This Father’s Day, June 19, we will celebrate dads. Today, I’d like to share the top 3 traits of homeschool dads:
- Understanding his kids
- Investing in his kids
- Being intentional at home
To bring it to life, here are three of my favorite stories—all from New Zealand!
1) Understanding his kids
At a homeschool meeting in Rotorua, NZ, I was asked how to deal with the frustration kids faced in learning to write. As I tried to pull together some relevant thoughts (since teaching history is area of expertise, not writing), a Maori dad asked if he could share his thoughts—which were brilliant. (Read about it here) What impressed me most that day was that dad had obviously spent time considering the challenges his children were facing. . . He had put himself into their shoes in order to understand why it was difficult to learn, seeing things from their point of view.
That’s incredible, isn’t it? As parents, we are usually so busy trying to keep up with the demands of life that we barely listen to our kids, much less stop to ponder, consider, and actually understand them. And, though we often think of a “mother’s heart” when it comes to understanding children, it is just as critical that a dad have a “father’s heart.” A sacrificial, gentle, and devoted man will reflect God’s character to his children. . . which is the greatest accomplishment of all.
2) Investing in his kids
While traveling throughout New Zealand to speak to homeschoolers in 1999-2000, we got to know our host family quite well. Craig and Barbara Smith became dear friends as we shared life together for months on the road—which is a good place to really get to know people! Craig, who has since passed away, told us the unusual story of how he had actually been the primary teacher for their kids in the early homeschooling years. One day, when his two oldest were saying they were bored, Craig thought he would help them see what boring REALLY looked like. So, he grabbed a world history textbook of the shelf and began to read it to them. Assuming that they would either fall asleep or beg to go back to their own work, he began to read aloud. To his amazement, they began asking questions about what he was reading, and he found himself telling all kinds of stories about history and life. With a twinkle in his eye, Craig told us that he was amazed to realize two hours later that his kids were still wide awake and totally engaged.
What a picture! Instead of a dad telling his kids to buckle down and just get it done, this man read to them, told them stories, answered their questions, and thoroughly engaged them. At the time we met these two, they were in their late teens—and they were still thoroughly engaged with learning and with their family. This kind of investing pays life-changing dividends.
3) Being intentional
One of the most impactful dads we met in New Zealand was a man who told my husband about the routine he followed when he left work each day. Knowing that if he were not intentional about leaving work at the office, he would bring all the burdens, concerns, and pressing issues home with him, leaving no room for the day-to-day concerns and happenings of his homeschool family. So, he devised a daily route home that included three specific landmarks. When he passed a certain shop, he would say to himself, “Okay, I need to finish summing up what happened at work today.” Some minutes later, he would pass a second shop, and say to himself, “Okay, I need to stop thinking about work and start thinking about home.” And when he would pass the third landmark, which was only a few minutes from his destination, he would say to himself, “Okay, I need to start thinking about home.” When he arrived home at last, he had done the mental housecleaning needed to be fully present with his wife and kids.
That’s intentional fathering. It requires strategy, effort, and discipline. It values relationships above career, and puts feet to the commitment. And, believe me, that kind of commitment to being present with the family makes a significant difference in everyday life. . .which is where most of our life happens, right? It might seem like a small step, but it opens the possibility for great relationships.
These are winning traits for any dad. However, when you add them to the lifestyle of homeschooling, these become three of the most influential and powerful choices a dad will make in his lifetime.