|In our last issue we explained why fathers of homeschooling families
should expect to share the homeschool responsibility with their wives.
Fathers need to realize that their participation will be required and
that advanced preparation is needed to insure the long-term success of
their homeschool. We suggest the following seven steps to any man
wanting to become a successful homeschool father. Fathers who do not
plan to homeschool should still pay attention to several of the steps,
especially Step 4.
Step 1. Build Your Vision
Before starting to homeschool, it is wise to carefully build a vision
for your children and your homeschool. Dig deeply into the timeless
truth restated in Pope Pius XI's encyclical, Christian Marriage,
"The primary end of marriage is the procreation and the education
of children." Your solemn calling as a father is to insure that
your children are educated religiously.
Homeschooling is achievable for the majority of families, but it is
not easy. Every homeschooling family will inevitably encounter some
challenging rough spots. You need to have a solid vision for your
homeschool in order to get started and to keep going over these hurdles.
How do you gain a vision for homeschooling? Perhaps the best way is
to get to know some homeschooling children. Due to a scheduling mix-up
last year, our local homeschool skating group was at the rink the same
day as a public school group. The skating rink manager was amazed at the
enormous difference in the behavior between the two groups. He said,
"This is like night and day." This man who watches children
every day went home that night to tell his wife that he wanted to
homeschool their children.
Even if you don't have school-age children yet, attend homeschool
picnics and events. Watch homeschooled children and ask them questions
about their faith. Ask the same questions to nonhomeschooled children
and compare the difference.
A good homeschool vision-builder is to attend a national or regional
Catholic homeschool conference. Talk to Catholic families who
homeschool. As a father, you need to build a vision for homeschooling
along with your wife. If at all possible, both parents should be
committed to homeschooling before beginning. A young Catholic man
desiring his children to be homeschooled would be wise to discuss the
homeschooling option with a prospective marriage partner. Engaged
couples and newly married couples should attend all the homeschool
seminars and training clinics possible. Vision building is best and
easiest the earlier you start.
Two good resources to start your homeschool vision building are: Catholic
Home Schooling: A Handbook for Parents by Mary Kay Clark and a tape
entitled, The Catholic Home School: The Vision and the Venture,
by Karen Wood (Both available from the Family Life Center).
Step 2. Get Your Finances in Order
Homeschooling could be the most expensive decision your family ever
makes. You might be saying, "What! I thought that the cost of
homeschooling was actually lower than parochial education." Relax,
it is. Yet there is a huge financial sacrifice that your family will
have to make in order to homeschool. In most cases there will only be
one paycheck, plus any income that can be brought in via a home-based
Let's take a hypothetical family of six where the wife could earn
$28,000 per year. To account for additional taxes, transportation and
clothing costs, let's say the net second income will be about $16,000.
What will losing this second paycheck cost? A family with six children
spaced two years apart will be homeschooling for 22 years. For this
family, homeschooling will involve a sacrifice of $352,000. Do you see
why you need a solid vision to undergird your homeschool efforts? New
cars rust, but your children have an eternal existence in one of two
distinct destinies. From a long-term perspective, you will never regret
the financial sacrifice to homeschool your children. The vision will
help you get through the bill-paying time of the month.
Young men will need to plan for a one-paycheck family while choosing
and preparing for a career in a society that no longer recognizes a
family wage for the father. Older men may need to take some advanced
training so that their income earning ability will be able to support a
homeschooling family. Excessive debt will strangle most families'
ability to afford homeschooling. Pay close attention to Phil's Financial
articles regularly appearing in this newsletter. Your finances need to
be solidly grounded in order to be successful in homeschooling.
3. Step 3. Start Child Training & Discipline Early
The number one reason for homeschool burnout is a lack of discipline.
This is an area where dads can go into overdrive and become homeschool
super-heroes! Dads can overcome the chief obstacle to successful
homeschooling before their children even start school. Child training
and discipline is the primary responsibility of the fathers (see
Ephesians 6:4). Dads should have the bulk of child training and
discipline accomplished before their children enter the first grade.
From approximately eighteen months until the entry into first grade is
the prime time for child training and discipline. Take every advantage
of this window of opportunity. I recommend that you obtain a set of my
tapes on child training and discipline and listen to them once every six
months until your child is seven years old.
Step 4. Obtain a Solid Understanding of the Catholic Faith
Dad should teach religion in the Catholic home. It is the unique and
high privilege of fathers to pass on the faith to their children (Psalm
78:1-8). You can't pass on what you don't have. Many young Catholic
fathers don't know their faith themselves. For those in this category,
start preparing yourself now so you can skillfully teach your children.
I suggest that you take the time to master the new Catechism of
the Catholic Church. The Family Life Center has prepared a list of
study materials for those preparing to teach the catechism to others. In
addition, we have 24 hours worth of teaching tapes recently produced on
the new catechism. Call or fax us for this list.
Learning your catechism takes time and effort. Start today so that
you can teach the faith to your children tomorrow.
Step 5. Build Resources
Begin to build homeschool personal and material resources now. An
easy way to start is with your home library. Keep on the lookout for
bargains on good books to add to your homeschool library. Public library
discards, garage sales, and classified ads are a few places where
bargains abound. If you know what to look for (like children's
classics), you would be surprised the bargains you may find.
Homeschooled children taught to read using phonics methods will devour
multitudes of books in your homeschool library, as well as loads of
books checked out of your local library.
If you don't know a foreign language, then you might want to learn
one as a part of building up your family's homeschool teaching
resources. May I suggest learning Latin, the language of our Church?
Families homeschooling several children will want to have at least
one computer, unless the parents have the unusual ability to teach four
or five different grade levels simultaneously. A computer can serve as a
learning assistant for one child while you are teaching others. Learn
your computer skills now on an inexpensive used computer, on a computer
at work, or take a few computer courses at a community college. If you
have pre-school children you don't need to buy a top-of-the-line
computer now. Computers are getting cheaper and more powerful every
Step 6. Gain First-Hand Experience Teaching Children
One of the most effective ways of learning is by hands-on experience.
An overlooked way for fathers to prepare for homeschool teaching is to
volunteer to teach other children in a C.C.D. class. Also, why not serve
in a homeschool apprenticeship? Offer to teach a course for a nearby
homeschool family in return for their teaching you the skills they have
Step 7. Devotion to the Sacred Heart
One homeschool writer has wisely said, "Your goal as homeschool
parents is that your children get into heaven, not Harvard."
(Although homeschoolers have been accepted at Harvard.) The main goal of
your school should be to teach your children to love God with all their
hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and to love their neighbor as
themselves. Pope Pius XII said, "We do not hesitate to state
emphatically that devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a most
effective school of divine love" (On Devotion to the Sacred
Heart). Pope John Paul II has said that building up the Civilization
of Love begins in the home. Putting these two statements together,
you find that the home is the basic place for the school of love and the
most effective school is the one which honors the enthroned Sacred Heart
of Jesus. If you are searching for a good name for your homeschool, then
you might consider the name Sacred Heart School. This is the name
of the Wood's homeschool.
Finally, don't let all these seven steps overwhelm you. I recommend
that you start with step 7, then proceed to step 1, and after that go
down the list of the other steps as you are able. Get started today.