My “We Homeschool, Too” series featuring families who homeschool in a non-traditional environment (i.e., something other than a 2-parent home where mom is the primary educator) will, unfortunately, fall short of the initial vision. It’s okay; people get busy and have other priorities. In the meantime, you can see the previous posts using these links:
I am thrilled that I am ending this series with a young man whom I refer to as “my awesome cousin.” I still remember him trying to kick me when he was 4 years old while I sought to help him untie his shoes. He has come a long way since then (lol), and I love so much about his testimony and the man that he has become–to his wife, to his children, to his extended family, and to his community. Having someone so close in the family with whom I could share all things homeschool has made this journey that much more memorable. He is quickly moving into a new season now, but I consider myself blessed that he slowed down to reflect upon this last decade.
First, please introduce yourself to my readers—a bit about you, your family, and how long you have homeschooled.
I’m a musician, author and blogger at http://GodandGigs.com, married for over 21 years to my wife Lia, and proud dad of three children – Christopher, 26, Marcus, 21 and Naomi, 20. We began homeschooling in 2006 and continued until Naomi’s graduation in 2017.
Why do you homeschool? What was the catalyst that made you shift (if there was one)?
Upon graduating from the University of Miami with my music education degree, I believed I had learned a lot about educating children. Within a few years of starting my teaching career, I had the benefit of having my kids attend the same school that I was teaching at, but that was both a blessing and a curse – because I knew the inside story of the education system. I knew how we had to teach to the test, how much of my time was dedicated to classroom management rather than actually teaching students. So it wasn’t a complete surprise to me when Marcus’ teacher began summoning me from my own music class to help her deal with his behavior. Mind you, he wasn’t misbehaving in the traditional sense. Instead, he was getting bored in class, becoming frustrated when he didn’t meet his own expectations for work, and was in danger of being labeled as a ‘problem’ in the class.
At the same time, I was feeling a spiritual tug toward my need to spend more direct time with my children. My ministry responsibilities at my church, plus my teaching duties often prevented me from really concentrating on our kids. The fact that I was at the school with them was only a mask for a lack of real interaction. I remember studying my Bible and seeing scriptures alluding to the fact that fathers were the ones instructed to teach their children, and that it was not simply a matriarchal role.
I began researching homeschooling, and had a long talk with my wife to explain my idea of taking them out of public school. While we chose to leave our oldest child in public school as he was attending a music magnet that he enjoyed, we decided that I would take a leave of absence for one year and try homeschooling our two younger children.
We were, in a way, a ‘blended educational’ family. But our priority was never based on where the education took place. Rather what mattered was creating an educational environment in our home in which our children could grow into independently thinking and spiritually grounded adults. I always preferred the term “family learning’ to the term homeschool, because it more accurately describes our educational philosophy.
You as the father are also the primary educator in your homeschool. What impact does your role as dad and homeschool parent have on your homeschool environment?
The main impact of my role in our homeschool was that I could be there for my kids in any way they needed me. That of course meant being the ‘answer man’ at times, helping them to figure out their academic work and being a hands on teacher. But other times, it meant simply being in the home, being dad – watching educational TV, making videos together, doing housework and home projects. Now that my children are grown, I hope that they have more confidence, assurance that they are loved, and feel more at peace with themselves because I was able to interact with them on a daily basis.
Can you tell us what a typical day looks like for you, including chores, home management, and your many “hats” during the day?
As a freelance musician, writer and teacher, my schedule has always been fluid, so the ‘typical day’ could be very different from week to week. Our family learning was interest-based and self-directed for much of my children’s education, and that meant switching things up often. Marcus and Naomi followed their own patterns and that seemed to work for them. My wife and I have gone from being both work-from-home to hybrid workers where we can set much of our schedules based on our needs, so we would switch ‘hats’ pretty often. Sometimes I would take the lead on managing the house (especially when I was the stay-at-home parent), but most of the time we shared tasks and goals. Every week we’d try to sit down and map out what our children needed, and that would form the basis for our schedules.
How do you balance your role in homeschooling, your role in the family, and other aspects of homelife?
I see all of those roles as interchangeable, because as a father my family should always be able to count on me as a resource educationally, emotionally and spiritually. One of the big ways that I maintain my role as a provider is by continuing to develop my own goals and pursue new ventures, as I did when I launched my blog, and wrote my book “God and Gigs.” I really feel that my children learned from my example as I got up early to write and research. The freedom and flexibility of homeschooling allowed me to set my own pace for writing, as well as finding other ways to earn income like teaching piano, performing at events and tutoring.
Sometimes it was a struggle to handle scheduling – thankfully when I had to be out of the house, my wife could be home, or we would rely on trusted family friends to watch our kids. For example, for a period of time my church asked me to dedicate office hours to church work which wouldn’t allow my kids to be at work with me. So from around 10am to 3pm they would stay with a family friend and do their work (and watch Tyler Perry plays, I later learned). That wasn’t the norm, thankfully. Usually my kids accompanied us to events and we didn’t have to separate them from other aspects of our lives. For the most part I found that all my roles as a primary educator, husband, and provider seemed to work in harmony when my priorities were aligned with what was best for the family.
How does your role impact socializing with other homeschooling families (both you spending time with other moms as well as your children)?
We always made sure to connect with other homeschool families, whether through co-ops, joint classes like Classical Conversations, or our church. In every case I was always welcomed as a dad, even when surrounded by mostly moms. While I felt a little out of place at first, soon I started to notice several other dads at our social and educational events, which also reminded me that I wasn’t alone as a father participating fully in my children’s education.
Finally, what tips would you share for another father who might be considering homeschooling as an option, and planning to complete much or most of the teaching?
My first tip would be to ignore any perception that homeschooling is just for moms. Fathers have a great deal to offer their children in every area of life, and that includes their learning. We believe our children developed a great deal of independence and confidence because my wife and I worked together as a team. When I was strong in a subject or had more time, I took the lead, but I was just as willing to let her lead in the areas she is strong in. I’d also remind dads that there are tons of resources available to us to help navigate any issue you face as you work with your children. I learned more about education as a homeschool parent than I ever did as a public school teacher, and that’s because I was able to access answers from the wealth of experience the global homeschool community has to offer.
Finally, I’d tell fellow dads that being the primary educator does NOT mean giving up their own goals or career dreams. I didn’t realize when I first left full-time teaching in public schools that I could continue earning income as a tutor, or that I would expand my musical and writing businesses. Those opportunities came as a direct result of taking a chance and shifting my perspective on what I could do professionally as well as for my family. Becoming a homeschool dad was the opening to all kinds of new doors, and I wouldn’t have the interesting and dynamic life I have now if I had been too fearful to step into it.