The Importance of Parents as Teachers

I was recently reading the September 2010 issue of Living magazine. Not surprisingly, inside of it was an ad featuring Martha Stewart. What was surprising was the subject matter. Martha was not touting the latest home beautification item or her paint or furniture line. Rather, the headline read “Behind every famous person is a fabulous teacher.” The small print then went on to explain that for Martha, that fabulous teacher was her mother. She states, “Mom was a great teacher. People ask me all the time how and when and where I learned how to do all those things. It really was my mother who taught me so much.”

Most of us have been blessed with a few good teachers in our academic careers. Perhaps there was one who had a particular influence on you, who brought something out in you that you hadn’t known existed, or took the time to offer some extra help which made all the difference in understanding a subject. Teachers in schools have one of the hardest jobs on earth and are not valued nearly as much as they should be.

But it is important to remember that no matter how incredible the teachers are in school, parents are their children’s first and primary teachers. I look back on my own life and know that to be the case. I was blessed with an excellent Catholic school education with many great and memorable teachers. Yet, it is my parents who shaped me into who I am. From my mother, I learned my faith. Prayer and her relationship with God was and is her priority. I am eternally grateful that she passed that gift along to me. From my father, I learned the value of hard work and persistence. He was also always happy to play a game with me. Those are lessons I have always held on to – work hard and play hard and do all you do with purpose.

Now that I am on the other side of the parenting fence, I realize what a huge and awesome blessing and responsibility it is to teach one’s children. Our children look to us for so much in life, and what we do matters more than what we say. They watch how we spend our time, how we use our money, how we treat others, and how we care for them. In my own life, I have taken the role of parent as teacher one step further in that I homeschool my children. It wasn’t a role I had planned on, but one that God called me to. We start our third year this week. It has been, and will no doubt continue to be, a challenging and rewarding journey.

People have varying reactions when they hear I homeschool: Are you crazy? I could never do that! I would love to do that, but I would never have the patience. You must be a saint! Truly, it isn’t as hard as people think, and I would encourage anyone who wants to do it to try it. But every parent, regardless of whether they take on full responsibility for their children’s academic careers, is a homeschooling parent. Every parent who sings the ABC’s, or helps her child with her homework, or teaches them to ride a bike or tie their shoes or to cook or do laundry is educating them. Especially in matters of faith, a parent’s example is of the utmost importance. Every parent who takes his child to Church or says prayers with them or shows them the value of charity is educating his child.

The lessons learned at home, for good or bad, are the ones that stick. Make them matter. Your children will appreciate it someday.

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

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Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur writes from western Massachusetts where she lives with her husband and two sons. A Senior Editor with Catholic Lane.com, she blogs at http://spiritualwomanthoughts.blogspot.com

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