326 | Dads Can Homeschool, Too! (Jeannie Fulbright with Sean Sherrod)
Jeannie Fulbright interviews a dad who homeschools, Sean Sherrod. Jeannie and Sean discuss the issues that are unique to fathers who are the primary educator, as well as how having a father involved in the child's education benefits children. This podcast also encourages fathers, even those that work, to get involved in their children's education, because dads really can homeschool, too.
Sean Sherrod lives with his wife Melissa near Richmond Virginia. He is the primary educator of his two young children.
Jeannie Fulbright, a 24-year veteran homeschooler, is the author of the #1 best-selling, multi award-winning Apologia Young Explorer science series: Exploring Creation with Astronomy, Chemistry and Physics, Botany, Zoology, and Anatomy & Physiology. She is also the author of the action-packed historical time travel book series Rumble Tumbles Through Time, as well as preschool science books and activity kits, the Charlotte Mason Heirloom Planner, and many high-quality Charlotte Mason based products. Jeannie and her husband Jeff became empty nesters in 2019. All four of their children all went to the University of Georgia on scholarship (homeschooling works!). For more than 20 years Jeannie has traveled around the country speaking to homeschoolers at conventions, covering a plethora of topics from Charlotte Mason to marriage and prayer.
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Jeannie Fulbright Hello and welcome to The Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Jeannie Fulbright and I'm one of the hosts here on The Homeschool Solutions Show. While the title of the show is Homeschool Solutions, we don't pretend to have all the answers. Each week, we bring you encouraging conversations from this busy and blessed journey of educating our children at home. But it is our hope that this podcast will point you to Jesus Christ that you may seek His counsel as you train your children the way they should go. We're so glad you joined us for today's conversation! Before we start the episode, I'd like to thank the sponsor of the Homeschool Solutions Show: Medi-Share. Medi-Share is an affordable and Biblical health care alternative. Find out more about their ongoing support of homeschooling families just like ours at MyChristianCare.org. Now on to today's show.
Jeannie Fulbright Welcome to the Homeschool Solutions Show. Today we have a very special guest--Sean Sherrard is here. Sean is a homeschooling father of two children. He's got a five-and-a-half-year-old girl and a three-and-a-half-year-old boy. And they live in Richmond, Virginia. And Sean has been--he is the primary homeschool parent. That means he's the one doing the homeschooling. And, Sean, we're so happy to have you here today!
Sean Sherrod So glad to be here.
Jeannie Fulbright And Sean is in good company. Do you realize that there are homeschooling dads from our past that have brought up the most amazing people? Wolfgang Mozart was homeschooled by his father. So was Florence Nightingale, and Woodrow Wilson, and Louisa May Alcott--the author of Little Women. And another author, Agatha Christie--exciting author of mysteries. And lots of important scientists were homeschooled by their father. One being Carl Linnaeus, who was the one who invented modern taxonomy and binomial nomenclature. So, Sean, the reason I invited you onto the show is because we met at the Great Homeschool Convention and we got to talking about some of the issues that have made being a homeschool dad more difficult. But before we get into that, I want to find out more about you. How did you become the primary homeschool parent?
Sean Sherrod My wife and I decided we'd wait a little while to have kids. We got married in 2003, and then we both worked full time. We traveled with my wife's work for a while, and then she wanted to go back to school. And then we ended up getting pregnant with our daughter in 2015/2016, and she was born in August of 2016. And my wife and I just made the decision that we didn't want someone else raising our kids. We didn't want to use childcare or daycare. My salary mostly would have gone to childcare and then the rest to taxes, and we just kind of made that decision that--she spent a lot of time extra going to school beyond just the four years for her Bachelor's of Science and Nursing--and we just decided that it would be a good fit for me to start staying home. And so I started doing that. I quit work right around November of 2016, and I'd been home with my daughter for two and a half years before we had my son. And I've been home with both of them for a total of three and a half years, but stay at home dad for five and a half now.
Jeannie Fulbright That's great! So what does...what do your days look like? What does your homeschool day look like?
