August is a significant month in the life of a homeschooling family. It is the month where, if you haven’t already, you need to nail down several things related to homeschooling. Here are ten things to consider.
1. Talk. With your spouse. Make it a date but with the specific purpose of discussing her ideas, struggles and goals for the upcoming year. You need to make this happen and can use this list as a guide.
2. Curriculum. A great place to start this discussion with your wife. Help her with the research or discuss the research that she has already done. Talk to other homeschooling families, use the internet, interact with the curriculum developers, but don’t lose sight of the importance of a product saturated with a Biblical worldview – not just a Bible verse or two tacked on to the end of a lesson. What about developing academic excellence and critical thinking in your child? Does the product cover all subjects necessary for a well-rounded education? How do the various subjects interact with each other? Who are the authors and what are their backgrounds and qualifications? Even if your spouse takes the lead in this, make sure you have skin in the game by asking questions and understanding the options before you make a buying decision.
3. Should you teach a class? Most dads are at the office or factory for 40-50+ hours per week – plus your commute. It’s difficult to find a lot of time to teach a class. I’m not talking about assisting your wife and child(ren) on a project, field trip or their homework – I mean teaching the class from A to Z. I taught both of my boys a personal finance class over the course of two years. I chose the excellent Larry Burkett/Crown Financial materials because I was familiar with and taught it several times to adults at our local church. If you are talented in a certain area, have experience or just plain love a subject (like history or math), suggest to your wife that you teach that particular class and schedule it around your regular work hours.
4. Should you teach a Bible class? I regret not having done a better job in this area. Obviously as Christian parents, in addition to being invested in our local church body, we desire to weave biblical precepts into all of our discussions with our children, including their education. This is why I strongly support using curriculum from an educational resource company that has a STRONG biblical worldview. If I as a parent have a choice of reading a secular book on parenting or a biblical book on parenting, which should I choose? Easy answer. The same goes for your kids’ curriculum. I digress. I wish I had been more involved in actually teaching through solid Bible materials. I would encourage fathers to seriously consider this—it can become part of your family worship, devotions, dinner time routine, etc.
5. Setting expectations with your kids. Now might be a good time to pull your family together to have a chat about some basic expectations for the upcoming school year. Address any problems or issues from the previous year and how they will be rectified moving forward. Maybe use this time to plan some incentive activities based on academic and attitudinal performance each month, semester, or for the whole year. Talk about potential field trips, science & history fairs and projects to get the juices flowing. Use this time to pray for the upcoming academic year.
6. Extracurricular activities. Opportunities abound here. Do not discount the importance of leading your kiddos to participate in local sports, music lessons and even things like horsemanship. We encouraged all of our kids at an early age to try something musical—this included singing in the Patch the Pirate Club at church and taking piano lessons. Although none of them ended up pursuing piano after a few years, I view none of it as a waste of time or money. They learned a good deal about life (anything done well takes a lot of work) and were exposed to things they may not have otherwise taken notice of. On the other hand, each of our kids jumped into sports and ended up playing them all the way through high school; now two of them are playing sports in college and reaping the positive financial benefits! For others maybe it is Boy Scouts, or soap-box derby cars or the local little theater, ballet or the Civil Air Patrol. Talk with your kids, pick something that seems appropriate, check it out, and make sure they understand that if they commit there is no backing out for a set period of time (teaching another great life lesson on commitment); then dive in and enjoy watching your kids learn and flourish.
7. Outlet for mom. Guys, for the most part we interact with other adults (or at least people that are adult aged!) all day long at work. Mom is at home with the kids doing the heavy lifting of teaching day in and day out. Make sure you—as the leader of the home—provide her with regular outlets to connect with other women. I’m not just referring to church (although that is hugely important) or talking to her mom or sister on the phone every few days. Encourage her to network with other homeschoolers at church or your neck of the woods. For us, finding and joining a homeschool co-op when our kids hit the middle grades was not only one of the most positive and substantive things we did, but I believe it provided the fiber we needed to continue to homeschool into the high school years and ultimately to finish the task!
8. Special events & projects. My wife relied on me to assist with these and, looking back, I relished the opportunity to participate in a real and direct way with my kids on projects and field trips. Both my boys participated several times either in science or history at a local college that held excellent fairs in both those subjects. We spent dozens of hours getting ready for these and my boys and I were immersed in the subject matter that we helped them pick. It was usually something they were interested in but wanted to learn more about. Field trips was something else I tackled with gusto – whether it be an outing to the local fire department or a faraway place – there was ALWAYS a way to pull academic learning into the equation with a little prep work on the front end. Work with your wife to use these times to reinforce what she is doing in the classroom. What great memories! So dad, consider jumping in here if you have not done so in the past.
9. Discipline. This goes along with #4 but let me take it a bit further. I have in jest said to folks who ask us about homeschooling that my wife is the teacher and I am the principal and business manager! You need to support your wife in this incredible endeavor and one of the primary ways you can show it is by taking the lead in being the disciplinarian with your children. One morning, when the oldest of our three was about eight or nine, my wife called me at the office (35-40 minutes from home) with some desperation in her voice saying that our son (she may have said “your” son) was acting up. Now understand—my wife had no problem being a disciplinarian when she needed to be, but somehow on this particular morning after perhaps several days of disobedience, she was reaching out because she was struggling with him. At that moment, I realized saying “It will be all right, sweetheart, we’ll talk about it when I get home tonight – and by the way, he’s only eight so I’m sure you can take care of it,” was not going to work and would not be fair to her or my son. I said, “Don’t say anything to him, I’ll be home in 40 minutes,” and I jumped in my car and drove home. I had time to pray and think about my response on the way – which was good. When I walked in the door my son was clearly surprised, and without me saying a thing, by the look on his face I could see that he knew why I was home. It was one of the best spur-of-the-moment decisions I could have made. Those 30 minutes with my son allowed him to adjust his thinking for the rest of that school year (and beyond) and it demonstrated in a very real way to my wife that I had her back. I wish I could say that I handled every discipline issue in the same calm, cool and collected manner, but that would be untrue.
10. Budget. Do not forget this! Homeschooling requires a ton of sacrifice and a large chunk of that is financial. Make sure you assist your wife in setting up and working through a homeschooling budget. I don’t understand husbands who expect their wives to homeschool with nothing. That isn’t right. Scrimp and save, cut coupons, reuse and recycle, whatever you choose to do—even if it means selling the bass boat or golf clubs or downsizing your vehicle or eating out less—make sure she has both the funds and your blessing to get what she needs to get the job done right: namely curriculum, school supplies, technology, and participating in other homeschool related events.
I could certainly add more to this list, but I’ll stop there. Remember, dads, regardless of how much or how little you are actually involved in the homeschooling of your children, you are ultimately responsible for this incredible calling.