Monday, May 2, 2011

You're Certainly Qualified

            When my husband and I decided that we definitely wanted to take the “blind step” into homeschooling, I started telling friends and colleagues about our plans, and telling family members who knew we were considering it that it was decided.  Their responses went from complimentary to humorous to curious and almost insulting – they all answered using the exact same words:  “Well, you’re certainly qualified.”
            As a twelve year, “veteran” teacher of public schools, I can understand where those words came from.  I took them as a compliment – which is how I am sure they were meant by each speaker.  From my fellow teachers, I thought of it as a compliment as well, since I have sat in many conversations of other educators where they were not so positive on the other person’s professional abilities.    
            As more and more people said the same reply to my announcement, I considered it as funny.  It got to the point that while the other person paused (as they all did), I almost said the words for them.  I never did, though.
            Finally, I started considering the inverse of what they were saying – if I were not an experienced teacher, did that mean I was not qualified to teach my own child?  I know there was not one person who suggested this, none that is except for my own thoughts.  I started considering that perhaps other parents did not feel “qualified” to homeschool.  As time went on, I wondered how many people thought this – and it didn’t take long for me to get my answer.  Parent after parent, after we started homeschooling, told me that they wished they could homeschool, but they thought their child was better off in public/private school.  Since August, I cannot tell you the number of parents who have told me that it’s wonderful that I am so “qualified” to teach my child, but they do not feel that they could ever do it.  Either they don’t think they “know enough to teach,” or they don’t think their child would obey them, or they think they would “miss something important.”  It doesn’t matter how I have tried to reason with these parents, they are fully convinced that someone else is “better qualified” to teach their child.  
            I fully believe, in the deepest part of my soul, that there is no such thing as an accident.  I believe that God is in control of what happens, just the same as He has shown us in the Bible.  I may explain this in another post, but in the context of this blog today, it means that I think God gave me the child I have.  I believe that God gave every child to the parents He chose.  Good or bad, God has his reasons for the parents He gave us.  Because of this belief, I think parents are perfectly qualified to teach their own children.  There is not some magic “right” thing to teach in school.  The thought that someone else can “control” my child better than I can is foolish – and it’s a lazy excuse for not wanting to even try. 
            What should children learn in school?  They need to learn how to read, how to write in an organized manner, and the basic math skills (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division).  Beyond that, they need to learn how to learn on their own.  This means, parents don’t need to know all of the answers for everything to be able to teach.  Trust me – many teachers do not understand what they are teaching.  That should not be an excuse not to try. 
            To teach your child to learn, you need to teach them how to organize information in a way that makes sense.  They need to learn to look for at least three sources of information, and to be able to test whether information is fact or fiction.  They need to learn to get new interests, or to find ways to be interested in topics that will help them learn about a bigger subject.  They need to learn to be self-directed.  If they fail at something, they should learn how to learn from that failure.  They should also learn to learn from their successes.  He should also be expected to demonstrate what he learns, otherwise he may just play around and not really look for anything important. 
            Our children need to learn to look for things that have value to them individually.  They can get through life not learning what an amoeba is, but not learning how to balance a bank account will greatly affect their quality of life.  They should learn how business works and learn a skill to make a living.  In today’s America, we are “Jacks of all trades, but masters of none.”  Our kids need to learn to be a master of something.  That may mean that they do not learn something else, but that’s okay.  No one can know everything about everything, no matter what some may say.
            The issue of a child not minding his parents is simply an excuse by someone who does not want to take the time to teach his child to learn.  Yes, you will probably have some “rocky” times at the beginning, but you and your child will find a way to get along.  The parents just need to stay strong and pick your battles.  Read my earlier post “In the Beginning” if you want to see a small taste of my difficult start in homeschooling.  I could control a classroom full of 28 students better than I could control my own daughter!  But after time, things worked out.  Now my daughter obeys me better than her dad (which is another issue we are working on).  Do not let your child’s behavior be an excuse not to teach your child.
              Teachers have to have training every year to keep up their skills.  If you don’t know how to teach something, learn.  There are books, e-books, magazines, and websites dedicated to giving parents help in teaching their children, as well as many workshops.  Everyone should NOT be taught the same way, so if one teaching method doesn’t work for you, find another one that does. 
            Once your child is able to read, organize their writing, and do the basic skills of Math, teach him to learn how to learn with a minimal of help from you.  You do not have to be a trained teacher to homeschool – just the parent (or foster parent) who God has chosen for your child.

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