Sean Sherrod Our homeschool day is: We are trying to walk a balance between the classical side, and also Charlotte Mason and nature journaling, and a few things in between that, which actually kind of falls into the Charlotte Mason. But we, um, we were doing--we just ended my daughter's preschool, or kindergarten year, with Classical Conversations just two weeks ago. And so that was usually meeting on Mondays for three hours. And so we would do that typically on Mondays and then the rest of the week is dedicated to--we do--we're using Saxon Math for math lessons, we are using Logic of English for reading. So typical days are basically dependent upon what the day's going on. We will dive into--lessons typically fall after breakfast and fall after about an hour outside time. Just being in nature--we take the dog for a walk--if we find anything interesting to explore or to dive into further, we will do that. If it's bumping into a retired neighbor in our neighborhood, we might end up getting stuck for longer than wanted in a conversation. But it all--I think it's all for the betterment of the kids. And so that's about our day. And about 2 to 3 times a month we will do a John Muir Laws nature journaling. We also do--we're trying to get through Ambleside's reading, as daunting of a task as that is, and we try to mix in narration with that as well. And now that my daughter has gotten really good at copying words, I will record her audio on her narration, and then I will either handwrite it or type it up and then give that to her for her to work on her copy work. And from the grand scheme of things, that's about our standard day, kind of lumped into a week, lumped into a month, to give a brief insight of the day-to-day.
Jeannie Fulbright I love hearing how much Charlotte Mason you have incorporated into your homeschooling. I think that is wonderful. Charlotte Mason really founded a lot of really strong principles of homeschooling, and being out in nature is such a great thing for everybody--parents and children. So that is...
Sean Sherrod Seeing the difference with my kids--with their focus--starting with that time outside, versus on days that we--if it's bad weather or someone's under the weather and we don't end up doing that--just their focus is--you can completely notice the difference of that. And usually halfway through the day my daughter will be like, 'Dad, can we just go outside for a minute?" "Yes, let's let's make that happen."
Jeannie Fulbright That's perfect. What a great...that is wonderful! I never even considered starting the day with nature study, but I can--knowing all the benefits that nature has on them mentally and intellectually and spiritually, socially--just every part of their being, being outdoors--of course, starting the day with nature study is actually brilliant!
Sean Sherrod And having a dog that is very persistent on his morning walk, he's a really good calendar reminder of, "Hey, it's time to get outside."
Jeannie Fulbright Oh, that's great. So, Sean, what do you find to be a challenge that is unique to dads that homeschool--that are the primary homeschool parents?
Sean Sherrod I know we did briefly talk about this down in South Carolina... What we talked about there, and I've been stewing on that and just spending some time meditating and just thinking about it. And I honestly think the easiest way to describe the greatest challenge--for me at least. I'm sure it's different for other stay-at-home dads. In the Richmond area--there's not many of me, so it's I'm kind of speaking on my own here--but I honestly feel the best one-word answer is "seclusion".
Jeannie Fulbright Wow. I know I have been running--at conferences--I have been meeting a lot more of homeschoolers that the dad is the primary homeschoolers. So you're not alone. But obviously...
Sean Sherrod Please share my cell phone number with them, if you would that'd be great. Haha!
Jeannie Fulbright Yeah. So and what--how do you---what is this seclusion? How does that happen? Why do you feel that that is happening to you as a homeschool dad?
Sean Sherrod I don't think it's intentional. I don't think it's anything with--like I said, there's no ill intent there--I think it's just--I mean just, I think, the day-to-day and it's--you know, the we're involved in Classical Conversations, then we also do another co-op here in the Richmond area, um, just to supplement some of the classes that my daughter is, and a science class and also in a Spanish class which is a ton of fun. But I mean, I am the only dad at both of those locations 98% of the time. And even in like the morning meetings it's, "All of us moms have to band together! And you know, we got to do this together! And mom's night out!" And I'm just like, "Hi. I'm... I'm here, too. I'm..." You know, and so I think that--but again, I think it's just because it is completely abnormal, especially here in the Richmond, Virginia area. It is--there's not a lot of me out there. No matter which groups have gone to, or other meetings I've gone to. And I just feel that that's how it is. And then even, there's been emails that have come through with some of the co-ops we're in where it's that--you know--"Don't worry, moms, we've already removed your husband's email off of the email chain for the school year because we don't want to bother them while they're at work." And then literally, I'm having to ask my wife, "Hey, have you gotten any emails while you're at work?" Because I'm the one at home with the kids and I really need to know what's going on. So, I mean, it's just kind of interesting. It's weird seeing that dynamic. That I guess most people aren't used to in this realm. But that's also because I don't think a homeschooling dad is the most normal thing, at least in present-day setting.
Jeannie Fulbright Well, I think that more and more, as homeschooling becomes more mainstream, that there are going to be more and more dads that make that decision. Because there's often times the wife has invested more in her career and perhaps has potential for, you know, a higher salary, that dads will be staying home more, and dads will be homeschooling more, especially with what's going on in the schools. And just people are--their eyes are opened--and I think a lot more people will fall into that category. And I think that as homeschoolers, we need to make it as comfortable as possible for either homeschooling parent to be the primary homeschooler. And so, what do you think moms can do so that they are not excluding the dads?
