Probably coincidentally, unless solar flares have some effect on fathers’ attitudes that I’m unaware of, I’ve noticed a recent uptick in the number of younger homeschooling moms asking (via social media) how to get their husbands more involved in their day-to-day routine. As homeschooling becomes a more mainstream lifestyle, I think we’re likely to see more families that have been led into homeschooling by unilateral decision of one parent or the other, rather than by the mutual and sober determination of both parents that it’s the best thing for their family.
While there isn’t anything wrong with it being Mom’s idea, when Dad isn’t as heavily invested in the idea as his wife, it does introduce some problems that earlier homeschooling families may not have faced. This article, of course, assumes that there are two parents present in the home. Homeschooling as a single parent is a whole ‘nother ball of wax that I don’t feel at all equipped to address. For those homeschools where dad stays home and mom works—and I know of a few—just reverse the pronouns.
In our own family, my husband is very much interested and aware of what our children are learning. I’m not sure he really knows how our day works but he does usually know what we’re studying and what our struggles are. He often leads (hilarious) discussions with the boys about history and science, and we feel like he’s very much a part of our homeschool.
But he has also suffered from debilitating migraines—nearly every day for the last 2.5 years–so I can easily relate to the mom whose husband doesn’t help out simply because he doesn’t want to, whether it be with the housework or the lessons. The difference is that there’s no bitterness in my having to do it all alone, because I know he’ll help when he can. It’s a lot harder when your husband simply doesn’t think he needs to be involved.
So, what to do when Mom is not only the primary caregiver and teacher, but also the only parent with a real investment in the idea of homeschooling, with Dad as only a passive observer?
Talk to him about your day. How are the kids doing? What are you studying? Did little Susie say something adorable during math lessons today? Don’t say “I wish you were involved.” or otherwise make him feel guilty. Just speak to him about what’s going on, the same way you talk to him about needing to change the tires on the car. Don’t dominate the conversation with it, unless it really is grabbing his interest, but do make sure you’re letting him know how you’re doing. If you make it more real by sharing what happens when he’s not there, he may begin to be more receptive to the idea of helping.
Ask him to share his passion. Maybe he’s not interested in homeschooling because he feels clueless about teaching small (or not-so-small) children, but chances are there’s something he can share with his kids. Whether he’s a car lover or a computer geek, there is something he can do to help raise his children beyond bringing home a paycheck. He doesn’t even have to call it a lesson. It’s just being a dad.
Tell him you need help. If you’re like me, asking for help just isn’t something you do. Do it anyway. And (I’ve learned this the hard way) do it when you’re in a good mood, not a bad one, or it will end in a fight. It could be that your husband thinks your being at home all day means you should be able to handle all the housework by yourself, but you are a working mom! You’re just working at teaching. You’re not “just” a housewife. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that! See what I think of that here and here.) Be specific with your needs. “Sweetheart, it is so hard to do all these lessons and still keep the laundry under control. Could you either teach science on the weekends or fold a few loads of laundry while I do it?” Be creative. Don’t make it about how frustrated you are. Give him some simple steps he can take. Most men (not all, unfortunately) will be happy to help, but you have to give him an action item.
Work on your marriage. This may have less to do with your work-load or his interest than it has to do with the health of your relationship. Consider whether the two of you are growing apart, and affecting your children (not just their education) in the process. I’m not a relationship expert, so I’ll leave it at that.
Accept it. This is the route I’ve had to take, due to my husband’s chronic illness. Sometimes, it’s just going to feel like too much. Keep going, and you’ll learn how to prioritize and survive. It’s not optimal, but life rarely is.
Consider whether you should really be homeschooling. It is not often that I recommend a family give up homeschooling. I think that it is superior to public school and a great many private schools, and I’m glad it’s gaining such traction as an option. The assembly-line education model is being replaced by a decentralized, individualized approach that I whole-heartedly support. But if both parents aren’t on board, homeschooling can create marital strife. Homeschooling is not healthy if it is destroying your family. If your husband isn’t helping because he’s clueless, busy, or a bit lazy (hey, it happens), but he likes the idea, you can work on it! But if he’s actually just staging a sit-in protest because he doesn’t really want to do this, you need to seek other options unless and until he changes his mind. Notice that I said until he changes his mind, not until you change it for him. Sometimes you have to let it go for a while.
How about you, moms and dads? I know we’ve all struggled with delegating the duties of homeschooling at some point. What do you and your spouse do to make things run smoothly?