Dear Thinking Mom,
I’m writing to let you know you are the best most qualified teacher for your child.
I know, you must be thinking, “Who is this person to tell me they know who the best teacher is for my child? You don’t even know me or my child!” Yes, I admit it’s a pretty bold and presumptuous statement! My apologies if it offends, but bear with me a moment and let me tell you how I know this bold statement to be true!
Let me answer that first bit and explain who I am. I am a writer, a blogger, a proponent of a self-reliant lifestyle, a teacher, a wife and a homeschooling mom. The mom part and the teacher part are really the only things relevant for this conversation, but I want to be transparent. I have three boys (the oldest will start high school next year) who have never been in public school. I am also a certified teacher in the state of Texas, and I have been in a teaching role most of my adult life; first, as a public school teacher and then as a mom.
As someone who writes about homeschooling one of the questions I get asked a lot is, “How do you teach all the subjects?” This question is usually followed by a distressed look and a bit of thinking out loud that usually goes something like this, “I’m just not sure I could teach all those subjects. I’m really bad at Math and I really don’t like Science. I just don’t think I’m smart enough.” It’s always a little painful for me to watch a mom doubt her abilities. Part of me still, even after all these years, identifies with her, because I asked myself the very same questions.
So let me lay it out for you as a public school teacher, and a mom and finally as homeschooling mom why you are the most qualified person to teach your child.
As a public school teacher I was trained in classroom management. I can manage a class of around 25 kids, as I was taught strategies and procedures to follow. I do not have a degree in child development, however, I have studied it in college as part of my certification process and then more as a mom interested in the subject. I have to say it is a fascinating subject and I do believe all parents should read a book or two. But, having a degree in child development is not necessary to teach your child, even if your child has been diagnosed with a learning disability or other developmental problem. If you have been watching your child develop from birth and have been engaged in their life you are qualified to teach your child at any stage of development. You know them better than any other person on Earth.
Will it always be easy? No, and there is always those days filled with doubt, just like those days filled with doubt about being a parent, or like those days in the classroom I (and other public school teachers) had filled with doubt.
The education a public school teacher possesses equips her (or him) for the classroom where she has to deal with managing many children, adhering to state laws as it pertains to public school, and communicating with parents. You do not need any of these skills to teach your own child.
When I became a mom I wanted a better environment for my children than I had as a child. I am a product of public school and although my mother did a great job raising my brother, sister and me, there were some areas where school did more harm than good.
I wanted my children to be closer as siblings than I am to my siblings. I wanted to be there to help my children through everyday struggles and guide them, because I remember when I was in school I often felt alone. I wanted my children and me to function as a family every day and not just on weekends.
By the time I became a mom I was also very concerned about exactly what was being taught and how. I want to be able to practice my religion with my children, daily. I also want to teach them to question rules and use critical thinking when learning facts. As my children’s mom I am the one most qualified person to teach these things to my children, just like you are the most qualified to teach them to your child.
As a homeschooling mom I can tell you I have taught my boys how to talk, how to read, and how to write. Trust me, I’m not the greatest at any of those things!
Homeschooling is not about bringing a public school classroom into your home, although for many years I thought it was and if you start out that way, that’s ok. After all that’s all most of us know. Hopefully as your homeschooling journey progresses you will open up to new ways of teaching your children. There are a ton of philosophies about just how to do that. There is even a whole movement about how to “unschool” your child. You can just type in homeschool in your favorite search engine or maybe join a homeschooling group to learn more about all the different methods out there.
You do not have to teach the subjects you don’t like or don’t feel comfortable teaching. My oldest son takes a science class from a friend with a PhD in science. Yes, it’s an old fashioned sit down at a desk, listen to lecture class, with a lot of experiments (there is value in being able to navigate those kinds of learning environments as most adult classes, a.k.a. college classes, still have this same structure).
Although I can teach my boys high school math I chose a computer based curriculum on CD. With my writing schedule and the nature of the complex math kids learn in high school, it works out easier for our family. I did teach math problem by problem when they were younger. A lot of my older son’s history is taught through the conversations we have. One subject leads to another and soon we are looking at the history of why things got the way they are, for example in the Middle East.
But, let’s just say for the sake of argument that you got yourself into a pickle where you didn't know all the answers. You know, like when you're trying to teach Math and you know your baby just woke up from a nap because you can hear him crying and your toddler will not stop banging on the table, at the same time your oldest son asks you what the answer is to 7x8, and you have no idea. So you take a deep breath and begin to count by sevens as your son keeps count. Showing your child how to cope with that kind of situation is a golden teachable moment that he just can’t get in public school. So not only are you qualified, but, in that moment, you are more qualified than a public school teacher.
But let’s take it a step further. Public school teachers teach the same subject at the same grade level year after year. They can easily get into a rut and make the subject drab and boring. If you are learning a subject for the first time, like how volcanoes are formed, your child sees how excited you are about the subject and the steps you've taken to teach it to yourself as well as him. You've done something public schools fail at time and time again. You have demonstrated how to be self-driven.
There are seasons to homeschooling; teaching methods and hands-on time change with needs. You don’t have to have the knowledge base of an entire high school to guide your child through high school. You do not have to be a scientist, a mathematician, an English Professor, or a History Professor to graduate your child from high school. If you have a love for learning and like to engage in meaningful conversation you are more than qualified!
So if you are thinking about homeschooling do research curriculum, do get involved in a homeschooling community, and do think about the possibilities! But please never doubt your ability or qualifications to homeschool your own child!