Archive for the ‘Husbands (homeschooling partners)’ Category

What to do when your philosophy of education is challenged

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

Husbands and Homeschool (creating shared values with anyone who challenges your education philosophy)

Whether it’s a spouse or mother-in-law, we all have people in our lives who want to direct our homeschools for us. One way to create space for a meaningful conversation about home education is to provide the meddling (I mean, curious) person with an article to read. Ask the loved one to read the article and then to get back to you with a time to go out for coffee to talk about it!

The goal is to create a shared vocabulary around the topic of homeschool so that the family member doesn’t use “school” ideas as a yard stick for your homeschool efforts.

Examples of homeschool articles to share:

A Call For Homeschool 2.0 by Terry Heick

A Conversation with John Holt by Marlene Bumgarner

Infusing Child-Led Opportunities into a Traditional Approach by Angie Kauffman

Project-Based Homeschooling by Lori Pickert

Tidal Homeschooling by Melissa Wiley

Please don’t call my child a reluctant learner by Julie Kirkwood

And Brave Writer’s How Writing is Like Sewing

For more on how this works, check out this Part Two of the scope, Doubting Your Homeschool (Part One is here):

You’re a coach!

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Hey Julie!

I know you are so very busy with your wonderful Brave Writer stuff, but I have a general homeschool question for you. My husband has been off work this week, and he has seen how we “do school” each day. He is very bothered because it is what we homeschoolers call “teacher intensive.” My daughter is in 4th grade, and almost everything we do is teacher intensive. I sit with her and guide her through all of it. Even with math, we do it as a team effort. My husband feels as if she should be doing most of her work independently at this point. I would like feedback on the benefits of Independent work vs. teacher intensive. Thank you Julie.

–Sweet Mom

Hi Sweet Mom!

Your husband’s concerns can be understood as coming from a “school” memory. He likely wasn’t homeschooled and is remembering the classroom (though not specifically for that age, even, but a general memory of doing his own work). He is thinking that he didn’t have so much help in learning (though, he actually did, too, but it was shared with 25-30 other kids).

What most adults forget is just how much help kids need and get throughout their educational careers. An analogy that helps dads especially is to remind him of how a sports coach works with a team of players. Coaches will literally stand next to the practice field shouting instructions, running onto the field to manipulate a body to stand a certain way, to hold the bat or kick the ball with a specific form. They will give endless feedback and practice to a player who needs it.

The coach doesn’t simply get to a point where he says, “Okay, you all know what should be practiced—go do it on Wednesday night. I’ll see you at the game on Saturday.” Far from it! Coaches are at every practice, they supervise every warm up, they model how the practices or forms for play should look, they run drills, they tell kids what they are doing wrong and right—hands on, totally involved, right next to the players. They do not expect kids to become skilled players by telling them to be independent players and practicers. They consider their input of utmost value! The games are even played with the coach present!

You are coaching your daughter in education. This is the KEY model that schools would adopt if it were financially possible. Even without the tutorial model, in a classroom, instructors still offer students a lot of support and help. They are monitoring learning by diagramming on a blackboard, handing out worksheets, asking questions of students, by giving lectures, by physically being present with the students as the students learn new skills. Students are not alone, on their own, self-educating. They are being guided by instructors, they are providing instructors with material to grade or evaluate, and they are being taught in the form of comments (oral and written) to revise and improve. School is not about independent learning. It is about teacher-guided learning.

Unfortunately for school students, they do not get the personal attention that would improve their work to the degree that homeschooled kids can get at home. It has been shown that students who must learn math and writing through large group instruction do not make the kinds of progress that kids in the tutorial model make. These tutored students do become more and more independent as they acquire the skills they need, but initially it looks like they are getting “help.” 4th grade is the very very beginning of acquiring skills that lead to independence. Independence in learning (the kind your husband is envisioning) will become the norm in high school.

