Hard Questions About Homeschooling (Part Two) – I’M MOM! I’M NOT QUALIFIED TO TEACH!

This is the second article in a series, answering hard questions dealing with homeschooling. In the first article, I discussed how a person might overcome the problems of no money and no time. There’s a great deal more to be said on that subject – and much of it is covered in my book, Poor Cheated Little Johnny, and in courses I authored to train homeschool parents and teachers, found at our site, www.StepsEd.com

In article one, we made a brief list of major concerns and objections one might encounter to homeschooling. Let’s take up the second point on that list now.

– The parent or parents may themselves feel undereducated, and hence, not adequate to the job of educating their children.

What is the core of this sentiment, this sense of “inadequacy” that many people feel about teaching? Given the fact that for thousands of years families taught their own, and that this homeschool process gave birth to many a transcendent genius, there is something rotten in the state of Denmark (to paraphrase Hamlet).

Who told the rest of the world that only a trained teacher should teach? Well, teachers, that’s who. You know? Those people who attempt to make a living by instructing our young? They and their well-funded union shills will tell you with somewhat delusional wide-eyed enthusiasm and sublime confidence that only a trained teacher, preferably one with a degree, should ever pretend to teach a child. (And that is what almost all trained teachers do – pretend to teach.)

Teachers and their unions have spread several myths. One myth is that of the overworked, underpaid, overachieving teacher who is in it just for the children. It’s a myth, folks, with few exceptions. Teachers, especially those who work in public schools, are almost all very well paid and have benefits that most of us would kill to have. They usually have a light work schedule compared to anyone with a full time job.

I taught at a public school, numerous private schools, and several universities. There were a few exceptions, but many of the teachers I worked with were not in any way concerned about the children placed in their charge. They were concerned about their perks and salaries, and in private, MANY TEACHERS SPOKE VERY DEROGATORILY ABOUT THEIR STUDENTS. Believe me, this is quite common.

After all, those teachers had no degrees in the subjects they were teaching, and no real expertise. They had degrees in EDUCATION, not in, say, physics, chemistry, or history. That education degree allowed them to secure work as a teacher in a public school. But those teachers absolutely knew that they had little or no expertise in the areas they were assigned to teach, far more often than not. So they knew that the people who paid them (that would be you, through tuition or tax dollars), and that their students, were and are suckers. Why should teachers have a high opinion of suckers? And why on earth would anyone think that such people are the right people to teach your child?

There’s more. What do teachers learn in the process of securing a degree in education? Well, they could only have learned techniques and approaches to education that DO NOT WORK. How do we know this? Because institutionalized education has miserably failed tens of millions of children, their families, and our entire civilization…using the techniques that they have accepted as standard practice for almost 150 years.

Why is the drop-out rate so astonishingly high across the U.S., at well over 50% in many public school districts? Why is functional literacy, which is not just the ability to read and write but also the ability to understand and secure from a document needed information, on dire decline? Why do so few people read today? Where did that incredible creative thrust that set the United States (or any country experiencing a golden age in history) at the top of the world go? How did it die? We have a much larger population now than in the 1920s and 1930s, say. With the remarkable technology available to us along with a greatly expanded population – where are the geniuses?

Genius has largely been murdered by education, as education is done today. Teachers earned their degrees mastering tools and ideas that are brutally destructive of the child and his education. They use these tools every day, convinced that they may sometimes work because a few students are able to rise above the meat grinder we call institutionalized education. There will always be the few students who are self-motivated and able to acquire an education – almost entirely in spite of school. Teachers see these victories and assume that they are responsible. The student made himself in most of those cases unless the teacher is an extraordinary rebel, and gifted.

So let’s end the myths that teachers have perpetrated and enforced for a century. As a group, teachers know little or nothing about education, and their horrible statistics prove this beyond argument. They know little or nothing about any particular child placed in their care, having so many children per classroom and “so little time”. They are trained in the use of “critically based” tools such as testing, grading, and evaluations, which do nothing to educate and only serve to demean the student and enforce the school’s “authority” over both the student and his family. They are quite well paid for this charade, and have long vacations and even year-long sabbaticals. They are even, sadly, respected.

Almost all schools and teachers are nearly worthless to students, their families and to civilization, the exceptions being bright stars that actually love children and have transcended the system – VERY rare!

Bottom line to you as a homeschooler? You are MORE qualified to teach your child than almost any teacher – even if you are scarcely literate. But how can this be so, you ask? Let me explain.

Every child is unique. Each student has unique strengths and weaknesses. Each student has interests, subjects they are strong in, that they enjoy and easily pursue. Each student has subjects that they are relatively weak in. Each student learns best at certain times of the day, and by using certain methods.

