CF: Parents Are Teachers, Classical Foundations 2014

Parents as Teachers: Qualifications, by Lynne

 

One of the most frustrating things I have heard when I’ve told some people who know me that I homeschool my children is, “Well, YOU are qualified to do so.”

Yes, I’m fairly intelligent, have gone to grad school, and have taught and tutored many students. I have even taken half a dozen education classes in college. I’m not a certified teacher, though. I dropped out of the education department when I realized I’d be spending the majority of my life with angst-ridden teenagers if I taught high school French classes. (That wasn’t the real reason, but it’s a darn good one!)

So, yes, one might think that with my background I am qualified to teach my own children at home.

But guess what — so are millions of other parents who have completely different backgrounds from mine. Homeschooling is an entirely different animal from traditional school. Although many former teachers have chosen to homeschool, you don’t need a degree in education to teach your children at home. In fact, in my state, all you need, legally, is a high school diploma. If you’re willing to devote your time and energy to provide opportunities for your kids to become productive adults, you’re qualified to homeschool.

Homeschooling is not one definable “thing.”It’s as varied as the families who homeschool.   Homeschooling works for so many families because the parents are invested in finding out which methods, which curricula, and which approaches work best for their individual children.

Here are the qualifications that I think are most important for a homeschool parent, in order of importance.

  Resourcefulness
Flexibility
  Patience
Resilience

I’ve put Resourcefulness as number one, because from the homeschool families I’ve observed, it seems to be the main factor in the success and happiness involved in this intense journey. You need to be able to do the research and find the materials or techniques that will help your child learn and grow. As Apryl pointed out in her article, sometimes that means finding someone other than yourself to teach your child.

Flexibility. Life happens. Kids are kids. You must be flexible. All the carefully planned out lessons in the world can be derailed in an instant. If you don’t go with the flow, your homeschool path will not be as happy as it could be.

Patience. This is another thing that makes me a little nuts. Mothers who have stayed up nights with colicky babies tell me they would never have the patience to homeschool their own children. Here’s my answer: “Yes, you would.” Do you have the patience to clean up vomit from a sick child’s bed? Do you have the patience to make macaroni and cheese every day for lunch for a decade? Do you have the patience to be vigilant when your baby starts to crawl and get into things? Of course you do. You’re a parent.

                                                  Patience is your job.

How else are these little people going to learn to ride their bikes or tie their shoes? And, I believe, your relationship with your child has a different dynamic when you are homeschooling as compared to when your child is gone for a good chunk of the day. My kids have gone to public school, so I’ve experienced both. You have a lot more patience for homeschooling when you don’t have to worry about homework, packing lunches, making sure the trumpet is packed for band practice, and getting to the bus stop on time. It’s a completely different way of life. That said, I think I’ve dug down deep into my baby toe to find my last reserve of patience as I’ve been teaching fractions this year.

Resilience. Not only do you need to be flexible, but you need to be able to bounce back from setbacks. Things will go wrong. It’s inevitable. You need to pick the family back up, brush off your pants, and get back to work. Sometimes homeschooling isn’t all kisses and cuddles and field trips. Sometimes you worry that you’re screwing your kid up for life. If you get bogged down in this mire, it’s hard to see the end goal.

So basically, your parenting skills transfer over to homeschooling skills. Don’t have any idea what the quadratic equation is? Find a math tutor. Your kid blew through in one month the Language Arts workbook that you were planning to use for the whole year? Go to the library and find books on parts of speech and punctuation. Your fifth grader can’t learn to capitalize a sentence after being made to correct about 8 billion un-capitalized sentences? (Personal experience!) Learn meditation techniques. The wonderful curriculum you spent $200 on is not working for your kid? Sell it online and buy something else.

I love teachers. I think many of them do an amazing job of reaching kids and inspiring them to learn. They have earned a degree in their field, and it applies to what they do in a classroom setting. I also think that the really good teachers have all the qualities mentioned above. So if you feel intimidated or worried that you are not a “real” teacher, take a moment to think. You are not in a classroom setting with other children. You are with your own children, and nobody knows them as well as you do. You are plenty qualified to inspire your children to learn and to become the best people they can be.

 

Lynnlynnee–Lynne has enjoyed homeschooling her two sons for the past three years, after their brief stint in the local public school.  Her older son is a humorous fellow with high functioning autism who thrives in a home education environment.  Her younger son is a sensitive soul with a great deal of patience. The boys, Mom, and Dad, along with the two guinea pigs, live in Northeast Ohio.  Lynne holds a Master’s Degree in French Language and Literature.  She is also a Harry Potter fanatic, enjoys line dancing and Zumba, spends hours scrapbooking, and loves organic vegetables.  You can visit her soon-to-be revitalized blog at www.daysofwonderhomeschool.blogspot.com.

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6 thoughts on “Parents as Teachers: Qualifications, by Lynne”

  1. As a former public school teacher turned homeschooler this is one of my pet peeves too. I get the “Well, YOU are at least qualified to teach your kids.” all the time as well. Usually I let it slide, it happens too frequently for me to get on my soapbox all the time, but I want to tell them that their view only shows that they have no idea what it is that public school teachers have to do. They have to figure out how to manage 20-35 children, they have to get them to behave, which (depending on the class) can be dealing with anywhere from 1-35 troubled children. They have to teach the majority of the kids as best they can in the quickest way they can and figure out the most time effective way of assessing how much they each individually understood. They have to figure out the best way to confront the misunderstandings on a individual or semi-individual basis without wasting everyone else’s time. They have to do this despite the fact that the myriad of students have different interests, different motivations, different difficulties, different hangups. For younger grades, you have to figure out what all those things are to effectively reach them, for the older grades, you just have to hope all those things don’t get in your way because you only have an hour a day, if that, and while you might develop a rapport with a few, it usually comes from that club or team you sponsor that gives you more social time with the kid. You have little to no influence on their philosophy of education. You have the kid that considers themselves a widget in the educational conveyor belt that you are obviously filling the wrong way, or the kid that believes they are an unfillable widget, or the kid that believes that the grade you give them is their identity. There is only so much you can do to combat that. The certification process (specifically the student teaching part) is very much geared to these issues. I found they were immensely useful when I taught in schools.

    The rest of the actually educating the kids bit, the only bit that is left over when you are teaching just a couple kids, the ones you know, they ones you raised. You can read a few books, hang out with a few other home educators, its not that hard. There is always room for growth and improvement, of course, but no need for qualifications.

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  2. Excellent insight, Lynne. I love your list of qualifications; they are spot on. With my eldest heading into her Senior year (all home educated), I can see how those traits in myself are what made the difference between still being here and having thrown in the towel years ago. These are also the qualifications which have helped me return to teaching religious education for the last four years, from my first year when my class looked like a zoo and I didn’t have a clue to my fourth year where I find my class is more manageable and they are actually learning something.

    Now when I get the question about what it takes to homeschool your kids, I will point to your article and say, “THIS!”

    Sally

    P.S. For anyone who might be wondering about qualifications, my highest level of education is an Associate’s Degree and had nothing to do with education, but my Senior should have no trouble gaining scholarships to the school of her choice based on her grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities.

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  3. Love this Lynne, so true. Being qualified to teach usually is about teaching a GROUP. No one knows a child better than the parent and no one will look out for a child like a parent.

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