Monday, 4 June 2012

Why I'm Not a Good Homeschooling Teacher


Everyone thinks I homeschool my fourteen year old daughter, Charlotte. I don’t. She homeschools herself.

I try to help her:

“Charlotte, I have a new book we’re just about to start reading. What you like to join us?”

“No thanks, Mum. I have something else planned.”

“Charlotte we’re going to watch this DVD. Do you want to watch too?”

“Not right now, thank you Mum. I’m in the middle of something else.”

So Sophie, Gemma-Rose and I settle on the sofa together and enjoy learning without her. Charlotte disappears into her bedroom, her mind busy with her own activities.

We meet up again at lunch time. “What did you do this morning?” I ask.

My middle daughter puts down her mug of tea. Her face lights up as she shares some of her morning’s discoveries.

“Don’t you ever get fed up working on your own?”  I ask.

“No,” Charlotte replies. “I’ve got too many interesting things to do to get bored and fed up.”

After lunch I pull out the records book I am required to keep for our homeschooling registration. “You’d better tell me again exactly what you did this morning, Charlotte. I need to record everything in my book.”

“I watched a video on Germanium. Did you know…” 

A few minutes later she moves onto the next item. “Then there’s maths. I beat Imogen’s score on that Pinata game.” Charlotte grins with delight. Obviously there’s some sisterly rivalry going on.

“I’m reading about Catholicism and the New World. Did you know…  And I read some more of Through Shakespeare’s Eyes. I’m also reading Vilette. Then I did some Latin. I had a problem but I sorted it out. I’ve nearly finished the course! Oh yes, I’m planning another chemistry lesson for the girls…”

I am scribbling at a furious rate.  Then I have a brilliant idea. Why didn’t I think of it sooner? I grab a new exercise book from the shelf and thrust it at Charlotte. “It would be much easier if you kept your own records book. You know exactly what you’re doing. Just write it all down.”

“Ok!” Charlotte seems to like this idea. I like it too. It will be easier. But is it good I have less to do? Soon Charlotte won’t need me at all.

I think of the fun we used to have learning together. Times have changed. Charlotte and Imogen  have charged off on their own learning adventures without me. Yes, they still like to join me and the younger girls when we are doing something that sounds particularly exciting like watching a Shakespeare play or driving to the lake or going for a run. But really, they are independent. They have their own ideas and don’t need me any more.

“You don’t need your mother to homeschool you any longer,” I tell Charlotte with a sigh.

She puts her arms around me and hugs me close. “I do need you, Mum. Actually, I need some new suggestions. I’ve read all those books you found for me. I want to know more about…”

Yes, Charlotte does need me. She needs me to search for all those wonderful books and other resources which keep her enquiring mind satisfied. I open the computer and start looking.

“Bring me your Kindle,” I shout some time later. “I’ve found some great books and a wonderful website about history and Shakespeare. I’ll email you the link.”

Charlotte appears with a grin. She can’t wait to look at what I’ve found.

Am I a good homeschool teacher? No. I don’t really teach. I just find interesting things to engage my girls’ interest and step out of the way. They do the rest.  But is that enough?

I guess we all have doubts at some time. Are our children learning all they need to know? Will they really be prepared, when it’s time to move on from homeschooling, to study at a tertiary level?  Just to be sure, shouldn’t I structure my children’s curriculum in the last year or so? Shouldn’t I insist Charlotte and Imogen need me to direct them?

No. Sadly I am aware they don’t need such help from me. Sadly? I’m not really sad. That’s just the mother in me talking. Instead, I am very excited. Children really do learn what they need to know. They can be trusted.

“So what are you going to do this afternoon?” I ask Charlotte.

“I will practice the piano. Then I’m going to bake some muffins. After that I’m going to work on my Camp NaNoWriMo novel…”

It looks like Charlotte has it all planned out. Imogen is busy too and Sophie and Gemma-Rose have just disappeared out the door into the garden. It seems no one needs me this afternoon. Sad? No. I am happy. I have a couple of hours all to myself.

I think I will write…I think I will write about why I am not a good homeschooling teacher.


20 comments:

  1. Hmm, this seems familiar. And it makes me feel good to realise that. I've been worrying about being more involved but everyone is very busy. Just a few loose ends to keep on track, perhaps - I'm thinking aloud here. Our lesson plans help everyone to keep their own records and I find that really helps, even though they divert from the plan a lot.

    Lots of ideas here for me to think about and lots to inspire. Thanks, Sue:-)

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    1. Vicky,

      When your children divert from their lesson plans, do they record what they actually did instead, or do you do fill it in for them?

      I wrote this post and wondered if it sounds like I don't actually do much. I guess I don't 'teach' but I do get involved with my children's education. The girls always want to share what they've discovered. We have lots of discussions about things. Sometimes these chats give me ideas on what resources to search for.

      I also spend lots of time reading to the younger girls, helping them write their stories and letters, helping them edit their blog posts, taking interest in their projects, answering their questions, strewing interesting things in their pathways...

      I am sure you know what I'm talking about because you probably do similar things with your children. So although everyone is busy and involved, we are not just sitting around knitting and writing blog posts or chatting on the phone! Though that does sound a nice way to spend time!

      Delete
  2. Mothers "homeschool" their children all their lives. Even when they've left home.

    God bless.

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    1. Victor,

      Mothers certainly never stop loving and caring about their children, regardless of how old they get. Homeschooling could be looked at as encouraging, guiding, helping, listening, sharing... I hope I can do all these with my children even after they've left home, as you said.

      God bless!

      Delete
  3. Sue, you and I have similar approaches to homeschooling and I agree with you and Victor that even when our children are older, we're still guiding, encouraging, helping, listening and sharing. God bless....

