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A Father's Guide to Successful Homeschooling

by HomeSchool Dad Magazine

Busy, busy, busy. Dads are busy. When the day is done, you’re lucky if you can spend a whole hour with your family. We all know what dads have to do, so don’t think this guide is going to ask you for the impossible. It’s not! You don’t have to quit your job, come home early, or ignore home repairs. There are ways you can be involved in spite of all your current obligations.

Sound like more work? Raising a child is hard work, but the decision to teach your children at home does not necessarily make your job any harder. In some ways, homeschooling is easier. Teaching a child about life is really very simple. The hard part is changing how we think.

But the kids are fine. Maybe they are fine. Most kids can endure and even learn in public school. But just because they can survive doesn’t mean it’s the best choice. A father needs to find the best choice for his children. That’s what homeschooling is all about. The freedom to choose and the opportunity to give them what no one else can.

When my wife approached me with the idea of homeschooling, I didn’t know what to think. I had absolutely no idea what it meant for our family and even less about what it meant for me. As I lurk in the background on a few internet discussion groups, I find that other homeschool fathers are also in the dark. Mothers everywhere are joining support groups, because their husbands are either unable to help or silently opposed to the whole idea.

The role of a homeschool father is still emerging -- still being defined. It is fun to say that dad is the principal and mom is the teacher, but these descriptions are shallow and reflect the public school environment that most homeschoolers are trying to avoid.

I do not pretend to be an expert. When it comes to homeschooling, almost no one is. But like many homeschool dads, I want answers. I want training. I want someone to spell it out for me, so I know exactly what to do. How many other fathers are just like me?

Despite the fact that I’m no expert, I would like to offer a rough draft for the role of a homeschool father. From this beginning, I hope we can discover together how best to serve our families and our communities.

From the chapter heading in his book, The Homeschool Father: The Key to Success & Sanity, we can quickly gather what Michael P. Farris of the Home School Legal Defense Association believes are roles of a homeschool father: Spiritual Leadership, Helping Your Helpmeet, Protector, Preparing Your Child for a Career, for Marriage, and for Citizenship. I especially liked the idea of setting goals for what you expect to teach your child before he or she leaves home.

This early definition of a homeschool father opened my mind to many more questions. Most of the questions were “how” questions, questions about the details. How exactly do I lead, help, protect and prepare? How do I communicate with my young children? How do I understand their games and their needs? How do I contribute at all with my overwhelming work schedule? How do I do what I have never seen done?

As I have pondered these questions, I am reminded of the differences between a shepherd and a sheepherder. The shepherd watches over his sheep. He cares for them. He loves them and they love him. When he calls, they follow.

A sheepherder, on the other hand, gets behind the herd and tries to scare them in one direction or another. He often yells and is quick to send the dogs after those who stray. A sheepherder thinks his sheep are dumb. All he wants is for them to do as he says.

Maybe the real-life differences between shepherds and sheepherders is not so clear as I have presented them here, but I’m not really talking about sheep. I have been both shepherd and sheepherder to my children. At times, I have led them in great activities and at other times, I have yelled from behind trying to get them to do as I ask.

Until we can define the role of a homeschool father, or any father for that matter, in some better way, I see him as a shepherd. One who leads, provides an example, and loves those who follow him. One who is worthy of being followed.

From The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore, we read, “Home education is awash with impressions that the dads do little or none of the teaching. And for some that’s true. But if your definition of teaching is not narrow, most dads do a lot more than they get credit for...If you think of education as example, as many good dictionaries do; if part of your program calls for dad’s reading during morning and evening story or worship hour; if you give him teaching credit for washing the car together with the kids or sharing with them in the family industry, or playing together in the backyard or on picnics or on camping trips, then his percentage multiplies mightily.”

A diploma is not an education. In fact, we are never really “educated,” because we never stop learning. Everything we do teaches us something. Every interaction with a child teaches him or her something. If we considered all activities to be educational activities, what would we do differently? How can we maximize the educational value of every moment we spend with our children?

Consider these questions. If we knew a little more about botany, what could we teach our children while weeding the garden? If we knew more about electronics, what could we show them inside a broken blender. If we knew more about literature or history, what great stories could we use to illustrate bravery, loyalty, or perseverance?

When dad tells a story at the dinner table, what is the lesson he teaches? When dad takes time to help a friend, what does he teach? In all aspects of our lives, we are teaching our children.

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, Stephen R. Covey writes, “When Albert Schweitzer was asked how to raise children, he said, “’Three principles -- first, example; second, example; and third, example.’ We are first and foremost, models to our children. What they see in us speaks far more loudly than anything we could ever say. You cannot hide or disguise your deepest self in spite of skillful pretending and posturing, your real desires, values, beliefs, and feelings come out in a thousand ways. Again, you teach only what you are -- no more, no less... And if you’re a parent, you are your children’s first and foremost model. In fact, you cannot not model.”

The trick then, is for a homeschool father to be exactly what he wants his children to become. Like the shepherd, I believe we must lead our children to greatness at least until adulthood. Then we must pray that they can exceed our own faults and become someone even greater.

If you would like more information about HomeSchool Dad Magazine, call (970) 434-6946 and please mention The Link.

Copyright © 2006 Modern Media