Sean Sherrod I think it's literally just making a partnership out of it. I think that--just if I... looking at society in general, I feel that the stay-at-home parent has typically been the mother, and I feel that society has done a really good job over the last 40 to 50 years to really put that pressure on the moms alone. And it's, you know, "You have to be the stay-at-home wife. You need to be the one cooking dinner. You need to be the one cleaning the house. The kids better look presentable." You know, and I feel that society has done a really good job to box just moms in with all of that pressure. And being a dad, coming in and being new to that realm, I mean, it is a lot of pressure to be the parent--the stay-at-home parent and the primary educator. And I think for moms to feel that they need to carry that burden alone and not to include their husbands, it's not fair to them. Because I know I would not feel that that was fair to me if my wife expected me to carry 100% of everything that is encompassing of the house. And I feel that society has kind of boxed the stay-at-home parent--the stay-at-home mom, predominantly--into that and I don't think it's right. I think it's a mold that we all need to break out of. And I think dads need to be willing to step up to be like, "Hey, when I'm home on the weekend, even though I have a really busy week..." or even moms that aren't the stay-at-home [parent]... and say, "Can I have a day just to educate the kids? Can I have my one subject that I can dive into with them?" Whether, you know, it's a science thing... whatever that one parent excels in, or what they find the most joy and pleasure in educating. I think starting there would be it would be a great point. And I think just that mindset of "Well, dads don't want to be bothered because they're so busy doing X, Y, Z." It's like, the stay-at-home parent, you're swamped from sunrise to getting kids down at night, you know. And like I said, I think carrying that burden solo on either parent is just unfair.
Jeannie Fulbright I think that is really wise and I think that it benefits the family if the other parent--and in most cases it's the dad--would get more involved in their children's education. My husband was very good about that. He--when I first started homeschooling one child--he would do math with my daughter before he went to work in the morning. And at night I had--he was the one who read to them all the classics, and I also gave him a bunch of missionary stories--and he did basically geography with my kids by reading missionary stories from certain countries. And so he was math and geography and that was really great, and it was a real help to me. He was also very actively involved in the housework. So it was a huge blessing, and he's very involved with the kids lives. And I think that as much as a dad can do that, it would benefit children to have their dad as one of the home educators.
Sean Sherrod I mean, the two different co-ops that we're a part of, it's just crazy to me because, like I said, I'm mainly the old dad at both locations. And the second thing is usually I'll get my daughter checked into class, and, outside of the Classical Conversations one and it's like the second I go on the playground--after I've been doing some school with my little boy--like every kid just flocks to me on the playground, "Will you push me on the swing? Will you do this?" I mean, their moms are standing all around them, but it's just having that connection with a male figure. It's just been so huge for kids. And I've had other kids come up to me at our other co-op and they're just like, "You know you're the only dad that's ever here. It's really nice to see a dad here." And to me that's just heartwarming, and it needs to become more commonplace than not.
Jeannie Fulbright How can we get more dads involved in the homeschool movement?
Sean Sherrod I think it's just opening the parents' eyes in general. I think it falls on the mom and on the dad on this to just to be open to that even being an option. Most of my guy friends that I know that had kids even a little bit before Melissa and I did, they were just like, "Wait, you're going to stay at home? Are you going to be okay with that? You're not going to go crazy?" I'm like, "I'm not going to be more crazy than if Melissa stayed at home with them." You know, I mean, kids are not easy, and I mean, I do see the pros in, you know, putting your kid into school, and in your running away from that responsibility. But I think the cons very much outweigh the pros in the long term effect. And I think literally just to get dads involved, it's start--you know--you can't move a mountain in one try by yourself. It's "Let's grab this one pebble that I can pick up and throw and let's--you know--here's your one subject to get started on. Or here's this just to get more face time with the kids." And, I mean, even our day-to-day, I mean, we'll do some school or walk the dog, get outside in the morning, get a little bit of schoolwork done, and then it's, we'll head off to run errands, do the grocery shopping, you know, do to the yard work. And my kids are with me side by side from start of the day to the end of the day. And, I mean, just having them involved. And talking with a good friend of mine who's much older--or not much older than me but his kids are much older than ours--and he's like, "You know, kids are going to--90% of what they learn from you is going to be watching you interact with other people. And 10% is their actual education." And he was someone who was actually involved in homeschooling his kids as well and helping with that. And it's hearing that from someone who has, you know, mid 20-year-olds down to 17/18-year-old saying, "You know 90% of what they learn is going to be just from watching you." And I think that helps take away some of the pressure, because it's like they see me, you know, working in our bank account information. They see me paying the bills. They see, you know, doing the meal planning and the grocery shopping. And they love to be in the kitchen with me, which is huge. And it's--you know, you don't even think about it, but it's like, "Oh, I need a teaspoon of this and a tablespoon of that." And let them sit there and figure out which one's which. And sometimes we have really salty foods and sometimes it's fairly bland tasting, but it's all part of that experience.
