By Rosanna Ward
Most of the time when you go to homeschool activities or see homeschoolers out and about during the day, children are with their mothers. Typically, dad is at work — which is a wonderful blessing. I know I am particularly blessed to have a hard-working husband who works so that I can stay home and homeschool our children. My husband is also an effective “principal” and is home a lot during the day, so he’s able to help me direct our boys.
More and more, I see dads getting involved with homeschooling — and that is a really great thing. I was astonished by how many fathers attended this year’s homeschooling convention here in Tulsa. I believe fathers have special and necessary qualities to contribute to their child’s education.
My background is unique as a homeschool graduate, and I believe it provides me with a good perspective on a father’s input into the homeschooling process. That’s because my father actually homeschooled us. My mother worked: She had a good, steady job with benefits. On the other hand, my father was in construction and work was not always steady, so he was the leader and teacher in our day-to-day homeschool. My mother was in charge of keeping up with lesson plans and grading our Alpha Omega workbooks, but it was our dad that was actually at home keeping us on track, for the most part.
My dad also had a wide range of interests and knowledge that he wanted to impart to us. He would sit us down at the table — almost daily — and lecture us on topics that included history, religion, philosophy, German, computers, science, photography, and more. The science and photography lessons were especially interesting because he usually took us on outings — and when I say photography, I mean old 35mm film cameras with several lenses and learning f-stops, shutter speeds, etc.
As a teen, the table lectures felt a bit boring (I did a lot of daydreaming), but the knowledge I somehow managed to retain really helped me down the road — both in college and in life. Not only did he teach us the Bible, but he also taught us about other philosophies and compared them to the Bible so that we could learn how to check things against the Word ourselves. He did the same thing with science: He taught us to always “check the sources.” For German, he posted sticky notes all over the house so we could learn our vocabulary. Once he got on a health kick and made us get up really early — before mom left — and do Calisthenics together in the den. We kids were so glad that didn’t last long (and dad wasn’t a morning person, either).
He also gave us a lot of “free-time” — and yes, we played some pranks and got into trouble sometimes. But back then, we didn’t have video games, iPods, cell phones, the Internet, etc. to distract us. We didn’t even have cable TV, and our IBM computer ran DOS and had a green screen. So we used our imaginations a lot. And we read a lot of books. I think I read most of the books at the local library — too bad I didn’t know then about inter-library loan.
It was a good experience having our dad be our teacher, although there were times when I really wished it could be mom. We were blessed to spend a lot of time with both of our parents, and for that, I can only be grateful.
Since I have had children and we have started homeschooling them, I have realized more and more the special gift I received by having our father teach us. Fathers approach teaching from a totally different perspective than mothers do. Dads are usually more direct and action oriented.
I recently took a workshop at the local homeschool convention on the topic of the difference between boys and girls and how they learn. For example, a boy may have a hard time “hearing” a female teacher because her voice is soft, but a male teacher will get his attention immediately, whereas a girl can hear the female teacher but may feel that a male teacher is “yelling” at her. I have seen this in my own home. All of my children act totally different when their dad tells them to do something compared to when I tell them. They will often procrastinate and whine when I tell them something, but all dad has to say is “What are you supposed to be doing?” and they are off to get it done. It is all in the tone of voice.
This used to upset me, and I would think: “Why do they listen to you and not me?” On the other hand, my girls always claimed that their dad “yelled” at them, and it wasn’t until I attended this workshop that I understood why: He wasn’t actually yelling, but his voice was just louder and deeper to them. I could yell and nag all day long with little or no response from the kids, but the minute their dad said something to them, they jumped to it.
Another difference between boys and girls is the way they “see” things. Boys think (and draw) in verbs — they are action oriented. A
father teacher will intuitively understand this, which is another reason why a male teacher for boys can be more effective.
So you may be thinking: “Fine, a male teacher is good for a boy, but what about my girls?” Well, I believe I did benefit from my father teaching me in that I learned how to listen to a male teacher. It is a very useful communication tool to have, especially when you get married. I also believe I had a closer view of my father — and he of me — that most fathers who are uninvolved in the day-to-day education don’t get to experience. My dad knew what I wanted to do with my life and even tried to make it happen for me.
Let me give you an example of this, as well as his action-oriented perspective in practice: When I was a teen, I loved the “Anne of Green Gables” books. I also loved historical fiction, and I dreamed of being a writer. So one summer, when I was 16, my dad planned a special road trip, loaded us all (mom, dad, and three kids) into the 1971 Dodge van, and we took off. We traveled east to Gettysburg, Washington D.C., and on up the east coast to Prince Edward Island — home of the Anne of Green Gables series and its author, L.M. Montgomery. That was for me — because of my interest.
My brother Kenny has always loved bicycling, and when he was taking German, our dad took him to Germany and they biked through the country. My sister Elizabeth expressed an interest in rock collecting, so our dad took her “rock hounding” on many road trips during her high school years — and today, she knows more about rocks than most people. These are just a few examples of how our father took the homeschooling experience beyond the day-to-day and expanded our educational horizons in ways that were unique to his point of view.
So whether you are considering homeschooling or already homeschool, if it seems like it might work out better for dad to be the one home with the children during the day, then please consider it. Dads are excellent homeschool teachers. And for more information on getting dad involved in your homeschool even if he’s not home during the day, check out related articles on the web site FamilyMan Ministries.
— Rosanna Ward is a devoted wife of 19 years and mother of four children, two of which are currently homeschooled. Her oldest daughter is a homeschool graduate, and her youngest son is a toddler. Rosanna is a homeschool graduate and has been homeschooling for six years. Rosanna loves to study History and Genealogy, and currently resides in Sand Springs, Oklahoma.