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6/15/2017 Dad finds joy with a baker’s dozen-worth of children
For local father of 13, and grandfather to 10 goin on 14, Andrew Zeller took time to share the joy and work of raising not just a family, but a large family that has called the Valley home for decades. While the nation takes this Sunday to honor the work of fathers, it is interesting to look at how children are perceived in modern society and the parents that raise them. The expense of raising a child is such a prevalent topic of conversation that the USDA has “Cost of raising children” calculator on its website that claims the average cost of a child through 18 years is nearly $200,000 dollars. “The idea of children as a liability or financial cost is out of place,” Andrew said as he smiled at the question poised to him. “Being a father and raising a family is work, can be frustrating, and does cost money.” But there is something more than dollars here. “Children are an investment, not in the financial sense, they are the future generation and citizens and there is nothing as important in this world than investing in the future of God’s Kingdom.” How do Andrew and his wife Beth Ann Zeller raise and educate the future generations? Andrew points to a calendar on the wall. “We are involved in our children’s life, and we have had that calendar for three decades now that keeps track of where everyone is and what they are doing.” There are lists of jobs that need to be accomplished and who is doing them. “They rotate every week or so.” Andrew explained. “And while we as parents help and guide the tasks that need to be finished, the children learn as they grow older.” The main way the family communicates with each other? “We eat three meals together as a family. I cook breakfast six days a week, the kids prepare lunch, and my wife Beth Ann prepares dinner.” Andrew continued. “We can all be at the same place at the same time to discuss what we have planned, and gauge what the children are thinking and what we as parents are thinking.” Andrew tours the home passing the long galley table that can house the entire family in one sitting. “I helped build this part of the home when I was 19, we used lumber from beetle kill and blow-down and milled it ourselves.” Andrew added additions as their family grew. “There is a fine line of demanding too much from children, and not requiring enough of them.” Andrew said. “There are times when cleaning their room is demanding too much when what they really need is a nap. However, requiring too little of them and not including them in the tasks of the family can make them feel left out, leading to boredom and trouble. There is patience and learning that takes place on the part of a parent, it is constant learning.” The Zellers have always homeschooled their children, but not because they have any particular problem with teachers. “We think that teachers do a great job and education can be delegated to a school teacher, but parents cannot pass the responsibility of learning completely to teachers as kids in public school do best with parent involvement at home.” Andrew paused. “And we have decided to educate the kids ourselves because we do want to protect them from some bad influences early in life.” But the Zeller children are hardly sheltered. “We want our kids to go out into the world, but we wait until we know that they can withstand peer-pressure and understand the many influences of society.” The Zellers have always been active in town, drama, and several high school classes. “There are just some classes that are better for education with others.” Andrew explained. “By helping and learning within the home, kids learn skills that will be needed in the world; cleaning toilets, washing dishes, teaching the younger children, helping raise livestock, and cooking.” Once they have mastered those skills it is important for them to have work. “On Saturdays I take my son Elias to town, he has a lawn mowing business and I study in the car as he works.” But it’s clear that having fun is an important part of life as well. Bikes litter the driveway, as does a small go-cart powered by a lawn mower engine. A constant knock at the door of neighborhood kids asking where one of the Zellers is so they can play. An entire group of children from the area are at the barn looking at the new piglets born last weekend. “We believe that raising our kids is following and honoring God. In the end there is never a rich man on his death bed that wishes he had made more money or acquired more land.” Andrew concluded. “They wish they had better relationships in life. And it is relationships that are the most important and enjoyable part in life.” – Jordan Hedberg