He just turned Toby Keith on Spotify after a half hour of listening to Spamalot. We each have a glass in hand: Me with Spanish Temperanillo and Him a glass of Moosehead. “I want to talk about me,” the song from Toby Keith, is playing, coincidentally…and we will talk about him…because I’ve asked if I can interview my husband, the homeschool dad.
But first, I share some things I wouldn’t have thought I’d see this homeschool dad do with our four kids…
- Sew up a banana for histology (raw chicken is too unsanitary he thinks)
- Teach “Wood cutting” for kids
- Do medical rounds with the kids (on our African trips to Ghana and Kenya)
- Canoe management (cause we live on a river)
- Brush fire management (cause we live in a forest)
- Bring them into the operating room as he was giving anaesthesia for surgical patients (in Africa, of course–can’t do that here)
- Discourage them from saying the ‘p’ word (no, not that adult p word, the three year old p word) but memorizing together the lyrics from Broadway’s Something Rotten so even the teenager is learning ‘new’ words outside her appropriate repertoire
- Discuss gold and silver value versus stock purchases, and have them purchase their choice of investments
- Theoretically read the assigned daily chapter of American history but instead riff on that time period (and the kids loving it)
On to the interview…
You’ve been a homeschool dad for almost ten years. Four kids, two official household moves; two African trips bookended by Europe; trips all over America and Canada, even the Arctic. You’re a medical doctor who has delivered babies, intubated and anesthetized, you run codes in emerg and lead the staff at our local hospital.
Tell me how your two worlds differ.
The older I get, the less I think they differ, because it’s almost always just about the person right in front of you right now. And trying to make them feel cared about or worthy or assisted.
I used to think that one had this bigger, larger meaning, but it’s just not true. All of our interactions have meaning.
But on a non-metaphysical level… how are they different?
There’s a familiarity with the people at home and a familiarity with the information I already know at home. I’ve had my own educational journey already.
But at work, sometimes that’s true too (the information is familiar), and sometimes it’s different, because patient scenarios can be novel or uncertain.
Now that I’ve spent a year in a chief of staff role, I’m amazed at the cross-applicability of leadership psychology in any set of human interactions, adults at work, or children at home.
The education I have gained as a homeschool mama has been extensive. What about you?
It’s not that I can’t get new learning but everything I’ve homeschooled to date, I knew. I’m homeschooling from my bank of knowledge already. And maybe that speaks to how I should be going a little deeper, learning how to repair automotive engines as my educational strategy, but I’m not at the moment.
What are some of the interests of your kids that have expanded your education?
Well, dance, choir, Minecraft.
Where does your focus lie?
Math help. Seriously trying to navigate math in a practical way.
In a very practical North American way, I want my kids to have true facility in imperial and metric math concepts and being able to translate the two. I try to enforce that every way I can get. To teach them to handle day to day math problems without feeling overwhelmed.
And I want them to understand current affairs and economics which I feel that the public school systems ignores and spends little energy on. To our citizen’s detriment. To our democracy’s detriment. If you don’t want to create sheeple, you’re going to have to teach economic and political literacy.
The problem with our education system is that people focus solely on social justice and don’t have an economic or political literacy.
How do you understand yourself as a dad before you first started homeschooling and now, ten years later?
Is it only ten years? (Said seriously.)
I used to be the guy that was going to be the comic relief, the fun guy, at the end of the day, or the middle of the day. Now I have to be more proactive and own the subject material.
But you as a parent?
I’m just older, wiser, probably a little more patient. What work I might focus on. I appreciate different learning styles and listen to cues that sometimes someone is just not understanding.
How has your understanding of yourself influenced your homeschool parent role?
I’m aware I have educational biases and that certain subject areas are more important to me than others. I am perfectly well suited to teach certain subject areas and less so for others. Whether it’s fine arts or some of the social sciences, I’m probably less equipped. In that way it’s helpful to have someone that is complimentary.
How about your personal growth? How does that affect your homeschool parenting?
There’s a difference between wisdom and learning. A moment of support might be needed instead of downloading data.
What have you learned about yourself in the last ten years?
I’m not easy to satisfy. I’m not happy with mediocrity. Contentment can be elusive.
What you learned about yourself through the kids….
I can make people anxious.
Experiencing this lifestyle as a couple, but existing as separate entities, how do you feel you are different as a homeschool parent than me?
I’m way more willing to go with the flow and not have a checklist each day.
I freelance. Stream of consciousness.
I’m better at math.
I don’t care about art history.
Writing is less an artistic endeavor and more about synthesizing and cogently expressing ideas. The art of writing is cogently articulating your particular point of view or sharing a key summation. (Said like an experienced essay writing/debate team president who hasn’t written any poems lately. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead!)
Your favourite aspect of homeschooling…
Scheduling freedom. I don’t want to be told Wednesday is soup and crackers night at the kindergarten. I don’t have to dance to anybody else’s dance.
As a libertarian, I reject the monolithic government point of view that is foisted upon our children. And I value the ability to intelligently analyze multiple ways of approaching problems and thinking about the world around us.
Your least favourite aspect of homeschooling…
How it affects my sleep post-night shift. People are in the house.
What have you learned in order to deal with that?
White noise is your friend. Lower your expectations.
Would you recommend homeschooling?
Yes, I wear it as a badge of honour saying that I am owning my child’s development and that I’m not going to have educational remorse after the fact because I wasn’t able to respond faster to things that came up.
It facilitates so many field trips, like our different travels. We’ve experienced those things together instead of me doing something outside the family. And group Jeopardy games, or group phys ed: there’s cohesion.
Time together. (I asked him to simplify the following sentence:) Participating in recreational endeavors with kinfolk has consistently shown to enhance long term family of origin social cohesion. (Oh my goodness, giggle. He came up with:) ‘Those that play together stay together’. (Yup.)
What would you say as encouragement to all those homeschool fathers reading this because their wives are insisting they listen…
Hi Jack. At least there’s one of you. Who would you like in the World Series this year?
Don’t let the chicks ruin our kids. We don’t need a world of art history majors. Do something brother!
And also…(asking him to be serious)…
Be humble, be generous with your time and explanations. Do something (doesn’t matter what the something is), and let your kids do something with you. It might be all they want from you anyway.
Do you have to have a post-graduate degree to engage your kiddos? What do you need?
No. You need foundational, entry level knowledge. You need a savvy, and share your savvy, whatever it is. Education doesn’t make a better person. Grit and integrity account for a lot. If you have lived with integrity and grit, you have learned something, so share that.
There’s a lot of dads out there that have voices in their homeschool worlds, but don’t often get heard. Thank you for sharing your perspective.
The interview ends as he heads to Spotify to choose new music: “Wanna guess movie themes?” He plays the theme from Rocky, Sherlock Holmes, Jaws, American Beauty, Braveheart, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Gone with the Wind, Schindler’s List, ET, Harry Potter…