I often am asked to give practical suggestions to home schooling fathers. Usually, I have approached these requests in an organized fashioned that presents principles, ideas, and methods.

However, a lot of really important things that all dads--including home schooling dads--can and should do with and for their children are not subject to this kind of systematic thinking. Here are my "Top 40 Practical Ideas for Fathers" for your consideration:

1. Give your children their spelling tests.

2. Do flash card drills to hone your children's memorization of math facts.

3. Do a science experiment with your children using Jane Hoffman's "Backyard Science" materials if other resources are not available.

4. Read your little children a story.

5. Read your bigger children the "Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis.

6. Do the dishes with your children, while regaling them with stories of your deprived childhood in which you had to do this task without the aid of a dishwasher.

7. Do the grocery shopping.

8. Help your wife plan the school calendar and her daily schedule.

9. Take your kids to a museum or historical site.

10. Go for a hike with your children and talk about the woods, your childhood or their dreams.

11. Read your children a chapter of the Bible every evening.

12. Make sure your children read the newspaper everyday by the time they are 11 or 12.

13. Discuss current events at the dinner table. Calmly (when possible).

14. Be honest when you take them to a restaurant or movie that charges a different rate for children under 12.

15. Read their essays and offer praise and constructive suggestions.

16. Grade their daily work.

17. Watch the children while your wife goes on a walk.

18. Read your children "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

19. Take one or two children shopping and explain to them the reasons for selecting items.

20. Take your kids to a minor-league baseball game.

21. Turn off the television.

22. Pray with your children and for them regularly.

23. Be a man and avoid exposing yourself to any pornography on television, on the Internet or in magazines.

24. Talk to your children before you impose discipline when they have done wrong.

25. Hug them afterwards.

26. Play silly games that involve lots of hugging and wrestling on the family-room rug.

27. Take your children to your childhood neighborhood and give them a tour of your memories.

28. Hug them when you leave for work and when you come home.

29. Never, ever, ever swear at your children.

30. Apologize to them when you wrong them.

31. Express genuine delight when they draw a picture for you. Put the pictures in a place that shows the children you are proud of them.

32. Plant a garden together.

33. Teach them--nicely--to strive for excellence in their work.

34. Watch your boys play baseball and your daughters perform ballet with equal enthusiasm.

35. Ask them what they want to be when they grow up.

36. Give them a vision worth living for--and worth dying for, if necessary.

37. Teach them the Pledge of Allegiance.

38. Teach them how the stock market works and give them a fantasy account using an Internet stock portfolio (like America Online's) so that they can track their earnings.

39. Tell them the percentage of your income that goes to taxes.

40. Love their mother intensely.

Most of these I have done at one time or another. A few I still need to do. Many I need to do more regularly. But I am confident that if you do these kinds of things, your wife will be thrilled, and your children will grow up confident that they are in the home of a father who loves them.

(Originally printed in the Washington Times 3/23/99)