Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.
I am a homeschool dad. In fact, I have several T-shirts that proudly proclaim that fact. My wife and I have two sons, currently aged 20 and 15, who have always been homeschooled. The older one has graduated from homeschool. I am also a minister, and because I can set my schedule with a fair degree of flexibility, I have usually taken our two sons to the office with me each morning to do the majority of their formal studying and academic work. Then, after going home for lunch, they finished up and did other things at the house in the afternoon. We started doing that when the older son began his formal studies for reasons that were almost a necessity then, and we continued to do it because we liked it.
Not every homeschooling father can be as actively and personally involved in his children’s education as I have been privileged to be, but I do believe that every homeschool dad needs to be as actively and personally involved in his children’s education as he can be. The purpose of this article is not to tell you what you have to do to be a good homeschooling father, because every family is different. However, I do want to offer some advice for homeschool dads that I hope you will find helpful.
Homeschooling fathers should be leaders in their homes, including their children’s education. Of course, leadership is not the same as dictatorship. For example, one way a homeschool dad can be more involved in his children’s education is in the area of helping to choose curriculum. It may be that Mom feels perfectly competent to choose curriculum and that you are quite willing to let her do so. That is fine. However, sometimes curriculum choices can be a bit daunting and stressful for moms. Since Mom will likely be doing most of the teaching in the majority of instances, it would probably not be a good idea for Dad to walk in with a catalogue; drop it in front of Mom; say, “Here is the curriculum that you will be using”; and then walk out! However, it might be good for Mom and Dad to sit down, look over the curriculum choices, and select what they, together, feel is the best choice. If Mom is a little unsure about one program or the other, Dad can make suggestions and strive gently to lead in the direction that he feels is best.
A homeschooling father should also offer support to his wife in her role as a teacher. Since Mom will likely be doing the majority of the instruction, Dad needs to do whatever he can to help prevent the problem of burnout. One way to support Mom’s efforts is for Dad to do what he can around the house. If Mom is going to spend a great deal of time teaching the children, she will not have as much time to clean, cook, and do other household chores as she would if she were sending the children off to school and had the day to herself. Don’t expect to come home every day to find an immaculate house, dinner ready on the table, and an affectionate little woman. I know that you are probably tired when you get home from work, but think how tired Mom is from doing both housework and homeschooling. It would not kill us to throw in a load of laundry every now and then!
Another way that a husband can support his wife in their homeschooling is to be as involved as possible in the instruction. Maybe Mom does not feel competent in mathematics, science, or whatever, and you do. Let Mom work with the kids on the subjects that are better for her, and you can help with whatever she cannot do when you get home, which will give you an opportunity to be more directly and personally involved with your children anyway. You could also use your day off or a weekend to take the kids on a “field trip” of some sort to give Mom some time alone to regroup and renew her strength.
Homeschool dads should protect their families. We recognize the need to protect them physically, but there are other forms of protection that are important too. Sometimes homeschooling parents are accused of being “over-protective.” This accusation frosts me. We do not let young children play on busy streets or under sinks with chemicals, because they need to be protected from such dangers until they are old enough to handle them. In the same way, we also need to protect them emotionally and socially until they have developed sufficient maturity to deal with various situations. As a father, in order to provide this protection, exercise some control over what is allowed in the home and what the children are permitted to do.
Also, Dad should protect his wife. Since she does most of what people see as “homeschooling,” when there are criticisms, she will likely bear the brunt of them. However, when that happens, Dad should step in, serve as a buffer for his wife, and say: “We have decided together that we are going to homeschool our children. My wife is doing exactly what I want her to do, so if you have any criticism, direct it to me.”
A homeschool dad should recognize the need for preparation. Home education (or any education, for that matter) is more than just learning academics. It is preparation for life. Sons need to know that when they grow up they will be responsible for providing for their families. Of course, they should be taught the basic skills that will allow them to be properly trained for their life’s work, but they also need to be trained in values such as honesty, hard work, and frugality. A father is in the best position to teach and model these traits to his sons. Spending time with them to discern their strengths and weaknesses will equip a father to serve as a kind of “guidance counselor” as his sons begin to think about what they want to do with their lives. I have no daughters, but if I did I would not think of trying to train them in homemaking skills; that is certainly an area where a wife can excel. But I would try to help my daughters, both by instruction and example, to choose husbands who will honor them and be good fathers to their own children.
Homeschooling fathers should be examples to their families and especially to their children. On the one hand, we realize that we are not perfect. Yet we need to be careful and not use this as an excuse to say “Do as I say and not as I do.” If we don’t want our children to lie to us, we must not tell them to say that we are not home when the phone rings. If we don’t want them to cheat others, we must not fudge on our income taxes. No, we are not perfect, but even in our imperfections we can serve as examples.
One of my weaknesses is anger. I do not fly off the handle quickly, but if I am tired or a little stressed, and on top of that am having trouble with one of the boys not doing his work properly, I can become frustrated and in anger say something I shouldn’t. Then I have to stop, tell myself that this is probably not the most important thing in the world, and apologize for losing my temper. Then we have hugs and kisses. In doing this, I am showing by my example that, no, I’m not perfect, but I’m trying to improve and grow, even as my children need to improve and grow.
Finally, a homeschooling father should exercise discipline. We usually use the word discipline to indicate punishment. It means more than that. In fact, everything we do in training our children, including “home education,” is part of discipline, the aim of which is to “disciple” our children and help them to develop self-discipline. However, the concept of discipline does include punishment when necessary. If Mom is going to spend her day trying to teach the children, she shouldn’t have to spend a lot of that time correcting unruly children. Therefore, the children need to know that if they act up for Mom, they will have to answer to Dad when he gets home. And they need to know that serious infractions will most assuredly receive swift and certain retribution. With this kind of assurance, Mom can then devote her time to instruction and encouragement. Each family will have to work out forms of punishment that will best meet its needs, but it is important for both Mom and Dad to be in agreement about whatever it is and then try to be consistent.
Yes, dads, you can and should be an important part of your homeschool, both in the academics and in the general homeschool life. So, it’s up to you to look at the basic principles identified in this article and work together with your wife to determine how best to implement them in your family.
Some have drawn a comparison between homeschool and regular school by saying that Mom is the teacher; Dad is the principal, superintendent, and headmaster; and together they are the school board. Thus, when Dad comes home and gives Mom a big hug and kiss, they can say that it was a sweet school board meeting!
And that brings up my final observation. I believe that it was Theodore Hesburg who is credited with the saying that the best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother. That should be the guiding principle for a homeschool dad.
Wayne S. Walker, a native of Highland County, Ohio, is married to Karen. Their two sons have always been homeschooled. Mark has graduated from homeschool, and Jeremy is still in high school. Wayne is a minister, and the Walkers currently live in Salem, Illinois, but for over five years Wayne served as volunteer Missouri coordinator for The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine.
Publication date: August 13, 2012