“Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the LORD do that which seemeth Him good.” 2 Samuel 10:12
Greetings in the glorious name of Jesus the merciful One who does justice and is compassionate!
I wanted to take a minute to say hello and to share a bit about a father’s role in the homeschooling journey from my personal experience. No matter your background, the blessing of children comes with the responsibility to care for the education of your children. God has given husbands and wives this duty and our children’s futures really do depend on our choices and how much we choose to be involved in their lives. Scripture commands us:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”Deuteronomy 6: 4-9
My wife, Kathy, and I started homeschooling sort of by surprise. We had our first daughter and we loved spending time with her. She grew and the thought of school never crossed our minds until she turned four. One day we realized it was that time. We had to make some decisions about the direction we were going to go for school. We looked at our choices:
1) Public school is “free” but we didn’t feel we wanted that for her. We knew that “you get what you pay for” and public education did not align with our values.
2) Private school was expensive and would require more time apart to cover the costs. We didn’t want to go down the road of being so busy we were not able to spend time together.
3) Homeschooling was novel to us. In my case, I had a bad experience when I was homeschooled in the second grade. For my wife, homeschooling was out of the question. She didn’t feel qualified and the thought scared her.
In my view, homeschooling was the only option that let us have the freedom to be together as much as possible and have the best influence on our children. My wife was not convinced.
I know my wife pretty well. She is amazing and when she puts her mind to it she really can do almost anything, and do it well. She also often feels like she cannot do new things. Because our youngest was four and we had a year to decide, I asked my wife to try preschool. If she didn’t like homeschooling, we could look at other options. We were not planning to put her in preschool anyway, so nothing would be lost if we didn’t like homeschooling. We started to pursue homeschooling and asked around to find out how to get started.
What proved to be the best advice was this, “You guys need to go to a CHEA conference.” We took this advice and went to our first CHEA conference, held in San Jose later that year. It was an awesome and eye-opening experience for both of us. There we walked into the world of homeschooling. We went from not knowing what to do to being overwhelmed with options and different approaches for our school. My wife was able to look at the curriculum, and for her, the pieces to the puzzle started to fall into place. She could see much of the work was done for her by those who had gone before. All we had to do was to choose the curriculum style that we wanted.
Being new to homeschooling and knowing very little about curriculum or our child’s learning style, we made a decision to go with the type of curriculum we had when we went to school. We chose Abeka to start. It was very structured and had a great lesson plan and workbooks. Teaching was laid out for my wife. We were both experienced in this type of curriculum and so it made us confident in what we were doing. The choice to start in preschool really paid off. By the time we were halfway through the school year my wife felt very confident. We made the choice to homeschool beyond preschool. I don’t feel like this was the best decision-making process but it’s what happened. I will talk more about this later.
I wish I could say I stayed by my wife’s side through the years and that we walked this path together until this day, but that isn’t what happened. To my shame, I got my wife started and then turned to my own interests.
My last instructions to her were, “What I want most is that my children are good readers. If they struggle with reading I want to know right away.” I was/am a poor reader and this has plagued me my whole life. I didn’t want my children to have to feel stupid because books without pictures scared them. My wife was smart. She finished college.
I was the worker, so off I went to work and for the next few years, paid little or no attention to our homeschool. I read the Bible in the morning and evening to the family, looked at school projects, and told my wife she was amazing and doing a good job, but that was it.
We joined Calvary Christian School shortly after this and we continued to have children. The children grew, as they do, and soon my wife was schooling three children with one in tow. After a few years, I started to see that my wife needed help.
Naturally, I stuck my nose in to offer her assistance. When I did, I found that my help was not wanted. This was frustrating. I could see she needed help and could use my perspective but she resisted. I didn’t realize what had happened. It took me a few years of trying and many arguments, where she would explain what I did wrong, but I still didn’t get it.
Finally, she was able to clarify how she felt in a way that I could understand. From her perspective, I had abandoned her in homeschooling. After getting her started, I left it up to her. When I did offer to help, she was never able to depend on it. Sometimes I would forget, other times something else came up. I would start helping and then I didn’t follow through.
I had abandoned her in “our” school.
In my case, what she really wanted was for me to sit with her and look over curriculum. She wanted to bounce ideas off of me and hear my thoughts. She wanted to share concerns for our children with me and talk about what to do. She wanted to know that she was not alone in this walk and that what she was doing mattered to me.
The trouble was I didn’t know what any of the things she wanted from me looked like. How do I do this? I started to give some direction to her to help and that led to fights. I imagined I was doing what she wanted. What I learned is that, even though I could see things differently than her, and that my solutions and advice would help her, she could not receive my help because I was giving it to her from far away (armchair quarterbacking).
Before she could receive my advice, I needed to demonstrate that I was with her and invested. I started to listen to her and ask her questions. I found that when I was fully informed, my opinions mattered to her. I realized how much time and effort she was putting into our children’s education–it is a big job.
I started a date night so we could get away and talk. We don’t always talk about school now, but in the beginning, we did. We shared our ideas with each other and really got to know one another at a different level. Her goals in education and her approach are very different from mine. We know that now and are using each other’s strengths to improve our schooling. I make sure if I commit to helping, I show up.
We went to another CHEA convention to get back on the same page. Going to the convention has always been a good thing. Even now, with more experience under our belts, the conference is still fresh with new ideas and people to share our frustrations with and glean new insights from. We try to make it every year if we can.
This is our homeschooling story and we are not yet halfway! We have a long road ahead. We have much to learn and our home is happier and more fun as my wife and I grow closer together.
Your story will be unique. That is one of the greatest things about homeschooling. You are free to design your school to best fit your family’s needs. There is no one size fits all approach.
Fathers, my advice for you is to get involved and stay involved with your wife and children on this homeschooling journey. Do what you have to do. Play the man. Sometimes I hear men say, “That’s her thing,” and it makes me cringe. Our wives are fully capable of home educating on their own. However, the best place for them is walking beside us. This not only breathes life into your wife, it invigorates the children to see their parents working as a team and it also strengthens the marriage. I realize you may feel unwanted or inadequate to help. That is common, but it is untrue. You are the man God has chosen for your wife and children. You are adequate and you can become even more so by getting involved. You may need to take a back seat for a while to learn how best to work with your wife. Take this time to learn what she needs and what she doesn’t.
Men, let’s do this!
Homeschooling father of 5 and Director of Calvary Christian School