Homeschool Teacher Training

95633_math_teacher.jpgRecently, I was in a conversation where a homeschooling mom wanted to start a homeschool teacher training program. (Scroll down to see a sample.)

When I first heard her intention, my immediate reaction was to think, “You’re barking up the wrong tree.” But then I realized, I lot of people would probably sign up for something like this. In fact, many of the new homeschooler’s I’ve talked to have asked questions about homeschooling that a homeschooling class would promise to answer.

Do homeschoolers need training? What are the benefits and the disadvantages to offering a class like this?

One of the first problems I see with a homeschool teacher training is how easy it would be to reinforce school-parent ideas in the home education setting. School teachers, or those with “a lot of experience teaching many kids” can offer such a class, and provide lots of solid, experienced-based advice…for the classroom. This kind of class can easily perpetrate the idea that homeschooling is, and should be, school at home.

Now, what if this class were taught in a completely different way? What if it was a more open-ended, self-discovery sort of course? Instead of being told what to think, the teacher helps the parents see how much freedom and flexibility they have in teaching their kids at home. In essence, it would be a class in deschooling. Is that an oxy-moron? Would it be possible to teach without teaching in a classroom setting?

The other problem with offering a teacher training course to new homeschoolers is that it just might catch on. I could see how easily it would become the de-facto expectation of all homeschoolers to take such a course. If that’s the case, isn’t that, again, buying into the very system that we left?

A teacher training course for new homeschoolers is a neat idea – to teachers. I say this, having been a teacher, that it does appeal to me in that, “I want to help people,” sort of way. But it’s not helping people to offer a homeschool teacher training course. It’s actually encouraging people to hang on to the apron strings and pull the school mentality of top-down education right into their own living rooms.

I’m not saying that school-at-home is bad, or that people who choose to use that method are not effective educators. (They are. I’ve seen it.) What I’m saying is that learning how to be a homeschooler is not taught. It’s not something we can take a class on. We can only become better educators to our children with experience and self-motivation. (This is also true of classroom educators, BTW.)

And here’s the truth – if we want to be better homeschoolers, everything we need to know is already easily available to us. There are no longer any gatekeepers to knowledge.

This is the biggest truth that new homeschoolers must learn – that our culture creates the illusion that we must be allowed into the grand library of information by a certified key-holder. By offering classes that “train” homeschoolers, we are perpetuating that myth. New homeschoolers have to go through their own growing pains to discover, on their own, that everything they could possibly want to know about how to be a better homeschooler is already available to them. Everything they want to know about motivation, management, school subjects, being successful, or anything else, is right there waiting to be discovered. No key required.

That said, here’s a free sample of my own version of homeschool teacher training. Feel free to add anything in the comments.

1. As your homeschool teacher training facilitator, I encourage you to question everything I say. Question every person who tells you how to homeschool. But also listen carefully, and let new ideas bounce around in your head. In the end it’s up to you to decide on what’s right, but you can’t make a wise choice on what’s right unless you are willing to listen to what people are saying. And you can’t make a wise choice if you take what the experts say as truth without question. (And, anyone who is insulted or angered by your questioning or doubt, take a big step back and find another source for information.)

2. Theory is important, but practice is more important. The best source of information on how to make decisions in your family are the members of your family. What might sound good in a book, or what might sound good coming from an experienced homeschooler, may or may not work for you. It’s not about what “should” work, but what “does” work.

3. Have a clear grasp of what’s important to you and your family. If you know what’s important to you, then all other decisions come a lot easier.

4. It’s not what you know, but who/where you know. Make it a priority to get informed on who knows the haps around town, and know where to get all kinds of information. Become your own door to the universal library of knowledge.

5. Relationships trump all. If I had to pick one thing that makes the biggest difference in homeschooling success, it would be the strength of our family relationships. If you got that, you’re set.

