Parents are Teachers: From Classroom to Homeschool, by Brit

 

 

There are two sentiments I have heard many times over when people learn we homeschool our children. Either they say, “Well, you can homeschool because you are a teacher,” if they know I used to teach, or they will exclaim, “My children would never listen to me to learn anything.” Both statements make me groan internally while trying to smile sweetly on the outside, explaining that no, my credential really doesn’t help me educate my children, and yes, your children can learn from you.

When we made the decision to homeschool, our eldest was only a year old. I had just retired from elementary teaching, was teaching very part-time at the local community college, and was expecting our second child. Though my husband, also a public school teacher, was always supportive of homeschooling, he even expressed concerns that our children would not learn from us but would need a “stranger,” someone outside the family, to teach them.

 

If one thinks about it, we are our children’s first educators. From reading them stories, to encouraging their first words and steps, to redirecting them when they try to play with unsafe or forbidden objects, we are teaching them. We teach them social norms from the time they are old enough to yell loudly in a restaurant. We teach them kindness when we help them apologize for stealing a toy from their siblings. We teach them virtue and faith, letters and numbers, colors and shapes from the time they are born.

Homeschooling is a natural extension of that teaching. Once they know their letters and numbers, then we show them how numbers can combine to make bigger numbers and how letters can combine to make words. We show them how blue, red, and yellow are very special colors and can be mixed to make other colors. Suddenly, numbers become algebra and words become novels and essays.

 

It is interesting that after our daughter was born the sentiment, “You can homeschool because you are a teacher,” was no longer used. Most everyone outside our immediate family and friends assumed we would send her to school due to her having Down syndrome. Instantly our credentials, Master’s degrees, and classroom experience, which were the reason we were qualified to homeschool our sons, were not good enough to homeschool our daughter. Without a special education credential, we were no longer qualified. For us, her Down syndrome has only solidified our belief in homeschooling being the best option for her. Where else will she have a completely individualized education? Where else will she have teachers who love her as their own child? Her education may look different from that of her brothers in curriculum choices, content, and scope. But the journey we take will be no different than the journey we take with her brothers – progressing naturally as we teach her letters and numbers, colors and shapes, virtue and faith.

All this is not to say that it is always rainbow and unicorns in our home. We have struggles like every one else. In all honesty, there have been days where I doubt if I can do this for the long haul. There have been a few times we have had to sit our boys down individually and ask if they want to go to school or if they are willing to buckle down and work hard. We deal with sibling fights and teacher burn-out. I have second-guessed curriculum choices; started, stopped, and restarted subjects; and even dabbled in unschooling (we definitely do not have unschooly children). But at the end of the day, I am so thankful for the opportunity to teach my own at home. I tell my boys often that homeschooling is a privilege. There are times I forget that being able to stay home with them is also a privilege. I know as I lead them towards a life of virtue and faith, ultimately God is leading me to a life of greater virtue and faith.

 

As my children get older (our eldest is finishing seventh grade and I honestly have no idea how that happened), fear tries to creep in. It can be a scary venture to take full responsibility for the education of one’s children. If they go to school, whether that be public or private, there are teachers and principals to blame when things don’t go well. When my children graduate from our homeschool, it will be my husband and I that are judged. Did we do well? That will be measured by whether our children need remedial classes at the community college, whether they are admitted to a four-year university, or whether they even go to college. What I try to tell myself is that I must do my job faithfully; what my children do with that is up to them. For if a parent can take pride in a job well done when one child is successful in life, that same parent must take full blame for another child who is not.

As I type this, my husband is sitting to my left teaching our eldest about LCDs and GCFs. He, the eldest, is not a fan of math. Once he hit pre-algebra, I handed the reins over to his dad. I needed a break from teaching math to a child who would much rather do anything else. The beauty of homeschooling a non-math kid is that we can tailor his education to help him be successful. We are not bound to only one textbook and only one way. We are not bound to Common Core or the latest educational fad. We are free to meet him where he is and help him get to where he needs to be. This is true for all our children, including our daughter.

 

Parents are not only their children’s first educators, they truly are able to be their best teachers. Just because a child turns 3, 4, or 5 does not mean their education must be handed over to an official teacher. Believe me, I am very thankful for my husband, my cousin, and all the other fantastic teachers in our nation’s schools. All children deserve the best education they can receive. But I am also extremely thankful for the ability to continue the natural inclination to teach my children from birth as they continue to grow and develop. It may be a crazy life, but it is a beautiful one I would not trade, even on the bad days.

