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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.