…And are we capable of teaching it?
For some people, the idea of homeschooling seems monumental. If you aren’t a certified teacher, can you teach? What if you weren’t a straight-A student yourself? What if you didn’t even like school?
Well. Then you’re like many of us. Don’t sweat it.
I was recently reading posts discussing reasons to homeschool, fears of new homeschoolers, and common criticisms doled out from those who opt for public school. There were some common themes repeated in each category. For reasons, there were comments like freedom to choose what to study and how, being able to better assist those with special needs, getting more time as a family, avoiding bullying, the ability to set your own schedule, not being tied down geographically, and simply the love of helping your child learn.
The fears and criticisms were generally closely linked, and one was definitely at the top: Am I/Are you capable? (The whole socialization debate – a close second! – we can save for another time!)
One refrain made me laugh. To answer if they were capable, several made the argument that they went to public school, so if it is such a great thing, then they should be able to handle it. It is an amusing quip, but not exactly the answer I give. First though, let me fill you in on my hodgepodge of an education.
I went to preschool. This is the one “grade,” if you will, I ever completed in public school, though I went to most of kindergarten. After that I was homeschooled by my father through the sixth grade. Up until the last year he created our entire curriculum. It was a mix between what would now be considered more unschooling and using thrift-store textbooks. The final year he taught us we were traveling, and he ordered a bunch of workbooks from a homeschool catalog. By the time I would’ve entered seventh grade, he said we needed to be self-starting in our education, and that was the end of that. I wound up having to attend about 4 months of the 8th grade in a public school, then when I turned 17 I borrowed prep books from the library, studied for two weeks, and got my GED. A few years later I attended a few semesters in a community college before realizing my propensity for dropping out of classes was an expensive habit. I was willing to go back to a trade school for a specific purpose if the need arose, but school for the sake of a degree was just not for me. So of course it follows that now I love creating lessons and helping kids learn…
But to get back to the point. When I am asked if I am concerned about my ability to teach my son, the answer is no. Few of us remember the endless, time-filling trivia of school. What you need from an education is this:
- the ability to function under pressure (take a test)
- the ability to gather your thoughts into a cohesive argument (write a paper)
- to know how to find answers (research techniques)
- to be curious and enjoy learning
Obviously along the way the basics (ABC’s, 123’s, etc) fit in there, but these four things will get you far in life. For instance, you may not know how to do a new job right off the bat, but if you have the ability to communicate and know how to find answers, chances are you’ll master it quickly. And though this post obviously is with homeschooling in mind, I want to be clear that I am in no way saying these cannot be achieved in public school or any other format; I would merely say that regardless of how your family chooses to educate, these are some good standards by which to evaluate how any system is working. If all four boxes are getting checked, it seems you’re on the right path, whatever it may be.
The beauty of homeschooling to me is that you can really cultivate the love of learning, and focus on building these essential traits, rather than filling hours and days and weeks with busywork. You don’t have a quota or a boss or finals breathing down your neck; pick topics that matter, and then approach them in a way that makes that clear. If they come alive, they’ll be better remembered, and offer a frame of reference for others.
The last point I would make was one I saw repeated constantly in all those posts: if you arm your children well along the way, you cease holding the lead role in their education right around the time they might hit into subjects we no longer recall how to explain. At this point your position changes to that of facilitator, while they take the reins and run with it. So whether you’re trying to do all their schooling at home or adding enrichment on the side, just know: you are fully qualified, because you care enough to be trying to be even better.