- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 20, 2007

I recently was invited to participate in an interview about home-schooling on “The Tom deSabla Show” on WNET-AM (1160). Three callers to the show, plus the host, were home-schooling or considering home-schooling. Here’s an interesting note: All were men.

It was inspiring to hear how they help their children learn or they share educational duties with mom and how concerned they are with finding good learning materials or opportunities for interaction with others.

This is a phenomenon seen frequently among home-schooling families: dads being actively involved in their children’s education. In some home-schooling families, parents work different shifts in their respective workplaces so they can share the instructional role. In others, the father assumes the main instructional role, so the studies take place during his time at home.

Some fathers work from home to be available to their children at any time.

My husband and I alternated the primary teaching role with our children, depending on the employment situation of each of us. During my teaching stints, I emphasized a lot of English, science, math and history.During his, they learned more Asian and Japanese subjects, such as Japanese language studies and some classic children’s literature.

My husband always has cared about physical education to a greater degree, so he involved our children in running, gymnastics and martial arts. I took them to the library and introduced them to the great books and great authors.

Caring fathers can have a huge impact on their children’s exploration of their world and of knowledge. I remember hearing about a successful prison outreach project that provided inmates with Mother’s Day cards and help writing messages. The volunteers were inundated by prisoners who wanted to send cards to their mothers. They returned with Father’s Day cards a month later but were shocked that few prisoners had any desire to contact, thank or relate to their fathers — if they even knew their fathers or knew where to send a card.

This underlines the crucial role of fathers in children’s lives: Effort and connection are critical, and active daily involvement is irreplaceable. Think about it. We have about 18 years to transfer our knowledge, good habits and ethical standards to our children. After that, they basically will be out in the world as independent adults, equipped with whatever we have provided.

If you had to make an inventory of the qualities that you have found lead to success in life, what kinds of things would you include? Diligence? Honesty? Math skills? Literacy? Fluency in languages? Musical ability? Take a look at that list and see which ones you have passed along to your children. If you have something they need, please teach it. You have tremendous power, whether you know it or not.

Here’s a little secret I have learned: All children want to please their parents. They want to see parents smile with pride and be delighted with something their children have done. If you can provide lots of opportunities for your children to show you their accomplishments, and you are really enjoying the results, you’ll be astounded by how much they will do willingly.

By the way, dads, your love and attention don’t have to be limited to your own children. If you can manage to let some others tag along when you are doing some of these things, you can provide a great experience for other children as well. Your children will be able to play the role of guide and interpreter to the others, showing, “This is how we do this as a family,” which can help develop positive bonds as well.

Whether sailing a boat, baiting a hook, tinkering with engines, painting a picture or wrestling with math, a father’s presence as a guide and audience to children is a powerful force in helping the youngsters feel capable, secure and enthusiastic about the challenges of life.

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer who lives in Maryland.

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