Marriage is a profound (but rare, these days!) mystery ... even in the Church.
As a true woman living under the great leadership of my true man, we have taken very seriously the education of our children. We’ve experienced all school types that you can imagine and seen the strengths and weaknesses of each one. Along the way, we made decisions guided by prayer to have our children where we believed God wanted them. That’s never an easy task.
-- In the early years of parenting, we chose public schooling, and I drove my kids to and from school and was in the classroom for many hours every week keeping my pulse on their lives.
-- Then we moved 15 hours away in part to place our children in a Christian school that held the values we so treasured.
-- At another time, we knew it was the right decision to homeschool, and so rolled up our sleeves to remember once again how photosynthesis works and to diagram sentences.
-- Eventually we founded our own alternative Christian high school.
The Good News About a Christian Education
A study out of Cardus, a Christian think-tank based in Ontario, has exciting results for the hard work, financial sacrifice, and conviction displayed by homeschooling and Christian school parents whose paychecks have gone to curriculum and tuition payments while they vacation in state parks and drive used cars with six-digit mileage. Here’s the good news: The popular stereotypes of those receiving a Christian education (you know: socially fragmented, anti-intellectual, and militantly right-winged) bear no statistical weight in reality.
Even better, this comprehensive study reveals this about students graduating from the homeschool or Christian school setting:
-- They are outwardly focused individuals who stabilize their communities by their uncommon commitment to their families, their churches, and larger society.
-- They donate significantly more money than graduates of other schools, despite having lower household incomes.
-- They are more generous with their time in terms of both global and community service.
And here’s where the true woman in me leaps for joy: These graduates tend to be more likely to love family. They understand the concept of family, and they are more likely to marry younger and have more children. Their school setting has taught them to love God’s beautiful institutions of marriage and family, which I passionately believe portrays the love of Christ for the Church.
If you’re a woman who’s in the Christian education camp, you may be feeling the reward of your sacrifice right now. Don’t sit on your laurels for too long. I’m buttering you up for a reason. As with most research projects, we can usually learn where our weaknesses are if we are able to swallow our pride as we revel in our strengths. I hope you’ll do that with me, because I see something that scares me silly. This same study shows that homeschool graduates may be more at risk of experiencing the great heartbreak of divorce.
As children, we form our initial concept of marriage based on what our parents model. And let’s be honest; Christian marriages don’t fare much better than those of the unchurched when it comes to surviving divorce. Homeschooling doesn’t make marriage any easier. Finances—one of the greatest areas of marital conflict—are tighter for homeschooling families, which statistically make ten percent less than other families.
On top of that, it’s not uncommon for the father to be working more than one job to make ends meet, giving the couple less time to invest in their marriage. The mother is working two jobs—that of teacher (often to many grade levels) and homemaker, but rarely gives herself the extra mental space needed to accomplish this dual role.
In addition, they are usually actively involved in community and church. Then take into account the fact that the enemy of marriage doesn’t like the family values and truth being planted in their children. It’s easy to see why a homeschool family might look divorce in the face and have to stare it down . . . or be struck down.
My family’s initiation into the world of homeschooling came the year we were also called to start a Christian high school. Chaos! We got the kids a dog that year because we were trying to make up for taking on too much. The adorable six-pound puppy was wrapped in a big bow and placed where our Christmas tree should have been. In twenty-two years of marriage, it was the only year we were never able to find the time to conquer the forest and bring in a tree.
There were a lot of things that never got done that year. I remember it all with messy fondness and consider myself a lover of homeschooling. But it was not easy. And it was not easy on our marriage.
Perhaps the risk assessed by Cardus is relevant and real. Don’t get me wrong—if God is calling you to homeschool, it’s a stress you can and will handle with His grace. But let’s be wise. We need to be vigilant.
Four Ways to Protect Your Marriage
Here are some things Bob and I do as we seek to overcome the odds, and we encourage you to consider them prayerfully so that in ten years when another study comes out on schooling, we will have reversed the risk!
1. Confess your sins to one another (James 5:16).
Homeschooling families aren’t perfect. We are all flawed, sinful individuals, and it’s so important to be accountable to someone. A strength of the homeschool community, according to the Cardus report, is that they understand the authority of the Church. Come under that authority in regular accountability. Meet with an older woman with whom you can confess in real time the financial hardships, over-crowded schedule, or temptation to be the picture-perfect family.
2. Take time to invest in the friendship of your marriage.
Just this past summer, Bob and I stepped away from some of our local leadership for several weeks because we’d become guilty of ignoring our friendship. My accountability partner looked me in the eye and sarcastically said, “Dannah, it would do you good to resign from your position as CEO of the universe for a few weeks! The world will go on without you. Your marriage won’t.” The fruit of several weeks of nurturing our friendship was good. We are back in leadership but now taking time to enjoy each other—not because we need to but because we want to.
3. Open up a dialogue with your older children about divorce.
In addition to biblical teaching on divorce, share a few of the natural consequences, which include financial hardship, academic challenges in the children, depression, and more.
4. Remember what you’re protecting.
It’s not about you. It’s about the gospel. Ephesians 5:31-32 reminds us what marriage is really all about:
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
Truly marriage is a profound (but rare, these days!) mystery . . . even in the Church. Let’s do something to fix that. What’s your next step?
By Dannah Gresh