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.

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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.