Homeschool Dad—From Principal to Participant

Jan 1, 2001

by Terry Bowman

Attention homeschool dad! Yes, you are the one. The school disciplinarian, the principal, the one who keeps law and order, the one who talks softly and carries a “Big Stick.” You are also the counselor who encourages your wife as she diligently strives to educate your children. You are the provider, the one who works outside the home in order to pay the teacher and to pay for tuition and school supplies. However, when it comes to the education process, your role is greatly limited: listening to a child read, conducting flashcard drills and solving an occasional math problem. Sound familiar? These are all roles that I have had in the past, seldom getting involved in the actual education process.

We have homeschooled for over five years, but it was approximately two years ago when I discovered my primary role in the education process is to read aloud several hours a week to the family. It all started when we decided to supplement history lessons by reading historical fiction and biographies to the children. We soon discovered several unexpected benefits of reading aloud to the children.

The first benefit of reading aloud is that it promotes family time. “Couch time,” as my wife calls it, is a time when everyone gathers in one room to listen to Daddy read. It is a time when children still desire to snuggle up against Daddy as he reads. My heart melts when I hear one of my children yell, “Turn the TV off. Daddy’s going to read!” or hear my children plead, “Don’t stop. Read another chapter, Daddy.”

The benefits of reading aloud go beyond “couch time.” Another benefit is that it provides a wonderful opportunity to teach children excellence of character. As a child I admired a number of professional athletes who served as positive role models. I challenge you to look around and identify some positive role models for your children. It is a very difficult task in today’s self-serving society. As dads, we need to present ourselves as Christian role models. However, children tend to identify better with role models their own age. Through carefully selected character-building books we can provide our children with these positive role models. These are books whose main characters are initially of poor character: selfish, conceited, dishonest, greedy and lacking faith in God. Through a series of crises and challenges and some strong positive role model in their life, the main character is transformed into a person of excellent character: honest, generous, kind, a person of faith and high moral integrity. There are lots of wonderful character-building books available. Our family especially enjoys Focus on the Family’s Christian Heritage Series by Nancy Rue.

A third benefit is that reading aloud to your children stimulates creativity and imagination. Unlike television and electronic games, which leave very little to the imagination, reading aloud forces our listeners to use their imagination to picture the scene unfolding in the story and to become the main character. This became very evident to me a few years ago when I read the very sad conclusion of the novel, Where the Red Fern Grows. Upon reading of the death of the young boy’s coon dogs, two blue-tick hounds that he had raised and trained from pups, I raised my eyes from the book and saw tears on all of my listeners’ faces. Their imaginations had enabled them to feel both the joys and the sorrows of the main character, to be a part of the story. They were able to feel the smothering licks of the two blue-tick puppies, to hear the deep bellow of Little Ann and Ole Dan on the trail of a raccoon and to feel the boy’s heart break upon their death. Later after seeing the movie, I recall the children’s comment that they liked the book better than the movie. I think it was because they had become more involved in the story as listeners and had greater freedom to use their imaginations to picture the story from their own perspective.

A fourth benefit of reading aloud to our children is that it provides a great opportunity to instruct our children. Situations arise in the story that naturally provoke the question; “Do you think they made the right decision? What would you have done? What do you think will happen next?” These are questions that promote deeper thought and help the children apply the truths and lessons of the story to their own lives. Reading aloud to our children also increases their vocabulary. Often as I read, someone will ask the question that stirs every homeschool mom’s heart, “Mom, what does that word mean?”

The last, but certainly not the least, benefit of reading aloud to our children is that it encourages them to love to read. Reading aloud is simply an advertisement to read. It is so important that our children develop the hunger to read. Avid readers are life-long learners; they are more likely to excel in today’s constantly changing workplace as they are not hesitant to turn to books and manuals for solutions. What a joy it is to see a child reading in bed by flashlight, sitting on the steps engrossed in a book, reading at the dinner table, or sprawled on the library floor reading amid a pile of books.

So dads, the next time that you feel somewhat distant from the home education process, take off your principal’s hat and put on your participant’s hat; pick up a classic and read aloud to your children.

© October, 2000, by Terry Bowman, Terry Bowman and his wife Karen make their home near Wilmington, N.C., where they homeschool three children.

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