THE SEVEN STEPS IN PREPARING TO BE A HOMESCHOOL FATHER
Steve Wood
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 business.

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 year.

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 learned.

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.

Taken from:
The May 1995 issue of 
St. Joseph's Covenant Keepers.


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