Tips for Dads
Here are a few tips on ways you as a father can help out with your family's home education journey. I've found that friends of ours that tend to stick with home education all the way tend to be families where the dads lend as much help as possible, both on a practical, emotional and spiritual level. Thus, I exhort all you dads, both those new to home education and those further along, to keep helping as you are. I also encourage you to consider adding a few more areas in which you can help based on what I say below and by finding out from your friends how they help their wives. In what follows I'm assuming that for most of you your wife does most of the hands-on teaching. Despite the fact that as husbands, we generally have less time with our kids, I've found several ways to contribute.
First of all, aim to be on the same page as your wife. Hopefully you've decided together to home educate. If so, be eager about the decision and don't plan to deviate from this exciting adventure. Next, take some interest in the choice of curriculum you use for each child and each subject. My wife knows way more than me about this area, but each spring and summer I try to learn a bit about the top two curriculum choices in each subject area. I might even do this in the middle of a school year if my wife indicates it may be time, mid stream, to switch course in a particular subject area. This way the two of us can decide together what curriculum to continue with or change to. Remember the wisdom of Proverbs 11:14
"Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety."
As well, aim to listen to the some of the same speakers at the AHEA convention, and to read some of the same books, such as ones I list at the end of my president's reports. In terms of helping deliver the formal academic training, most of us dads can't do this regularly. But why not fill in some evenings or weekends? Also, consider helping out when your wife is ill. And consider taking off a day or two per year to be the full-day teacher. If you are like me, you will gain a huge appreciation for what your wife does every day. As well, work hard to partner closely with your wife to deliver consistent discipline to your children. The more disciplined your children are the easier they will take both academic and character instruction from your wife.
Next, I encourage you to follow the advice in Ephesians 5:15-16: "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil." Former AHEA keynote speaker, Steve Maxwell, has an excellent book, which I've highlighted before, on this topic called Redeeming the Time: A Practical Guide to a Christian Man's Time Management. Some of the following ideas come from that book as well as others I've found elsewhere or developed on my own. First, consider dropping "me-only" hobbies. Rather, take on hobbies you can share with your wife and/or your kids. And if you have time to volunteer, choose opportunities where that can involve some or all of your family. For instance, I've mostly given up individual sports for going on walks or bike rides with my kids or having them involved in family friendly integrated soccer. As well, in terms of my work with AHEA, both my wife and I work together on the board.
I bet you can also find more time in your day for what's important. For instance, use your lunch break and some of your coffee breaks during the work day to help mark your kids work, review their papers and to read up on some of the books they are reading so that you can discuss the material with them. And aim to leverage your efforts. For instance, I put a fair bit of time into coming up with this content, which I delivered as a father's panel talk, at the AHEA 2018 convention. I'm now, in short order, repurposing this same material for this article.
In terms of areas you can take the lead in the discipleship of your children, I highly recommend morning or nightly family worship. Here is where you can lead in Bible reading, prayer and singing. And use the time during meals as well as after family worship, while you're all still together, to share with your family items of note from your personal devotions or from things that happened at work or from things you've heard in the news. Try to view all of these events from a Christian worldview. Also plan to read lots with both your younger and older kids in the evenings and on the weekends. And as your kids approach graduation, and past, have an open door: be willing to stay up late some nights to chat with them.
I also suggest you step back weekly, or at least monthly, to see whom you've been helping regularly and whom you've been neglecting. Perhaps you have to scale back reading with your older kids for a time in order to focus on teaching your younger ones to read, or vice versa.
In closing, don't think you and your wife have to do it all. Consider hiring tutors, as needed, while the kids are still in school. As your kids approach graduation, seek out mentors in areas where you are weak but where you see aptitude in your kids and wish to see your kids develop. And don't forget to surprise your wife with pizza some nights, and breakfast in bed some mornings.