The Elusive Pimpernel: The Working Dad’s Role in HomeschoolingDecember 6, 2022
My favorite movie of all time is The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy. It explodes with danger, intrigue, and suspense all swirling with sword fights, heroes, and spies; not to mention witty dialogue. It is a masterpiece of historical fiction that details how a British lord living under the foolish expectations and cultural conventions of late 18th Century British society simultaneously manages to save lives as the most effective hero of the French Revolution. At one moment, he seems focused only on the menial and trivial like all his peers, and the next, we see him mentally and physically parrying the dangerous attacks of his enemies in order to save innocent lives in a place and situation where no one expects a man of his cultural standing to ever be found. His useless and sheep-like peers laugh and jeer at this bold and canny lion who makes a fool of himself in front of his peers in order to more effectively battle evil. Because of this, his enemies cannot find or prevent him from gaining the ultimate victory.
The Scarlet Pimpernel is both a book series and a movie well worth acquiring if you have not already. You will find much to ponder and to quote if you do. One of my own favorite lines of witty dialogue is when our incredibly cunning and skilled hero in disguise is surrounded by the very cream of society who are trying to avoid thinking about the desperate war going on against people they know or know of. They cannot see their own uselessness, short-sightedness, and lack of effectiveness against a common and dangerous enemy. He says, “They seek him here. They seek him there. Those Frenchies seek him everywhere…” The Frenchies in this instance are representing not only French Revolutionary leaders and their dangerous henchmen who were seeking his life, but the entire country of France which had gone completely mad.
I think this story is the perfect example of what is often going on in the desperate conflict going on between the world at large, and the homeschool world. The culture around us swirls with bright lights, music, fancy titles, status symbols, foolishness, fakery, intrigue, and danger. Like 17th Century British society, those entrusted to and most able to protect the innocent or lead an effective defense are caught up in the gossip, noise, and motion of bias, misinformation, power, riches, entertainment, or other distractions swirling around them. In the midst of that hides a dangerous enemy who does its best to turn people against both the innocent and the hero.
A Challenge for Homeschool Dads
Whewhhhh! Dads, if you haven’t caught the similarity to your own life, and what is going on around you – something is seriously wrong. You, your family, your friends, and your allies all over are caught up in the culture, drama, entertainment, and politics around us while dangerous enemies attempt to stop us or to use the mindless mobs to affect our children. The average dad is working 40-50+ hours per week, not including all the chores, church involvement, and necessary social interaction with extended family, friends, neighbors, etc. That doesn’t leave much time or energy, if any, to help your wife homeschool your children. All the while, those dangerous “Frenchies” are out there, camouflaged within the chaos, just waiting to pounce.
And, just like in the movie, neither your beloved Lady Blakeney nor the innocent citizens (your children) that are threatened can extricate themselves from danger without help. Yes, they can be weak and helpless despite the fact that your wife is doing an amazing job taking on a vital task that affects your children’s lives and futures. They can be tired, downtrodden, and discouraged when school and constant work and close proximity becomes hard for everyone. Yes, they may have gotten themselves into trouble somehow with expectations, impatience, frustrations, quarreling, or other issues. Maybe they innocently don’t even know why they need to be homeschooled or what dangers they are facing.
You may not be able to be home to prevent each and every trial and danger which might arise. You may not have any time in which to teach each and every day, but are there times you could? Ways you could assume some other role such as helping with the cooking and cleaning that you could do to lighten her load? Would you be willing to be thought weak, “whipped”, and disregarded by your peers for the precious lives you could rescue?
Calling All Homeschool Heroes
If only there was a hero strong enough, bold enough, and cunning enough to come to the rescue. Someone with enough wit to turn frustrated glares into giggles and grateful smiles. A bold champion strong enough to cause even the reluctant little citizen to accomplish more than they knew they were capable of; or to ensure any frustration, animosity, or problem is correctly dealt with. Maybe it is the intrepid leader capable of explaining something in a different way than it has been “for the 500th time”. Or the cunning master spy who can skillfully see through all of the distractions and haze of war to see what is needed most. Is there a resolute rescuer who helps realign unmeetable expectations; and wipes away the tears caused by little rebels, or that remove the barbs of officious gossip cackling at your dear wife’s expense?
It could be that the gentle lady of your home with messy hair and purple sweatpants needs a gallant rescuer to sweep her off her feet, rush her from the clamoring mob and take her on a date somewhere. Believe me, the expense is not the object. Is there any homeschooling mother who needs or wants a formal dress and evening on the promenade every day? Sometimes just an escape from the squeak and squalor of the dungeons to the open countryside for an impromptu picnic of Coke and french fries will do. Or what about a slow dance to the orchestra you hide in the car radio beside the grassy ballroom in your backyard?
Like the men of that day, you may think me an unmanly fop lost in worthless dreams and foolishness, or even mad for what I do and say. Maybe. Or, maybe it is you who cannot see the danger that awaits your children if you merely follow this frivolous, immoral, and distracted culture around the ballroom floor. Not just strangers, but friends, neighbors, bosses, and family who laugh, jeer, and gossip about us for homeschooling behind our backs. The ones who do not understand why anyone would be willing to look like fools by refusing to take the easy way, accepting the risk of failure, working harder, and paying more. Sad to say, too many fathers have walked away from this high adventure because the sacrifice and danger are too great. They seem too busy adjusting their “silk cravats” to the liking of the crowd. They giggle at silly words on the television or pursue riches and fancy titles instead of rescuing those who need them most.
Sir Percy (the Scarlet Pimpernel) was right when he said, “They seek him here. They seek him there. Those Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he in Heaven or is he in Hell? That…elusive (Homeschool) Pimpernel.”
Or, are you man enough to ignore the jibes as you shake your sword loose and prepare to fight no matter what the cost? Will you join the League of the Pimpernel?
Only heroes need apply.
More About the Author:
Gabriel is a former homeschooled missionary kid and homeschooling father who adores his wife, children, and grandchildren. He is currently rebuilding a 130-year-old homestead, writing a historical fiction book on character for young people, and mentoring young men. He is a former U.S. Marine Corps Combat Correspondent, Army National Guard Photographer, and U.S. Army Deputy Public Affairs representative and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. He lived in Central America during Junior High and served on military short and long-term assignments across the U.S. and in half a dozen countries, including Iraq during his military career. Besides his deep faith and his family, his passion is writing and developing young men into capable steward leaders.