There are many scary words in the English language. They don’t look scary at first, but collected and connected in certain ways, they can become downright creepy, like the image of the innocent doll head on a robotic spider toy in “Toy Story”. Apart, they are innocuous – together, they can give you recurring nightmares. The following phrase is an example of this frightening effect, wrought upon me by these words -
“We need you to coordinate the homeschool dads’ luncheon.”
(Cue the scary “Psycho” violin screeching effect)
This picture is more appealing than that sentence. By far.
Given the title of this blog, you would think the term ‘homeschool dad’ is not scary. No, not in itself. But connected to the words “coordinate” and “luncheon”, it becomes more terrifying than the prospect of wrestling a tiger and a bear at once while bound about the ankles with duct tape and armed with a plastic knife. In other words, quite an unfair fight. As a part of several homeschool organizations over the years, I’ve never seen an effective gathering of dads in a homeschool environment. That is not to say they are not AT or IN homeschool environments. They are often teachers in co-ops, helpers in the clean-up or set – up, and of course they often accompany their families and wives. But to organize them to gather at one time is a rare event indeed.
A few dads in my last support group talked of having Dad’s Night Out to match the ever popular Mom’s Night Out, where our wives reveled in gatherings like dinners at Olive Garden or White Elephant exchanges. But the Dad’s Night Out usually means one thing – that Mom gets the kids for the night, and since Mom is usually already with the kids all day…well, I think you see the problem. Not to mention the seemingly incompatible schedules of our jobs – whether working 9 to 5, 6 – 12, or 12 – 8, they never lined up to allow us to meet at a single opportunity. So the idea of the homeschool dad meet-and-greet died away faster than a fly at the Frog Family Reunion.
Thus, when those words “Homeschool Dads’ Luncheon” were uttered at the planning meeting for our Classical Conversations Practicum, the event where our local homeschool community shares ideas and information with our parents about classical education, skepticism was my familiar and dependable response. I and my fellow homeschool dad Ray were enlisted to invite the dads to come to lunch on the second day of the convention to eat, fellowship and network.
No surprise that creating a Facebook event drew hardly a whisper of interest. Dads are not often the most prolific Facebook users, in their defense. We had about 3 guys RSVP by a week before the luncheon. Ok, I said to myself. We’ll exchange shrugs, moan a little about how tough it was to get guys together, and we’ll eat our sandwiches and call it a day.
However, by the first day of the practicum we had 12 on the list, as many more dads arrived at the Practicum than we expected. By the end of the first day we had 15 and anticipated perhaps 18. On day 2, which was the day of the luncheon, we feared not having enough space. Perhaps pictures will replace the thousand words I’m using to describe our turnout, although I didn’t manage to get pictures of all the men that were there.
In all, 28 dads showed up. In a homeschool convention that had about 100 registrants, that means about 30% were men. That may not seem big, but to me, a man that has almost never had another gentlemen within a mile to talk to at homeschool support events, this was nothing shore of miraculous and inspiring.
It’s not just about the numbers either. Every man spoke about his love for his kids,about his desire to assist his wife in a better way, about his passion to see authentic faith and morality passed on to their children through this journey of family learning. Some were just considering homeschooling. Some had been doing it for over a decade. Men from cultures from Korea to Cuba were able to connect on a single focus – that they (read: we) want God to be the center of the educational universe through homeschooling. And we agreed that we will continue to meet monthly or quarterly. 28 dads later, we are stronger and more encouraged than we were when we were all expecting to be numerically scarce and relationally disconnected.
While Classical Conversations was the medium that brought this particular gathering about, I pray that it will spread to every homeschool group in the country and beyond. Every homeschooling father should be encouraged to continue to reach out and keep connecting with your brothers in the fight to give their kids the most important educational gift of all – the gift of a Godly father’s influence.