by Penny Ross
“But I’m just a mom! I’m not a teacher! Won’t I fail my child?” This is one of the most common fears I hear voiced by parents considering homeschooling. We are accustomed to the world of campus-based education, with “paid experts” filling the role of teacher.
By default, we assume that a mere mom can not teach as well as someone with professional training. And this may very well be true in a classroom setting! But a typical homeschool environment is quite different from a classroom.
A classroom teacher has to
- Gain the attention and hold the focus of 25 to 35 students
- Repeat herself multiple times because not everyone paid attention the first or second time
- Vary the lesson enough while repeating it to include all of the different learning styles needed by each student in the class
- Review often enough for those students who didn’t understand it the first time, or who were absent when a skill or concept was originally taught
- Keep the academically advanced students engaged in the lesson even if they understand the material well and are ready to move on
- Adjust the seating chart often enough to accommodate the students who need to sit in the front row, the ones who will be distracted if seated by a wiggly one, the ones who will talk too much if seated next to each other, and more
- Fit lesson plans around school vacations, holidays, assemblies, and other interruptions
A closer review of the list above clearly indicates the common theme of group environment. A classroom teacher is constantly juggling to meet the needs of the largest number of students while trying to leave the fewest behind. Add to that the challenges of trying to keep both parents and administrators happy, and you will see the nearly impossible demands we have placed upon classroom teachers today.
By contrast, a homeschool parent gets to focus on an individual student (or a select few). She can utilize the passions and interests of each student to engage and keep attention, select any teaching method or resource which can help the student learn, review when and as often as needed, advance quickly when skills have been mastered, and integrate real life into learning experiences. In short, many of the skills needed in the classroom do not apply to homeschooling.
In fact, we often address training needs in real life, individually, rather than in a group setting. Oftentimes, a new employee in a company is assigned to an experienced employee to master the job requirements. An elite athlete often has private training time with the coach. Why should education be any different? Here we must begin to realize that the classroom environment has been developed, not because it is a better educational approach, but because it is too costly to teach children individually. Since we have made the classroom environment more difficult, we have to train teachers accordingly.
So what about the fears of the prospective homeschool parent? As with anything new, it can be learned and comes easier with practice. Remember those early days of parenting when you were intimidated and overwhelmed as you began to realize the diverse number of options and opinions available regarding feeding, sleeping, and diapering? Yet, eventually you made some decisions as you sought to give your baby the very best foundation for life by researching information, asking for advice, and then applying this knowledge to your individual circumstances.
The same is true for homeschooling. There are blogs, podcasts, and conventions available for information and training, as well as seasoned homeschool parents to ask for advice. You’re not alone in this journey! But as you work more with your own children, you will become “the” expert on how they learn. A teaching degree is not needed; on-the-job training with children you love and want the best for will be more than enough.
Penny Ross taught her own three children at home through high school graduation. She led Hope Chapel Academy, a PSP in Hermosa Beach, CA, and now mentors the next generation of homeschoolers through her independent consulting business, Tools for the Home Educator. She offers consultations, coaching, webinars, and workshops for homeschooling parents, as well as selling gently-used curriculum. Her specialty is helping each family figure out its own path to success. Penny is married to her college sweetheart, Greg, and together they delight in six grandchildren.