Do I Need to Be ‘Smart’ to Homeschool?

04 Dec

A number of times, parents, who are thinking about homeschooling, have asked me, “Do you need to be ‘smart’ to homeschool?”.   Or they’ll express concern that they feel like they aren’t smart enough to homeschool their children, particularly during the highschool years.   How do I respond to this question or comment?  Well, I tell them the truth.  “No, you don’t need to be smart, but, you have to be willing to read and learn”.

People often reply, “Yeah, but you’re a qualified teacher” and I have to remind them that even teachers start out knowing very little about the topics they teach, particularly in the primary school years where teachers are expected to teach all different subjects and topics.  Every time a teacher is moved to a different grade level, they have to start fresh.  They have to look at the National Curriculum to determine what they have to teach.  They have to make choices about topics to teach and books to use.  Most teachers need to find information about the new topics they are teaching.  They have to refer to a book, website or mentor to find out how to teach new Math topics.  They have to research the History and Science they need to teach.  They aren’t taught all that content at university and they certainly don’t know everything.   Parents who are willing to put in the time and effort can do the same things.

For most things, we can learn right alongside our children.  To begin with, we don’t need to know anything about the topics we want to teach.  We just need to be prepared to roll up our sleeve and do a little research.  For example, if I wanted to teach about world explorers and didn’t know any world explorers, I would simply google “list of greatest world explorers”.  Then I would select some explorers to study.  You might need to do a little googling to help with your selection process.  Using my list of chosen explorers, I would then begin a search for resources.  I usually start online with my local library, typing in the explorers’ names and borrowing related books and dvds.  Then I use Google to help me hunt for ideas – book titles, dvd titles, online videos, activity ideas and good quality free resources.  The hardest part of this search is usually narrowing down the options.  Personally, I like to find one or two excellent books, at least one video and perhaps an activity.  Others might have different preferences.  Often I choose to purchase a book or dvd, when I find a title that looks amazing and that I can’t borrow.  But that’s also a personal choice.  With the explorers chosen and the resources collected, the next step is to decide how you want to teach it.  This looks different in different homes.  Some people like to pre-read or pre-view all of their resources and prepare questions and activities based on the information.  Others like to do a some preparations but nothing too detailed.  Personally, I like to select the most enticing book and dive right in with my children.  I suppose, instead of ‘teacher’, you could call me the ‘lead learner’.  There are often times when I know as little about a topic as my children when we first begin reading.  But, that’s okay.  I’m not attempting to impart knowledge from my head to theirs.  The resources I’ve chosen will provide the information, and often the activities and questions as well.  My role is to choose the paths, provide the resources, and join them on the learning journey.

As another example, I also teach my boys Latin, yet, I don’t know Latin.  However, I do know how to do a google search.  So, back when we were first starting, I researched all the different Latin options that homeschoolers seemed to use.  I selected one that appealed and ordered it.  When it arrived, I spent some time looking over the product and deciding how to proceed.  Since it was designed for beginning students, particularly children, I knew that I could understand the requirements enough to explain one lesson at a time.  I also discovered that there were some lessons that required a little thought and I simply couldn’t come to the lesson without first reading through the lesson.  So, I decided to stay at least one lesson ahead of my students.  As the years have progressed, the requirements are still the same.  I still only need to know one lesson more than my boys.  Admittedly, once or twice I’ve had to look up terms that the text assumed I’d understand, but, with a little time and effort, those obstacles were quickly overcome.  If you are prepared to do the same, you can teach many things.  Just as importantly, you’ll learning many new things.  I’ve learned so much on this homeschooling journey.  Things school never taught me.

Of course, you don’t have to teach everything yourself.  You could employ someone to teach a subject that is outside your skill area.  Most people do this for Music.  Some parents make arrangements with other parents to share their talents.  If one mother is skilled in Language and another in Math, they might arrange to teach each others’ children.  There are also online classes and video based curriculums that do the teaching for you.  Perhaps hubby or another family member could help teach a subject.  Plus, homeschool curriculums are designed with the knowledge that most parents aren’t qualified teachers.  Oh and a worked-solution book for your Math text can often save the day.  So there is a lot of support available and even more if you are prepared to be flexible and creative.  Teaching doesn’t have to fall solely on your shoulders.

Being ‘smart’ or ‘qualified’ might make some things easier and give you more confidence to quickly jump into the process, but, even for these people, teaching requires time and effort, and most importantly, a willingness to learn new things.  We all have these things to offer, if we are willing to spend them in pursuit of the homeschool journey.

And, as many homeschoolers will tell you, while you don’t need to be smart to start, you will definitely be smarter when you end.



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