Here’s where you can meet your husband’s need for evidence of growing independence, though. You can, as you support your daughter, give her small tasks to complete while you do something else nearby. So, for instance, you might show her how to calculate the first few math problems on her page, then you get up to clear dishes or unload the dishwasher while she completes the page. If she has a question, you answer it from the sink first, to see if she can take your snippet of information and convert it into understanding and practice without leaning so heavily on you for support.

Initially she may only be able to do a few problems at a time this way. But over time, she will get better and better at it and you’ll be able to walk out of the room to change a load in the laundry or to take a shower. You want to let her in on this strategy too. You might say to her:

“One of the goals of home education is for you to be able to do some of your work without my sitting right next to you. I will always be available for answering questions and modeling new processes, but the practice of the work needs to increasingly become your work without my help. This is how we learn to be adults. We’ll take it slowly and you can always ask me to sit with you if a new process is too challenging.”

You want to respect your husband’s worries (otherwise you create some tension around homeschooling) but you also want to stick up for the kind of education that leads to successful homeschooling. It may help your husband to know that kids who are raised this way (with a lot of parental support in learning) often become some of the most independent learners as young adults. They are not waiting for a teacher to teach them. They are aware of what it looks like to be an invested student, having sat with a parent for all those years, absorbing the energy, skills, and habits of a highly motivated adult learner: the homeschool parent. We’ve seen it again and again.

Hope that helps!


Cross-posted on facebook.

Image © |

Homeschool is not five days a week

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

Sunday ExperimentImage by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Remember that homeschool is not five days a week, confined to 8 hours of the day. Home education is a lifestyle that expands past “school” hours and fills up your family’s shared daily experiences.

Pay attention this weekend to the ways in which your children continue their learning journeys without encouragement from you. Seize opportunities to augment interests through field trips or conversations or a new tool or toy.

Pat yourself on the back for what you observe and remind yourself that lots of learning is happening all the time, all around you so that on those days where nothing goes right, you can remember that there are other days (even on the weekend) that do!

Also, this is your chance to involve the FT working parent who is more likely to be home on the weekends. If you are married to a math-whiz, see if that mathematically competent adult can find practical ways to use the math processes you worked on all week in a workbook.

If your partner is great with science experiments, save those for weekends.

If you have a partner who sews or gardens or bakes, why not spend Saturday doing fall (or spring!) projects together?

Enjoy the learning journey and share in the comments the ways learning shows up in your family on the weekends.

Cross-posted on facebook.

Lighten up a bit

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Lighten UpImage © Nagy-bagoly Ilona |

I talk to so many parents every day. The other day a delightful dad shared about his truly brilliant daughter who is taking the ACT and SAT tests right now. He wants her score to improve on the essay portion. (She’s already got a good score, actually.) So that’s when I know. I know there’s pressure in that family for this kid to do exceptionally well, not just really well.

We had a wonderful conversation and I gave him all kinds of advice about how to help her in her specific case. (She sounds like such a smartie!)

Right at the end, though, a thought occurred to me. Here’s what I told him:

“As you work with your daughter on these ideas, do them at Barnes and Noble or over ice cream. Get a latte, bring your laptop, sit close to your daughter and enjoy the time you have together. Begin by telling her how amazing she is, how proud of her you already are, and let her know that if her score doesn’t go up even a point, or if she draws a blank or regresses, you are perfectly okay with that—that she’s already proven herself to you and her mom and you are thrilled with who she is becoming. Make sure she knows that the pressure is off—that she’s already done enough, and that this additional test is just one more try. No one can write well when they feel pressure to perform. They need to be relaxed.”

I hadn’t expected the reply that came through the phone. This dad suddenly became animated:

“Have you been a fly on the wall of our house?” He chuckled but with a wince of pain behind it.

“Our daughter is having GI issues; has had to go to the doctor to have treatments all this year. She has had to leave the SAT test twice to throw up. I hadn’t considered that I might be part of the problem, pushing her too hard. But I think you must be right that I am putting pressure on her. And you are right, too, that she has already done a good job. I will take what you said to heart. I don’t want to make things worse for her.”

