by Bob Farewell
It was seven o’clock on Friday night and my sixteen-year-old son invited one of his friends and me to see a movie at the mall. It looked like every teenager from three counties was hanging out there. I looked high and low, but could find only a handful of parents. I couldn’t help but feel sad for those young people who were missing a good opportunity to share their life experiences with their parents.
As we left the movie, I noticed the difference in the conversations around us. We identified the overall worldview, dissected some of the best scenes from the movie, exchanged opinions on moral values, and enjoyed stimulating dialog with one another as we walked to our cars.
I suppose I should not be surprised at the difference I found that Friday night. My wife, Tina, and I have been home educating our five children for twenty-nine years and have grown accustomed to open dialog and opinion sharing. We purposed from the very beginning of our homeschool journey to be our children’s teachers, mentors, and coaches as they grew into adulthood and beyond. We took to heart the phrase from Proverbs, “the counsel of fools,” and determined to be the first people our children would ask for counsel instead of their peers.
The everyday life of a home educating family provides tremendous opportunities to lay the groundwork necessary to be our children’s mentors. It takes more than just assigning and overseeing the academics. It starts with a mindset on the parents’ part to be willing to search scripture, to ask questions of wise couples who have already raised children, and a willingness to change our opinions and paradigms about mentoring our children.
Many years ago we heard our friend Doug Phillips of Vision Forum speak about the method his father used to introduce him to possible mentors. Since Doug’s father was on President Nixon’s cabinet, he traveled extensively with Doug as his frequent companion. Mr. Phillips was a voracious reader and when he happened upon an interesting person described in an article, he contacted him, relaying that his son would like to interview him. More often than not, Doug found himself meeting important and famous people the world over—and interviewing them. (Who would refuse an interview with a young boy who finds them fascinating?)
Today Doug has an address book of names that would be the envy of many of us. Why? His father purposed to find the most significant people he could to help direct the course of his son’s life.
This type of effort as parent-mentors starts in our own communities. We can look for ways to introduce our children to men and women of influence. We make the original contact with them, and then allow our children to learn what these influencers have to offer.
For many years, I have taken to heart the example set by my friend David Quine of Cornerstone Curriculum Project. Everywhere David went, he took one of his children with him, enabling them to observe their father conducting business in his adult world. This deliberate action provides numerous opportunities to discuss life’s larger issues, creating the ideal environment for a mentor-mentee relationship.
Having a family business and ministry, where each member learns first-hand how to run it, helped fulfill one of our goals—to have children who would grow up to be great employers, not just average employees. We also used it as a learning platform for our children to analyze how other families earned their livings.
Inspired in part by Doug Phillips’ story and because we were traveling for six months each year with our homeschool book business, Lifetime Books and Gifts, one day we posted a sign in our booth offering our family’s labor on a working farm. “Will trade our labor for working on your farm.”
Five farming families signed up and we chose to work at an organic dairy farm in River Falls, Wisconsin. For the next three days, our family milked morning and evening, built chicken coops, slept in a century-old barn loft, and experienced first-hand how wonderful farm life can be. This experience was so valuable we decided to meet other families as we traveled the country, learning various models of income generation.
Lifelong friendships have grown out of these efforts, as well as mentors for both children and parents. We have been the recipients of great power and encouragement from the mentors in our lives. My twenty-six year old son has had four mentors outside our family—one in real estate, one in stock trading, one in internet marketing, and one in photography.
During the course of our eighteen years of traveling to homeschool conventions, I’ve sensed a growing phenomenon among the dads who attend my workshops and converse in my booth. Many seek me out to tell me they wish they could be with their children as much as I was with mine. They expressed their frustration of being stuck in the corporate world to the detriment of their family relationships. They said it was already difficult being good dads, but being mentors to their children seemed out of the question.
I believe there is a motivation—a movement—among many homeschool families to find ways to bring dads home. Because Tina and I are in a different season of life since the sale of our business seven years ago—no longer traveling to homeschool conventions for six months with our book business—we find ourselves mentoring families as they explore many entrepreneurial options. We know how well mentoring has worked—and continues to work—in our family, and are excited to see the same results in other families as well.
As you find opportunities to share ordinary, everyday events—a movie at the mall, working together on projects, or spending one-on-one time during brief errands—we hope you’ll use that time wisely, establishing the groundwork of a lifelong relationship as one of your children’s mentors. You will be glad you did!
Bob and Tina Farewell were co-founders of their family of five children (and five grandchildren), as well as Lifetime Books and Gifts. For more information regarding their speaking and mentoring, contact the Farewells here
A version of this article was originally published in Homeschooling Today® magazine (July-August 2007). Used by permission. All rights reserved.