In a discussion I was part of, a comment was made that stated that it would be different for Tracey as she is a teacher and knows all this stuff to teach them, whereas they have no clue where to start. Not wanting to turn the direction of the conversation I bit my tongue, but boy was it bleeding by the end!
I think this is a common misconception about homeschooling teachers – that we know all of these concepts and skills and, not only that, we know how to teach them too. Please let me set you straight on this. We do not.
I suppose people believe that’s the kind of stuff they teach during our four years of university. It would certainly be a better use of our time but sadly that’s not what they filled us with. For four years we studied theories of learning, child development and, most importantly, behaviour management. Yes, we did a little bit of content related study, just about enough to fill a thimble though. Seriously. About the most informative time of those four years was when we were in schools as practicum teachers…if you found yourself apprenticed to a ‘good’ teacher. But still those opportunities were often overshadowed by the overwhelming demands on your behaviour management skills.
“How then did you know what to teach your students if you weren’t filled with it during your university years? At some point you had to know what to teach?” You’re thinking this, right?!
Since we didn’t know everything that needed to be taught, when we were assigned a grade level, we had to learn it. We bought books and figured it out (Googling was a pretty new and untapped resource back then). As we taught it, we figured out ways that worked better and adapted where necessary. We talked to more experienced teachers and gleaned ideas from them too. At first we relied heavily on textbooks but as we gained confidence we branched out further. Then, just as we began to feel like experts with our year level content, we were given a new grade level and the process started all over again.
Homeschooling has been the same process of learning. I have to first become a student myself before I can become a teacher. Hence, the only thing I have worked out, that non-teacher homeschoolers may not have, is that we don’t need to know everything when we start and that everything we do need is out there for us to learn and share with our children. So being a trained teacher is not a headstart as such, it’s just that we don’t hesitate as much on the starting line, before jumping into the familiar process of becoming a learner first.
In many other ways, homeschooling for me has been a vastly different experience to school teaching. My students speak their mind. They go to the bathroom when they please and snack when they are hungry. They sprawl or bounce as they work. There’s quite possibly a Lego mini figure standing on their workpage. And they don’t learn the same content as I taught in schools. Yes the Math is essentially the same, and the basic Language principles apply but how they are both taught is different. Elsewhere, content-wise, very little is the same. As homeschoolers we dive deeply into History, Geography and Science whereas at school we skimmed along the surface of these, if we studied them at all. (The only History I taught in school was a colouring page and a story about the meaning of Australia Day and something similar for Anzac Day! I kid you not!) So while we may more confidently jump into learning to teach, we tread just as hesitantly through these unfamiliar homeschooling waters.
So when people give, “But you know what to teach” as a justification for all manner of things, it doesn’t fly with me. The key to our initial confidence, is not that we know the answers, but rather that we know where to start looking for them and are prepared to do so. Everyone, whether a trained teacher or not, first must start as a learner, before they can become a teacher or mentor. This is the key that is available to everyone. The only obstacle is whether people passionately desire homeschooling enough to reach out and grab that key and then put in a whole lot of work. Nothing worthwhile is easily…not even for trained teachers.