Every student has a unique educational profile, as unique as a fingerprint and unlike anyone else in the world. And absolutely no one is better placed to understand the unique qualities of your children than YOU.

Let’s say that you have a teenage son. He loves certain subjects and shows real aptitude for them. Let’s say for the sake of discussion that he excels in some are of the arts. He’s in school. Schools are regimented. Schedules and requirements do not change in a school, not from student to student. Education is not oriented toward the individual, not in a school. Education in a school is factory-produced, each education cut to the same limited specifications. So your son, who loves some area of the arts, spends say four or more of his six hours in a school studying subjects for which he has little or no aptitude or interest. Then he comes home – and has two-three hours of homework in those same subjects! In part this is so because he has little or no aptitude for those subjects, and so is “required” to “catch up”. He’s “remedial”, another critical label stapled to his head and into his school folders.

But place that same young man in a small group that is taught by an artist! The student suddenly excels! He shines! He’s home. Given the bulk of his study time placed into the arts he loves, he might well become a fine artist – even a great artist, a genius. But that will almost never happen while he’s placed in a school situation, one where the teacher has anywhere from 20-40 students every hour to contend with. The student’s interests are not important to that teacher. The student’s name is not important to that teacher. What is important is that each of the 40 students in his classroom sticks to the assigned schedule of chapters and testing.

Homeschool that young man! You can do it! Because YOU, mom or dad, can actually see who that child is. You see his creative works and hear his ideas as they are born. You can easily see which subjects thrill your child, and are likely to become his life and livelihood. You can as easily see the subjects that are torture for him. What’s more, focused as you are on just the one or few children that you homeschool, you have time to figure out the best ways to help them do what they are trying to do, and even to assist them with subjects that they perhaps should study but which they struggle with.

Is your own literacy in question? Then work with curricula that is largely self contained, and which helps the student help himself. (My own, Steps, is one such.) If the subject is covered with expertise and accuracy in a course, in a way that encourages the student to actually learn, that can easily be half the battle. And having the freedom as a homeschooler to do so, locate specialists in the areas that your student wishes to specialize in and let the student work with them. Small specialized occupational or art schools, tutors with experience in the right area, clubs that do what the student wants to do – these could be your homeschooling best friends. Sports clubs, YMCAs and variations, science clubs, local museums and zoos with extension courses, chess club, math club, whatever club! In many municipalities, they’re out there.

Improve your own literacy as well, is that is a real concern! If your student is worth educating, aren’t you? Improve two educations for the price of one. After all, if you expect your student to learn in a homeschool situation, you may need to set the example. And please don’t believe that the student must never see you learning, too, as if you were a student. Too many people have bought into the lie that a teacher must be “an authority”, or authority figure. It’s utter and destructive nonsense. A teacher who is not himself continuously learning is of limited value to his students. A teacher who feels the need to hide the fact that he is not all-knowing is of no value at all.

Be a real teacher! A great teacher is inquisitive. He wants to know all about a lot of things so that he can share his knowledge with others. He also looks at and listens to his students. This is more important by far than expertise in a subject, or being an “authority figure” of some sort. Your students will tell you, through their actions and words, what subjects most interest them.

As a homeschool mom or dad, your first job is to provide a safe environment for your children. This is accomplished at home with far greater ease and better results than in any school, so you’re already doing a better job than “teachers” and schools. Your next job is to provide as much experience and variety as you possibly can to your children, so that they are exposed to many subjects, activities and ideas. Do this using experiences and curricula you feel you understand and can trust.

Then watch and listen. Which subjects capture the child’s interest? Which ideas spark their mind, their imagination, their excitement? Which activities do they demonstrate increasing expertise and confidence over? Watch and listen, and when you see signs of real interest – as a homeschool parent, alter the plan. Focus the student’s educational efforts, his time and work, on the things the student in truly interested in and longs to master. Doing this, you will find yourself with a student who loves education!

These simple steps alone will make you a far better teacher than the trained charlatans running our schools today. Your child’s life will serve as the proof of your success as an educator. You are qualified, and indeed, far more than any teacher. Get on with it.
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As you probably know, I am an advocate for homeschooling. It’s my belief that homeschooling potentially provides a student with a vastly superior education than schooling in any form. This is backed up by a lot of numbers and research. I’ve taught for public and private schools, at the University level, as a private instructor in thousands of workshops, and as a homeschool dad running a homeschool group. Homeschooling by far works best for most students- and most families.

