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8 Steps to Homeschool Success for Dads

8 Steps to Homeschool Success for Dads


With humor and sound advice, Ed Gudan outlines an 8-step plan to help fathers support their wives & live out their commitment to homeschooling.

In most homeschooling families, the mother is the primary teacher – and probably the one reading this!  However, fathers bring a unique and important impact to the formation of children, and still need to be involved in homeschooling.

With straight-faced humor and sound advice, Ed Gudan provides this eight-step plan to help fathers stay involved.

1. Establish Respect for the Mother

Make sure she is not taken for granted. The father needs to set the example of showing respect for the mother, and he needs to ensure that all the children show respect for their mother, that they do not talk back and that they obey her.

For example, this can be done by thanking mother for preparing dinner, for washing the clothes, for cleaning up our messes, and for all the other things she does around the house.

At mealtime, everyone should wait until mother sits down at the table before saying grace and starting to eat.

2. Ensure that there is Discipline in the Homeschool

The father needs to tell the children that they are to behave.

For the younger children, fathers must remind them on a daily or weekly basis. It is helpful if the father calls home during the day; this sends a message to the children that dad is serious about the children behaving.

Other times, the mother may call the father whenever the children get rowdy, and the father can talk to them over the phone.

During some phone calls, fathers may need to talk to the child and make the child realize that BOTH of you want him to behave; after other phone calls, a father may want to go home and take care of the problem in person, if your job permits.

Starting at the beginning of the school year, it is important to handle the discipline problems promptly and decisively, in order to keep them from frequently recurring during the year.

3. Have a High Vision for the Children

There is much talk about building up self-esteem, but you do not build up self-esteem by giving your children empty praises or having low expectations of them.

You need to encourage them. Praise their successes and minimize their failures. Keep them challenged and let them know that you expect them to do their best.

In our home, we have a policy that everyone in the elementary grades gets at least an A on each test and assignment and everyone in the junior high and senior high grades gets at least a B. That does not mean that we are giving away A’s and B’s for mediocre work.

What it means is that if a student gets less than a B on an assignment, I tell him that I know he can do better than that. We review the material and have the student do the assignment or the test over again. We end up spending more time in the subject, but that is the advantage of tutoring your children at home.

It is more important for the children to know the material and understand it, than it is to finish the course quickly.

Fathers also need to help their children find and develop the talents that God has blessed them with. Give them projects in the areas where they have an interest or appear to have talents.

After they are finished with their project, acknowledge their accomplishments and praise them for the qualities they exhibited: perseverance, patience, quality work, or attention to details.

As you show confidence in your children, they will become self-confident and have a self-esteem that cannot be shattered.

In addition to giving the children projects to do, we also give them chores. In fact, we put it in the lesson plans, and we make it part of the daily routine. The chores consist of simple tasks, like making their bed, cleaning up the room, dusting the house, etc.

We do not believe in giving the children an allowance, but we do believe in paying them for particular jobs around the house, such as polishing Dad’s shoes, washing cars, cutting the grass, raking the lawn, and babysitting the younger children.

This way they learned that they had to earn money if they wanted to buy a special game, or toy, or gift. It taught them the value of money and how to handle it, and they learned not to ask their parent for handouts when they wanted to buy something.

Of course, we didn’t pay very much, and they found out that neighbors pay more for babysitting and mowing the grass than we did.

So, our children developed babysitting and grass-cutting businesses, and two teenagers worked at a veterinary clinic; the experiences helped them to become very dependable, conscientious, and self-confident.

4. It Takes Time… and Energy

Realize that it takes a lot of time and energy to teach the children, especially if you have a strong-willed child or a child with a learning problem. When you come home from work after your wife has been homeschooling the children all day, you may find your wife disgruntled and exhausted.

She may even be talking to herself, but that is a common occurrence among homeschooling parents. In fact it is so common that we call it a “Parent-Teacher Conference.”

Sometimes, all your wife needs is some adult conversation, after spending the day with a house full of children, six years old and under. I remember one day, when my wife was teaching one of the children phonics and how to read.

She pointed to a picture of a hen that was labeled with the letters HEN underneath it, and asked, “Do you know what this is? See it begins with an H; it’s a He, He, He…” And the child responded with “He, He, He, Chicken!” It may be funny now, but situations like these can frazzle a woman.

You fathers need to be understanding and give her the support she needs. At times like this, you may need to remind her that the child really is intelligent and will eventually learn how to read, or you may need to support her and let her know that she really is doing a good job of teaching.

5. Be Willing to Accept a Different Life Style

Especially when you have toddlers in the house. Your wife will have a very difficult time keeping the house clean, the laundry done on a regular basis, and meals cooked on time.

