Father’s Day is a special occasion for honoring fathers. All fathers are worthy of respect and appreciation for the things they do for their family, but I wanted to narrow my focus to the homeschool father. Homeschooling isn’t a popular choice to make or an easy road to navigate, and although it’s a blessing, it can put additional strain on a marriage. The role of homeschool father presents some unique challenges and responsibilities. I’d like to list some of them, as well as pass on a little advice from veteran homeschool fathers to those who are just beginning the journey. It takes a special man to be a homeschool father.
With permission, I’ve quoted some men who were influential in our household. Also, I asked some veteran fathers for their input and it’s given anonymously.
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The most important role within a Christian family is that of the spiritual head of the household. In this capacity, the father concerns himself with his family members’ relationship with God, and models in human form the Heavenly Father who can’t be seen. In order to do this he must have a good connection with God and an unwavering commitment to his wife and children.
About this responsibility, Christopher Klicka wrote,
“I could simply delegate all the tasks of training my children to my wife. Some homeschool fathers do. But such an arrangement is a recipe for failure. We fathers need to be seriously committed and involved in our homeschooling to truly fulfill our responsibility before God, adequately demonstrate love to our children, and unconditionally love our wife.
In Ephesians 6:4, God makes it clear. “Fathers provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” The command is to us fathers – not to mothers. The responsibility is on us “to bring them up.” This requires action on our part. We can delegate the authority to train and bring up our children to someone else but never the responsibility.
One day when we stand before God, we fathers will have to answer for how our children were trained. Homeschooling happens to be the best way to fulfill this responsibility and the commands that God has given us. But we must realize that homeschooling is not the end in itself – it is a means to the end. The end we are aiming for is that our children will be “arrows” carrying God’s truth to this world and one day living with us in heaven.” (“Top Ten Tips for Homeschool Dads,” Christopher Klicka, originally published in Practical Homeschooling #48, July/Aug 2002, ©Home Life Inc., all rights reserved by Home Life Inc., used by permission)
Dr. James Dobson wrote this hard-hitting fact:
“A Child identifies his parents with God in the early days, whether the adults want the role or not. Specifically, most children see God the way they perceive their earthly fathers.” (Dr. James Dobson, The New Strong-Willed Child, p. 66, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1978, used by permission)
The foundation of the family (and homeschool) is the marriage, so nurturing that relationship is very important. The way the father treats his wife affects the way the children see their mother, which in turn, affects the success of the homeschool. About this role, J. Michael Smith of HSLDA said,
“The role of a homeschool dad should be the best husband to his wife, and father to his children as he can be. That will go farther than anything he can do to help his wife in homeschooling. Make the marriage a priority and love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. That’s the goal. Part of loving a homeschool wife is helping and homeschooling by at least being the Principal of the whole school.”
Dr. James Dobson emphasized the importance of how Dad treats Mom, and how it influences the way the children see her:
“The best public-relations agent for Mom—is Dad. Fathers can wield tremendous influence over what children think of their mothers, or of women in general…
In a world that often discounts the contribution of women, especially homemakers, it’s up to us as husbands to say in a dozen ways, ‘Your mother is a wonderful woman! She works hard and she deserves tremendous credit for what she gives to us all. As far as I’m concerned, she’s number one!’
Kids will quickly recognize the respect shown by a father and reflect it in their attitudes and behavior. It is a public-relations assignment that only they can perform.” (“Dads–Kids Will Treat Mom Based On Your Actions,” Dr. James Dobson, originally published in The Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide, used by permission.)
In my post, “Homeschooling as a Ministry,” I wrote about the need for a homeschool mom to protect her time and energy. When it’s known that she’s a stay-at-home mother, she may be asked to help with other projects and ministries. It can be really hard to say “no,” especially for people-pleasers. The homeschool father can help his wife determine which, if any, of them she should commit to, and be willing to be the bad guy when she must refrain. One father said, “My wife has permission to blame me when needing to decline uncomfortable requests and invitations. ‘My husband won’t allow that.’ This answer removes the need to justify, explain, or give reasons for the decision. Further discussion can simply be referred to me. Even most persistent folks who will badger my wife won’t usually badger me, and I don’t often give more than a ‘because I said so’ to pushy people.”
At times, it may be necessary to protect your family from well-meaning family, friends and neighbors. They may ask questions about the homeschool, they may make a report to the authorities, they may even threaten to fight for custody of the children. As the head of the family, the homeschool father needs to set firm boundaries for the protection of his family. He should be the one to determine what information he wants to give to those parties.