 

Brit was born and raised in southern California. She and her husband met at UC San Diego; he was taking a class and she happened to be the teaching assistant. You could say it was love at first sight. Brit and John are now living this beautiful, crazy life with their three sons and one daughter, still in sunny California. They made the decision to homeschool when their eldest was a baby after realizing how much afterschooling they would do if they sent him to school. Brit describes their homeschooling as eclectic, literature-rich, Catholic, and classical-wanna-be.

Parents Are Teachers: No Operator's Manual, by Briana Elizabeth

by Briana Elizabeth

It’s a joke of motherhood, that these children we have came without operator’s manuals. Then, when you have one of them figured out, you have another that is the complete opposite.

They break our hearts, and they make us cheer, and they keep us up too late at night, and they throw up on us…yet we still keep having them! Mothers, who’ve given birth and KNOW what they are getting into, still decide to have more children because just look at them, and how they make our hearts burst within our chests.

But wait, you never got an owner’s manual. You didn’t get a certificate saying that you had attained the skills to successfully raise a virtuous person. You have no Parental Degree. How are you even capable of this?

Love.

And I would argue that that same love is what enables you to homeschool them successfully. Love, and the acting on that love — the drive to do your best by them at all times.

How?

Firstly, you know your child better than anyone else. You may not actualize all of that knowledge, but you can tell when you’re pushing too hard, when they’re not working to their hardest, what they like and dislike, and when they just need some food and a nap.

You want the best for them. I know there are questionable parents out there, but I have yet to meet a parent who wanted their child to fail. Having children makes us want them to do far better than we have done, and we would do anything to give them those possibilities.

Being a part of some large homeschooling communities over the years, I have seen parents from every walk of life successfully homeschool their children. Poor and uneducated themselves, to the multi-degreed and even teachers who have decided to teach their own at home.

Apart from the love you bear for your own child, you will need to be able to learn with them, perhaps ahead of them so that you can teach them. And though it’s hard work, it’s not impossible. Midnight feedings are hard, yet not impossible. Changing a bazillion diapers is hard, but not impossible. Raising kids is hard, but not impossible!

So what I am saying is that homeschooling is a continuum of parenting with all of the hard work, the losses, and the benefits. And just like  parenting, the good of love outweighs the hard work. You don’t have to be perfect, or have the perfect curriculum, or the perfect house. You have to want the best for them, and be willing to work hard for that best with them. Just like parenting.

 

Bribrianaana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.

Parents Are Teachers: You Can Teach Your Child to Read, by Cheryl

 

Before we became official homeschoolers, I knew my son needed to learn to read. He was only four, but he wanted to read and was picking up some things on his own. I wanted him to have a good foundation. I wanted him to know phonics better than I did, but I was terrified I would mess him up for life by teaching him wrong!

All my life it had been made clear to me that you needed a degree to teach. I could not teach reading. I knew people who had done it, but I did not think I could. No way! I can teach kids to dance and sing, but read? I needed a professional.

One day a good friend brought me a book: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. She told me I could do it. I also checked out the first set of Bob Books from the library (at her suggestion), and we gave it a try. Within a month, my son had read through half the Easy Lessons book and two sets of Bob Books! I did it! This reading thing was easy.

A little over two years later, my daughter (at age four) wanted to learn to read. My son read at four, so I tried. We went back to 100 Easy Lessons, but it was a disaster–there were tears every day. She just wasn’t ready; the desire was there, but not the maturity. We stopped.

Six months later we tried again, and again there were tears. We had studied all the letters, and moved on with more advanced phonics and some sight words, so I thought she was ready for sure. Again, we stopped. After another six months we tried again, and again we had tears.

What was I doing wrong? She was almost six and yet was not anywhere near reading. (I learned that it is not abnormal for a child to learn to read as late as 8.)

I was ready to give up until I read Charlotte Mason’s method of teaching reading.The first book in her Original Homeschooling Series lays out the plan in a clear and easy-to-follow way. (Read the full plan here or start at page 199 if you have access to a print copy of her series.) I started to use that method, and we made progress. We continued with phonics workbooks to support her reading. Eventually the Charlotte Mason method became too cumbersome. I like open-and-go-type programs, and this method required me to find books and make cards of all the words on a page. It took more prep time than I had.

