of secular humanism (Cox, 2003, p. 372; Whitehead & Conlan, 1978, p. 18).
Education is Discipleship, In one Religion or Another
All education is inherently religious (Schanzenbach, 2019, p. 124) and therefore all education is discipleship (Anderson, 2016) in one religion or another.
Many parents have realized this as indicated by the fact that one of the top three reasons for choosing homeschooling is “religious reasons” (Blumenfeld & Newman, 2014, p. 64).
The advent of near-universal institutional schooling has convinced 90% of Christian parents to abandon their responsibility of teaching academics much in the same way that Sunday schools have paved the way for parents to abdicate the spiritual education of their children (Anderson, 2016, pp. 85, 111).
Anderson (2016) succinctly concludes that whoever is educating children is also discipling them (p. 114). Therefore, knowing the biblical accountability that will be required of them, for fathers to take a passive role in their children’s education is ignorance at best and gross negligence at worst.
“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).
A theme explored in my recent research was that of faith transference. That is, “The intentional passing on of one’s faith tradition (familial or societal) from one generation to the next through religious instruction or incidentally by means of lifestyle example” (Pietersma, 2020, p. 12).
The abdication of parents (fathers for this particular discussion) to assume responsibility for the transference of their faith to their children through education and discipleship (again, one and the same) has resulted in a catastrophic falling way from the faith in the current, and likely, future generations.
Depending on the particular study reviewed, percentages range from 65%-90% of young people from Christian homes that are no longer following the faith traditions of their families (Allotta, 2013, p. 43; Anderson, 2016, p. 2; Baucham 2007, pp. 12-13; Dyck, 2010, p. 17).
Kinnaman (2011) presented a proportional assessment: “A young Christian has about 1:9 odds of losing his or her faith entirely” (p. 70).
What is remarkable in the scholarly literature is a clear consensus that fathers really do matter in the spiritual development of their children. Bengtson, Putney, and Harris (2013) concluded that “for religious transmission, having a close bond with one’s father matters even more than a close relationship with the mother” (p. 76).
“The [faith] retention rate is…highest among those whose parents (particularly fathers) actually disciple them” (Baucham, 2007, p. 184).
In research on those who have kept their family’s faith tradition “the father was mentioned individually more so than the mother” (Hinton, 2016, p. 112).
Steenburg (2011) summarized, “the primary responsibility to disciple the children of the Christian home does not fall to the church or to a youth minister. According to certain passages of Scripture (ex., Deut 6:7, Prov 22:6, Eph 6:4) the primary responsibility for the discipleship of children falls to the parents and to the father, in particular” (p. 4).
The Church’s Role
The church can and should play an integral part in helping fathers engage in the education of their children. Baucham (2007) cited Tom Eldredge stating “The church can best minister to children by equipping the father, and assisting his helper, his wife” (p. 199).
Unfortunately, “the church in many cases is knowingly hindering the fathers from doing what they’ve been assigned to do. We must understand that parents are the primary Christian educators of our young people. The family is the God-ordained institution, which has existed longer than the church, for training, instructing and for passing along the Christian faith to the next generation” (Brown, 2011, p. 56).
Churches are all too often supplanting the parents (Demme, 2019, p. 70) and work against the biblical prescription for education by replacing the father with professional ministry workers (Gaither, 2008, p. 156).
Brown (2011) concluded, “We have assigned the church to do a job that that was never intended for the church. I’m 100% convinced our churches must move away from the church-centered ministry to young people to a home-centered ministry to the families, principally the fathers. The job of raising spiritually grounded children has been assigned to fathers not to churches” (p. 55).
Practical Application for Homeschool Fathers
1. Teach your children the Bible. If you have not been discipled or are a new Christian, then find a mentor and teach your children as you learn. Research shows that “It is the religious practice of the father that most greatly determines the future attendance or absence from the church of the children” (Brown, 2011, p. 86). Your children should be your first and highest priority disciples.
2. Teach your children what you know from a Christian worldview perspective. If you have a skill or trade, make sure your children learn that skill from you and know how God can use it. Even if they do not follow your footsteps vocationally, you will never regret the time spent teaching your children and they will likely not regret the things they learned from you. According to Barna (2003), teens spend an average of 23 hours per week with their fathers (p. 23). Make those hours count.
3. If you have a business or occupation that allows you to involve your children at appropriate ages, do so. “When you understand that school is all of life, there is more opportunity for the husband and father to be involved in the homeschool” (Sproul, 2004, p. 114). I learned a handful of things from my mother’s skills as a seamstress and hairdresser which have been of practical benefit to me for years, even though I have never made a living as a tailor or barber.
4. If your wife is the children’s primary instructor, find something, even one subject, that you can teach your children. Do this even if you must instruct in the evenings, on weekends, or irregularly because of your work schedule. Not only can this take a small burden off your wife, but it gives you dedicated time with one or more children and demonstrates your commitment to their education and Christian development. You will also come to know your children’s learning styles, which will help in the following suggestion.
5. Be involved with your wife in the research and selection of curriculum (not just providing the money to do so), the development of their learning environment (schoolroom or other household configuration), and routine (wake up, preparation, homework, extra-curriculars, etc.) as much as is practical. Look for to make these opportunities happen rather than just taking advantage of the convenient one. Do this even if it means sacrificing something else.
6. Make sure all curriculum used in your home come from a Christian worldview. There is no such thing as secular (neutral) curriculum (Cox, 2003, p. 385) and the worldview that forms the basis for the curriculum will be communicated through it.
7. If your family is involved in a homeschool cooperative or support organization, be as involved as you possible can. Most of these organizations have parent planning meeting, volunteer teaching opportunities, financial support requirements, or other ways you can be involved.
8. If you can be their primary instructor, or an equal time instructor, then do so.
9. Remember, that in the end, only you will give an account to God as the steward of the home. He has privileged you to lead (Romans 14:12) and I pray that you will be able to do so “with joy and not with grief” (Hebrews 13:17).
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Anderson, C. M. (2016). Education is discipleship: So who’s really discipling your kids? For It Is Written Ministries.
Barna, G. (2003). Transforming children into spiritual champions. Regal Books.
Baucham, V. (2007). Family driven faith: Doing what it takes to raise sons and daughters who walk with God. Crossway.
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