I still remember the first time I was asked THE QUESTION by someone whose good opinion of me was important to me. I had just started homeschooling my first born and she was 5. Her baby sister was 2. And it doesn’t really matter who asks THE question, the first time you hear it, it can be intimidating, can’t it? “So just what makes YOU qualified to teach your own children?” Honestly, I’d like to tell you that I rocked the answer but I didn’t. I stumbled on my words and got all red in the face, averted my eyes said something that I don’t remember and ended up mumbling something about ‘God called me to this task so there!’ Not that I’m saying otherwise now, but at the time I did wish I’d been better prepared, if at least for my own confidence boost, and answered something like this:
1. I know my child. I’ve already done the work of getting to know my child, just in the natural course of parenting day to day. I logged the hours of quality and quantity time with my daughter and I already know her interests, likes and dislikes, abilities and challenges. I know that she learns best when she is free to explore without me telling her it has to be done a certain way or at a certain time. In fact, I already know the number one way to get her to shut down is to tell her she has to do it my way or she has to do it now. I know that her best time for learning new things is mid-morning, and afternoons (even after a nap) are not when she wants to process new information. I know that she takes her first born role seriously and delights to show her baby sister what she just learned. I know that I can capitalize on this tendency and use it as a way to review and reinforce concepts. It is well know that when you explain a subject to someone else, you learn it better yourself. I know that she is a serious one so too much preschool silliness doesn’t rock her world but speaking to her as her own little authority does. How many professional kindergarten teachers will even begin to know any of this about her in a class of 20? Not even by the end of the school year, when she would then get passed to the next teacher for the next grade.
2. I love my child. That might be a given, but the point is that my investment in her education goes far beyond a paycheck, far beyond a vague sense of wanting to impact the next generation. My admiration goes to teachers in the learning institutions who work with children not their own, day in and day out. It can be draining and there are days when one must really work at finding the motivation to continue on. For the higher good of society is a good motivation for sure. Well, my motivation snuggles with me at night and calls me MOM and she loves me too. I have all the motivation professional teachers have and then some.
3. We have a connection. She isn’t going to fall between the cracks of the ‘system’ because I so badly want to do what’s right for her. I’ll spend the extra time and effort it takes to tweak the curriculum or lesson until she gets it. If I don’t know the answer to her question, or I don’t know about a subject she is studying, I already have gained her trust so I can be honest and say, “I don’t know, let’s find out together”. Together we can explore the topics that interest her and I don’t have to pretend to be the ‘expert’ knowing everything already in order to maintain order in a classroom. Because we have a connection, she can feel safe with me as she tackles new concepts.
4. I have all the time in the world. I can teach for mastery of a concept instead of being stuck with the pace of a group of school children in a class. I can go slower when she needs more time with a subject and speed up when she masters a subject faster than the lesson plan book suggests it will take. I can literally be with her 24/7 if I want I have time to teach her not only the academic subjects, but I can employ the discipleship approach and teach her about life as well by the example I walk out in front of her. I can even let her see me struggle with teaching, failing and trying again with success, and she can know its ok to make mistakes too.
5. I can chuck what isn’t working and try something different. I don’t have a school board to answer to and I can stop using a curriculum that doesn’t meet her needs. I can teach the basic subjects by choosing topics that delight her. If I know that she learns best when she is active, for example, I can let her literally jump up and down while practicing math facts. My second born daughter really did this. She bounced and ran and skipped as she learned many things right up until she outgrew the need in middle school. What university trained teacher is able to do this in a classroom? It would be anarchy!
This is what I would have said to answer the question if I am qualified to homeschool my own children. It all comes down to this: Successful education isn’t really even a measure of how much the educator knows but rather how well the student learns. And I’m in it for the long haul, I’ll do what it takes to ensure my child is learning. If this sounds like you, then you are qualified too.
Homeschooling mom of 7 children, grandmother to a toddler.