As April arrives and many parents are thinking about plans for next school year, I want to address a topic that seems to come up in lot of my conversations about homeschooling: parent-teacher qualifications. I find that, sadly, many homeschool-curious families doubt their own abilities to provide a quality education for their children.
Before I was a mom, I was a classroom teacher. I've taught in both public and private schools; I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to legislation, curriculum, and social pressures. There are many amazing teachers out there, the kind that I would be overjoyed for my daughters to have as role models, BUT those teachers are losing their autonomy in their classrooms. This is bad news for teacher morale and the children who are being force-fed curriculum mandated by those who have never taught a single lesson in a classroom, ever.
Teachers are under-valued, underpaid, and no longer able to make the best decisions for the students in their care. Ten years ago, my school district mandated which math lesson I should be teaching on any given day, regardless if my students already mastered the material or weren't quite ready to move on yet. While I understand the district's reasoning behind standardized education, I personally believe it's the wrong move for our youngest students, who all learn and develop at different rates.
Let's find out! Grab a pencil and a piece of paper, and take this short quiz:
- Do you love your child? Y/N
- Do you want the best for your child? Y/N
- Do you know your child better than anyone else in the world? Y/N
- Do you know how to read? Y/N
- Do you have a library card? Y/N
If you answered yes to each of those questions, you ARE qualified to teach your child. (Obviously, check your state homeschooling guidelines to be sure.) It doesn't matter if you got straight As or learned higher-order math in high school--what matters is that you KNOW and LOVE your child like no other teacher can.
My oldest daughter is in Kindergarten this year. I'll be honest with you--I never took a "how to teach Kindergarten" class in college, nor do I remember my own Kindergarten experience twenty-something years ago. When we decided that we would be homeschooling for Kinder, I did the same thing at home that I would do in my classroom: go to the state education website and download the essential knowledge and skills list.
While our curriculum choices are not the same as our neighborhood elementary school, I am confident that my daughter is not missing out on any information that the state deems "essential" for five-year-old children. Other than that, I can take into account her individual strengths, weaknesses, and learning style to hand-craft an education that is exactly what SHE needs.
When I meet someone for the first time and they hear that we are homeschooling, they always seem relieved by the fact that I "used" to be a teacher. I am fortunate that my background is education, and that I also have the passion and tools to build my own curriculum at home (thanks to the Internet and the library!). But my teacher certification did not make me an expert in every single subject that I taught in my classroom--there were many evenings I spent reading my science textbooks and trying to grasp the concepts I would be teaching to my students the next morning.
The difference now is that I can learn the information right alongside my daughter--through homeschooling, I am able to model lifelong learning, with a little help from my library card! If you are feeling called to homeschool one or all of your children, but have concerns about your qualifications to teach them, feel free to e-mail me! (Sometimes it's helpful to bounce thoughts off another parent who has walked the same road.)
When you think back on the teachers who made a positive difference in your life, was it how much they KNEW or how much they CARED about you? You can do this, parents!