The Homeschool Advantage: Relax, You’re Already a Teacher

Are you a homeschooling mom who is always worried that you’re not doing it right, measuring your methods against the conventional classroom?

Researchers tell us that the ideal teaching situation is one teacher for one or a few students; so by default, the one teacher per classroom full of students is NOT the ideal, it’s just the reality, and the classroom methods used are the best way to handle that disadvantaged reality.

Your reality looks different.  Shouldn’t you consider, maybe even delight in using different methods?

I suggest that you have, at your disposal, a huge advantage that you should fully realize:  the advantage of real-life learning.

I remember the first year we homeschooled.  I had a second-grader and a two-year-old.  Teaching a 7-year-old at home after standing in front of a classroom teaching high school students–this should be interesting.

Um, I think we should do lots of work sheets or something.  Oh, and a bulletin board.  I know we have to have one of those.”

I seriously made a full-sized bulletin board with a caterpillar on it and something about reading, because I so equated the traditional school room with the “right” way to educate.

That was about the sum total of what I felt like was my second-grade teaching expertise.

But soon, I learned one of the most profound things through homeschooling:

It wasn’t about teaching second grade.  It wasn’t about worksheets or classrooms or lesson plans or bulletin boards.  It wasn’t even about “school.” All of those words had been created so we could better communicate, but the only real word I needed to understand was “education.”

It was about helping my children learn what they needed to learn.  And that changed a lot about how we looked at education, and about the words we had believed were synonymous with education.

I had my seven year old in a classroom at home doing “school.”  But I had a two-year old learning every bit as much during the day from me, his teacher.

One difference: he was more intrigued and curious about the world around him than she was, and was therefore actually learning more and learning what was more needful.

We had taught her a whole language without even trying.  Without a workbook, without a grade, without a desk.  How?  The answer to that question unravels a lot of secrets about educating children.

I remember flipping through her second grade workbook.  She did the work, but she looked bored and neither of us was very excited about homeschooling.  I looked at the pages of clocks with the hands drawn in and questioned, for the first time, if it was all necessary.

“It must be necessary, the “professionals” do it.”  There I went again.  Think about what it would look like if a teacher tried to teach her class room full of 7-year olds all their math concepts through casual dialogue.  I know from being in the classroom, order is paramount.  Quietness, stillness and uniformity.  That was the main objective behind the methods.

Which is fine, if that’s your reality.

The next day, we skipped the clock section.  But during the day I tried to pay attention to questions about time.  This was important–teaching a concept in the context of “need-to-know.”

Mommy, can we eat, I’m  hungry.”

“We will eat at 12:00.  Do you know when that is?”

“No ma’am.”

“Look at the clock.  The small hand tells the hour, and the big hand tells how many minutes have passed in that hour.”

“Is it 12:00 yet?”

“Well, you tell me…where is the small hand?”

You get the picture.  She learned to tell time without another worksheet.

Since then, none of my children have ever filled out a time worksheet.  Or worksheets about money, or counting, or opposites, or colors, etc.

We have multiplied that concept to many other areas and have found that a whole lot of learning happens in real life.  This life-learning relieves pressure, is usually faster because a concept learned within a logical framework often clicks better than learning apart from context, and works well because of short attention spans.

Am I saying we never use worksheets or text books?  Of course not.  Nor am I’m opposed to having children sit down at a desk or table–my children do it every day.  But understanding the special advantage we have to teach through dialogue during the day relieves us of a lot of unnecessary “school”–to know that text books and desks and schedules can be our servants, not our masters.

Life is a classroom.

Think Outside the Classroom

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Are you a homeschooling mother who worries that you aren’t “doing enough”? Are you thinking of homeschooling but feel afraid that you aren’t qualified? If so, read more…

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26 Responses to “The Homeschool Advantage: Relax, You’re Already a Teacher”

  1. LucyT says:

    Kelly,you have got my brain working overtime already with your last post.WHEN DO YOU SLEEP?You really are wonderfull.Thank you for being so relentless(in a good way).

  2. Ben says:

    So, I have a few questions…and I know that, in asking them, I go beyond what you have said here Kelly…and I know that, so I hope you don’t take offense if I ask about something that you think is a bad idea anyway.