Jeannie Fulbright That's so great. I think having a--there's been studies after studies that have shown having a male involved in their children's lives is so beneficial to them, and especially in this society which is trying to create confusion in that area. having a father involved in their lives has got to be such a huge blessing, and give your children a really strong foundation.
Sean Sherrod You know, I mean, I just think that you dive into even the statistics of a childless family and you see--or a fatherless family--with the child. And it's like those kids are so much more prone to not graduate high school. To, you know, even fewer get into college and then graduate college. But, the huge number is how many those end up, you know, in the criminal world of all of that. And it's amazing to see that, if that's truly the difference that a dad can make in in a child's life, it's like, how can you father a child and not actually be the father to that child?
Jeannie Fulbright Yeah. It's just a really great example and especially now when so many men are working from home. I mean, after COVID, so many men went home and a lot of them haven't been pulled back to the office. And, so there's an opportunity there during the lunch hour, or whatever time they can take, that they can actually take that time to do stuff with the kids and be--educate them in one or two subjects. Take that load off of the mom. That would be a great way to get dads, I think, involved. I really think it would be great if we could just bring awareness to this. And that's why I wanted to have you on the program, because I think it need--we need--we moms--need to open our mind to this more and we need to encourage it as a society, as a homeschool community. We need to encourage this possibility. Some people are probably not homeschooling because they never considered the fact that the homeschool parent could be the father.
Sean Sherrod Right. And I think to piggyback on what you just said, I think also we as dads need to be willing to share the burden of being a parent and raising these kids. It's not just--I think society is so good at pushing that just on the moms. And I think for more dads to become aware of "your impact is huge" and the kids need it. And I heard a recent statistic--I have not been able to dive into fully of it--but they say that on average, you know, with 100% face-to-face contact with your kids, they're saying your average dad spends about 25 minutes a week face-to-face with their kids--without a screen being involved, without there being any other distractions, like sitting in conversation. And to me that breaks my heart, because that lets me know that in the morning sitting at breakfast, as I make breakfast for the kids, and talk to them, and we start to plan out our day that, you know, on Monday morning, I have spent more time with my kids face-to-face with zero distractions than most dads get in a week.
Jeannie Fulbright That's really sad, and that's probably contributing to some of the issues we're having in the culture, the culture wars.
Sean Sherrod I mean, if kids aren't seeing that there is a difference in gender roles between a mother and a father, I mean, it's so easy for that water to get muddied. A just to where you can't--you're never going to figure out what's right or what's wrong or what's true and what's untrue.
Jeannie Fulbright Yes.
Sean Sherrod And even what's, you know, what's holy and what's unholy. Because if you don't have that example at home, you know, society is really good at making you do whatever they want you to do.
Jeannie Fulbright Yeah. And you know, I always talk about, I have great discussions about nature study and then the benefits of being out in nature and how certain things can really enhance those benefits--things like nature journaling, as you're doing with your children. And I think having a father around, but having the father as the homeschooling parent, and as an educator--at least part-time educator of the children, or a full-time educator--this is going to enhance the benefits that having a father and spending time with a father, actually--and it will enhance those benefits as well.
Sean Sherrod Because I think even as, you know, just talking with some of the homeschool moms and some of the stuff that I do, and some of the other projects I do, like, "Let's go build a lean-to against a tree in the backyard with some broken limbs that we found, you know, around the neighborhood, around the yard." And some of the moms are just like, "I never would have thought of that." Like, it takes a dad to think--you know, just to kind of have that mindset of, you know, let's go outside and let's figure out what we can-- I mean, I think dads typically are more likely to go and pick up the big, huge tree branch or, "Hey, let's see what's underneath this rock." And I think-- I mean there's a whole 'nother world and universe underneath every stone, underneath every fallen tree or rotting tree that's laying down. I mean, that's...
