Two Thoughts on Family Culture

quality controlJen from Working at Homeschool recently wrote this about family culture, “[D]eveloping the intellectual and moral faculties of our children by education is a monumental task.” Boy howdy. I feel the weight of this everyday. I bet you do too.

Then she says candidly:

Taking an honest, hard look at our family culture, I’ve realized that we’ve unintentionally created a family culture that is mostly based on my to-do list. We’ve built a family culture where “getting things done” comes first, and everything else follows behind.

Actually, just head over and read Jen’s piece, then come on back.

Two things struck me as I read Jen’s post:

1) Building a family culture is indeed a monumental task. One so monumental, in fact, we can’t do it all ourselves.
2) It is good to aim high. It sure beats not trying and letting the chips fall where they may.

More on the first point. I think it’s incredibly important we recognize that most of us who choose to homeschool our kids are, in some measure, control freaks. Today’s homeschooling mom might not have that much in common with the (how shall I put this?) ultra-fundamentalist, Christian, Duggar-like, ATI homeschooling families of the 80’s, who wouldn’t let their kids have friends that weren’t siblings. However, simply choosing to homeschool is an obvious leap into taking things into our own hands. Only 3% of U.S. children have parents like us.

The idea of building a family culture may not even be on most parents’ radar, but it certainly is in the homeschooling world. The problem is, “developing the intellectual and moral faculties of our children” is not actually a task we can control. The most we can control is our own behavior–our own modeling of the type of people we want our kids to become. We can frame the environment, choose the books, make a schedule, and sign our kids up for music class. Yet, if we think that by controlling all the possible variables, we’ll make sure our kids turn out in such-and-such a way, or that our family will be like the picture we hold in our mind’s eye, we’re fooling ourselves.

We do not have that much power.

By attempting to control everything about the upbringing of our children, we’re stealing the chance for our kids (and maybe even our spouses) to contribute as meaningfully as they can to our family culture. A “family” culture is one built by more than one person. This is not a sub-creator kind of situation, where we dictate the doings of all the people in our little culture. Families require unique contributions from each individual member. And that means that others control a piece of our family culture. Trust me, I’d love to get rid of the toddler tantrum, or the obsession with the (cheesy) Power Rangers, but that’s part of the character of my family right now. (And sometimes it’s pretty entertaining, ninja moves and all.)

My point is, I just can’t control everything. Nor do I want to.

Regarding the second point, though, it is important to “steer” your family culture toward the right things. The vocation of parent puts us in a leadership position over our children, that’s undeniable. If I didn’t take it seriously, no one would get fed in my house and everyone would be sitting around in their poopy diapers. (Notice how much of parenting is service to others, not lording it over those in our care?)

Jen’s right. We ought to aim for glorifying God, rather than solely checking items off our to-do list. It is better to help our families learn to enjoy the complex and beautiful music of Beethoven over the latest wrecking-ball-riding pop star’s hit song with scandalous lyrics. Some things are obviously better than others. But there’s no perfect family culture we’ll ever achieve because we can’t control everything. Even if we could, we’re human, so we’d mess it up anyway.

The best we can do is aim high, accept the contributions of our family members, and repent when we need to.

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