I went to my bookshelves and stood staring at everything I had. I decided to go back to the simple, tried and true method: McGuffey’s Eclectic Readers. The pictorial primer lays out a lesson similar to the Charlotte Mason method, but I did not need to prep for it. Each lesson builds on the next in slow steps. I am pairing that with the Explode the Code series for phonics, and we have made significant progress in a couple of months.

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The most important lesson I learned through this season in our homeschool life is that my kids are different and I must adjust our lessons accordingly. What works for one child may not work for another. Finding a method that works for teacher and student may take some trial and error, but it is important to find the right match for everyone.

Don’t let one “failure” stop you. There is a method that will work for each child; sometimes it is the curriculum that makes the difference, but sometimes the child needs more time.

Some Practical Help

One of our problems was reading-readiness. How do you know if your child is ready to read? A few things to look for:

1. Interest. Does the child want to read?
2. Ability to rhyme. This ability is linked to the ability to decode word families. My daughter only started rhyming in the last six months.
3. Oral blending. Break a word down into sounds orally (/k/-/a/-/t/) and have the child tell you the word. If she can’t do it listening to you, she will struggle doing it completely on her own.
4. Left to right tracking. Another issue we had to overcome. The human brain is not born tracking from left to right; it takes everything in at once. Practice this skill by having your child match a pattern or series you lay out in blocks or letters, starting on the left.

There are others, but with my daughter, these were the big four we faced. She had #1 down (interest), so we kept working on the other three skills until she was comfortable with them; then lessons became easier.

If the task at hand has you scared you may ruin your child for life (you won’t!), many programs exist to help you teach reading. These are all products we have used with some success in our house.

Teach You’re Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading

The Bob Books

Junior Phonics

The Writing Road to Reading

Explode the Code

McGuffey’s Eclectic Readers

All About Reading, Abeka, and Rod and Staff’s reading program have been recommended many times as well.

You can do it! You can teach your child!

 

Cherylcheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

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.

Parents are Teachers: Calling for Backup, by Apryl

 

Sometimes in the homeschooling journey, we run into subjects we cannot or do not want to teach. Sometimes our children need more interaction with the world at large. Sometimes mom just needs a small break. When these times arise, calling for backup is warranted.

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Outsourcing is an important part of homeschooling, especially as your children reach the teen years. Depending on your area, income level, and family preferences, outsourcing opportunities can look very different from family to family. I will be discussing some of the ways our family has met these needs.

Volunteering

Volunteering is a great way to expand your child’s view of the world. There are so many unique ways your family can serve others in the community. My oldest child, in particular, has been a very active volunteer.

When she was twelve, we managed to talk our vet into letting her help at his office. She was able to observe surgeries, interact with adults, and learn a bit more about the profession. This experience allowed her to realize that she really did not want to be a vet like she thought, but she also learned that she has a very strong stomach!

Her love of animals, and that iron stomach, have led her to be a volunteer at a rescue center for birds of prey. There she has learned so much and developed a great relationship with the woman who runs the center. Now she is a pro at cleaning up bird dung and handling mouse guts.

She has also volunteered at two different libraries, one that was part of a metropolitan library system and one that is a small town library. Working at a local food pantry was another volunteer position she had and she learned so much about people there.

The girls have all spent time volunteering at nursing homes. They have gone with homeschool groups, scouts, and our church and have done everything from putting on a show to doing arts and crafts projects with the patients.

All of my girls will be volunteering at a summer camp this year. They will be mentoring and teaching younger kids in a science camp.

In order to find volunteer opportunities in your area, just ask around. Don’t be afraid to ask local businesses and services if they can use help: the worst they can do is say no. You will have more luck with older children and teens than with young children, but even when they are small you can volunteer as a family.

Religious Activities

Church is a large part of our lives, and I consider the things we do there as part of our outsourcing. The kids have attended Awanas, worked in the nursery, sang in the choir, helped with events, and attended regular services. Again, they have learned things they could not pick up at home such as relating to the elderly, caring for small children and infants, meeting some of the needs of the poverty stricken, being part of a choir, and socializing with larger groups of people. They have also learned more about our faith, and grown stronger in it.

Park and Play Groups

This option will depend on how many homeschoolers there are in your area and how far you are willing to drive. Most larger metropolitan areas will have park groups. A group of this sort usually meets on a regular basis to play, go on field trips, or organize things like field day. Don’t limit these to smaller children. We were lucky enough to belong to a teen park group that met once a week just to hang out and play. On warm days we met at a large park that could handle 20+ teens and other days we would meet at various homes. The kids developed some very close friendships, and also got some much needed exercise. They often played things like zombie tag, or “everybody’s it” tag, dodge ball, Frisbee, or just ran around and had fun.

