What's YOUR Homeschooling Dad Like? Advice From Michael Farris
Last weekend Kent and I went to the homeschool conference in Kalamazoo, mostly so I could get my hands on curriculum, and I did look at some, but it was a fairly small-ish venue. The best part turned out to be listening to Michael Farris speak, he's founder of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. (We're members there to support their efforts to fight for parental rights, which are not always related to homeschooling.) He's also the almost former homeschooling Dad of 10 because their youngest just turned 18.
Before I tell you about his comments, first, what's YOUR homeschooling dad like?
In my original post about our decision to homeschool, I explained how it took Kent about 2 days to come around to my crazy idea and from then on he's been HOOKED, and not just in a “that's nice honey if that's what you want to do” kind of way. The more he thought about it, prayed about it, and read about it, the more he came around to the possibilities and all the benefits to homeschooling. So now we're a team. He helps our high schooler with math. He handles the discipline if it was an especially bad day. He reads with the kids. He basically helps with whatever I need, but mostly he's my sounding board and he helps me figure out whatever the latest decision is. We're in this together and I'm so thankful. Yes, that's how it should be, but it's not how it is for everyone.
If you're a homeschooling dad reading this, do you have advice for other dads? (Or moms, could you ask your husbands what advice they'd give?)
Maybe even more importantly, does anyone have advice for moms who do not have good support from their husbands? (Or in rare cases, Dads doing the homeschooling, and without support from your wives?)
I know it must be difficult, but I'm sure many of you have still pulled it off, and there are others out there who could really benefit from your perspective.
I'll share these random notes with you from Michael Farris' talk directed to homeschooling dads…
- Some dads think homeschooling is the wife's concern, but that's messed up thinking. (I doubt he said it quite that way, but that's what I got from my notes!)
- When necessary, discipline should done by dad when he gets home. (He said that he's only had to come home from work twice through the years, when one of the kids were being especially disrespectful toward Mom.)
- Moms were never commanded in Scripture to teach children, that's like commanding a mom to breathe.
- Dads get the command, but they can ask for her help.
- Wives don't usually care which area dads help them with as long as things get off her to-do list. (Isn't THIS the truth?!) Some dads help with school, other dads do dishes or laundry, etc…
- Moms have a special relationship with small kids. Dads have a special role in getting older kids ready for adulthood — teaching them good work habits and preparing them for a career — these kids intentionally guided by their dads will be leaders, bosses, and entrepreneurs. (He spoke of how his natural inclination is to be lazy, but his Dad broke him of that, work wasn't an option, and nowadays he has three jobs.)
- Dad's main roles are to educate, discipline, and protect. The “protect” part includes fielding any criticism about homeschooling, including that which comes from in-laws.
- Remember that people will always heckle you for anything you're doing that's right.
- Kids will be productive as adults when they know the difference between freedom and socialism, action matters.
- This isn't related to homeschooling, but he spoke about how he believes the purpose of dating is only to prepare for marriage, so they never let their kids date one-on-one, but instead only allowed them to get together with the opposite sex in groups. (When they're old enough and marriage is an option, then they date.) Kent and I heard a talk years ago about this by the author of Arms of Love and it rocked my world. At first I thought it was NUTS, but the idea has grown on me and now makes sense. We'll see how this plays out in real life, but it's a goal, and we definitely don't encourage “boyfriends” and “girlfriends” at young ages like you see all over TV or even in real life, even as preteens! Here's another popular book on this topic: I Kissed Dating Goodbye.
- He said that he's the only college president (now he's actually chancellor of Patrick Henry College) who says that college is not for everybody.
- When your kids are grown parenting doesn't stop, you instead just switch from being CEO to being a consultant.
There was more but that's all I had in my notes, I hope there's some nugget in there that helps you!
- Read all my homeschooling posts here — including how we came to this decision, my curriculum questions, a video of a homeschooling day around here, and more…
- Homeschooling: the Good, the Bad, and One Very Ugly Day
Kelly – you noted in your 4/13/15 Monday Mix-up post that you hadn’t received many comments on this, and my guess is that most homeschoolers have a homeschool dad that isn’t their “ideal” so it’s hard to share. That sounds bad, so let me explain.
