Fathers and Homeschooling
© Beverley Paine
Philip asked "Any Dads sharing the home schooling here in Oz?"
Few people outside of the homeschooling community recognise the very real and active role that a working father has in the children's education, other than the obvious role of earning the money to pay for it! Even homeschoolers fall into the trap of believing that dads generally remain in the background where homeschooling is concerned, content in their role as income providers to the family. As a result many shy away from being actively engaged, especially in the day to day nuts and bolts of planning and implementing learning programs. Their confidence becomes further diminished as their partners' experience and expertise grows. If they didn't believe it before, little by little they begin to feel that education is largely 'women's work'. Even if Dad works long hours away from home recognise the value of his investment in his children's well-being. Celebrate that, as well as the hands-on time he spends with them when he can.
Two decades of organising and participating homeschooling events and activities, especially camps, has made it very clear to me that once fathers are told the many ways in which they contribute - without changing anything at all - they feel more confident and comfortable about doing more.
My husband, Robin, fully shared in our homeschooling experience, plus the parenting in the early years, when I tried a stint at working part time, which fell through due to health problems. We continued active co-parenting, and then embarked on the home education journey together.
I always felt that because of my personality I had the lion's share of the responsibility when it came to organising and planning the educational program of our children, which, even though it was mostly unschooling, still required a great deal of thought and organisation, perhaps more so than simply following a curriculum written by someone else. I slowly came to realise just how important Robin's investment in his children was - and that of other fathers, who although not present during most of their children's awake hours, like Robin was, nonetheless added a great deal to their education.
The educational opportunities our children were exposed to because they had a dad who wanted to be an active part of their life were great. Robin's a handy man - there is little that he won't tackle, from fixing toasters to washing machines, cars to computers. His hobby is alternative energy solutions and he built our power system. He loves building, and since the arrival of our children has built two homes, plus too many sheds, fences, chookhouses, etc! I rely on him for brute strength when it comes to landscaping and gardening, as well as his wisdom. Robin is a walking encyclopaedia, with a fascination for trivia and solving puzzles - two things I hate doing. His ability to remember this kind of detail balances my kind of memory. The differences between us is what led me to discover learning styles, and how important they are in building and maintaining relationships, as well as getting the most from every learning experience.
The children all have excellent technical abilities and have all become handypeople themselves. April likes to build things out of wood and doesn't hesitate to tackle repair jobs around her house if she can. Roger and Thomas show great skill at designing and building and work diligently at most tasks. The do-it-yoursef and self-sufficiency skills Robin has fostered in the children are invaluable.
Watching my children, especially Roger and Thomas, as they grew into adolescence and adult life, and the way they respond to toddlers and younger children, is always a joy. They have incredible empathy for children and are exceptionally patient. This, I believe, comes from Robin's example. Although gentleness and a deep respect for children is in Robin's nature, I am positive that his hands-on parenting increased his understanding of how children think and learn, and what they need, and his thoughtful responses set the example for the children to follow.
At one stage I challenged Robin, asking him what he would do if I died - would he feel confident to homeschool them alone. He didn't feel confident at all, and this worried me at the time, and I felt vindicated in my observation that I was doing most of the homeschooling work, but in hindsight, we both underestimated his involvement. It's too easy to discount the everyday stuff dads naturally do with their children, or around the house and home - activities and behaviour that show by example. Emulating admired and trusted others is proably the most efficient learning tool we have in our learning tool boxes - that and conversation and story-telling.
I think that when dads take the time out to be busy and active at home, and to talk to their children and take an intersest in what they are doing and thinking in a supported and interested way, like Robin always did, then they are playing a major role in their children's education. Dads that go that one step further and take on the role of home educator as a stay-at-home dad can only further enrich their children's education. And that rich sense of fulfillment and friendship works both ways!
Further Reading and Internet Links
The Parental Intelligence Newsletter, by Bob Collier, collects together the best articles on unschooling and attachment parents into one free online newsletter each month: http://www.parental-intelligence.com
Homeschooling Dads Speak Out! A collection of Australian articles.
Homeschool Dads - a USA based internet site with articles, forum and more by dads for dads that educate their children at home
For Dads By Dads is a collection of articles by mainly American homeschooling fathers about homeschooling on the National Home Education Network website: http://www.nhen.org/dads/default.asp?id=306
The Homeschool Dad Podcast: http://thehomeschooldad.podbean.com/
Articles on 'Fatherville': http://www.fatherville.com/Articles/Homeschooling_Fathers/
Ann Zeise's webpage on all things Homeschooling Dads:
American Homeschool Legal Defence Association's list of articles to encourage homeschool dads: http://www.hslda.org/docs/hshb/57/hshbwk3.asp
Homeschool Dads - a community site for fathers who homeschool
Father to Father - a series of articles on homeschooling
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