Jeannie Fulbright That is definitely a dad thing. "Let's pick up the tree and look at the termites and explore." Yeah. I mean, I think--well, as I mentioned, my husband was involved in a couple of subjects inadvertently. He was involved in the literature and the geography, inadvertently. He didn't really realize that he had taken that burden off of me, but he definitely had. So what other subjects do you think if there's a parent who really thinks--this is kind of a new idea to them, that, "Yes, actually, maybe I could give a subject to dad." What ideas do you have for dads who are actually just want to be more involved in the homeschooling?
Sean Sherrod I mean, like I said, I think it's going to come down to, you know, person-by-person case. It's, you know, what are their strong suits? I mean, I know some dads that are way more savvy in the language arts or in a musical instrument than the mom might be, just due to upbringing or just their natural gifts, or their God-given gifts. So, like I said, I think it's hard to try to say like, "Here's that one thing." It's being able to sit down as a husband and wife or as a mom and a dad, and just be able to sit down and be like, "Okay, where do you feel that you can most benefit our children?" And starting the conversation there to where it's, "You know, I think I can take on this and this subject. And maybe spend 2 hours on the weekend, and you know, to help with the education." And even free up, you know, the other stay-at-home parent for one day a week knowing, "Hey, on Wednesdays it can be our complete off day where we can just hang out." And not have to have the pressure. Because I know come Saturday--and that's kind of the joys of homeschooling is that you can make your school week be whatever you want it to be.
Jeannie Fulbright Well, that's a great point. You could definitely make your Saturday on Wednesday and then on Saturday... The one thing I was thinking would be really fun for most dads would be to do the projects that--like science experiments and science projects with your kids on the weekends or even in the evenings when you come home.
Sean Sherrod I mean, the things you can do with some baking soda and vinegar and food coloring outside and just make a mess and have a hey day with it, it's phenomenal.
Jeannie Fulbright And dads love that so much
Sean Sherrod I mean, who doesn't? Right? Or teach them how to-- I mean, there's so many different things a dad can do-- I mean, I've done so many classes-- or even just like days with my kids, like, "Let's go learn how to make a fire." And we've even started saving all of our dryer lint that stays on the filter, and we've been saving that in the bag and that's--we go outside and start our fires with it because you're not going to find anything much lighter and dryer than dryer lint. And, you know, it's just those little small things, to where, you know, each time we go to make a fire, it's like the other kid--whoever didn't start it last time gets to start at this time.
Jeannie Fulbright Yeah, I do you use flint and steel?
Sean Sherrod I will use sometimes flint and I'll just use the back of my knife so I'm not dulling the blade down, but just spark it up that way. And we can go the old school way, that way. And I'm also--I can start a fire that way. I can be patient enough and rub two stick together for a really long time. But, you know, if I have matches or a lighter in my pocket, that's even better.
Jeannie Fulbright That's great. Survival skills. Put that-- I mean, those are important things to learn, and so we can put that on the list. What I really am hoping that people will get out of this podcast is to open their mind to the possibility of dad being, at least part of the educational process, if not the opportunity to be the home educator.
Sean Sherrod I could not agree more. And I mean, that would be just an answered prayer to me, just to see more dads involved in the day-to-day of the kids. And because, I think, putting all that pressure just on the mom, I think it is completely selfish and unfair. I mean, for lack of better words. I mean, I just think no parent needs to carry that burden solo. I think working as a team-- I mean, it took two people to make the family, so it needs to take two people to raise the family too.
Jeannie Fulbright Yeah. And just how much that would build into your children, just a strong foundation, a feeling of belonging, and just the wisdom that fathers offer is a beautiful thing. And I think that your children are very blessed to have you doing that with them on a regular basis.
Sean Sherrod Well, thank you for that compliment, truly.
Jeannie Fulbright Well, thank you so much for joining us, Sean. I am going to close this podcast with an announcement. I am now going to be hosting The Charlotte Mason Show! And my first podcast will be Julie and I. We will be discussing-- we'll do an interview and I hope that you will tune in to The Charlotte Mason Show, all of you, Homeschool Solutions Show listeners. And I will be over there talking obviously mostly about Charlotte Mason and I look forward to hearing from you. Please find me on my website or anywhere online and I appreciate you tuning in. Thank you so much.
Jeannie Fulbright Thank you for joining us this week on The Homeschool Solutions Show. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at Homeschooling.mom. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast. And while you're there, leave us a review. Tell us what you love about the show. This will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected to our community. And finally, tag us on Instagram @homeschoolingdotmom. That's "Homeschooling D O T Mom." Let us know what you thought of today's episode. Have you joined us at the great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling events of the year, offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topics, and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibition halls in the U.S.. Find out more at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. I really hope to see you there!