Have you ever been in church and seen a couple holding hands and you think, “Wow, they have such a great marriage!”, or the husband has his arm around his wife and you think, “He’s such a loving, caring husband.” even though you don’t REALLY know those things to be true? Or maybe the pastor is preaching on a Godly father/husband/man and you start picturing the pastor, a friend’s husband, or someone else who publicly exhibits some of those traits being the “perfect” Godly man that *your* man would/could be if only he’d…? I
t works the same in the homeschool world. We hear speakers like Michael Farris or Todd Wilson (or even speakers who don’t directly address fathers/husbands in their talks, but are homeschool dads themselves) teach an “ideal” and we wives sit there believing that there are some “perfect” homeschool dads/husbands out there (maybe even the speaker himself) and we get a very skewed mental picture of what a homeschool dad/husband “should” be like. Of course, then OUR husband never measures up to that picture, so instead of seeing what we DO have and feeling grateful, we tend to long for that ideal.
We started homeschooling 12.5 years ago, when my oldest had been in public school kindergarten for two months. I grew up in a homeschooling family (which is 1300 miles away), but my husband’s entire family (which is all right here) was solidly entrenched in the same exact public school system I wanted to pull our son from (sister, uncle and cousin all taught in the schools, father used to teach and was, at the time, head of the school board; our church family was also very much a part – principal, vice principal and multiple teachers, custodians, coaches, etc.).
When I pulled our son out to homeschool him, it wasn’t an “us” decision, it was a “me” decision that my husband begrudgingly defended to his family, and only then tended to just defend my right to make the decision. It took him about four years to come around to the idea of homeschooling, and once he did, he was a most fervent defender of “our” choice, which over the years has been very welcome.
For the most part, he hasn’t been a huge part of our day-to-day homeschool life. For years, he only took on the role of “principal” – jumping in to get the kids back in line when they’d pushed my patience to the breaking point. He hates being the “heavy”, so I try not to ask for his help unless I’ve truly lost it! Of course, he has always been there to defend “our” choice to homeschool, and more recently to champion how well our kids are doing because of it. And he’s never questioned any financial expenditures, which has been nice. We aren’t wealthy, so it has been nice to be able to invest in curriculum and tools without having to run it by him or request the money – he makes sure I’m able to do that whenever I need to.
More recently, he has wanted to be a little more involved with the “what” and “how”, but after doing it on my own for so long, his interest feels sort of like judgement. As much as I want him to be involved, I want him to want what I want, not what he wants. 😉 Doesn’t that just sound like a wife answer? Hahaha!
He began occasionally attending homeschool conferences with me about six years ago (about every other year). That’s been a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I’m glad he’s showing an interest, and going (asking to go!) because he wants to be there. On the other, it’s harder to feel like I can go do what *I* want to at the conference without feeling like I’m dragging him along or feeling “stifled” by his constant “What do you want to do now? What are we going to do now? What are you looking at? What is that for?” (Kind of like having my kids with me when I shop!) Also hard, because I hear something from a speaker I think is really going to impact him, and it doesn’t even make a dent (like in church when you think the pastor’s sermon is going to get him right in the heart because it’s an issue (you think) he has, but he doesn’t think he has that issue, so he didn’t even pay attention!).
A year ago, my husband’s company closed their local office and gave the employees the choice – either the company would pay to set them up to work from home, or they’d pay for a move to another location. I thought we’d be moving to Colorado (where they have an office and I’ve always wanted to live!) and he thought he’d start working in our basement. We’re still in Indiana (so you know which option he ended up choosing), and it has been a CHALLENGING year to figure out how to homeschool over the head of someone trying to work a full time job (that includes multiple conference calls every day!). It’s also hard because he has a very different vision for what a homeschool day “should” look like than I do. It’s been hard, frustrating, and more hard to let him have any input – I really struggle against an “I’ve been doing this for over a decade and you’ve been singing praises about all the kids are doing for at least half that, but now that you see how it’s done, you want me to change and do things YOUR way???” attitude. (Also an “I’ve been asking you to help for years, and when you do, THIS is what you choose?” attitude.).
All in all, this is probably the worst time to be asked about my kind of “homeschool dad”. But honestly, I think he does a good job, especially with the baggage of his family being so pro-public-school. And after a (hard) year of transition, things are getting into a better rhythm. I just need to do a better job of being thankful for what I do have, instead of constantly wanting him to measure up to my imaginary “ideal”. How’s that for an answer???
Jennifer, you’re so sweet to share all that. I think your answer is beautiful because it’s REAL LIFE. It’s refreshing to know that others don’t have everything all perfect at their house either, there are struggles, yet it’s all okay.
Excellent advice! I don’t have kids but I can still recognize good parenting!