This year at the family reunion, I finally started to discuss the decision my husband and I have made to homeschool our children. The topic arose amidst conversations of my relatives considering alternative schooling for their children. Of popular interest was having an environment that allowed their children to enjoy many of the celebrations enjoyed in their own youth such as Valentine’s Day cards, Christmas pageants, and being able to wish others a Happy Easter. Still others were worried that the schools in which their children were currently enrolled were unable to provide individualized attention to their kids. There was concern that this was making it difficult for teachers to keep them challenged in courses in which they excelled, while simultaneously avoiding them getting overwhelmed in other courses in which they were struggling.
My husband and I worried about these issues for our children as well, but also struggled with the financial burden of trying to provide private educations that still may not fulfill the needs of each of our children. Our decision to homeschool wasn’t met with disapproval from most family members, but rather an overall sentiment of that may well work for your family, but not for ours. I truly do believe that educational choices for children are very family specific, but the hardest thing to hear was my cousin say, “Well, sure you are smart enough to be able to homeschool. There is no way I could do that.” On that point dear cousin, I beg to differ.
It’s true that both my husband an I have advanced educational degrees, but I guarantee you the subject matters we chose did nothing to prepare us for sitting across from a four year old wanting to finger paint and learn to read simultaneously. Granted the veterinary safe handling skills come in handy from time to time during toddler melt downs and the up all night on call experience does assist us with sleep deprivation, but I promise you that organic chemistry, physics, biochemistry, and physics neglected to mention how to teach a child to hold a pencil or button her own pants. In addition, simply surviving or even excelling in such courses doesn’t automatically prepare you to teach them. Yet, these skills and many others are ones we look forward to tackling in the coming years.
As a parent of a toddler and newborn arriving soon, I can absolutely see that homeschooling children can be incredibly overwhelming at times. There are already days I grapple with what to do to keep my toddler busy for the next few hours. I pursue books and blogs about age appropriate activities all the time and constantly recruit ideas and suggestions from local parents and Mom’s clubs. Yet, I have also already learned the joy of watching her grasp something new for the very first time and the elation on her little face when she does something correctly. To me that’s absolutely worth tackling some self-doubt with research, preparation, and trial and error!
In addition, a history of doing poorly in a subject doesn’t automatically disqualify you as a potentially good teacher for that subject area. The best students who excel at everything don’t always make the best teachers. Students/teachers who have struggled with certain topics are often better prepared to interact with other struggling learners. Teachers who have experience as students have the potential to be especially encouraging and willing to try varying approaches of explanation that someone who always “just got it” may not be willing or able to do. One of my favorite homeschooling mother’s hated history with a passion, but as a result she has created her own curriculum utilizing non-fiction books, field trips, and PBS. She now enjoys learning about history right along with her children, both of whom are doing extremely well academically.
I absolutely appreciate and respect that there are circumstances that prevent families from homeschooling or from choosing to homeschool. As a parent, you are the one who cares the most for your child’s success. Whether you choose to homeschool or supplement your children’s learning outside of the classroom, you as a parent are in a wonderful position to provide them with individualized attention and child specific resources. Not every individual is an expert at teaching every topic, but in most cases it is perfectly acceptable and even enjoyable for parents to learn alongside their children. If you truly find yourself in over your head as your child advances in his or her education or find that your child has an interest in a topic with which you have no experience, there is always the option to pursue online courses, tutoring (both online and in person), or take outside courses as a co-op or community college.
As a parent have you been faced with a topic that you felt uncomfortable teaching? How did you handle it? Is there an approaching subject/topic that you dread teaching?