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The Washington Times
July 1, 1997

Father’s role in schooling is crucial

By Michael Farris
The Washington Times
July 1, 1997

As distasteful as it may seem to the National Organization for Women, the vast majority of teachers in home-schooling homes are stay-at-home moms.

These women have combined the roles of model-mom June Cleaver and superteacher “Our Miss Brooks,” making a mighty commitment of their lives to their children. No one should think, however, that home-schooling fathers aren’t important.

After 15 years in the home-schooling movement, I am convinced that an “involved dad” tops the wish list of nearly every home-schooling mom.

Fortunately, opportunities abound for a dad who wants to become the man of his wife’s dreams. Gentlemen, it does not matter to your wife how you help relieve her load so long as you do.

A home-schooling mom has two major areas of responsibility: caring for a home and teaching academics to her children. Her husband can pick tasks from either area and make his wife equally happy.

A husband who does the laundry, goes grocery shopping, cleans the kitchen or cooks a couple dinners a week makes a major contribution in the area of keeping the home.

Or a husband can choose the area of academics and help his wife by giving spelling tests, drilling children with the memorization of math facts, doing science experiments, or grading a few assignments.

Many dads have aspirations of teaching their children a couple of subjects—math, science and history are the usual favorites. If you can pull it off, it is a great idea and a real assistance to your wife.

But let me give you a word of caution: If your child is not yet a teen-ager, do not attempt to teach a core academic subject unless you can do it at least three days a week during the daylight. It’s OK to teach a teen a couple of subjects at night, but little children deserve the opportunity to learn during the day while they are fully awake. A dad who assists as needed with academics can be more helpful in the long run than a dad who takes on a course with a lot of good intentions but little chance of following through.

One of the most important things a dad can do is to ensure that his wife gets a regular break in her schedule. My wife, Vickie, has gone for a two or three mile walk virtually every day of our quarter-century of marriage, even when pregnant or during blizzards.

Before we got to the stage of life where we have four children of appropriate baby-sitting age, it was my responsibility to arrange my schedule so that Vickie could go for a walk while I watched the kids as often as possible. That mental and physical break has been a tremendous part of Vickie’s success as a home-schooling mom.

Your wife may like to swim or sew or read—whatever it is, provide baby-sitting assistance so that your wife takes the breaks she has more than earned.

One gadget that is a must for home-schooling families—and what man doesn’t like gadgets—is the plain, old answering machine. Buy one for your wife and encourage her to use it. Home-schooling moms get a lot of interruptions during their school day, from long distance telephone salespeople to “a friend of a friend” whose “few” questions about home schooling turn into 45 minutes right in the middle of the time mom was planning to teach math.

Finally, don’t forget a few heartfelt words of appreciation to your wife on a regular basis. She is performing academic miracles with your kids.

Tell her that you are both grateful and amazed at all she gets done. I guarantee she’ll like that.

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and chairman of the
Home School Legal Defense Association

Copyright 2000 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit our web site at