My husband’s company just shipped a big project and in the weeks leading up to it, Selso logged many, many extra hours. We all really felt his absence, which underscores just how involved he is as a dad.
Fathers’ are undoubtedly very important in their children’s lives. According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, “Children who live absent their biological fathers are, on average, at least two to three times more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse, and to engage in criminal behavior than their peers who live with their married, biological (or adoptive) parents.”
The vast majority of homeschooling families include both parents, typically with a full-time working father and a stay-at-home or part-time working mother. Obviously, there are exceptions to this. I know a few families where the dad is the stay-at-home or work-at-home parent and the mom works outside the home. I also know families in which both parents work about equally, and share responsibility for child care and schooling.
While financially supporting a family is a huge and time-consuming responsibility, most of the homeschooling dads I know still make a big effort to be involved in their children’s lives and education. This is a benefit to their kids, as well as being helpful to the mother. Each parent comes with his or her own strengths, passions and abilities, and having two involved parents contributes to the quality of a child’s life.
There are many ways for those dads who are not providing day-to-day schooling and care to stay involved. Here are a few suggestions:
Support homeschooling: If you’re not sure if homeschooling is the right fit for your family, educate yourself about it. Talk to other homeschooling dads and read articles or books (both David Guterson and David Albert have written about homeschooling from a dad’s perspective). When the going gets tough, because sometimes it does, it’s so valuable for Mom and kids to have dad’s steady support. And although homeschooling has become much more popular in recent years, it can still elicit comments like, ” Standing up for homeschooling with family and friends makes a difference.
Spend time with the kids daily: Play chess or kick the ball around when you get home from work. Have dinner together every evening (or breakfast, if you work nights). Talk to them about what they are learning. Read to them before bed.
Share your passions with the kids: If you love sports, take the family to a Seattle Mariners or Everett Aquasox game. If you play the guitar, teach your child a few chords. If you love being out in the garden, give your child a plot and work together.
Go places together: Take your family places – whether it’s tide-pooling at the beach, seeing the King Tut exhibit at the Pacific Science Center, or going on the Boeing Factory tour, sharing new experiences together is fun and creates wonderful memories.
Help out with chores: Dads are doing more than ever before to help out around the household and it makes a difference. I know one dad who is responsible for doing all the laundry and another who makes dinner every night. My husband cleans up the kitchen with one of my daughters every night after dinner. I appreciate this so much because by dinner time I’m tired of standing!
Help out with transportation/car-pooling: With so many activities on the schedule, some days I feel like I spend more time in the car than at home, and I know I’m not alone in this! Selso usually picks Rafael up from his soccer class and helps out with car-pooling when Davis is performing a play. This is so helpful to me, and he gets to hear all about the activity the kids’ were just doing.
Be a coach or teacher: I know dads who coach their kids’ sports teams, as well as a few who coach FLL teams. And some dads take over the teaching of a specific subject, especially if it’s one they love.
Be a life-long learner: Read good books. Learn an instrument. Travel to new places. Take up a sport. Discuss different ideas. Continuing to grow and challenge yourself provides your kids with a powerful example.
Support Mom: Rev. Theodore Hesburgh said, “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” Whether you agree with this statement or not, a relationship in which both parents support each other makes for a happier family. Selso happily hangs out with the kids while I work out or spend an occasional evening out with friends. One of the most important things we did when we first started homeschooling was to make sure we were on the same page about our vision and goals for our family. We revisit these from time to time and knowing that we have the same overarching aspirations for our kids really guides the day-to-day decisions I need to make and also gives Selso the confidence that, even if it doesn’t always look like it, our kids are getting the education he wants for them.
Obviously, each dad has to forge his own relationship with his children and not all of the above ideas apply to every dad. But the time and energy dads invest in their children is rewarded. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, particularly to my wonderful husband, who is a terrific father, and my own dad, who has always believed in me.