By Marjorie Meyer
There are multiple ways for fathers to mentor their children. This article is dedicated to all those diaper-changing, dishes-washing, kids-face-cleaning-off, occasional-meal-cooking, scripture-studying, boo-boo kissing, quiet-ear-listening, and all-around-helping FATHERS without-whom-we-would-not-be-Mothers, to whom we owe so much.
What is Dad’s role in homeschooling?
The vast majority of homeschooled children are taught primarily by their mother. Currently, less than one percent of homeschooling families have a working mom and a stay-at-home dad, but with telecommuting becoming more common, and the increase in successful family businesses, it is expected that more fathers will be home for a significant portion of the day.
Recently, the School of Abraham conducted a survey about the nature of the involvement of homeschool fathers, in order to help to articulate a perspective that may be useful to fathers (and mothers) of homeschooling families. Our survey results led us to conclude that Dads are the Ultimate Homeschoolers.
Some families already know this, but others need to become aware of it. Some dads may not recognize how to or that they should become involved (or perhaps they are already involved but not consciously aware of it) in meaningful, yet simple ways; some dads are significantly involved, some offer supportive roles (such as housekeeping). In the Vision Forum article Patricide vs. Patriarchy, Doug Phillips wrote: “For many years now, I have been deeply impressed with the importance of fatherhood, family, vision, multigenerational faithfulness and covenant succession. I believe that God means these concepts to be defining in the life of a Christian man.”
Through our survey, we have understood more deeply that the ultimate stewardship for homeschooling is the father’s. Part of the purpose of this article and the supporting web pages is to share ideas of what other fathers have done.
Dads need to know that they are the very core of homeschooling, and that moms and kids build on their foundation, whether shaky or solid. That does not mean the father must do double duty as provider and as homeschool instructor, but that he has a God-given responsibility to nurture and support in various ways that cannot be disconnected from his role as a father, and which directly applies to homeschooling. Each man will fulfill that role differently, some to a greater, and some to a lesser extent, depending on the talents (time, energy, and wisdom) that he has been given. If the husband has a willing heart, and he strives for an understanding of his spiritual responsibility for the success of the family, he is on the right path to fulfilling his true role. It is important that both husband and wife pay heed to that spiritual reality.
So, what’s a dad to do?
The School of Abraham surveyed homeschooling families to find out just what the father in their household does, and we asked moms to tell us what they wish their husbands would do to enhance their homeschooling experience. Our results are summarized at http://www.schoolofabraham.com/mydad.htm. Tasks for fathers ranged from the simple (“Please take out the trash, dear”) to the more complex (help the children build a tree house, or tutor an older child in calculus or chemistry). Dads fit a range of homeschooling styles, from unschooling to classical. A dad may be an engineer or a doctor, a hospital worker or a janitor. All dads have one thing in common: the inevitable responsibility to nurture and train the next generation. The homeschooling father has a great treasure: time with his children, and a greater knowledge of what to do with it, and an understanding of his unmatched opportunity to literally change the future by properly preparing his children for adulthood.
There isn’t a homeschooling mother who doesn’t want, wish, pray for, and plead with her husband to be more involved in the homeschooling venture. Yes, Dads, you are welcome and wanted.
Why do we say that Dads are the Ultimate Homeschoolers?
Because what you do and say, Dad, directly influences your wife, and she your children. If you are cheerful, witty and supportive (OK, we’ll concede the witty, if you’ll be cheerful and supportive), then your wife is empowered to nurture and care for your children in a much fuller and heartfelt manner. If you are not cheerful and supportive (taking the opposite view simply for illustrative purposes), then your wife feels deflated, discouraged, and less able to cope with the many demands that homeschooling brings.
Don’t leave her to flounder! Keep your head up, and check out our simple list below of proven and field-tested ways to involve yourself in your children’s upbringing and homeschool education. Step right up, Dad! Your family will welcome you with open arms. You don’t have to be a nuclear scientist to show them that you care. Don’t be shy. Your time and attention are two priceless gifts that only you can offer.
One concerned father wrote: “I need to get more informed and involved with homeschooling. I need to read up some, and we need to work on some plans to make our homeschool work. How do other Dads get involved? Any success stories? I think I need responsibility for certain areas. What do you think? I need to get more involved.”
Practically speaking, what can a homeschool father do?
See our compilation of the School of Abraham survey responses at http://www.schoolofabraham.com/surveysays.htm for many concrete and specific ideas.
One mom wrote: “Yes, I want my husband to assist in our homeschool. But if he could just realize that every time he hangs up his own shirt, or picks up his socks, or loads the dishwasher for me, he is assisting in a very real way! Yes, these little things do make a difference! He also is very generous in allowing me to buy books for the children. What do I wish he would do differently? I’d like to “begin with the end in mind.” We need to have more clearly defined goals for our homeschool, and I’d like his commitment and input on that.”
Ken, one father who participated in our survey, wrote:
“I hope I am not the only one out here, but as the father of my 13yr old homeschooling son I do 95% of the instructing. It seems that a majority of the fathers leave it up to the wives and mothers. Because I work 3rd shift, four nights a week (including weekends), and have T-Th off (my wife works second shift), I took it upon myself to educate my son.