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    1. Ellen,

      It is lovely to hear you are a kindred spirit. I am not surprised though! We have seen the end results of homeschooling as we both have young adult graduates. I suppose we have an advantage over 'younger' homeschoolers. We can look at what our children have achieved and be encouraged.

      Yes, I liked Victor's comment too.

      God bless you!

      Delete
  4. This sounds exactly like where my now-six-year-old son is heading, and I absolutely LOVE this part of homeschooling! Thanks for the peek ahead =)

    -A.

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    1. Angela,

      It really is worth spending time learning with our children when they are young, and surrounding them with interesting and exciting experiences. They pick up our love of learning, and later when they are older like Charlotte and Imogen,it is natural for them to go off on their own learning adventures. Yes, you are right! I am sure your son will do the same!

      Six is such a wonderful age. All that enthusiasm and all those questions. I imagine you are really enjoying watching and helping your son as he learns.

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing!

      Delete
  5. Sue- Just this year, I started having my children write "progress reports" at the end of each week telling me just what they learned, experienced, and discovered each week. I did not do it for "official" record keeping, just for our own records. Charlotte's report for record keeping sounds similar.

    I think our progress reports were the best thing we did this year. On our last day we pulled them all out and read over our entire year. It was amazing to see how much we accomplished, and how much of my children's real learning happened away from our school table and our workbooks. I still find myself contemplating unschooling, but for now things seem to be working well. :)

    It sounds as though they are working just as well at your house (maybe even better). As long as your children are learning and loving it you must be offering them just the support, guidance, and love that they need.

    God Bless, Kari

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    1. Kari,

      I sometimes get frustrated having to keep official records as I often forget to fill in the day's activities, but I do like the sound of your progress reports. They will become treasured memories to look back on and enjoyed. Sometimes I come across old exercise books filled with my children's diary entries or poems, written many years ago. I always love rereading them and remembering!

      I think you have summed up homeschooling well, Kari. As long as our children are learning and loving it then our homeschools are successful. Helping children achieve these goals when they are young will encourage them to go off and have independent learning adventures when they are older, regardless of whether we are unschooling or not.

      God bless!

      Delete
  6. Lovely several posts :-) It's so great to see the kids engaged and pursuing learning just for its own sake! Btw, your Callum is going to be a great dad some day - unless God is calling him to other things :-)

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    1. Beate,

      Thank you for reading my posts!

      I think you are quite right: Callum will make a great dad. I will have to share your comment with him. I just noticed that Callum's conversation post, "Influencing a Child to Do What is Right and Necessary" is on my most popular posts list. That will make Callum smile!

      Delete
  7. I love these posts of yours. =)

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    1. Thank you, Elisa!

      When we first set out on our homeschooling adventure, we had high hopes our children would acquire a great love of learning. (We worried a little too!)It is so exciting to see how things turned out. Watching our older children has given us confidence, and now we are very relaxed about our younger girls and don't worry any longer. They will learn everything they need to know. And enjoy it too!

      Thank you for encouraging me to write our stories.

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  8. Sue - I just have to thank you for this post!

    I have been feeling very inadequate lately - so much of our children's learning happens quite without me - and reading on other blogs how some homeschoolers seem so organised and 'perfect' was getting to me.

    And then I came across your post, totally related to it, and I'm feeling so much better now - thankyou! :)

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    1. Linda,

      I am so glad you stopped and said hello!

      I guess the whole aim of homeschooling is to produce children who enjoy learning independently. But you are right, it can take some adjusting when their learning happens without much input from us. At first, because I hadn't actually taught my children something, I questioned whether they'd really learned it. Now I just accept they know far more than me about most subjects!

      I couldn't be organised and 'perfect' if I tried. I know we wouldn't enjoy homeschooling that way. We would lose all the joy of our days together. I smiled when you accused yourself of being 'soft' in your last blog post. Perhaps outsiders might accuse you of being soft, but you are just responding to the needs of your own family. Your day with your children sounded perfect and very happy! It is so hard not to compare ourselves with other people, isn't it?

      I am 'soft' every day because I don't think learning has to be painful. I don't want my children to look at it as a task that has to be accomplished, but as an enjoyable natural part of life.

      Linda, thank you for sharing!

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  9. My high schoolers are the same way. I made them write me little progress reports each week too! It is amazing what they discover and what new things they learn when we let them go and follow their dreams.
    It is hard sometimes to feel we do enough, but then I sit back, seperate myself from the equation, and think about where they were a year ago and then where they are now. I am always amazed at how much they have grown and learned.

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    1. Amy Caroline,

      I am a lot busier with my younger girls than I am with my older ones. I have been thinking about this. Maybe it is important to spend lots of time learning together with younger children, introducing them to new experiences and just having fun: sharing our own love of learning. Then as they get older, they head off on their own adventures and our job is almost done. You said: "It is hard sometimes to feel we do enough". Yes, I wonder that sometimes too but at the same time, I get excited watching my children take control of their own education.

      It is always good to look back and see how far our children have come. I guess this is one good reason for keeping progress reports or records books, though I do find filling them in a nuisance!

      I see you contribute to Catholic Cuisine. That is such a wonderful site! I will have to visit your knitting blogs too. I love knitting (when I am not writing!)

      Thank you for stopping to say hello!

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  10. I hope I arrive at the day my children become more self-motivated. While I'll miss their needing me all the time, I look forward to all I can accomplish and how much THEY will accomplish simutaneously. Your blog was wonderful - thanks... found it at Catholic Bloggers Network!

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    1. Melissa,

      You are quite right. When our children are self-motivated and don't really need us any more to teach them, our job as homeschooling parents has been successful. That's what it's all about, isn't it? We should be happy!

      Thank you for kind words about my blog and thank you for visiting. I am so pleased you stopped to say hello.

      God bless!

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