Homeschooling: When Doubting Thomas Is
Your Husband…Or Yourself
By Linda Dobson
I’d love to report that when homeschooling is the topic of spousal discussions, it produces an instant meeting of the minds. This isn’t always the case. While in some households Dad tries his darnedest to sway Mom, more often it appears to be the opposite scenario.
A Homeschooling Trial Period
Anecdotal evidence suggests that a homeschooling trial period is often an acceptable approach with a doubting spouse. “Let’s try homeschooling for [insert as many years as you think you can get away with], dear. We’ll see if we recognize any benefits for the children and for the family, then revisit the decision when the trial period is over.” (It has been reported that this works best when accompanied by a tray of warm chocolate chip cookies.)
A trial homeschooling period gives you and your children time not only to get comfortable with homeschooling but also to gently increase your spouse’s understanding. Dinner can be a time of sharing the day’s activities and relating what was learned that day. During the course of a trial year, your spouse can participate in weekend and vacation field trips, read bedtime stories, share his skills and hobbies with the kids, attend evening support group activities, and meet other homeschooling families. All the while you can help him feel as great a part of the homeschooling experience as possible, by keeping him posted on your activities and soliciting advice and support. Just as you will sprinkle your home with books for your children to pick up, choice books and newspaper and magazine articles about homeschooling can be left around the house for your spouse. (Bathrooms are popular strategic locations.)
“At first, the biggest hurdle to overcome was convincing my husband that this was something I could do,” says Karen Bigalke. “Even though I felt homeschooling was the choice to make, it is hard to do if your spouse isn’t behind you. Once we got going, though, and the children progressed and surpassed expectations, the hurdle faded away.”
Doubting Self with Homeschooling
It’s a rare homeschooling parent who can say that he never entertained either subtle or blatant doubt in the homeschooling decision. The decision may initially appear to be about choosing an education for the children, but at the same time, it can feel like one of life’s tougher tests for you.
I wish I could give you a magic pill to wipe away all your doubts and fears, but there isn’t one. We all move through the doubt in our own way, at our own pace, so naturally it will last longer for some than for others. I’ve heard a million reasons for new homeschooling parents to doubt themselves; you’re not the first with your reason(s), and you surely won’t be the last. Experience is the magic that eventually washes doubt away, if not always completely. In the meantime, cherish those additional moments you are getting to spend with your children. Take courage from these.
“Unlike in many families, it was my husband who brought the idea home,” says Lori Kephart. “I told him school was the reward for mommies who didn’t kill their kids before then! Despite his interest in the idea, I still felt it wasn’t right for me. I wasn’t patient enough. I wasn’t ‘that kind’ of mom. I barely finished high school. How could I possibly teach?”
Dear hubby encouraged Lori to spend their son’s year before kindergarten in a homeschooling experiment to see if it could work. “Our son, Bob, was delighted at the idea of ‘playing school’ every day.” Lori adds, “I had every intention (sort of actual sabotage) of proving to hubby that there was no way that this would work.”
Not only was homeschooling easier than Lori expected; it was more fun, too. “I’m not a good ‘play’ mommy, but I’m good at reading aloud, and I like talking about the things we read,” she says. “I discovered I had a knack for creating curriculum from field trips and library books. I discovered that as a postcareer mom who had trouble ‘fitting’ as a stay-at-home mom, I felt satisfied in my new role as teacher, and I loved seeing the sparkle when something just clicked. It’s like their first steps and first words. I’d never want to miss it!”
Today the plan is for Bob and his two younger siblings to spend all of their school years at home. “I am 110 percent convinced that homeschooling is the answer for us,” Lori asserts, “and Hubby’s been gracious enough not to say I told you so.”