Being a “homeschool dad” is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, our kids are homeschooled. And yes, we are their dads. But do those facts alone qualify us to be called homeschool dads? I’m not so sure.
I think of someone like Voddie Baucham Jr. (a pastor who actually homeschooled his teenage son) as the exceptionally rare breed of man who joined with his wife in home-educating their children. And then I think of me — a dad who works outside the home in order to fund the education of my four children — and suddenly the title “homeschool dad” does not seem to fit the facts of my life. I suspect we will all have this realization at some point.
Like me, your wife probably refers to you as the school principal or superintendent. Let’s be honest; these are colloquialisms to help us dads feel more involved in an educational program that does not involve us 99 percent of the time. Rare exceptions aside, aren’t we basically the checkbooks of our kids’ education? When we take into account our property taxes or rent payments, don’t we also subsidize the schooling of our neighbors’ kids? Double whammy.
If you are the kind of man who, for whatever your reason, has remained aloof from your family’s homeschool, have you considered becoming more involved? That question assumes you would want to be more involved in the nourishment of your children’s minds. It assumes you care what your wife is doing every day. It assumes there is a role for you to play in this vital program of soul craft.
Here are six things I’ve done over the years to become more engaged as a homeschool dad. None demanded too much effort. But all required me to set aside “me time” and my short-term plans. One of the happy results was that these activities demystified homeschooling for me and answered the enduring question, “What does my family do while I am at work all day?” I ordered the following list of activities from easiest to hardest for me.
1. Listen during read-aloud time.
My wife loves to read good books to the family. This habit began when our first child was too young to read and relied on us to tell him stories. Over the years, my wife would read large chapter books to us all in the evening — Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Little House, Little Britches and other great series. Some of these were assigned school books; some were not. Chapter by chapter, we would experience a different world together, fraught with dangers and deeds that filled our imaginations. It was a shared adventure every night as my sons and daughters would nestle up next to me on the couch. I said nothing. But I was there, listening and learning with them. And that was enough.
2. Attend “morning time.”
On those rare days when I was at home on a normal school day, I liked to sit in on my kids’ “morning time” routine. This hour-long activity at the dining table occurred immediately after breakfast and would involve Bible reading, memory work, poetry, singing, Church history, Latin, grammar, etc. I contributed nary a word of content, but I would sing along or answer a tricky grammar question when my kids were stumped. In this unassuming way, I learned alongside my children and experienced a significant part of their homeschool. More importantly, they saw me model being a good student, something my wife greatly appreciated.
3. Let her decompress.
My wife is a wealth of knowledge. She teaches our children, knows their strengths and weaknesses, and has opinions about what works and what doesn’t. She, like many other moms I’ve met, sometimes judges herself by the “success” of her homeschool. One difficult student can alter her perception of competence and disrupt her normally pleasant mojo. It is when these bad days become repetitive that I catch hints in the evening that she needs time to decompress. We will get away by ourselves — sometimes in a quiet room, sometimes at a coffee shop — and I will ask her how things are going at home. She vents, she talks a lot. I listen, I nod, I reassure. We converse, we hug, we reaffirm our decision to homeschool.
If you see your wife reaching a tipping point, she might just need to talk it out. Prepare yourself to listen well and even dry a tear. Not only will you learn much about your kids’ education, you will show your wife that you care about her. And there is immense value in that.
4. Attend a homeschool conference.
These are wonderful places to not feel alone — or at least not so weird. Rooms will be filled with parents just like you. Though dads are less common, you will still see many attending with their wives. You and your spouse will hear conference speakers who are full of vision, tips, encouragement and resources. You will hear lingo and see books that your wife uses at home. Yes, it will cost you time and money, but the payoff is that you will step into your wife’s world, think the thoughts she thinks, and find resources that suit the educational vision that you discuss and develop with her.
5. Grade schoolwork.
Years ago, my wife asked me to grade my oldest son’s math. The task was busy work that needed to get done, and she saw it as an opportunity to involve me more in his education while saving her time. Honestly, I did not like doing it. I often fell behind, even though it required just a few hours per month. But it led to several meaningful encounters with my son as we struggled through math problems together.
To become more engaged as a homeschool dad, pick a subject you like that your child is studying and ask your wife how you can help. It might be grading worksheets, listening to a narration, memorizing verses or some other simple task. The new role might seem insignificant to you, but your child will remember it as the day that Dad became part of their school day.
6. Read and discuss a school book.
A slightly more-involved task is to read a school book with the intent of discussing it with your child. Three years ago, my wife asked me to read an anatomy book with my oldest son. We would read a chapter separately, and he would call me at work at a designated time to narrate it. Sometimes a discussion ensued, but usually not.
The next year, my wife asked me to read an economics book with the boy. We each read a chapter, and again he called me to narrate it. This process resulted in several great conversations, as it touched on an interest of mine that — to my delightful discovery — my son also enjoyed. In this one activity, we learned about an interesting subject as well as each other’s beliefs. I was glad to have influenced the values and thoughts of my teenage boy.
Becoming a “homeschool dad”
I still struggle with applying the term “homeschool dad” to myself, as I am not the person actually homeschooling my children day after day. But I am becoming more comfortable with that title, not because I am my kids’ primary teacher but because I have become an increasingly engaged parent. Much of that engagement involved the activities listed above. Some stretched me more than others; some I liked more than others; all required a piece of me.
If you, too, would like to better understand homeschooling, better appreciate what your wife is doing every day, better participate in the shaping of your children’s souls, then I urge you to ask your wife how you could become more engaged in their education. The small sacrifices of time and effort you make now will mean the world to those who mean the world to you.
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