I thought I was well-educated. I had, after all, gone to one of our country’s top universities and graduated with a high GPA in a difficult major. I thought I was persistent, patient, innovative, and clever. I thought I would do well with any task I set my mind to.
And then, I had children.
And I began to homeschool them.
Let me tell you something. Teaching your children will be the biggest challenge you will ever face, and there is nothing on earth that can adequately prepare you for it.
But, with that said, let me tell you something else. There is nothing so rewarding, nothing so wonderful, and nothing so fulfilling as being the teacher to your own children.
And there is no-one better fitted for the job than you are. You, who know your children inside and out, who has rocked and changed them when they were tiny squalling infants, who has watched them grow into the complex thinking, loving, feeling individuals they are today. There is no-one who can understand them as you can, no-one who can love them as you can, and no-one who can teach them as you can.
And you know what else? It doesn’t actually matter that you don’t have a teacher’s degree. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t remember the calculus or algebra or trigonometry you learned in high school, or even the date the Mayflower landed in America. Because you’re not doing this alone, and you aren’t trying to make up lesson plans from your head, out on some deserted island with no school materials but the paper you made from birch bark and a charcoal pen.
When you homeschool your children, you’ll learn more than you ever learned in your twelve years of grade school. You’ll learn along with your child as you teach them. But it will be different, because you’ll make it fun for them, and as you do so, it will be fun for you.
Sitting with my preschooler, working together on a handmade 1…2…3…4 train puzzle. Mental math with my second grader, as we hold hands and hop to mathematical rhythms. Curled up on the couch with all three of my boys, watching the snow fall outside and reading chapter after chapter of a history text the oldest is studying, while even the little guy listens with rapt attention. These are some of the joyful moments that make up our school year memories. Moments I would not give up for all the money or convenience in the world.
There are some of you who are reading this, saying—spending time with my children relaxing? No way!
If your child has a schedule vastly different from yours, you may have grown to feel estranged, out of touch with his interests, his thinking, his life. The stresses of school and a complicated social life may make her unsocial and difficult to get along with at home. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Give your son and daughter time and space to grow in that most fundamental and necessary of places– the family home—and watch him or her blossom in ways you never dreamed of.
Remember the relationship you used to have with your little boy when he was a tiny thing and all yours, and you were his all in all? Well, that doesn’t have to be over. Relationships are living things, and if the break is mended, two lives can grow together again. Sure, it’ll be different. But it can be just as good.
It’s not all sunshine and roses. Didn’t I say that being my children’s teacher was the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted? Sometimes you feel as if you want to tear your hair out. You brought all your energy, creativity, and teacher-skill to work teaching a new math concept to your small son, and finally he got it, and you have fun working on problems—fun mixed with elation on your part and no small pride of his. Perhaps, the next day you work on something else in math. And then the day after your problem sets include some references to the new skill he learned; an easier problem, maybe, than those he successfully worked on that first day. And he sits and looks it blankly. Your hints and pointed questions and suggestive rewordings of the problem turn on no lightbulbs in his head. And you feel like shouting “Child! You know this! You did this Monday! A problem harder than this was easy for you! Child! Think! What is 1 +1???!!!”
But you don’t. Instead, patiently, painstakingly, you explain the concept again. Or maybe you turn to work on foundational work, playing games to really cement the concept in his head. Stress shuts down the brain, and a stressed child cannot learn. Give your child safe space in which to think and make discoveries. Don’t leave the trouble spots; come back to them over and over again, but in a non-confrontational, non-defeatist way. You might have to teach a concept over and over again, but one day, it will really sink in. He’ll know its backwards, forwards, and sideways as well as he knows his name.
There are times when even the best of parents needs a break. If you feel you cannot do it alone, or if career responsibilities keep you from spending the full day at home with your children, tutoring or co-op learning opportunities for your children abound. One is Sunnyvale Trio School. There, math, science, and language arts instructors are prepared to work with small groups of elementary school children of different ages concurrently.
Two rooms are available for lessons that happen before 4 p.m. The school also provides extracurricular activities. Music is taught for one hour a day, and the instructor is fully certified by the state of California as a music teacher. Children can learn music theory; they can learn how to play piano in a group, and how to sing as a choir. Homeschoolers will also have the opportunity to participate in the Trio School’s recitals four times a year.
If you’d prefer your child was taught individually, you can enroll your child in private or semiprivate piano, guitar, violin or voice lessons. Russian language, dance and chess are also taught at this school, and I’m looking forward to enrolling my sons.
Let us meet at that school and see how our children succeed there!