Dads Can Help with Child-Led Learning

Whenever we could, the main principle my husband and I tried to follow in our homeschool was child-led learning. Child-led learning is what I consider the most important principle of Montessori education – regardless of the child’s age. And child-led learning is often where dads – and grandpas – can help the most educationally.

I was a stay-at-home mom and my husband, Terry, worked full-time. I wasn’t about to ask Terry to help equally with the homeschooling. But he was an essential part of our homeschool anyway. Not just for the love and financial support he gave us but also for the many ways in which he helped encourage our children’s interests. And even though our children, Christina and Will, are now 20 and 25, Terry continues to encourage their interests.

Dad and Sports

Like many dads, Terry loves sports. He was always happy to help Will and Christina with their sports-related interests, whether they were learning to ride a bike, ski, roller blade, skate, golf, play tennis, learn karate – or participate in any other sport.

As a family, we went to a homeschool co-op roller skating Friday – and then joined a roller skating dance club when Christina was 5 and Will was 10. We also spent many magical days skiing as a family and even went to family ski camp two years in a row.

When Will and Christina became competitive figure skaters, Terry and I watched countless figure-skating training sessions and competitions. When Terry couldn’t attend a competition (especially when Will and Christina competed internationally), he talked with Will and Christina both before and after each competition by phone.

Although ballet may be considered by many an art rather than a sport, we used dance for part of our high-school physical-education credits because of the physical exercise and skill involved. Terry helped with that as well. Dance was always one of Christina’s very favorite activities, so Terry encouraged her to dance spontaneously at home. He attended every dance recital and watched every dance movie Christina wanted to watch (and that’s a lot of dance movies)!

Dad and Reading/Storytelling

Will and Christina always loved reading and stories. Terry supported their interest with lots of reading aloud. Terry, Will, and Christina went through the entire Redwall series. Terry also made up creative stories for them at bedtime. When Christina wanted to study vocabulary, Terry created interesting sentences using new vocabulary words.

Will (6 and one half), Christina (1 and one half), and Terry at the Milwaukee Public Museum,

Dad and Building

Will enjoyed building with wooden blocks and Legos. Terry built lots of wooden constructions, Lego designs, and even an igloo-like snow fort with Will. Of course, Christina was always welcomed in the construction adventures.

Dad and Music

Terry is a proficient guitarist. When Christina wanted to learn piano, he bought a piano and helped her with music theory. Later, he taught both Will and Christina to play guitar when they showed interest.

Dad and Field Trips/Road Trips

Even though I was the adult who attended field trips with our home school co-op, Terry often organized family field trips to nature areas. He enjoyed road trips as much as the rest of the family, and those road trips and educational stops became regular parts of our homeschooling.

Grandpa and Child-Led Learning

Will (15), Christina (10), and Grandpa on the way to Grandpa and Grandma's garden

Although my father was the only grandpa still alive to help with our child-led learning, he did an awesome job. As a farmer and electrical contractor, he had a farm with fascinating activities for both Will and Christina. He was always willing to show Will and

Christina how things operated, give rides on the farm equipment (especially important to a vehicle-obsessed boy like Will), help Will and Christina learn about gardening, and show them how to make homemade ice cream.

Even though I was considered our homeschool teacher, I was certainly not the only person involved in Will and Christina’s education. The most important men in our lives showed that learning was important to them as well. Whether or not you homeschool, how do the men in your family help with child-led learning?

We are proud to have Deb Chitwood guest post for us a second time!  (Her first post was Top 3 Montessori Principles You Can Use with Your Preschooler.)  Please read more about Deb and the Montessori method on her blog Living Montessori Now.


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    Oh yes, Dad can contribute in so many ways! Thanks :)

  2. 3

    Thanks for your comment, Cheryl! It’s interesting that all the things a dad contributes can seem even clearer once children are grown up. I know I can certainly see the positive effects of the time and encouragement my husband gave our children.

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    Many of the things you mention can be done by the woman in the house too. I was a stay at home dad for both my first born son and daughter. So some role reversal meant that I did quite a number of the things that SAHMs usually do. I reckon that Dad’s should play a more vital role in transmitting values and culture, in addition to providing supplementary help with parenting. In my post Dads Play a Vital Role I focused as much on the relationship between dad and mum, as opposed to what exact activity Dad can take over in his spare time for the kids. Check out my survey results in that post. Cheers, COlin

  4. 5

    Thanks so much for your comment, Colin! I agree there would be some role reversal for stay-at-home dads. I just checked out your post. Excellent points about the father’s role! I like your thoughts about parent-as-coach and parent-as-instructor. And there’s no doubt that children learn MUCH from how their dad treats their mom. I always appreciated that my children were able to learn positive marriage values from watching both their parents and grandparents.

    I was focusing on the educational/child-led parts of homeschool in this post, but your post is a great read about what fathers should strive for in their role as parent. Check it out, everyone!

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    The ‘parent-as-coach and parent-as-instructor’ was taken directly out of a page from B-school. We were in a course on leadership and looking at the idea of a ‘leader’ and a ‘manager’. I later applied that to my classes – coaching I reckoned sought to nurture the individual from an empathic point of view, whilst instructing sought to indoctrinate the individual against external benchmarks. Both important mind you, but need to be balanced in order to have healthy growth. :-)

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    Good points, Colin! Too much of parent-as-instructor with external benchmarks can be rather scary when viewed as creating a factory-worker mentality.

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    Deb – if only you were in my timezone. :-)

    The factory-worker mentality is spot on. You know, that exactly describes where I come from. But one always has the choice of what not to be or what not to transmit to one’s children. :-)

    Good discussion so far.


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    Thanks, Colin! It would be easier to have a collaborative group if it weren’t for this other-side-of-the-world thing! At least much can be done with the Internet! :)

    I think those of us who are able to spend lots of time with our children are really lucky. That time makes it more likely that our children will pick up our values – and, hopefully, those will be good ones!


  1. […] and Grandpa – participated in our homeschool. Follow me (aka “follow the blogger??”) to The Village of Moms to read […]

  2. […] Nature and Growing Plants without a Garden”. I wrote a guest post at A Nation of Moms called “Dads Can Help with Child-Led Learning” in which I also talked about how my kids’ grandpa, as well as their dad, was an important part of […]

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