A few years ago, our family made the decision that we would educate our kids from home. We had four kids, five and under and our youngest was three weeks old. I felt an enormous amount of pressure to prove that I had accomplished a lot with my kids. I dealt with the doubts and questions of family and friends, which only added to the pressure to produce results.
Our first two years did not go very well. I yelled a lot. I cried a lot. I felt like a failure a lot. I learned something in those two years, however. My kids were learning whether I was “teaching” them or not. Kids, by nature, are learners. They are constantly absorbing information from their surroundings. That’s why they need to play, to be outside, to listen to good music, to experience great literature. I learned that education did not need to be so complicated, structured, or pressure-filled. I put away my expectations for my kids to perform. They don’t need to prove to me that they’re learning things, because they do it naturally anyway.
I learned that educating my kids was more about introducing them to great things and letting their curiosity take over. I did things like reading aloud great books (I actually chose some of my favourite novels from my childhood and let them see me get excited to read them). I started taking them to a conservation area every week for a full morning and letting them explore and be fascinated. I introduced them to great music of different genres. I had them help me with different household chores and projects (it’s amazing how kids enjoy being productive and contributing to something useful). This being said, I do use a curriculum each day. I chose one that only takes about an hour and a half to finish and is largely centred around reading aloud together.
The greatest benefit of home education has been the connections I make with my kids. I get to be there when they understand something new for the first time. I get to hear them sound out a full word on their own. I get to talk them through difficult math problems. I get to talk to them about history and hear their thoughts about what they learn.
Parents, I know that this can be a hard transition. I understand the fear of having your kids fall behind. I know the pressure to recreate the classroom in your home. This can be a blessing if you let it. Your kids can be free to explore things that interest them. You can be free to experience their interests with them.
I want to challenge you to take some of the pressure to perform off of yourself and your kids and to watch them learn things without being prodded.
Most of you will eventually get back into the routine of sending your kids to school. I hope you will count this break as a privilege. You get to connect with your kids in new ways that will help to shape who they will become. This is totally possible. You can do it.
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So, it’s day 24,234,634 of self isolation and now you have to add “teacher” to your resume. First of all, you’ve got this. Yes you. As a dad, you may not have gone to teacher’s college, but you can do this. How? Well here are a few pointers.
Stay informed. If you are stuck in the house together, find out what the school’s expectations are for your kids. If you have shared access or regular visits, keep up to date with how your kids are doing with their school work. Find out if there are assignments that need to be done, or if there are any particular struggles your kids are having with a certain subject. Make your time and visits fun but don’t make it that only one partner is carrying the burden of school. Have school as part of your time together. As dads, we can step up and be a powerful and important voice to encourage our kids at this time.
Show interest in learning. “Boring” is a dangerous word. Take time to know what they are doing in their schoolwork and help them see the joy in learning. That can look like a lot of different things, but the main thing is for you, yourself, to enjoy learning. Share with them a subject that you are interested in and let them see your passion. For a child to see their dad excited about something he has learned can make a big impact. If they are stuck on their schoolwork, help them find some resources that can help them along and get them to look at the problem differently.
Get help. You are not alone in this. Reach out to your children’s school and share with them the problems you are having. They will be more than happy to help, and they will be impressed that, as a dad, you are involved in their schoolwork.
Don’t look at this as another burden, but an opportunity. Maybe you are having a hard time mustering up enthusiasm for learning. Have a conversation with your kids and see if there is a mutual skill that you can learn together. Check out some of these places for inspiration. Here , here and here.
Enjoy learning together.
Dave Drabiuk is head of the Men's Program at the Belleville Pregnancy and Family Care Centre. All men are welcome to meet with Dave on Wednesdays. Men's Program runs 4pm-5:30pm every Wednesday. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.