“I find it a “challenge” to work full time and teach, but luckily I have a son who is very responsible. I give him assignments in his textbooks, which we pick up at used book stores, and he does the required reading and assignments. Together we review his work when our schedules provide for an hour or two of one-on-one. Yes, sometimes we are doing essays at 9 pm, but this allows our family to start the day at 9 am and bedtime is midnight or 1 am. Yesterday, my son said he learned more in the last year and a half than he did attending “school” in the previous six years.
“I know I made the right decision. Being the teacher while homeschooling should be a shared task whenever possible between the parents. Fathers must be involved to provide the proper role models to their children. To fathers who “don’t have the time”, I say make the time. Or else your child will be twenty-one years old and you won’t know where or who they are.”
Gary Wyatt shared this advice: “Become an enthusiastic life long learner yourself, and by so doing set a genuine example for your children. Conversations that I have had with many homeschooling fathers (and mothers) reveals a hypocrisy of sorts. Many parents get frustrated when their children don’t become as excited as they would like them to be about learning opportunities. All too often, however, these parents are expecting their children to do something they are not doing themselves, and that sends a message that simply doesn’t wash. Children need to see their parents practice what they preach. Parents should set the example by reading good books, discussing interesting ideas, and involving themselves in worthwhile activities. Children need to constantly witness their parents’ love of learning.”
Mary Ellen, one of the participants in our study, had these words of advice for homeschool fathers:
“Whenever you are home, include one or all of your children in whatever you are doing. Assume that they want to “help” you, and make it possible for them to do so. Don’t ask the kids “Do you want to…?” Instead, pleasantly say, “Let’s do _____ “. Wait patiently while they get ready and let them really help. Expect that it will take you twice as long and will be twice as messy as doing it by yourself. (Don’t force them to if they don’t want to, of course) Take them with you when you run errands on evenings and weekends.
“When you ask them about what they did all day, really listen to what they did, even if it doesn’t sound like “school”. Don’t say, didn’t you do any schoolwork today?
“No matter the gender of your kids, make sure that they see you doing “women’s work”, dishes, laundry, etc. Make sure their mother has at least one regular activity away from home, during which time you are really in charge – cooking dinner or getting the kids to sleep. Please don’t say you are “helping” mom when you do any of the above. You are participating in raising your children.”
Speaking of sharing the workload with her husband, Lynn, another mother wrote:
“Our homeschool is part of our family vision. It is not an afterthought or a “something else to do” and it is not treated in that manner. It is an integral part of our lifestyle. As such my husband and I are both involved, but in differing capacities. Neither better than the other, just different given the different roles we have in our family. He is the head of our homeschool as he is our family. He travails in prayer over it and seeks the Lord’s leading for it. I am responsible for most of the hands on teaching.
“He is pretty much the principal. There has never been a “turf” issue for either of us. We are both good at different things and we try to use our talents and gifts in the best way possible to benefit our family. This is the way the Lord has led our family. Our goal is to instill a sense of joy, awe and wonder into our children. There is no deadness of the intellect when there is a sense of wonder.”
Jim Muncy wrote: “I have only one chance to see my children grow up. To be quite honest, I don’t want some school which is blocks away to have this joy. It should be mine. Further, I seriously doubt if some second grade teacher with thirty students in a class would enjoy seeing my children learn nearly as much as I do. I will not let schools rob me of a thousand experiences; [they] are mine to watch, enjoy, remember, and cherish. I feel sad for the millions of parents who are giving these types of experiences away to the schoolhouses every day.”
Joy, a busy homeschooling mother related, “My husband does not have the time or energy to help me with the day-to-day instruction and decisions in homeschooling, but he *always* helps by listening when I’ve had a bad day, stepping in to discipline the boys when they are giving me a hard time, doing the dishes while I put the little ones to bed, helping me problem solve, etc. He also goes over every year’s big picture planning to double check for me that I’m not missing something. We are a team. I definitely view my husband as the head of our household and our homeschool.”
Fathers and mothers both should have a sense that dad needs to be a part of the education taking place inside their home. He doesn’t necessarily have to be a teacher or “principal”, but he needs to be a positive force and influence in the lives of his children. Dads should realize that if they involve their children in their passion, hobby or work they are educating their children. The days of apprenticeships are mostly in the past, but they do not need to be. If a father is involved in computers then maybe he needs to involve his children in that hobby. If a father loves railroads, then he needs to involve his children in that passion. If a dad loves to garden, then he needs to involve his children in that work. Much can be learned from a father. But the most important thing that the fathers come to understand, especially if they aren’t the primary teacher in their home, is that time spent with their children in good honest work, study, and play will not be wasted, and will build relationships, have learning opportunities, and make sweet memories in the lives of their precious children. This type of “education” is not hard when you consider all the things that you do throughout the course of a week. “Education” opportunities are abundant, if only you see them.
Just remember: If you are a Dad, you are the Ultimate Homeschooler.
More about our survey can be found in the book: Homeschooling Your Child Step-by-Step: 100 Simple Solutions to Homeschooling Toughest Problems by Lauramaery Gold, Joan M. Zielinski. Prima, 2002.
Visit our Dads: The Ultimate Homeschoolers web pages for all our survey statistics and to read more quotes from real-life homeschoolers:
40 Things a Homeschool Father Can Do by Mike Ferris
Homeschooling Dads by Isabel Shaw
Ten Ways to Be a Better Dad by Family First
Great Things Required of Their Fathers by Ezra T. Benson