But I understand that many parents do not believe they can effectively homeschool. They’ve been told that they “don’t have degrees,” and that they “aren’t qualified.” This is all nonsense, of course. You’re legally not required to have any kind of a degree to homeschool your kids anywhere in the U.S. A lot of people who have degrees and who call themselves “professional teachers” are simply awful, and even destructive at what they do. A lot of parents…hundreds that I know of…have homeschooled their kids right into universities and careers.

In a serious effort to make homeschooling easier to do, and more commonly successful in terms of education received, I’ve authored my own curriculum. It took some 15,000 hours to write, over more than a decade of work, and is intended to replace the need for schooling a student from age 5-Adult Continuing Education. The curriculum is called Steps (or “CTT”). It has been used by over 20,000 students worldwide over the past 10 years. Hundreds of “success stories” attest to how well CTT works.

CTT courses are written in a way that gradually allows the student to take over his own education. Each course itself largely does the teaching, relieving mom and dad of that duty unless they wish to use our daily lesson plans in various subjects as springboards for family discussion and discovery – as many families do, every day. The parent has the job of making certain the student is working and has what they need to study. (And you’ll need to find a good math program for homeschooling as we don’t provide one. There are many.)

Below are links to our site discussing each level of curriculum, and every subject at that level that we offer. (You can start any level at any time. We don’t have “semesters” that start at a certain time, and each course stands alone well.) You’ll find free videos describing how every subject and each level works. You’ll discover free samples of every course we offer. Our site offers many other services and surprises, including numerous free courses you can download and try out.

Starter is for ages 5-6, and for preliterate students of any age. It focuses on starting to develop literacy skills, while teaching about various subjects. Starter includes full two-year programs in Reading, History, Science, Creative Writing, and Living Your Life, courses that develop life and study skills for the youngest students. Every lesson plan at the Starter level works to develop literacy.

Elementary is for ages 7-8, and for students who are developing literacy. It includes two-year programs in Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing (which also teaches the parts of language at this level), and Living Your Life courses which develop life and study skills in preparation for more advanced studies to come.

Lower School (ages 9-10) offers two-year programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, P.E. Electives, and in various arts such as Animation, Music Theory, and Acting. At this level, students must read fairly well, and studies are progressively turned over to the student.

Upper School (ages 11-High School, and Adult Continuing Education) provides programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, Current Events, Literature Guides, P.E. Electives, and in arts such as Animation, Acting, Music Theory, and Music History.

For parents who wish to teach at home, but are intimidated at the thought, and for parents who just wish to improve the homeschool experience, we offer a ten course homeschool program for homeschool teachers, as well as several books about education and homeschooling today.

We want you and your children to win with homeschooling!

5 comments for “Hard Questions About Homeschooling (Part Two) – I’M MOM! I’M NOT QUALIFIED TO TEACH!

  1. July 19, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    THANK YOU for all of these wonderful thoughts. People assume that I am more qualified to teach my children (since I have a Master’s Degree in Education), but really ~ it makes me no more qualified than the next person. In fact, I think it hampers me in some respects because I was trained to teach MASSES of children, not individual thinkers.

    I loved this post.

  2. July 19, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Thanks, Mary, for the kind words! Glad the post is of service. You have a MOST unusual viewpoint for a person with a degree in education! Only the exceptional teacher can rise above their training to actually succeed with the student (or students) in front of them. I commend you.

  3. July 19, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    I’d agree with 99% of the article. The only sentence I disagreed with is “They usually have a light work schedule compared to anyone with a full time job.” I think when I was teaching I was working a full time job, during the school year I was in there at least 50 hours a week, and most weeks more.

    But, other than that, totally agree. An education degree does not truly equip you to teach a classroom of students, and definitely does not make you more qualified than a parent teaching their own child who really wants to teach.

  4. July 20, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    In response to the last comment;

    Thanks for writing, and for your comment. I see that you had a real work week, which would set you considerably apart form many, many of the “professional teachers” I have known. That said, did you work summers, or get them off? You mentioned “during the school year”. For most teachers, they get a very good salary – for a person working year round, only they do not, they work 9 months. And they take off every seven years for a “sabbatical”. Most often, paid. Anyway, thanks for stepping in, it’s appreciated.

  5. September 9, 2011 at 7:09 am

    The best homeschooler I’ve ever met in all our years of homeschooling was a woman who had dropped out of school, got her G.E.D., went to a few Community College courses and dropped out of that too. Her kids were more advanced and “ahead” than the kids of the college professors that I knew who also homeschooled their kids. This mom didn’t have a ton of money to spend on fancy curriculum either. What she did have was a strong commitment to educating her children. When she needed to, she learned alongside them.

    Teaching degrees, as Mary mentioned, may equip one with superior crowd control skills. But they’re no substitute for a love of learning or the dedication to enrich young minds.

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