In Proverbs, God instructs parents to “train up a child in the way he should go.” While this most definitely applies to moral instruction and character development, many also believe this is an instruction to educate their children at home, away from the oversight of government employed teachers and administrators. If you are considering home education for your family, but are concerned that you are not “qualified” to do so, consider that God would not give parents the desire or calling to do so if He didn’t think they were capable (relying on Him along the way, of course).
God chose you, specifically, to parent your children. Who better to teach your children than you if God hand-picked you to be their parent? You know each of your children intimately. You know what they like and what they don’t like. You know where they struggle and where they excel. Even the best-trained educators will never know your children nor care for them the way you do. As their parent, you always have their best interest at heart. What better person to teach your child than the person who cares the most about seeing them grow in their love of learning as they mature to adulthood.
You’ve Been Teaching Since Birth
Think about the five years from birth to kindergarten. This is a time of huge development, growth, and learning. And who facilitated that learning? That’s right, you! You are your child’s first teacher. You probably read to them everyday. You sang songs that taught them the alphabet, colors, and numbers. Even if you didn’t teach them some of these more “academic” things, you taught them about being kind to others, how to brush their teeth, and most importantly, to love Jesus. It’s not that much of a stretch to educate them at home, especially with the number of resources available today.
Home Education is Not Just School at Home
One of the misconceptions about private home education is that it is just duplicating public school at home – sitting at a desk for six hours with stacks of textbooks, long teacher lectures, and lots of test prep learning to meet a long list of academic standards. While some families may find this works for them, the structure of home education looks very different for most. It’s not uncommon to find students on the couch, floor, dining room table or even on the grass outside. They may be working from a textbook, but they may also be sketching the nature around them or reading a book about what it was like to live in ancient Greece.
As a private home educator, you are the one who determines what standards you expect your child to meet each year. One of the biggest concerns with the standards in public schools is that they are not age or developmentally appropriate. Kindergarteners are expected to be able to write a complete sentence with proper letter formation, spelling, grammar, and punctuation (ELA Language K.2). However, it’s not uncommon that children that age still struggle with fine motor skills and will be unable to reach this expectation at this age. Homeschooled families do not have to worry about their child being labeled “behind” if they do not agree with the standards that public schools operate under. Families can work at their child’s pace and cater to their capabilities according to the standards they feel appropriate.
Surround Yourself with Community & Support
Another common misconception is that homeschool families are holed up in their homes all day without any social interaction at all. This is simply not the case today. There are many opportunities for families to join a community of other like-minded homeschooling families. These communities can be a great resource to parents; providing guidance, support and answers to practical questions like curriculum options as well as offer advice in areas of struggle. We will be touching more on community and how to find one that fits your needs in an upcoming blog in our Homeschooling 101 series.
Public School Prepared
Many parents choosing to homeschool their children were not homeschooled themselves. Some may have attended a private school for their education or they attended their local public school. If you are one of those parents who attended public school and don’t feel equipped to teach your own children, why would you want to send them to that same institution?
I have a Master’s degree in Education. I spent two-and-a-half years teaching in the classroom in both public and private schools. I feel that none of my experiences, nor the courses I took have given me a “leg-up” or made me more qualified to teach my own daughter. Sure, I may understand child development or classroom teaching methods a little more than the average parent, but most of that is not really transferable to teaching a child in an individual setting. In fact, I’ve had to unlearn some of what I learned while teaching in a traditional classroom because that mindset is very different than the one used to teach your children at home.
Perhaps the most common comment I hear from parents, after sharing that we homeschool, is that they could never do that because their child is too strong-willed or that they would fight them all day (based on their experience of doing homework with their kids).
To these parents, I have a couple responses. First, think of how schools address children who are strong-willed and struggle with behavior issues. They usually have punitive consequences – things like a visit with the principal, extra homework, detention, or skipping recess. Nothing that really addresses the heart of the issue. As a home educator, you can work with your child directly, not suppressing their God-given personality, but discipling them to be obedient to authority when appropriate.
When students fight against schoolwork, it’s often out of frustration. Either they are struggling to understand the way it was taught to them or they’re overloaded on information and need time to process it. In a public school environment, this often results in misbehavior and the previously mentioned consequences. However, in a home education environment, parents can consider how the instruction was given and try a different approach. Was it just a visual or auditory explanation? Does the child need to be physically moving to learn? Do they need a break to run off some energy so they can focus again? Many of these solutions cannot be easily implemented with a large class size, but they can be at home.
Commit to Just One Year
Considering the task of providing 13 years of “formal” education that includes topics such as expository writing, calculus, and advanced physics would be overwhelming to most anyone. Instead of looking at home educating your child from that perspective, take it one year at a time.
You can teach kindergarten – basic addition, learning letter sounds, community helpers. Then you will have one year of home education experience. You can then teach first grade – addition and subtraction, learning to put letter sounds together to form words, observe nature around you. Now you have two years of experience. Second grade? No problem! As your child gets older and as you gain experience and confidence, tackling subsequent grades, as well as more difficult subjects, will be not quite so overwhelming.
Will there be things that are beyond your understanding, especially in high school? Sure, but this is where that community and support you’ve surrounded yourself with comes in. You may not be comfortable teaching a particular subject , but another parent in your homeschool group may be and vice versa.
Home education is not easy. Ask anyone who is doing it. Some days go better than others, and everyone has challenges, even those veteran moms who have been doing it for 20 years. Every child is different and it takes some work to find your groove and what works for each of your children (it may be different for each one), but you ARE uniquely qualified to teach your children. We can all use a little bit of equipping, but you CAN teach your children at home.
Do you need equipping and encouragement to home educate your children? Attend CHEA’s 36th Annual Homeschool Convention July 11-13, 2019 in Pasadena!