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March-April 2011 Selected Content

Publisher's Note - Helen Hegener

Homeschooling Dads


At the end of this issue is a wonderful essay by Linda Dobson, who's written for this magazine longer than any other columnist, about many of her longtime friends and associates, who she playfully but seriously tags as "the moms who grew homeschooling." It's a fun read, but it's also an important lesson in the history of homeschooling, and how we got where we are in the greater scheme of things.

Linda's wonderful tribute to those pioneering moms is only half the story, though. Alongside almost every one of those moms was a dad who also grew homeschooling, whether by taking an active and engaged hand in the learning that was taking place, or by simply providing the atmosphere and the wherewithal for his family to pursue a kind of learning and living together which made sense to them.

The homeschooling fathers who have taken steps to support the movement beyond their own families' involvement have made a huge difference in the history of homeschooling. One of the first was Donn Reed, whose pioneering book, The First Home-School Catalogue: A Handbook & Directory (Brook Farm Books, 1982), was applauded by the author and founder of the groundbreaking Growing Without Schooling, John Holt, who wrote, "I like it very much. A wonderful venture." And it was just that for Donn and his family. Publication of the book led to orders and letters of appreciation from all over the world, and from that time until his death in 1995, Donn was constantly editing and revising his books on homeschooling.

Donn contributed many articles to the early issues of this magazine, and his clear, thoughtful writing was always well-received. In 1991 he and his wife and partner, Jean, wrote: "This is, and will continue to be, a period of rapid and radical change--in society, in government, and in the ecology of our planet. We have the duty, as parents and educators, to help our children meet those changes and challenges creatively and responsibly, and to help them develop skills and attitudes with which they can make positive contributions to the world. The abilitiy to evaluate, to make responsible judgements, to resolve conflicts peacefully, and to create and maintain strong families will be of much more worth to our children and to the world than degrees in business management, welding, or engineering. Of equal importance, we want our children to be happy now, as children. Childhood is important in and of itself; it shouldn't be spent only in preparation for adulthood."

Another pioneering homeschool dad was David Colfax, who, with his wife Micki, homeschooled four sons on a remote homestead in northern California in the 1970's and '80's. Three of the Colfax boys did undergraduate work at Harvard and then went on to either Harvard or Yale for graduate degrees, at a time when homeschoolers going to college was still newsworthy enough to make headlines and to secure them spots on the major talk shows.

The Colfaxes were role models for an entire generation of homeschoolers, and David and Micki wrote books like Homeschooling for Excellence (Grand Central Publishing, 1988) and Hard Times in Paradise (Grand Central Publishing, 1992). They described their experiences in homeschooling in down-to-earth terms, explaining that it was a trial-and-error effort, and encouraging other homeschooling families to not be afraid of trying their own ideas, of trusting their own approaches to learning and living with their children.

Half a decade after the Colfaxes' Homeschooling for Excellence was published, a public high school English teacher in Washington state, whose wife had suffered anxiety attacks over sending their oldest son to school, wrote the critically acclaimed Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense (Mariner Books, 1993), written with a sure author's hand which augured his later prizewinning bestseller, Snow Falling on Cedars (Vintage, 1995). Guterson wrote "...teaching is an act of love before it is anything else," and, on standardized testing: "...we have yet to formulate a satisfactory description of what learning is about, of what it is we seek to measure when we measure learning."

Many other homeschooling fathers have written thoughtfully about homeschooling over the years, and several have written for this magazine, including Earl Gary Stevens, Jeff Kelety, Steve Thom, Jim Dunn, Gary Wyatt, Larry Kaseman (with his wife, Susan), and David Albert; the last two are still writing columns for every issue. Also contributing to every issue, not as a writer but as the technical expert who makes it all happen, is the co-founder of this magazine, Mark Hegener, whose essays have appeared in this space from time to time. A favorite excerpt is from his 1991 Crafting Ships, written while watching his son carve and construct a wooden boat:

The lessons learned will be carried with Chris alone, each lesson proving its worth in its own time, from now throughout his lifetime. His life will test his learning, his desire will hone the experience and help him build on what he set out to do. If, many years from now, he sets out to build a full scale vessel, the lessons learned today will be part of that project. If he never choses to build a sailing ship the lessons will be there for those other projects as well.

While the homeschooling dads named here have contributed visibly through their writing and activism for family-centered learning, there are hundreds of thousands of fathers whose quiet support and dedication to their families has made all the difference in the futures of their children. Many of these homeschooling fathers are now grandfathers, watching a new generation of dads learn the same lessons they learned about parenting, and about learning how to learn. It's a never-ending cycle, the circle of life.

© 2011, Larry and Susan Kaseman


Read more about Homeschooling, Homeschooling Dads, Becoming a Homeschooling Father and being a Home School Father


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