We continued to talk for a bit about the role of pressure, the colleges he hopes she’ll attend (she’ll have no trouble getting in the ones he shared with me based on the scores she’s already got!), and his dreams for her. I know that some families put a lot of weight on scores, independent of what they achieve.

It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to put this out there to all of you: a score is just a measure on that day of your child’s work in that context. It’s not a verdict on whether or not your child is smart, worthy, or even educated. It can point to a few things (it is an indicator). But it isn’t a measure of who your child is or whether or not you should be overly proud or ashamed.

So lighten up. This child of yours is an independent being from you. This is his or her life. You get to cheerlead, support, and guide, but you can’t make your child perform. That’s up to the individual.

Go get Cokes, take the pressure off, provide support and help, see what happens. You might be surprised.

Cross-posted on facebook.

The Non-Homeschooling Parent

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Aka: How do I get my husband to accept my style of homeschooling?**

I went to a homeschool support group back in 2000 when I first moved to Ohio. Each of the parents introduced themselves. Most of the attendees were mothers, but occasionally a dad would be along for the meeting as well. To a parent, the mother would introduce herself as the homeschooler and the husband as the “principal” of their school. Then everyone would chuckle. They chuckled because they knew that in just about every case, the “principal” had a fulltime job and did very little in the way of home education! Yet here he was with the big title!

When they got to me, my husband was not present. I introduced myself as the home educator, curriculum developer and the  principal. Then I added, “My husband isn’t here, but he’s the janitor. His contribution to our homeschool is making sure everyone does their chores on Saturdays.”

Laughter. But it was true. I saw no reason to give him the supreme title just because he had facial hair.

You home educators take the lion’s share of the responsibility to homeschool your kids. You do it after hours of research and oodles of conversations, you do it because you’ve become convinced it’s the best thing for your family, and you do it the way you do it because of the philosophy of education you’ve evolved through all those hours of research and conversation.

Unless you have a spouse with similar dedication, the truth is: you’re the homeschooling expert in your family.

Being an expert doesn’t mean that you are without flaw or that you will get it right every time. Lord knows we all reinvent homeschool every single year. Still, even with the nuances changing year to year, you have a pretty good idea of what you mean by homeschooling and you want the freedom to do it according to your lights.

When a mom asks me how to “get her husband” to share her philosophy, what I think she’s really asking is: “What do I do about my husband’s worries that I’m not doing a good enough job?”

At one workshop, when asked that question, I answered: “This is a marriage issue, not a homeschooling one. I don’t know if your husband is crazy or a reasonable guy. I don’t know if he is hard on you in every area of your life or if he has legitimate concerns about your dedication to the homeschooling task. The question to ask yourself is: ‘Does my husband generally support me, trust me and help me? If I give him the information he wants, does he accept it?’

The foundation of a happy homeschool has to be that both parents are equally supportive of this style of education. They don’t both have to be equally knowledgeable, they don’t both have to do the work of homeschool and I absolutely don’t see the need for a wife to “submit her lesson plans” to a husband each week for his approval.

What needs to happen is this. Raising the kids is a responsibility both parents share. When discussing home education, where the husband has little experience and spends almost no time researching, the conversation needs to shift from explaining home education to him and instead focus on two things:

  • Trust
  • Freedom

Just like you don’t constantly check to see if your husband is performing at his career in a way that makes you feel comfortable, your husband needs to trust you (that you are capable of home education, that he is confident in your skill set, that he knows you are reliable to do what you say you’ll do). Then he needs to allow you the freedom to live into that role, knowing that it will include set backs, mistakes, course changes and all the things that happen in any career.

Of course he’ll have questions and he should feel free to ask them. However, asking a sincere question is not the same as scrutinizing or judging or belittling or haranguing. You know if you have a husband who does the latter because those behaviors won’t be limited to homeschooling. If that is your husband, just know that you have a marriage issue (not a homeschooling one) and be sure to get help in addressing it. Any family that has the marital dynamic where the wife is repeatedly up against hostility and judgment is in crisis. Home education is the least of your concerns.

