Dad’s Role in Homeschooling
Keeping Dad Engaged With Your Homeschool
The choice to homeschool is always a family decision. It is made by the family, based on the principle that parents are the primary educators of their children, and the family is the natural context where education happens. Parents who homeschool do so because, for whatever reason, they believe education should be a family affair.
It is a lofty and wholesome ideal that has nurtured countless homeschool households over the decades. But when we move from idea to practice, it often happens that the work of homeschooling becomes “mom’s thing.” It is understandable why—homeschooling usually takes place within “traditional” family arrangements, where there is a stay-at-home mom and a father who is the sole breadwinner working a full-time job. As homeschooling happens within the home, it tends to fall within the spectrum of domestic duties handled by the wife while the husband focuses his energy on providing for the family.
While it is certainly not abnormal for the mother to handle the nuts n bolts of homeschooling, it is important that Dad maintain some level of engagement if homeschooling is to be a true family endeavor. If the father is too distant from what is going on in the homeschool, not only is Dad out of the loop about his children’s education, but Mom can get burned out as she increasingly feels like everything is on her.
In this article, we will offer six tips for Dads to stay engaged with homeschooling despite a busy work schedule!
1. Curriculum Planning
Curriculum planning is an excellent place for fathers to be involved. In curriculum planning, we ask fundamental questions about the academic year. What is Mary going to do this year? Where is she with reading? Math? What do we want her to learn this year? How do we find resources? It’s a big-picture brainstorming session that really should be done collaboratively between husband and wife. Spend a few evenings where you get all catalogs out, review your child’s work, and discuss where you want them to be. “Is Ben ready to go onto 5th-grade spelling? What do we need to purchase? How do we structure the work?” Collaboratively to come up with a curriculum plan and purchase materials accordingly. It is an important time when the structure of the entire year is hashed out, but it only takes a few sessions of planning.
2. Work Checking
Grading student work is an excellent way to stay in touch with what your kids are doing. There’s always going to be homework that needs to be reviewed: handwriting assignments, quizzes, papers, math practice, translations, etc. This is a great place for dads to be involved because it can be done at leisure. Get in the habit of asking your wife, “What needs to be corrected? What can I do?” You can take this with you to work and grade it on your lunch break. Or review it in the evening. It doesn’t really take that long; how much time is required to look over a spelling quiz? Thirty seconds? It’s a little thing, but it’s a big help to mom and means a lot to your children when they know dad is taking a personal interest in what they do.
3. Be the Principal
If the household is the natural school of the family, then Dad is the principal. This implies a variety of things. First, discipline. Most disciplinary matters are going to be handled by Mom because she’s the one who is right there dealing with the misbehavior. But other disciplinary issues are more structural, evidencing a continual trend of misbehavior. Suppose your son and daughter are always bad with a certain subject, or your daughter is breaking down in tears doing long division, or your son is consistently demonstrating a lack of effort in math. These are opportunities to step in with your wife and try to figure out what’s going on—not because mom is incapable of sorting it out on her own, but because sometimes an outside perspective is helpful.
If you’ve ever come home from work and your wife has greeted you with, “The kids were so bad for me today,” this is a time to be the principal: give her some space to calm down, listen to her tell you what’s been going on, and work together to come up with ways to address the situation.
Principals also intake on the role of auditing student creations. In public schools, every now and then, classes will put on presentations, plays, or concerts, and the principal will be there. This can translate to your homeschool as well. Have your children memorize the Declaration of Independence with the goal that after a month, they will recite it for Dad. Dad gets to judge the kids’ science projects. Take on the role of an encouraging auditor, listening to their presentation and commending them for a job well done. There are so many ways this can work; poems, plays, stories, presentations—your imagination is the limit!
4. Teach a Class Yourself
Even if the wife does the majority of the homeschooling, try to commit to taking on just one subject. I know you’re busy, but remember, this is homeschooling. You make the rules! Classtime need not be restricted to the hours of 8:00 AM and 3:00 PM, Monday through Friday. Tailor it to fit your schedule. You could take on catechism and do it Sunday evenings at 7:00 PM. I challenge you to take responsibility for just one subject! But if even that is too much, try “subbing” for your wife occasionally. Make a personal resolution you offer yourself to sub sometime when your wife needs a break.
5. Include Kids in Your Work or Activities
Part of Homeschooling is learning life skills. If you can’t get away and enter into the homeschool, bring the homeschool into what you’re doing. Include your kids in your job or activities. This could be a conventional “take your child to work day,” but if that’s not practical, think of other ways you can include your children in what you are doing. Can your son help you fix the mower? If you need to go to Home Depot to pick out new tiles for the bathroom, bring your daughter along, explain the project, and get her input. Show your teenage son how your online banking works. This not only teaches life skills but creates bonding moments that children will remember fondly.
6. Encourage Your Wife
Finally, and most importantly, encourage your wife! If she is taking on most of the work of homeschooling, she’s going to need your encouragement and support. There will be days when she questions whether she is doing good enough. Days when she is exhausted and feels like throwing in the towel. And there may even be days when she questions why the family even decided to homeschool at all. Make sure to support her in the good that she does. Give her the space she needs to recuperate and gather her thoughts. Periodically remind each other why you decided to begin this adventure.
These suggestions are all very general and may not apply to your specific situation, but the takeaway here is to consider your family’s circumstances and try to think of ways dad can be engaged in homeschooling so that it represents a truly familial endeavor.
How is Dad involved in your homeschooling? What tips do you have to share? I invite you to join us in our Catholic Homeschool Connections Community and start a conversation.