by David Serwitz
All dads should be very involved in their kids’ education. However, each family is different, and a growing number of families are taking full control of their kids’ education by teaching them at home. The home-schooling movement has gained traction in the past decade, with about 2.2 million kids now home-schooling in the United States. While they are not in the majority, it is not unusual to bump into a home-schooling family in the middle of the school day at parks, the library and other child-friendly gathering places.
While many home-schooling families consist of a dad who works outside the home and a mom who stays home to teach the kids, some families are switching traditional roles and adapting home schooling to fit their own lifestyles. Some moms go to work while the dads stay home and teach the kids. Some dads work from home while teaching the kids. Two parents may both work part time and take turns teaching their children. In families where both incomes are needed, the parents may practice “after schooling.” All of these are legitimate forms of home schooling.
If you are a dad who’s involved in home-schooling your children, here are a few tips to help you along the way:
Keep your eyes on the big picture.
All parents want their kids to be successful, but one thing that all home-schooling parents must guard against is having a competitive mindset with regards to their kids’ educational skills. Many home-schooled kids do outperform public school children, but really, is that a good reason to home-school? Additionally, you don’t want your children to pick up on the idea that they must perform well to earn your approval.
As you home-school, consider the big picture. Does it really matter whether your child is reading at age 4 or age 8? Both ages are developmentally appropriate times to learn to read, depending on the child. Keep in mind your child may struggle with a concept for months, and then the light bulb may turn on all of a sudden and the child masters it, along with other concepts. Don’t make the mistake of getting discouraged because your child isn’t fitting into some artificial timeline.
Know your weaknesses and be cautious of them.
No home-schooling parent is perfect, and being in charge of your child’s education means that you have to learn to compensate for your own faults. If you are a procrastinator, set deadlines for yourself and ask your wife to provide accountability. If you tend to get sucked into a computer game, don’t turn it on until the schoolwork is done. If you lack patience, find ways to develop that trait so you can be an effective teacher for your kids. If you are disorganized, develop simple routines so you won’t waste time looking for important papers and books. Be humble enough to acknowledge your weak points, and do not allow them to affect your child’s education.
Be willing to invest money in your kids’ education.
Home schooling does not have to be expensive, but most experienced home-schoolers report that if you can’t invest cash in home schooling, you must be willing and able to invest time. Determine which curriculum is most essential to your home school. For many parents, having a complete, well-designed, curriculum is most important for the core subjects, like math, writing and English. Prioritize your spending on these core subjects. You can cover things like science and history more informally, at least in the elementary years, without damaging your kids. By the time your children are in high school, however, try to set aside money to buy solid curriculum to prepare them for college.
If you can’t do it full time, consider after-schooling.
Many families depend on more than one income. If your budget requires two incomes, perhaps you should consider after-schooling, which is simply homeschool, after school. You can teach your kids in the afternoon and evening hours. After-schooling will allow you to go in depth with your children on topics that public school may not have time, expertise or funds to cover.
Practice good self-care.
You may not like to admit it, but you are not Superman. It’s important to take care of your own needs so that you can effectively teach your kids. It is a hard job to teach one or two kids, often with a toddler or infant to care for as well. It’s OK to take some time to do something you enjoy. Make time to exercise, pursue a hobby, and meet with friends. Most wives are very understanding of these needs, but they can’t read your mind. Be sure to arrange regular times for you to relax without the kids.
Teaching at home full-time is a big job, but most home-schoolers report that they love the family dynamic that learning at home creates. Don’t think that home schooling is only for the ladies. Many dads can do just as good a job as their wives when teaching their kids.
Just Teach Your Kids at Home. Just Be DAD.
David Serwitz is the Founder & CEO of the National Leader for In-Home Tutoring for grades K-12 and college students, Grade Potential. For 13 years, Grade Potential Tutoring has worked with thousands of families across the U.S. to help them achieve academic success.