This has to be one of the most asked questions in the alternative education community, worldwide.
How to get the dad’s on board.
On any morning, in one of the large home ed groups on social media, you’ll see this question, and underneath, a range of responses, none of them from the dads.
Well I decided to actually ask one! The father of my children, who, at the initial mention of ‘homeschooling’, several years ago, WAS one of these dads. Slightly resistant, worried that the kids might not learn the things he believed they needed to (reading and maths would get mentioned regularly!)
I’ve seen everything from ‘is there a course I can send my husband to’, to ‘leave the bastard’. Seriously.
And really, from my perspective, this is yet another point of friction that might be a pointer to just how different men and women are, particularly when it relates to what our roles in a family might be.
When I asked him to recall, all those years before, what his reasoning was for feeling more hesitant than me when we were considering ditching school (meanwhile, and over the past several years, he has become possibly an even bigger advocate for the unschooling life than me!), his main concerns really were driven by his role as protector of our family.
He saw (and still does) his role as one of supporting his children to grow into adults who will thrive and be self supporting.
Notwithstanding the ‘deschooling’ or unlearning that might go into unpacking the notion of what it means to thrive or even what it might look like to be ‘self supporting’, he felt like his role was to grow children to adulthood and that they will become reasonably well adjusted adults who can care for themselves and participate in society.
Which really is the role of all parents right? Mum, dad, man, woman. If we are parents, our sole job is to grow our kids into adults who look and act as adult humans ‘should’ look and act (the core purpose of ‘deschooling’ really is to pick all that apart but that’s another blog post!). All the peripheral stuff forms the ‘how’.
And primarily I think that’s where most dad’s sit. In the HOW. They are, generally speaking, far more likely to operate as the engineers of the family where perhaps the mother is the engine.
Our roles and innate gifts are different and it’s possible that many dad’s are viewing this from the point of view of a provider who is being asked to abandon everything he has always believed about children and education - this can be quite destabilising and risks his world view and indeed the core of his role.
What if it doesn’t ‘work’? What if his kids don’t thrive? What if they don’t turn out to be self supporting and his role as provider for the family extends beyond the usual ‘childhood’ years because his homeschooled kids can’t get jobs?!
In the same way as a mother may link her self worth and identity to how neat their child’s hair is or whether they say ‘please and thankyou’ (idea’s worth challenging in my opinion, but let’s not digress!), a father may well do the same, in relation to ‘how well their child does’. Extrapolate to the future adults they are raising and having a child who, for example is unemployed, not sure of their lifes direction etc, challenges their very ‘dad core’.
I haven’t ultimately found that forcing a view onto another helps brings our various views on things, closer together. I have always found it more effective to understand very genuine concerns and use that as the launching point for deeper conversation.
If a dad expresses concern over whether a child outside of school will learn to read and write, simply pushing that fear back to them with a ‘that’s ridiculous’ might not be as helpful as ‘yes I hear you and I wonder what we can do to explore how to reassure ourselves that our children can learn well, outside of school’....perhaps by connecting with other families who are already doing it, introducing dad’s to eachother so that they can explore their own connections in that community, observing your children together and noticing where the learning is happening…
In short, by working together to ensure that both parents really do feel that educating their children beyond the school system CAN and will fulfill both of their roles, by producing children who are confident in their own skin; children who are able to learn the tools of their culture (while perhaps going on to challenge some of the ‘must do’s’) and children who will go to become happy, healthy adults who live in their purpose and contribute meaningfully to their world.
It’s worth saying here, that I am speaking through the lense of a mother who has been married to the same man for over two decades. I do not have experience working with a parent who lives in a different home, OR having to navigate co-parenting with a hostile parent. I can absolutely signpost to mothers AND fathers who have but this is not my area of expertise.
(A large part of my own deschooling and deprogramming, has been to accept that one cannot speak to everyone at the same time AND that it’s often more helpful to be clear about the breadth and depth of ones own experience).
Are you a dad who’s been hesitant? I’d love to hear from you!