This is a sensitive issue because the wife wants to continue taking care of everything but just can’t find the time to do it all, without running herself into the ground or shortchanging something.

In order to make sure that she does not run herself ragged and that the homeschooling is not shortchanged, talk to your wife about the groups and activities she is involved with and ways you and the children can help her.

If your wife is heavily involved in the community, or church, or other activities outside of the home, she may have to back off with her involvement in those activities. This will require discussion between the two of you and coming to a realization as to how much time those activities require and how much time is needed for homeschooling.

Depending on your strengths and weaknesses, there are several things you can do to help her around the house. Talk about the areas where she needs help and discuss what needs to be done and who can do it.

You may want to have a meeting with all the children and explain that they need to help around the house.

6. Teach Some of the Subjects

The best reason for choosing which subjects you will teach is that you enjoy it or have an interest in it.

I know a father who teaches all of his children Latin and how to sing Gregorian Chant; the children’s singing is very beautiful, and they sing the Gregorian Chant once a month in Church.

As you teach the subjects, you never know what you are going to learn. The subjects I enjoy most are math and science.

During the years that I taught math to my children, I didn’t learn any more math principles, but I did learn patience.

7. Support Your Wife

You need to discuss with her the problems she is having and help her to solve them. You and your wife complement one another.

Often, the husband’s strong points are the wife’s weak points, and the husband’s weak points are the wife’s strong points.

One area where you fathers may be able to support your wife is in the area of organization. When you are teaching more than one child, organization becomes important.

Somehow you have to keep the subjects and grades and children sorted in a simple orderly manner.

For example, my wife needed a way of keeping records for each subject for each child. She ended up getting a small plastic crate for each child and used hanging file folders for each subject.

That way when she is working on the grades or quarterly reports for one of the children, she pulls out his plastic crate, and all the information is sorted by subject in the hanging folders.

She also wanted a quick and simple way to create lesson plans for each child using the computer. So, I used a spreadsheet program like Lotus on the computer, to create a matrix that listed the subjects and the time for each subject in the left-hand column and the days of the week in the top row.

Children in the junior high and high school grades can look at the assignments in the column and start working on them while your wife gives individual attention to the younger students, who need more supervision.

As your wife verifies each assignment is done, she checks it off or enters a grade in the lesson plan. At the end of the day, she can quickly verify if all of the assignments have been done, by making sure there are check marks or grades in each box in the column. At the end of the week, she has the grades for all of the tests on one sheet of paper.

Another area that requires a father’s support is the classroom environment. Sometimes when you conduct school in the same environment where the children are used to playing and talking, it is difficult to get them to focus on their studies and stop fooling around.

What you may need to do is develop a classroom that has a school environment. We once converted our dining room into a classroom, since we weren’t using the dining room for anything else. Others have converted a garage or spare room into a classroom.

You can put in bookcases and shelves for all the textbooks and reference material. You can put up bulletin boards and blackboards or whiteboards on the walls. It can look and feel like an authentic classroom that helps the children realize that they are now in school and it is time to study and stop playing around.

8. Be Committed to Homeschooling and Give your Wife Encouragement

You need to be committed to homeschooling, like you are committed to your marriage. It is a lifestyle, a way of living, a way of raising your children to be holy citizens of the Kingdom of God.

You need to be convinced in your mind and your heart of the merits of homeschooling, because there will be times when friends, neighbors, or relatives will cast doubts on your wife’s ability to teach the children, but you need to remind her that with God’s graces she can do it.

Remember the quote from Matthew 19:26, “For men this is impossible; for God everything is possible.”

People will also talk about homeschooling as being a radical thing that does not work, and that kind of talk weakens you wife’s fortitude. Again, you need to combat those doubts and encourage her during those times of weakness and insecurity.

Let us not forget the importance of raising our children, and teaching them the Truths of the Catholic Faith, for our children are the future of this country and of our Church. Our very survival as families, as a nation, and as the People of God, depends upon this.

Because Abraham was faithful in transmitting to his children the laws the Lord God gave him, his family was spared when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. We are living in a Sodom and Gomorrah today, and like Abraham, we have to be heroically faithful in raising our children to know God, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world.

As our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II always said, “Be not afraid!” You CAN do it, because God has given us all the graces necessary through the sacrament of Matrimony to teach our children.

With God’s help, it can be done. With His help, you and your spouse CAN raise your children to be holy and pleasing to God.

Share with us below which of these is most important for you as a parent?

Released for the first time online, this article originally appeared in the April 2003 Edition of the Seton Newsletter, Volume XX, 4

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