    I guess, all I am trying to say in my little disclaimer is that I am asking questions based on things that have worked their way around in my head…not based on what I have heard you say or think you espouse…I’m just clueless! haha

    So some of my questions on more flexible homeschooling methods:

    1) This is the big one: how do you “do” flexible homeschooling in ways that won’t flop once kids are into different schooling situations? This one sticks out in my mind because I had a classmate in college (home-schooled) who, after doing badly on the professor’s testing style, went to him and asked if he could test her by just talking though the information with her, like her mom had…because she knew the information (and she did, I would put her knowledge at about average for the class she was in at the time)…she just didn’t like his testing style.

    That, obviously, didn’t go well.

    So, how does a more flexibly home-schooled child learn to deal with the realities, and, many times, tedious boredom (haha) of other academic situations (mainly, further education). How to handle that very difficult hurdle of moving into a very formal, one-to-many situation where the professor can’t take the time to adapt the course to every individual student?

    Well, OK, I guess I am going to leave it at one for now after all, haha. I have more floating around in my head, but this is really my one of biggest concern, and that I would like to discuss.

    Further disclaimer: I don’t have children (yet, just married six months at this point :)), so it may be that I am missing something about how children learn as they age or something, that is painfully obvious to all of you…if so, sorry about that. Also, I will admit having a liking for a more formal education system (still plan on home-schooling)…and I honestly believe it may be because I was that (apparently) rare child who loved and thrived in university style classes, tested very well on standardized tests, sat around and had late night talks with fellow students about the more interesting properties of calculus (sad, I know, haha, but true), etc. So, if my blindness and bias if making me miss something, feel free to point that out as well!

    Thanks!
    Ben

    • Word Warrior says:

      Ben,

      No disclaimer necessary. You ask a very valid question that deserves careful consideration. In fact, I very well may post your question/my answer in another post.

      *My* disclaimer begins with what I see as a slight problem for the “in the box” type of schooling, manifested in exactly what you described. We teach kids from the classroom model FOR a classroom model as well “teaching to a test”. In essence, I think the educational elite have (and I don’t think it was an accident) built a system that almost forces everyone to participate, or at least feel like they must.

      There are two ways for the homeschooler to handle this, to my mind. First, the approach mentioned in the post is meant to ignite a love of learning in young minds. If college is an educational goal, obviously as the student gets older parents have to consider helping them learn to jump through some of the standard hoops. This may simply involve a “merging” process as high school begins where hopefully the love of learning has become the propelling force and the student is now more readily able to adapt his study habits to a more structured environment. (By the way, the post isn’t meant to disregard structure, just to alleviate our slavery to it.)

      Secondly, there’s a “radical” approach that keeps the pressure of college at bay. I say this carefully…college is a good and necessary tool…sometimes. But just like the posts mentioned, I think we would do well to think of it only as a tool and not as an end. I also think we should define the word “college”. We have been convinced that college means, “the only way to get a higher education and therefore a successful job”, and I don’t think that’s true at all.

      If I have a child whose direction/bent seems to necessitate college (usually this can be detected during the high school years), obviously our methods are going to consider that. I still think the discussion/relaxed approach has a very viable place in his education, but we will also need to ensure he is sufficiently able to perform
      “think inside the box” too.

      For us personally, we hold the idea of college at an arms length, meaning, we believe that a higher education is not limited to going off to college and in fact, could be achieved much easier and cheaper through alternative means. On-line programs are already making a name for themselves and if I could step out on a limb here, with all the technology and information now available to the common household, I envision a day very soon where a remote campus is outdated and obsolete. We’re already seeing some shifts in that direction, even at a high school level.

      In summary, yes, I think adjustments in methods must be made if you intend for your child to attend a college classroom. I think you can still implement the methods discussed in this post, just with some extra “classroom training”.

      But do I think we need to reconsider that a “higher education” is much broader than “college”? Yep.

      Does that help at all?

      • Ben says:

        Wonderful! I definitely agree about about college not being the only (nor always the best) option when it comes to “higher” education. Your insight was very useful…thanks for the thoughts from someone who has had more time to think though these things at this point 🙂

  3. Ginger says:

    I recently read and loved When You Rise Up: A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling by Sproul Jr. It changed my view of what “education” means.
    I’ve never wanted to duplicate what the failing gov’t schools are doing. They may be professionals, but they sure aren’t getting impressive results. I credit Charlotte Mason for making me “think outside the box”. My kids are actually enjoying their education. Imagine that!