I regret to say it, but time and time again, in Facebook groups, I read posts about in-laws making inquiries and negative comments to the homeschool mother. Especially in these cases, the homeschool father should tell his parents to direct their concerns to him. When the children’s mother is left to handle it, it puts her in the awkward position of potentially offending her in-laws and causing problems in her marriage. If the husband sets that boundary then he will protect the relationship with his wife. It can be hard to set boundaries for one’s parents, but Ephesians 5:31 says, ““For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” For the protection of the marriage, a boundary should be set.
Unfortunately, not all homeschooling parents have good support systems. When there are naysayers it can add yet more stress. Even if you’re part of homeschool support groups, there can still be times of feeling alone. It’s hard to be counter-culture and it can really be draining. The homeschooling father can be strong when mom can’t. Lending a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on will go a long way in helping to recharge her batteries.
In addition to emotional support, Dad provides shelter, transportation, and resources for the homeschool. It would be hard to do without those things.
The role of Principal may include working with mom to set goals and choose curriculum. He may also help with the teaching. But discipline is the biggest responsibility because if mom doesn’t have respect and obedience from her students, she is not going to be able to teach. She’ll get burned out and want to quit.
In my early homeschooling years I read something that stuck with me. I don’t remember where I read it, or I would give them credit, but in talking about the father, he said that the father should support the mother (in disciplining) in such a way, that when the kids look at their mother, they see the shadow of their father behind her. I loved that illustration, and have never forgotten it.
When our son entered the teens, I started to have a hard time teaching him. We spent a lot of time arguing, and now I couldn’t even tell you what about. My husband was self-employed so he was home a lot, but his office was in our storm shelter/basement. One day my son and I started arguing and my husband could hear us down in the basement. All of a sudden, my husband appeared and took over handling the problem. I was always so grateful to know that I had his support and that if I had problems with the kids that he would step in and take over. Without that help, I wouldn’t have been able to finish homeschooling.
I realize that not all families have that luxury. Some fathers work or travel a lot, and can’t always be there. In those situations, he’ll need to come up with a plan for when he is home. It’s up to each couple to determine how they will discipline their children, but the buck needs to stop with Dad. Whatever consequences are set out, the children need to know without a doubt, that they will be followed through on. For Christian parenting advice, my favorite source is Dr. James Dobson.
We homeschooled for fourteen years, so I asked my husband, Scott, for his perspective. He said, “I saw my role mainly as support and encouragement, and occasionally as the Principal. I facilitated homeschooling by providing the home and resources. I didn’t feel like I needed to be involved in planning because I felt that you were doing a good job, that the kids were ahead of the curve. I acted as an encourager by helping you to look at the big picture when you got discouraged. The verse, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” kept coming to my mind as the core reason of why we homeschooled. I wasn’t worried about whether they went to college – I felt that if they were grounded spiritually that it would all be okay. Conversely, if they had a stellar secular education but were ungrounded spiritually, what value would that be?
Scott and I did a lot of talking and praying together over the years to chart the course for our homeschool. Keeping our focus on God provided the direction. Knowing how Scott felt about things helped me to make the day-to-day decisions. God, through Scott, provided everything I needed to educate our kids. Both of them graduated from our homeschool, and now, together, we watch our kids enter adulthood and thank God for giving them to us, and for the blessing of homeschooling.
Advice From Veteran Homeschool Fathers
I asked a few veteran homeschool fathers, including my husband, what advice they would give to men who are new in that role.
One father who responded had the roles reversed in his family in that both he and his wife worked outside the home, but since his job offered more flexibility, he took on the responsibility of homeschooling their daughter. He said, “BE INVOLVED. I can’t stress this enough. My wife regrets not being more involved, because she sees how much homeschooling affected my daughter’s relationship with me. She sees that we have a deeper relationship because I spent most of the time homeschooling her. My wife says that if she could go back and do it over again, she would find ways to be a part of the day-to-day homeschooling.”
A Homeschool Principal of 25 years advises, “Pray, take an active interest in your children’s education, join a home school support group, respect your wife and her efforts, and make sure the children do, too.”
My husband, Scott, says, “Be a strong encourager. Don’t let all the weight be on your wife’s shoulders. Cherish the freedom and embrace it, rather than the workload. People don’t understand the freedom of homeschooling. There is work, but also great freedom. God gave your children to you, not to the city, state, or federal government.”
As you can see, a lot of responsibility has been put on the shoulders of homeschool fathers, and they are so important! To homeschool fathers everywhere, happy Father’s Day and thank you for everything you do!
Top Ten Tips for Homeschool Dads by Christopher Klicka
Spiritual Leadership in the Home by Dr. James Dobson
“9 Easy Steps to Homeschooling” – My ebook that helps you get started homeschooling without the stress. See link in sidebar.