If you have the garden variety husband who simply shows some nerves about this unfamiliar style of education, start by talking to your husband about trust and freedom—that you value his trust and you need freedom to explore this version of education.

You can allay his fears in these three ways:

  1. First, suggest to him that he do some reading. Point him in the right directions (give him a book or send him some links to websites via email). Don’t nag him, don’t follow up. Just let him know that he can read what you’ve read and if he wants to discuss it, you’d be happy to! Don’t educate him. Let him educate himself. Don’t nag. If he chooses not to read, then you can gently let him know (after a month) that you’ll continue without his input (though you’d love his support!) since he doesn’t have the foundation to talk to you about home education.
  2. Second, introduce him to another homeschooling family. You might even plan a themed home education party where the dads are participants. A medieval feast or a picnic at a site where fossils can be found are possibilities. Get them involved in a weekend kind of way.
  3. Third, share what you do during the day with your husband in a free, enthusiastic way. Don’t report to him like he’s your boss. Simply make an effort to remember what happened that was exciting: Johnny identified a cardinal at the feeder today! Mary figured out how to dye cloth with a beet!

Once you have tried one or all three of these practices, see how your husband does. If he continues to express anxiety about home education, you have two options:

  1. Make it an issue in your marriage. If this is one of those hills you want to die on, then so be it. You may need a therapist to help you. Get to the bottom of his anxiety and your need to home educate so that you are honest about how important this issue is to you. Make sure you have a safe space to explore all the concerns you both have. If you ignore them or pretend them away, I promise they will come back in a big way down the line and your kids will know that their education is a source of tension in your marriage.

    That is not healthy!
    Better to put the kids in school than that.

  2. Give up homeschooling. It is utterly critical that your family have a peaceful home to live in. That is more important than Charlotte Mason, tea parties, read alouds, field trips to art museums and Saxon math. If you and your husband can’t come to a place where you feel supported and trusted in your home education leadership, then homeschooling can’t work for your family.

I find it helpful if I think in terms of the bigger picture. To be happy at home means that all the members of the family feel they have an authentic say in their own happiness (how they discover what makes them happy, how they express that happiness, how they create it for themselves). That happiness is contingent on several core values:

  1. Trust
  2. Responsibility
  3. Freedom
  4. Participation

When any of these is missing in any of the relationships in the family (parent to child, child to parent, sibling to sibling, wife to husband, husband to wife), the entire family has a diminished sense of identity and contentment. Cultivating relationships that nurture an experience of happiness has to be a primary goal, even above education because there are lots of forms of education, but only one original family.

So when we talk about homeschooling, we have to be honest: it’s not possible to do it if both parents don’t support it. Wives can’t make husbands support homeschooling any more than a husband can require a wife to homeschool if she doesn’t want to invest the time and energy it takes to do it. Education of the children is a responsibility that both parents share, but how that responsibility is executed can be resolved in a variety of ways.

The bottom line is this: If your husband is not participating actively in the education of your children (and doesn’t invest the time to think about homeschooling or to develop his own philosophy of education), he should be willing to trust you to do that job and he ought to support you in doing it through encouragement, cooking dinner once in awhile, and bragging about how awesome you are for taking on this heroic of tasks.

If he is deeply uncomfortable with home education after doing his own research and is a genuinely decent guy in the other areas of your marriage, you may have to accept that for right now, home education is off the table. Ask to revisit it with him at a later date.

In all cases, get help if these issues between you and a spouse become significant enough that you are tense, stressed, and anxious. If you are fighting about homeschooling regularly, then you are creating a toxic home environment for your kids. That’s no way to live and kids spending 24/7 at home will pick it up (and it will be bad for them).

**I’m sorry to use the gender normative roles throughout. I realize there are homeschooling dads where the moms work outside the home and that there are domestic partnerships, not just husbands and wives. Thanks for letting me off the hook by focusing on the 99% that ask me these questions. Philosophically, these answers can be applied to any pairing raising kids!