Back in the olden days when I was a homeschool student, one of the most common fears society used to prey on homeschooling parents was that they weren’t qualified to be good enough teachers to their children.
Oh, and of course, the children wouldn’t know how to function in society.
(Thank you, mom, for being brave enough to stand up to the fear. I will forever be indebted to you for that courage.)
Thousands of students later, homeschool has literally blown away the competition. Our teachers are phenomenal. Outstanding. Incredible. Miracle workers.
Or are we?
In spite of all we have accomplished collectively, as individual homeschooling parents, we still feel, well–inadequate. Not quite up to par. I think this is partly because we seem to think that if our child has not discovered a new scientific element by the time he is nine and our homeschool room does not rival the best Pinterest board, we must be doing something wrong.
We seem to believe that if we have bad days and our children aren’t all SUPER HAPPY! and we aren’t EXCITED! and we aren’t spending the day making homemade pinatas and dioramas of ancient Rome then we are bad teachers.
Not so, my friends.
I have been homeschooling for almost 20 years, and can I just tell you–chances are, you are remarkable.
You are a wonderful teacher.
Except for when you are wasting time and resources thinking you aren’t.
Why? Because even professional, scholarly, super impressive studies have shown that all great teachers have a few attributes in common: a great teacher respects her students, creates a sense of belonging in her classroom, and is caring.
Never, in any study, were piñatas mentioned.
Guess what? That’s you.
No matter if you can make a scale model of Paris during World War II or not. Even if you are not a “hugger.” Even if you don’t have homeschool co-ops in your backyard.
You want to homeschool, for whatever reason. You are passionate about how much you love your child, and you care.
This already makes you a phenomenal teacher, because most children need this alone to find the drive inside of them that helps them to learn and grow.
So, what about the rest? What else do you need?
The secret to being a great homeschool teacher is not more time, more energy, more lapbooks, more unit studies, more materials, more….whatever it is you think you are lacking.
The secret isn’t more you, either. There is only so much of you, by the way. And you need to have some time to yourself. And not to do a DIY project for the house, or something to help someone else. You just need time to meditate. Read a book. Say a prayer. Sleep. Listen to the sound of your own breathing, for heaven’s sake! So, more of you is not what they need.
No, what it takes to be a great teacher is something that probably eludes most moms who are homeschooling.
That is less of you.
Yes. You heard me. You are giving them too much of you. You and all your workbooks and handouts and curriculum add ons and activities….and your helping and coaching and…helping.
That’s where you are usually running into problems. That’s usually where the meltdowns and the tears and the burnout and the lonely, why-am-I-doing-this days are coming from.
That’s where the I-am-not-kidding-we-are-so-putting-them-back-in-school-tomorrow days are coming from.
That’s where the mom-is-driving-us-crazy days are coming from.
It’s too much mom and not enough learning.
Because you can’t learn for them.
That’s not teaching.
Oh, that’s what Pinterest and marketing people want you to think. They want you to think that that it is completely up to you to pour this wonderful knowledge in their heads. In fact, I actually found this in an article on a website for professional teachers written by a teaching expert:
Every problem that happens in my classroom is my fault.
That’s what the Department of Education wants you to think and the people who get lots of money from education want you to believe. Because, my, my, my, we have created quite a behemoth–a monstrosity–of epic money sucking proportions out of educating a person these days.
It simply must be difficult. Or else how can we justify the millions of dollars we are spending?
But, in reality, it just doesn’t work that way.
Children learn best when we get out of the way.
Watch any toddler. You see them struggling to take that first step, or to keep walking. They are tottering, about to fall. If you reached out and grabbed them every time they face planted, they would never learn to walk. And there are tears. Some are real. Some are crocodile in nature. But they are all intense and loud and energetic.
We have walked with them, held their hands and we have shown them the way. And then we, as wise parents, let them fall. Even when they cry. Even when they get a bruise. And we let them learn to walk. And then watch them as they run free and far.
How come we can’t see that when we are teaching our children other things?
The most important thing we can do as teachers, we are already doing and doing well!
- Provide for basic needs
- Teach them to read and write and basic math
- Provide love, encouragement and an environment conducive to learning
- Provide educational materials
That is really all a student needs.
Very rarely, they may need a nudge in the right direction on where to find the answers to a problem, but that is all.
Since I began my journey in allowing my children to learn for themselves nearly ten years ago, I can count on two hands the number of times I have actually helped them solve a math problem (or any other problem for that matter).
So, the key to knowing if you are a good teacher is to look and see that you are already a really good teacher: you care and you are passionate and you are providing a learning environment.
The key to being a great teacher is to let go and get out of the way and let your child take responsibility for his or her education.
When you finally do this, you will be able to do all the things you want to do as a homeschooling mother and a wife, and you will be a great teacher, because you will respect your students enough to allow them to fall and rise again, and claim the victory for themselves.
And, when that happens, guess what? You actually find that you have more time for the piñatas and the dioramas and all the fun stuff that you were trying to do as part of school. That’s the part that comes after “school” time is over. While the children are self-teaching, you have time to organize the beautiful “morning board” and create a fun lapbook as part of a fun “reward” for a job well done…or plan a unit study and you are not exhausted and staying up til 2 am and IT’S FUN AGAIN!
Here are some great resources which lead to more self-learning:
The Independent Learner (by Dr. Art Robinson. You DO NOT have to use Robinson Curriculum to apply his ideas for self-teaching. I put them here as a resource because I think he has best articulated the idea of self-teaching. It can be applied to any really well-written curriculum.)
Jeannie Fulbright on Self Learning (These are her posts on self learning, which I think are very, very helpful to people who have not heard of this before, although I prefer Dr. Robinson.)
BYU Learning Model (in which students self-teach and then apply what they learn when they come together in class)
Flipping the Classroom (this applies mostly to older learners in group situations, but it helps foster the idea that students should take more responsibility for their own learning)
Come, Follow Me (the new LDS curriculum for youth that is based on the same model as BYU Idaho which involves flipping the classroom.)