In Part 1 of this article, I talked about how parents are often great teachers for their own children simply because they care so much about their children and about the outcome.
Does this mean that all parents are going to be their child’s best teacher? I’m sure many parents who’ve experienced parenting a public schooler can recall a homework moment with their child that has left them in a cold sweat just contemplating the idea of teaching all day. We all have moments when, no matter how much we care for our kids, we want to throttle them! Laboriously trying to explain some academic point to an unhappy child can seem like fast-forwarding the aging process. It’s not easy. And we’re sometimes not going to be the best teacher.
More seriously, some parents genuinely feel completely out of their depth with very good reason. Some have had bad home lives themselves, and they feel ill equipped with the tools needed to lovingly facilitate their children’s academic learning. Illnesses or instabilities complicate matters of homeschooling. Even under difficult circumstances, though, most parents care enough and know enough about their children to understand when their children need extra help. I hear story after story of how moms noticed something about their child and chose to investigate it further, discovering something significant about how their minds and bodies work differently than what others expected. For example, many moms with kids with ADHD start to read up about the condition and how they can help. They often end up knowing more than a classroom teacher could ever know–especially about that particular child. In other words, even on our off teaching days, we parents make great teachers!
So, I would argue that most parents are indeed qualified to teach their kids because teaching is more than imparting knowledge. It’s facilitating learning through a myriad of methods – and the best environment for great learning is one where a nurturing, loving relationship exists. And, quite frankly, one doesn’t need a teaching certificate to determine to love her own child. And loving one’s own child usually means knowing when they’re too ill to work on a particular day; or recognizing that that child needs to learn in a way that is different than his sibling; or realizing that one’s child is struggling in a particular subject and determining to investigate alternative options as much as possible.
So what do I say to those moms who bemoan their lack of teaching qualification? I say, “You’re lucky.”
Why? Because being a classroom teacher meant that I learnt classroom techniques of teaching that weren’t easy to unlearn at home. Plus, I had to adapt my high school teaching style to a 4- and a 6-year-old – a very different set of students indeed! Oh, some homeschools are “school at home” and look very much like the classroom set up. That is perfectly acceptable. But, for many families, homeschooling works best when it melds into the general hum of the home. Moms without a classroom teaching background come to homeschooling with a slate (mostly) clean of preconceived ideas of what “true” teaching looks like. In the meantime, moms like me have to unlearn old teaching habits to make room for more effective homeschooling.
Gradually I’ve been able to realize that a skipped spelling test is not a big deal, especially when it means that big sister got to have a wonderful bonding time with little brother while she baked cookies without mom hovering nearby. And wall displays of the kids’ work are great fun, but they don’t replace the sense of achievement from sharing with Dad what we all learnt together that day, each chipping in with the bits he or she contributed. And taking 1/2 hour longer over a math problem’s sum than my estimated allotted time is a fantastic privilege, rather than a worry about falling behind. And when my 10-year-old constantly tap tap taps her pencil on the table while I am explaining something to her, I know it’s not that she’s not concentrating, but rather that she’s doing what helps her brain work in the moment. (And perhaps I should pass her the playdough for a bit!)
Moms – while we may not all have a teaching certificate, most of us are more than qualified to be the one to guide our children in this world. We’ve already taught them so much from lacing their shoes to eating with a knife and fork. We’ve intervened with arguments over toys, and we’ve taught them about the world around us. Many of us do this for 4-6 years before we suddenly worry that we’re not qualified to teach them. Helping them decipher letters and words is the same gradual process as teaching them to count. And, to help those of us who feel a little unsure of ourselves, there are thousands of excellent resources that help us help them to read and write and grow and learn. And, while you may outsource for calculus or chemistry, you are still qualified to be the one in charge of your children’s education. Because, you are the parent. And… you care.