6. Check your ego at the door. When you’re homeschooling, it ain’t about you, folks. It’s about the kids. Deal with your own issues, come to terms with your own educational experiences, then move on. Don’t get confused between what’s best for the kids and your own educational or life hang-ups.

7. Find at least 10 different sources on how to teach children at home, and read them all. I can’t make you understand the importance of getting a diverse set of opinions on homeschooling. You can only see it once you do your own research.

8. Teach your children like this is your last day on earth. Or, teach them like it’s your first. Either way, it’s better than wasting our precious time because we’re obsessed with the future, or than teaching our kids as if we (parents/adults) have nothing left in this world to discover.

9. In the immortal words of Tom Cochrane, “Life is a highway, I’m gonna ride it, all night long….” Live life with your kids. Enjoy your time with them. Be in the “now”, and keep your head high as you gather more and more life experiences. You’re making memories with them.

What’s your number 10 to add to the unofficial, homeschool un-teacher untraining?


16 Responses to “Homeschool Teacher Training”

  1. Summer Says:

    10. Forget everything you’ve learned here and just go with your gut.

  2. Valerie Says:

    There is already a national organization to teach parents how to be teachers. Not homeschoolers, but teachers.

    I’ve been mulling over the trend of professionalization of homeschooling, and the idea of teaching parents how to teach their own children ties in very well with it.

  3. Tammy Says:

    hahah Summer, I love your #10. Perfect.

    Valerie – Very interesting. Thank you for sharing that link. Worth a click-thru.

  4. sunniemom Says:

    10. Caveat emptor– “Let the buyer beware”.

  5. Tammy Says:

    Sunniemom – I love it! What a great tag line.

  6. Dawn Says:

    This is one I’ve only just rediscovered – Follow you own interests and passions and invite your children to join you.

  7. lori Says:

    10. Especially if you’re transitioning your kids from school to homeschool, find support in other homeschooing parents and kids who can share their experiences and remind you that you CAN do this.

  8. Sheri Says:

    10. Don’t expect to ever have all the answers, heck, expect to at some point have no answers at all.

    Great list Tammy. Love everyone else’s responses too.

  9. Tammy Says:

    Dawn – Isn’t that a powerful realization!? It’s so good for the kids, and it’s good for the parents too. Modeling tops the charts for instilling life-long learning. Perfect way to round off the list.

    Lori – Absolutely. Support is crucial. Thanks for adding that.

    Sheri – Great addition. I heard a quote the other day, “Anyone who says they have nothing left to learn, has more to learn than most.” We’ll never have all the answers, and thank goodness for that!

  10. Andrea Says:

    Your list is the wonderful epitome of what homeschooling should be — self-led learning. Parents need to learn to trust themselves, something that is hard to do in the current atmosphere of ubiquitous professionalism. I don’t have a 10th item to add. The link Valerie shared reminded me of something I read in John Taylor Gatto’s book “The Underground History of American Education,” that in ancient Rome, the idea was that the state was the parent and had the parenting responsibilities. Why not just take them away at birth so the parents can’t mess up the kids? Scary, at least from my perspective.

  11. suburbancorrespondent Says:

    Don’t forget to have fun!

    Great list – I love it.

  12. annamaren Says:

    Oooooh, I love Dawn’s response!

    My children have been apprenticing me to discover my own wild sense of curiosity about the world. Luckily I hadn’t lost much, but they really are a daily reminder…. it’s great to get really passionate about something and become a complete geek about it- whether it’s Shakespeare or African drumming…..
    gotta love it!

  13. Kysha Says:

    Great post! I love your list.

  14. Gabby Says:

    I live in Massachusettes I want to home school my niece whom doesnt do well in a public setting Where do I begin?

  15. Tammy Takahashi Says:

    Gabby – First find out the laws that deal with homeschooling in Mass:

    Then, join a Mass homeschooling e-list and ask your question there: (search Mass. and homeschool)

    Then, read a few books about homeschooling, join a couple more lists and live a full, wonderful life with your niece.

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