What about home schooling solo mums or those with unbelieving or unsupportive spouses?
Posted in Tough Questions
This is a really tough area. A mother who is on her own or who is basically left on her own in this home schooling task has an extra big challenge and one that may need to be handled with an extra big measure of sensitivity.
The solo mum teaching her children at home during the day is in some respects just the same as other mums: she has to do the job on her own for most of the time. But then there isn’t the spouse to come home and, for a while at least, lift the burden of the care of the children off her shoulders. Older children can actually begin to do this for mum fairly early on, and part of their home education is to mind the baby/ toddler while mum instructs the other child/ren. But there are other aspects of support (spiritual, moral, emotional, physical, intellectual) which God seems to have purposed should be borne together with a spouse. To bear these alone is really tough, and should serve to drive us to lean more heavily on the Lord and other Christian friends.
Support groups play an invaluable role here. A regular meeting where the mums have the opportunity to mainly talk while the children “socialise” (play) together and require minimum supervision constitutes a first-class support group. There is no need for any official support group committee to come together and sanction, plan, schedule and announce such a meeting beforehand: one person ringing around her friends inviting them to come over from lpm to2pm Friday afternoon will get the ball rolling. “Let’s do this again next week, and what do you say we talk about ‘Reading’?” provides a great excuse for many similar times together as you work your way through the curriculum topics. Word will spread by itself, and it can eventually become an “official” function of the local support group.
The various families within the support group can also at times be relied upon to babysit a solo mum’s children so that she can become involved in things outside her home, and maintain that wider perspective on life which makes coping with her own situation so much easier. And of course she will at times be available to babysit those families’ children, a reciprocal deal which doesn’t always have to involve the scarce commodity called “cash”.
Another issue that may be of concern to some solo mums is the total lack for whatever reason of a Godly male role model for her children within their own extended family. My own dad died when I was 13, and some of the men friends of our family would take me out, just the two of us, on a substitute father/son activity. The gesture was great, but those occasions were always so strained and contrived and uncomfortable. This has been, historically, an area where the men in the church recognised the need and would take the natural opportunities to interact with the children during church activities and socials and those other occasions when families interact or visit one another. It is possibly felt by solo mums that they aren’t included in interfamily socialising as much since there is no husband around to match the husbands of other families. My widowed mum felt this very strongly when it came to socialising with just one other family, but as soon as the social activity grew to three or more families, that feeling disappeared. Couples who know solo mums could try to be aware of this and take it into their consideration when planning their own social calendars. The solo mum might want to mention this concern to some close friends, but she can’t really push it more than that. If the men around who know the situation are aware of the solo mum’s concerns for her children don’t respond to the knowledge and challenge of the situation itself, prodding them more than once or twice at most certainly will not have the desired effect. Sorry, but that just seems to be the way men are wired up.
The issue of unsupportive or unbelieving spouses can actually be more stressful. Much of what was written about support groups above is applicable here. If the husband is actually anti-home schooling, and refuses to discuss it, try for a Christian school, if there is a decent one nearby. If not, for the sake of the marriage bond and family harmony the children better do as dad wants: go to school. Take comfort in the knowledge that a strong, loving, harmonious, supporting and vitally-involved-with-their-children set of parents will still have by far the major influence in the child/ren’s character and social and moral development, even though they attend school. Take advantage of dad’s natural love and concern for his child/ren and work as a team to do plenty of extra-curricular activities with them. This doesn’t have to be a big formalised thing … a simple family picnic with plenty of parent/child interaction helps to build those foundational values and attitudes that YOUR family holds dear into your child/ren in a permanent fashion. Again, it is simply taking advantage of the incredible parent/child bond that God has wired into us all and consciously using it to maximum advantage.
The dad who isn’t actively against home schooling, but isn’t really for it either but just seems to leave it up to mum should really exercise more leadership and (as we say in our house) “don’t just ignore the elephant in the room”. Dads tend to be involved in their work and one other thing (not necessarily to do with home and family), and leave all else up to mum. Men like to be good at what they do, and hate making mistakes. Consequently they tend to stay out of areas they aren’t familiar with or are not convinced about. Mums virtually ALWAYS end up with a whole list of skills required for running a household, while the dads only have one or two. After a while dads become aware of this and can start to feel a bit insecure about it, which could lead to even more reluctance to do anything new or different.
Well, we men simply have to break out of that kind of inhibiting, strangling, mind-set and force ourselves to get involved. It doesn’t mean we have to run everything, but at least to think it through and be supportive of whatever we let the family be involved in. The Lord God Almighty is going to call us to account for how we have managed our families: just bringing home the bacon simply won’t pass muster.
This certainly is not the final word on the subject. Please write in, anonymously if you like, with other ideas, tips or experiences or more specific questions. Lord willing, our combined wisdom will help to edify us all.
From Keystone Magazine
November 1996 , Vol. II No. 6
P O Box 9064
Phone: (06) 357-4399
Fax: (06) 357-4389