Fall 2017 / by J. Mark Fox

It’s that time of year again, when homeschool parents all over the country pull out their lesson plans, dust off their unit studies, pore over their reading lists, and gather their courage for another year. We at the Fox household finished twenty-eight years of homeschooling last May, and graduated our youngest of seven; so, we know how you are feeling as you face another year. It’s a mixture of excitement and dread, perhaps, but mostly gratitude that you have the great privilege of preparing your children for adulthood. As you begin preparation for the year, may I suggest that you take a bigger view of that task by setting down on paper some goals you want to accomplish with your children before they leave home?

Dad—you are the visionary for your household. That means, first, that you have been given a purpose for your own life and ministry. You have been given a large vision, a God-sized purpose to fulfill in His name and for His glory. How do I know that? I know it mainly because of what God’s Word says! He gives all His sons and daughters a purpose and a calling. There is not a random molecule in the universe. Neither is there a man or woman, boy or girl, called by His name and created in His image who does not have value and purpose before God. “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love, He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of the glory of His glorious grace.” (Ephesians 1:4-6)

I know this is true for you married men for another reason. The very fact that God has brought a helpmate to you is proof that you have a God-sized purpose to fulfill that you cannot accomplish alone. The question is, what is your purpose? What is your calling? What has God set you down on the earth to do? One thing is certain: you who have children are given the God-sized task of raising them! May I remind you that you are not raising children. You are raising adults. More than that, you are raising parents, who will, like you, invest in the next generation. Prepare them well, for the sake of their children, and for the sake of the world they will impact.

Your wife is given to be your helpmate to accomplish that vision. Your children have also been given to share in your vision while they are young and to be trained to walk out their own vision and purpose as they grow up and prepare to leave home.

Men, let me ask you: what is your vision for your family? What do you want to accomplish more than anything else with your children before you let them go towards their own purpose—those children who are “arrows in the hand of a warrior?” A warrior has a target for every arrow; he lets none fly without taking careful aim, they are so precious. We should do as the prophet suggested and “write the vision and make it plain” (Habakkuk 2:2). Cindy and I sat down when our children were very young and wrote down the following vision that we had for them.

First, that each has a vibrant and growing relationship with Jesus Christ and a love for His Word and the local church. We cannot make that happen, but we can certainly pray for it and help facilitate it. To that end, we made family devotions a cornerstone in our home, and prayed daily with and for our children. We now have the joy of knowing that each will be in heaven with us.

Second, that each has solid, biblical character. We read to them (or asked them to read) countless biographies of great men and women of the faith who demonstrated good character. We also encouraged and rewarded gratitude, honesty, thoroughness, diligence, punctuality, and perseverance that we saw in our children.

Third, that each is a servant with a solid work ethic. We wanted our children to know how to do everything needed in the house and the yard by the time they were twelve or thirteen. They also learned as teens how to work for someone else, whether in a business or through babysitting or odd jobs in the community.

Fourth, that each learns to communicate with clarity and with passion. They each took the writing and public speaking classes that I taught at the homeschool co-op. Some of them competed in forensic speech organizations. All of them traveled with me and Cindy to other countries and learned to communicate their testimonies there and to give reports to the church when they returned.

Fifth, that each loves the gospel and holds fast to a biblical worldview. We had countless dinnertime discussions about how the Bible speaks to what is going on in the culture. We read books that challenged them to see everything through the lens of Scripture. They learned to study and understand the Bible for themselves.

That’s the first step. Write the vision, and make it plain. Cindy and I wrote down those five purposes many years ago, and then worked out various means of helping our children to accomplish each one. You should revisit this process on a regular basis. Cindy and I would try to take a retreat at least twice a year, go away for a night or two, and enjoy time alone as a couple. At least one of those trips included a session of making, assessing, and tweaking goals for our family, our marriage, and our children.

What is your vision for your family? Have you ever sat down and written it out? I have heard Dave Ramsey encourage us many times to do this with our budget, with our financial goals and dreams. Isn’t it even more important to do the same with our most precious “commodities”?

Mark Fox and his wife, Cindy, homeschooled 7 children, graduating the last in 2018. Mark pastors Antioch Community Church in Elon and teaches public speaking at Elon University. Since he wrote a book for men (A Faithful Man) in 2012, he has traveled to seven countries to encourage men to lead as prophet, priest, protector and provider in their homes. Mark wrote a middle grade book this year called Growing Up Tommy, a story of a boy trying his best to make it safely through third grade. He hopes to find an agent for the book in 2021. Besides writing, Mark loves reading, running and any opportunity to go with his wife to the beach.