“It’s all right for you to homeschool; you’re a teacher!”
One of the biggest obstacles facing parents considering homeschooling is the fear that they’re not qualified to homeschool their kids. What do I know? they ask, I don’t have a teaching degree! Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.
Let me explain…
There is a big difference between qualified as in certified and qualified as in more than able. Most times we mean “certification” when we use the term “qualification”. I am a certified teacher. I did my post-graduate teaching degree, and I have the piece of paper that says I can teach. But, the truth is that while I am certified to teach, my teaching degree did not in any way prepare me for teaching kids. I had to learn about classroom teaching on the job. While I worked hard at the time and coped fairly well on the whole, I look back on many moments where I obviously failed the kids. At the time, I had no clue I was doing anything wrong. Now I cringe when I remember my mistakes.
One particular incident stands out in my mind. I was trying to teach my 9th graders some history. I had placed a very sweet, but very distractable, young man right in the front group of tables, under my nose. This distractable young guy couldn’t sit still and spent the morning tapping his desk with his pencils. Eventually, I insisted that he placed his pencils on the floor so that I could carry on without losing my train of thought, and so the rest of the class could concentrate. Well, it lasted all of two seconds before he picked up his pencils, almost without realizing, and resumed his tap, tap, tapping. At the time, my solution was to take his tapping tools away. Quite possibly I gave him some extra consequence and a lecture too; I can’t remember.
What I do remember, though, is that some years later, once I’d started homeschooling my own kids and had begun reading more about learning styles and learning difficulties, I realized that this boy (who had been diagnosed with ADHD) was simply doing what he needed to do to concentrate. I had taken his coping mechanism right out of his hands and left him unarmed and helpless. Oh how awful I felt when I realized that! I had no clue. Today, with just a little more knowledge under my belt, I think I may have given him a ball of play dough in exchange for his pencils. That way he’d be able hang on to his coping mechanism whilst not distracting everyone else. Certified, I was, but more than able to meet the needs of the kids I was teaching? Definitely not.
I was just one of thousands of teachers who are certified, but not really qualified to be a truly great classroom teacher. So what does make a truly great, and qualified, teacher? I believe that the best teachers are those who put their hearts and souls into the job; they connect with the kids; they put time into working out how to meet the kids’ academic and other needs, rather than just churning out the material; they keep up-to-date with practical education and invest time and interest into learning more about common, and rare, complications that hinder the learning process for kids. In other words … they care deeply. There are plenty of excellent teachers like this. I was not one of them. I was certified, but I was not really qualified.
Where does this leave the homeschooling mother with no teaching degree? Is she even less qualified than the worst teacher? According to educational research, the success of home education has nothing to do with a parent’s qualifications. This infographic shows that American homeschooled children whose parents do not have a college degree still scored higher than 83% of all students in national standardized tests. These scores suggest that it is not essential for parents to have a teaching degree in order to be a great teacher to their kids.
Why? Well, I would argue that it is simply because they care. Skip back a couple of paragraphs and see if the list of the truly great teacher applies to parents too. In most cases, parents are invested in connecting with their kids; wanting to work out how to meet their kids’ various needs in a way that is best suited for each child; putting their hearts and souls into the job and learning about the way their kids learn. It all boils down to the same thing: care. Great teachers care about their students. Great parents care about their children. And, parents can be great teachers of their kids.
On Friday, I hope you can come back for the remainder of the information I’d like to share with you. I hope you will be encouraged and relieved to know that we moms (or dads!)–whether you have a college degree or not–are very able to teach our children and to do a superior job at it!