Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Teaching My Own: Persuading Papa

But what about my husband? How exactly did I convince Papa Bear to buy in to my dreams about alternative education and give this counter-cultural experiment a try?

Looking back, I can point to four specific steps my husband took that set us up for shared success as homeschooling parents:

He bought into the philosophy of homeschooling.
My husband's childhood experiences with school were similar to mine. A quiet, highly competent student, he was often overlooked and usually under-challenged. The most interesting and rewarding parts of his education were self-directed explorations that took place beyond the school walls. For example, his encyclopedic grasp of the Second World War undoubtedly sprang from the countless hours he and his high school best friend spent playing WW II battle re-enactment games in his parents' basement. (They were either giant nerds or way ahead of the curve on the Call Of Duty franchise. You be the judge.) He totally grasped the idea that student-led real-life experiences were vastly superior to traditional classroom schoolwork, and just to be sure he was on the bandwagon with me, I read aloud to him plenty of exciting passages from the books I was reading.

He agreed to be the bread-winner.
Before our kids were born, we had committed to life as a one-income family; it was always our plan that I would stay home with our children as long as they needed me. So there were no immediate concerns that homeschooling would upset our financial apple cart. As the years went on, my husband did sometimes stress about the extra expenses of our chosen educational experiences - the museum passes, the project fees, the gas money to drive around to our various excursions. But then we would consider the benefits our daughters were deriving from these expenses, and realized that every penny was well spent.

He respected my ability to teach.
Before I became a homeschooling mommy, I certainly had no formal training as a teacher. My college degree was in Accounting and I had a brief but successful career as a Certified Public Accountant. I'm not sure why my husband trusted that I would be able to translate my experience and knowledge to the field of education but he did. Honestly, our daughters were probably the best proof of my capabilities. During their lives to date, under my constant care, my daughters had revealed themselves to be delightful, clever, intelligent creatures, and he was willing to trust me to keep moving ahead with them to see what happened next.

He was willing to sign on for a short-term experiment.
At the beginning, we simply agreed to give homeschooling a try. We made no long-term commitments, and we gave ourselves grace to change our mind. Looking back, I can say there was never a time when we actually considered giving up on homeschooling. (Okay, I may have made some impassioned threats to my daughters when they were in their insolent middle school years, but those don't count.) But it was an important understanding during our early days of homeschooling that we would take things one day at a time, and watch to see where the experiment would lead us.

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I'm grateful that my husband was able to grasp the potential of homeschooling, to use his imagination about the exciting life we could build for our daughters, to shoulder the burden of financial resposibility, and to trust me to make homeschooling happen. 

But not all daddies are so quick to accept this bold vision of alternative education, and to the mommies who are trying to convince them to think again, I offer the following advice:

Spend time the coolest homeschooling families you know, and include the dads. Invite those parents to tell the story of how they decided to homeschool; ask them to share their struggles and concerns along the way. Let your husband watch the kids interact; in a positive way, help him see the strengths and differences of these kids from the traditionally schooled kids in your life. 

Seeing is believing. And in most cases, seeing homeschooled families in action is enough to make any loving father believe that there may be something to this crazy homeschooling business after all. 

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P.S. The photos in this post were taken during a weekend at the beach with our very dear homeschooling buddies, the Lohrs. Both dads were present for this sandy day of mayhem, including Papa Streicher, who is captured here both seeing and believing from the comfort of his lounge chair.

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