It's Father's Day, Every Day
by Catherine Monson
Source: Austin Daily Herald
June 20, 2009
If Father’s Day is a time for families to enjoy and bond with a father or father-figure, then every day is Father’s Day at the Jacobs house.
Peter Jacobs and his wife Ann Hokanson moved to Austin about six years ago and have nurtured a unique family in their time here. With one biological child, two adopted children and one foreign exchange student, their house is always full of activity.
At their large, Victorian-style home, 4-year-old Henry races through the living room in a burst of energy, while the family dog “Jewel” barks in the background and Felipe, the Jacobs’ foreign exchange student from Columbia, makes his way across the room. A large playpen furnishes the center of the room, alongside a grand piano that displays pages of the jazz music Peter enjoys so much.
One distinguishing characteristic of the Jacobs household is Peter’s role as a “stay-at-home dad.” His part-time job as a self-employed environmental consultant for BayWest, Inc. in St. Paul allows him to do most of his work from home, so he can spend as much time as possible with the kids.
An advantage of this flexible work schedule is that it gives Peter and Ann more freedom of choice in their children’s education.
Several years ago, they decided to enroll their 8-year-old son, Ben, in the Minnesota Virtual Academy, a type of online homeschooling program out of Houston, Minn.
“When Ben was in kindergarten, we decided to try homeschooling to see if we liked it,” Peter explains.
“Ben was 5 and Henry was 2, so we thought it would be nice if they could find a way to spend more time together...then we just continued to do it.”
Although Peter and Ann teach Ben from the home, they are not traditional homeschoolers, as Ben is officially enrolled in a public school, the Minnesota Virtual Academy. Also, unlike other homeschooling families, they have no pre-set schedule.
While Ben must complete lessons in science, music, history, Art, math, and language, “We do a lot of other things that aren’t part of the curriculum, like music performer’s club, or go out to the nature center,” Peter states.
Ann is not home as much during the week because of her full-time job as director of the Austin Public Library, but teaching Ben is a priority for her as well.
“Even though Ann has the busier work schedule, she also does a lot of the school...it’s a good chance for her to bond with Ben,” Peter says.
Ben, who has just completed the second-grade level, takes part in several extracurricular activities, including youth soccer and piano lessons, and he seems to enjoy the freedoms that comes with homeschool. He easily identifies one advantage of learning from home instead of at a “brick and mortar school” — “I get to play with my dad a lot.”
In addition to having his dad around, Ben is surrounded by many siblings and friends throughout a normal school day.
Juan Felipe Cely-Rios, who joined the Jacobs family five months ago through the Pro-American Educational and Cultural Exchange (PEACE) Program, helps out the family a lot with baby-sitting, especially if Peter is busy with work. Felipe recently graduated from high school and will return to Columbia in a month to study theater.
Henry, also from Columbia, was adopted into the family and may or may not be homeschooled alongside Ben when he is old enough to enter school.
“We’ll decide on a year-to-year basis whether to continue it or not,” Peter says.
Cecily, who is 11 months old, was adopted from Florida.
“Guess what?” Henry says exuberantly of his younger sister, “Cecily walked five steps!”
With this combination of diverse children, devoted parents and a flexible schedule, the Jacobs household gives a whole new meaning to “family togetherness.”
Ann described their family situation this way:
“We had to work pretty hard to get our family, so I guess it’s unique in that way because we’re both older parents...we believed people when they told us the time goes so fast, and we put a lot of effort into spending time with the kids and enjoying them.”
Do the Jacobs have any special plans for Father’s Day? No, Peter, “We don’t do a whole lot for Father’s Day.”
But then again, maybe Father’s Day becomes superfluous when your normal schedule involves taking the kids to the park, reading a book together or going to a concert.