Evolving My Role As a Working Homeschool Dad

I still vividly recall the range of emotions I experienced as my firstborn daughter, Amelia, prepared for kindergarten. Though it wasn’t a surprise (my wife and I had five years to prepare), what was a surprise was how hard it was to admit reaching this milestone. It was a difficult journey deciding exactly what to do with her primary education.

As I found out, when distant decisions are no longer years down the road and must be faced, you see the world differently. As time passed and the decision-making process became real, I started to feel more sensitivity and took more notice of news stories exhibiting the evils of the world, including violence and other nonsense in schools, feeling concern for the cultural environment into which we’d be sending Amelia. I wanted her educational atmosphere to reinforce the way in which we were trying to form her little mind. As my wife and I discussed these concerns, it became apparent that a Christian educational atmosphere was essential.

After visiting three local Catholic schools, we came to a troubling conclusion that none of them felt right… none of them felt like home for our little daughter. We were left with a feeling of hopelessness, asking the question, “Now what?”

After a few weeks of educational purgatory, my wife gently brought up the topic of homeschooling, in particular a local Christian non-denominational homeschool co-op. Even after agreeing to try, I still had reservations. However, it felt “right” that we’d maintain the control of her formation.

During the course of that first year, my wife began to feel a calling to begin a Catholic homeschool co-op in the area; long story short, through the grace of God she accomplished her goal with Aquinas Learning! Now we were really invested, not only in our own children but also the children of friends and fellow Catholics. Although I was extremely pleased with the way things were working out, the aspect that took longer to develop was my individual role in our kids’ education, my role as a homeschool dad.

My wife, as the stay-at-home mom, naturally assumed the role of teaching our children. My primary role in supporting the family is as breadwinner (I work in a professional management position with nearly an hour commute to and from the office). Even when I’m at home, family time is often interrupted by client phone calls or emails that must be addressed immediately. Although I was extremely happy with the homeschool environment, I couldn’t help but feel disconnected from it. The daily “what did you learn today” question at the dinner table felt largely inadequate. Some fellow homeschool dads I knew were able to be more directly involved on a daily basis due to their professional circumstances and freedoms.

What I came to realize is that I shouldn’t compare my role to my wife’s role. The beauty of the family unit is that each of us contributes nourishment in some form to our children. I have many passions: I love the outdoors and nature, I am a pilot with a small plane, and I have a deep love of music, especially sacred music. I noticed the kids were vicariously taking an interest in my passions (kids are naturally curious beings and have a thirst for knowledge and understanding). I learned to couple their curiosity with my passion, to create opportunities for education and exploration for the kids. Whether it is a walk in the woods to identify animal tracks, answering science questions about why an airplane flies, or attending an orchestra concert to behold great music, sharing my passions with the kids is a great way to supplement their daily mom-given education.

For the homeschool dads like me whose professional circumstances do not allow us to be at home sharing the educational responsibilities of the children, my message is to not feel discouraged or disconnected. You have to accept the reality that your daily labor providing for the family allows your wife to be at home to teach the children. Although your time at home might be limited, find ways to share your passions with your kids in an educational way. The kids really look forward to those little bonus Dad-sessions.

When possible, dads should try to find ways to get involved at the Aquinas Learning Center. I volunteer as the music teacher at our AL Center. Every third week, I get to teach a room full of energetic, enthusiastic children and share my passion for music with them for an hour. Other dads in our group periodically teach other subjects like science and physical education. Involvement in the Learning Center not only helps me connect educationally with my own kids, but also with the kids in our Catholic community. Being a homeschool dad is a less lonely place when you’re able to connect with not only the kids, but the other dads.

To all those dads out there struggling to connect with their kids’ homeschool education, I’ll leave you with this. Jesus lived 33 years on earth. He spent only three of those years teaching his disciples. The rest of his time on earth was spent working, doing the daily grind, doing the mundane. It doesn’t have to be about quantity. If your time is limited, make it about quality. You as a dad, even with limited time, can take on the role of sparking their passions, their imaginations, and their appreciation for all of God’s Creation.

–Ryan Flicek is an Aquinas Learning Dad from Minnesota. His wife, Meg, is the Director of the Aquinas Learning Burnsville Center. Together they have three children: Amelia (8), Eleanor (4) and Ralph (4 months). He is the Vice President of Aviation Services for a small corporation in the Twin Cities. Ryan volunteers as the music teacher for the Burnsville Center.  

 

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