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Groups like this also have the ability to organize group field trips, often at a discounted rate. We were able to see plays at school rates, attend an astronaut school, visit museums at school rates, take farm tours, and more.

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It did take us a while to find a group that we felt comfortable in. We have had the most luck with inclusive groups. While we are Christian, we have found that exclusive groups simply weren’t a good fit for our family.

Online Classes

Sometimes you need a class taught by someone else. There are many reasons for this, from a parent needing a teaching break, to the parent just not feeling comfortable in their ability to teach a subject. We are fortunate that so many classes are available online. There are paid and free options, with the paid options giving you more time with a real instructor.

Our personal experience with online courses have been with both self-directed classes such as ALEX math and Kahn Academy, and with a class that had a live instructor and certain class times. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Self-directed courses allow more flexibility in scheduling and pace. However, if you run into difficulty, it can be hard to get help. With live classes, you will have an instructor that can help the student, but you are also tied to the class schedule. We have found both types of courses to be valuable to our homeschool instruction.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) should also be considered as part of this option. This is a rapidly growing area in which you can find self-directed courses on just about every subject you can imagine. There are both free and paid options from universities and teachers around the world. Some of the most popular MOOC providers are Coursera, EdX, and Udacity.

Co-ops

Co-ops are parent co-operatives in which parents come together to teach (or hire someone else to teach) classes to homeschooled children. Co-op styles and structures vary greatly and it is important to find one that fits your family’s needs. There are religious and secular co-ops, inclusive co-ops and co-ops that require a signed statement of faith. There are co-ops that are entirely parent taught, and there are co-ops that hire professional teachers for their classes. Some co-ops focus more on extra-curricular classes, and some are more academically focused.

We have attended three different co-ops over the years. Our first was a very small, parent taught co-op that focused on extracurricular classes. This was a good way for the kids to do some fun things a few times a month. Since it was so small, however, a little bit of drama between families made the entire co-op uncomfortable. We ended up leaving.

Our second co-op was huge. It was in a large city with a very large number of homeschoolers. It was run like a large one-day-a-week private school, and there were waiting lists to get into classes. We weren’t there for very long due to a move, but it was a good way for the kids to get a few classes in, like acting and choir, that I couldn’t do well at home.

Our third and current co-op has been a huge blessing to our family. Now that the girls are all in high school, there are some needs that I find hard to meet at home. Our current co-op is fairly large. While it is a Christian co-op, it is inclusive and does not require a statement of faith. We attend one day a week, and the kids change classes during the day much like they would at public school. Parents are required to volunteer and the classes are taught by paid teachers. The quality of the classes and teachers is very high, with many classes taught by former professors and degreed teachers of their subjects. The girls take all of their foreign language classes there, along with some very interesting electives like Ballroom Dance and Fencing.

Clubs and Sports

Most communities have various clubs and sports organizations for children. You often do not have to be part of the public school system to participate. I know our rural area has Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, basketball, soccer, softball, baseball, rowing, swimming, summer camps and more.

In some areas, you may also be able to participate in public school or private school sports teams. The laws vary from state to state. Some homeschool organizations even have their own sports teams.

Other Sources

Finally, don’t forget some of your most valuable resources: friends, family and neighbors. Grandparents, older siblings, aunts, uncles, neighbors and friends all have talents and abilities that they may be willing pass on to your children. My father-in-law has taught the girls about gun safety, archery, botany, and more.  A friend organized a writing club for our children, and a friend of a friend ended up being our piano teacher.  The people in your life can become wonderful mentors to your children.

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Most of all, don’t let the thought of being responsible for your child’s entire education intimidate you. You are essentially the director of their education, and you can find the resources you need to accomplish your goals, regardless of where your own strengths and weaknesses are.

 

Apryl–Baprylorn and raised in Tennessee, Apryl is a southern girl at heart.  She lives out in the country with her husband and her three daughters. After having an unfulfilling public school education herself, and struggling to find peace with the education her girls were receiving in the public school system, she made the choice to homeschool.  When they began their homeschool journey, the girls were in the third and sixth grades.  Now she is happily coaching three teenaged daughters through their high school years.