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What About Our Daughters?

By Jeannette Webb
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #89, 2009.

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Jeannette Webb


Perhaps one of the most delicate issues facing the homeschool community today deals with our daughters. Just how exactly are we to raise, train, and educate them?

As parents, most of us are recovering from the devastation that postmodernism and feminism imposed on our younger lives. We have repented our youthful worldviews and gone running in the opposite direction. We don’t want our daughters to make the same mistakes that we made or live with the disconnect that we felt.

If we were highly educated, perhaps we focus our home educating away from the academic side. If we dated freely throughout our teen years, perhaps we think our girls should not date at all and not even talk to males. If we rarely attended church, maybe we try to take our kids every time the church doors open.

No one could deny that our intentions are good and our motives are pure. History, however, teaches us that swinging to the opposite extreme is rarely the best course of action. Instead, we need a thoughtful response to a tough issue. This will require a great deal of prayer and the ability to move outside a popular homeschool box. Unfortunately, for a movement that was once so dynamic and original, shackles of guilt are being clamped around us by popular ministries and speakers.

Home Life

Natalie posing for her senior photo
It goes without saying that our goal is to raise girls with a gentle and quiet spirit who understand the delicate balance of joyful submission to God and husband. However, I am afraid that we have too often equated submission with unthinking compliance. Somehow when I look at the strong women of the Bible, I think we’ve missed the point on this one. Scripture shows us multi-faceted women with inner vitality, intelligence, leadership ability, and business acumen. This wasn’t threatening to their men, rather their noble characters caused them to be praised in the gates (something uncommon in Israel).

While I would never presume to understand the mystery of submission, I have an idea that there is something infinitely more appealing when a capable and intelligent woman yields headship out of love and respect than a doormat who has nothing to give up and therefore nothing to offer. I love Randy Sims’ definition of meekness in The Greatest Among You. He says that true meekness is “power under control.” What a beautiful picture.

I loved the years I spent training my daughter in homemaking skills. She learned to cook, can, garden, bake bread, sew, crochet, clean house, and set a beautiful table—all before the age of 10. Then it was time to incorporate other things. As a young teen she worked by my side acquiring skill sets in time management, communications, business, leadership, and community development. I saw her time as more valuable than my own because I knew that I only had a few years for this on-the-job training.

We must remember that we are there for our children. Not the reverse. While many hands make light work, they were not given to us to do our job. If we make the decision to have a large family, we must continue to parent all the way to the end. It is not the job of a competent older daughter to raise our babies.

Education

While I would certainly never argue that college is for every girl, we need to push the envelope of what is possible for our daughters. Set the expectation at college entrance requirements (four years of math, science, language arts, social studies, and foreign language). Then, if your student absolutely can go no further, stop without guilt. But, be advised that your students may be capable of much more than you give them credit for. Be aware too that your fear of certain subjects can transfer to them. If you think they can’t do it, you will certainly convince them of that.

Let me give you an example. My son was a born scientist. From the age of two he adamantly refused nursery rhymes and fairy tales and demanded insect-identification books for bedtime stories. His vocabulary was light years ahead of his peers. He was fascinated with the physical world and spent his entire childhood reading vociferously on many science topics. I knew where he was headed without a doubt.

Then there was my daughter—a girl who loved the color pink, tea parties, and baby dolls. I had raised one scientist and she was nothing like him. By the age of 8 she was the undisputed pie-baking champion in our church of excellent cooks. By the age of 10 she kept our household running during a prolonged illness of mine. She was an accomplished musician and an endearing public speaker. A very capable student, she did not show the academic passion of her older brother; however, we required the same college prep high school program for both students. College was our expectation, but I honestly thought we were looking at a music or communications major (which was fine with me).

Then AP Biology happened, and it was like watching a miracle unfold before my very eyes. At the age of 15, my little girly girl suddenly emerged as a force to be reckoned with. She poured herself into the rigorous class and surpassed her brother’s scores. She leapt ahead in math and conducted genetics research at a local university. Today she is pursing an extremely rigorous engineering program at Princeton and loving every minute of the challenge.

My heart still falters when I realize that I almost missed it. Had I not expected her best academically and pushed her to find it, she would never have discovered the fine mind that God gave her and a career field that she loves. It brought me to the harrowing realization that I do not have the wisdom to pre-determine my child’s capabilities and calling. I do not have the right to limit her because of my limits. I dare not thwart her development because of my fear. It was truly one of the most sobering moments of my life.

Economics

As a professional woman, I had a very fulfilling career, but it was one that required horrible hours and did not pay well. Neither was there any possibility of part-time employment. I have to admit that there were a few years (when our diet consisted mainly of casseroles, oatmeal, lentils, and fruit from our orchard) that I would have welcomed the opportunity to help my husband with some part-time work.

Contrast that with a homeschooling friend of mine who is a pharmacist. She works a very flexible part-time schedule (usually a day or two over the weekend while her husband is at home with the kids) and makes more money than I made while working a 50-hour week and never seeing my family. She home educated her children, taught science and math classes for her co-op, coached the sports team, and had the security of knowing that she was helping the family finances without the family suffering for it.

Natalie performing at her Senior Recital
The difference in our stories was that she carefully chose a career and paid the price early to secure her future. I followed a career path that was interesting but I gave no thought as to the potential security it would provide for my family. My daughter has learned from my mistake.

Prince Charming: the Idol

I have yet to find scriptural support for the insidious conviction that the focus of a young woman’s life is to find a husband. The way I read things, the goal of her life is to love God and love her neighbor. Her single years, whether they be few or whether they last a lifetime, are to be rich and fulfilling and glorifying to our Creator.

We do our daughters a disservice if we encourage them to sit and wait for life to happen to them. I have watched this strange phenomenon for years and the results are rarely pretty. Rapunzel gets stuck in the tower, grows old, and becomes embittered.

Another too-common scenario is that Prince Charming springs her from her prison, but is unskilled and unable to provide well (after all, the princely virtues of writing poetry and sketching his true love’s face don’t transmute well into cash) or he doesn’t live long enough to raise the large family and Rapunzel finds that her untrained vocal performances only bring in starvation wages.

Letting Go of the Reins

As much as I would like to predict my daughter’s future (loving husband, brood of healthy homeschooled children, beautiful home, and financial stability), I figured out some time back that I was not God. As much as I would dream and scheme and try to manipulate circumstances, I am honestly in control of nothing. My daughter’s life is as fragile as the china tea cups she collects. To be fair to her, I must train her to live a robust life, ready for the joys and the heartbreaks that will inevitably be hers.

To do this, I must let go of the reins so she can find out who she is and what life holds for her. I must encourage her to sharpen her mind, to fully develop her gifts, and then, model for her how to trust God with the outcome. After all, He loves her more than I do.

Jeannette Webb has worked with high school students for over 25 years helping them develop public speaking, leadership, and interview skills, as well as prepare effective scholarship applications. As Oklahoma State University’s first Truman Scholar (the American equivalent of the Rhodes Scholar), she went on to receive a B.S. in Human Development and an M.S. in Family Economics. She spent a decade with the OSU Cooperative Extension Service as 4—H and Youth Development Specialist and Resource Management Specialist before she became a home educator in 1993. A former OCHEC Trustee, she has also been a support group leader and conference speaker. In 2005, Jeannette received a Presidential Scholar Distinguished Teacher Award. Jeannette teaches “Homeschooling Through High School” seminars and is a college coach dedicated to helping homeschool students matriculate to America’s top colleges, including her own two homeschool graduates, who are now attending top colleges. She can be reached through aiminghigherconsultants.com.


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