The Non-Homeschooling Parent

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!

11 Responses to “The Non-Homeschooling Parent”

  1. erica says:


    Thanks for your wise words. I am grateful for a husband who has always wanted to homeschool, even during the early years when I didn’t. Last fall, I had to take a p/t job working overnights so my dh chose to become the primary teacher. We are now balancing out by splitting the subjects taught more evenly as we search for ways to make our homeschooling journey even better for our family. One of our biggest struggles is in the different views we take on homeschooling. I lean towards charlotte mason while he is traditional textbook/tests & quizzes. We are looking for ways to create balance for next year. I want to re-read this blog and talk with Brian about it. You have alot of great ideas, starting with the issues being marital more than homeschool. Its a new way of thinking for me. Thanks for your words! We are brand new to Bravewriter, looking forward to using it in the Fall. I have chosen the books for each child already and am reading through The Writers Jungle to gain an understanding before I teach/live it with the family. I hope it will pull our family closer together, increase our love for rdg and writing, and create opportunities for conversations that we wouldnt have otherwise.


  2. Julie Bogart says:

    Erica, thanks for sharing your experience with us. Welcome to Brave Writer!

  3. susan taylor says:

    Hi Julie,
    I was very interested when I saw the title of this article, having been distant internet acquaintances since pre-BraveWriter days, all the way back to that one forum on the SL board. I think you are addressing a very important topic here and I just wanted to say, well said.

  4. Julie Bogart says:

    Hi Susan! Great to hear from you. That feels like a long time ago (the SL forums of the old days). So great to know you are still reading along.


  5. Pam says:

    Maybe some moms and dads would be interested in my experience as a homeschooling mom married to a public school teacher dad. As a science teacher in a well-respected school district, he sees some of the best that public school has to offer. Yet he regularly encourages me that what our kids are getting is far superior to that. Yes, they may have a fancy laboratory for science. But our children are learning in an environment that encourages their individual growth and development in all areas of life. He reminds me of all the downsides to the traditional brick and mortar school, and praises the things that we are able to provide that simply cannot be provided in those settings.
    One day at his school they hosted an expert from a big corporation to discuss the subject: “What do we want to see in potential employees for our highly respected corporation?” My husband told me that we was shocked to learn from this professional that the style of learning we pursue as homeschoolers is far more valuable to preparing our children for excellent jobs than the style of learning receive in most school settings. His school is striving to encourage more independent learning, self-directed research projects, group problem solving (preferably with mixed ages), learning to relate to others of varying backgrounds, self-discipline, and creativity. It is harder when each classroom has around 20 kids. But for us, it comes naturally.
    I am so blessed to have a teacher for a husband — one who sees the true value of what we are doing for our children.

  6. Julie Bogart says:

    What a fabulous comment Pam! My two youngest kids are in high school now (public) and they are just finishing up their first years. They came home the other night saying how much they have valued their home educations.

    My daughter said things similar to what your husband is saying here: that she understands that it is her responsibility to self-educate, that learning is more important than passing tests, that caring about the subject matter comes easily to her because she grew up thinking of learning as a joy, not a chore.

    Her history and math teachers told me that she is an exemplary student and I even got a call from the superintendant who had heard about her as a great example of the kind of student they hope to create. Ironically, that student was created at home, not school.

    You are a lucky woman, indeed, to have such a supportive and insightful husband! Thanks for sharing with us.

  7. Kika says:

    My husband, too, is a public school teacher and we homeschool. Because my husband is African, though, and had never heard of homeschooling before coming to Canada, he was a little nervous about homeschooling at first. Also, he had met some HS families that didn’t ‘impress’ him in the least. Anyways, with time he began to see how well our children were learning, how much extra time we had to pursue our interests, that we were all thriving, etc. I did feel like I had to prove myself, to some degree, over the first few years. I needed to understand where my husband was coming from too: in Africa, education is hard to come by and he had worked extremely hard to receive an education and because of it was able to escape poverty. He only wanted to the best for his children. We’ve had a great homeschool experience thus far and I look forward to many more years with our two daughters. Our oldest son will attend a local high school next year for grade ten and we are all feeling positive about this choice. I feel he is prepared both academically and character-wise to not lose himself in that institutional setting. I am incredibly thankful for the close relationship we’ve built over our years of homeschooling.

  8. Laura says:

    Love your good old-fashioned common sense! I have the support of a great man who even took on homeschooling full time while I worked full time. We have both been on both sides of the homeschooling/working parent juggle. I think that has helped us be supportive of each other. I completely agree that sometimes conflicts are a marriage issue, not a homeschooling one. You are so right to say that family peace comes first. Excellent thoughts that need to be out there – thanks!

  9. My Aristide says:

    Hmm, this really is some compelling information youve got going! Makes me scratch my head and think. Prolong the good writing!

  10. Russell Person says:

    Just wanted you to know that Fathers do homeschool their children too. The discipline that I was taught as a male shows good results in our child Alex. I do 95% of the homeschooling and begged my wife to do math sometimes to make sure our child knows we are both behind the homeschooling effort. I enjoy the surprised faces when people find out I am the one who does the teaching. I am a father who wants to spend all of my time with my child. He reads years ahead of his “level” and has skipped a grade in his two day a week charter ACE program. This is not the easiest way, but who would have someone else educate their own children? And oh, I do own and operate a business.

  11. Julie Bogart says:

    That’s fabulous! I know there are wonderful dads out there homeschooling and I do refer to them too, at times. But since 99.0% of homeschooling is still done by mothers, I do tend to focus on them in my writing.

    Still, your input is highly valued and I appreciate a lot your contribution to the blog! Thank you!