  4. Diane says:

    Ben… not Kelly here, but I wanted to address your thoughts, if you and Kelly don’t mind:-)

    My first thought at reading the story of your college classmate who requested special testing methods is that her real difficulty was not that she was homeschooled, or even that her mom used unconventional teaching/testing methods with her. It was an inappropriate sense of entitlement… rather than realizing that she was in a different environment and seeking to adapt herself, she pretty much asked the environment to adapt to her. No wonder the instructor didn’t respond well,lol. I suspect that the instructor would have responded much differently if she had gone to him and asked him for input on how she could study better, prepare herself more effectively for his manner of evaluation instead of assuming that the changes and adaptation needed to come from him, yanno?

    Sadly, it is not uncommon for homeschooled youngsters to get the impression that the world revolves around them, and even an inflated sense of their own wonderfulness, lol. I suspect your college friend’s problem was more of this variety than anything related to the unconventional teaching methods her parents used. My 19yo daughter calls this type of attitude the big fish-puddle syndrome (an amplification of the big fish-small pond thing, I suppose.) As homeschooling parents it is important that we keep our kids feet well planted firmly on the ground, that they be taught respect for authority and the importance of flexibility and humility in dealing with others. From what I know of Kelly, I’m absolutely certain that her children have been well schooled in all of these things:-D

    • Ben says:

      Thanks for your response Diane! There was definitely some “me-centeredness” going on…and something that has to be guarded against.

  5. jen in AL says:

    great post! It is really a journey to throw off the shackles of all the “classroom” , “in the box”, programmed thinking. I still catch myself defaulting to that thinking every once in a while and have stop and shake the cobwebs off! Journey on WW! blessings, jen in al

  6. Kim M says:

    I am so glad you posted about this. I really struggle with the “shackles” (as Jen put it). I have so many ideas and my children love it when I get off the beaten path and make learning fun. And… they learn so much!

    But then I get pulled back into the workbooks because I am so afraid we are going to miss something. It becomes a cycle. Workbooks for a few months… then fun projects for a few months. Then I feel like we are falling behind on the workbooks because we took the time to have fun.

    I think, too, it has a lot to do with the fact that if something were to happen to me that my kids would have to go back to the Christian school setting they were in before we started home-schooling. In my church community, it is very rare to home-school since the school is there.

    In fact, someone pulled me aside after church last night and asked me why I would home-school when we have such a good, Christian school there.

    One huge positive thing.. I have been reading a lot of “living” books for science. I decided to pull out the boxed curriculum science book for my five year old and read it to him. You know what he said? “Mom, this is SO DUMB.” And honestly, after all I have read, it sounded kind of pre-schoolish.

  7. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Wendy Rawley, Kelly Crawford. Kelly Crawford said: Homeschooling: Use Your Advantage – http://b2l.me/682s7 […]

  8. Kim Walters says:

    Gotta jump in here with my two cents’ worth :). We just finished our 23rd year of homeschooling our six children and have graduated our three oldest. Most of our homeschooling looked a lot like what Kelly has described; in fact, there were a number of days/weeks/months when we did very little formal, structured homeschooling — like the years when we had a new baby. Our children have all thrived. All three of our older daughters graduated by age 15 from homeschool high school and went on to very successful adult lives. I worked hard to make sure that there was NOT a sense of entitlement; I wanted my children to be able to function in the real world — “in the world but not of it.” There’s a story I love to tell about Daughter #1’s college experience. She was 17, had homeschooled from second grade on, and was in a program in WA state called “Running Start” (essentially the state funded two years of college education for eligible high school juniors and seniors, including homeschoolers; they paid tuition and students paid for books and lab fees). Esther took a history course with a professor who was notoriously tough on 17-year-old homeschooled Running Start students, and he didn’t hesitate to express his opinion on the subject. This particular professor was a stickler for proper English grammar, and, fortunately for Esther, I happened to teach English grammar classes to homeschoolers. At the end of the term, this professor called Esther to his desk one day and said, “Tell your mother to give herself a pat on the back! I have to take back everything I’ve ever said about 17-year-old homeschooled Running Start students!” The ONLY minor hump in the road for my daughter when entering college was realizing that college professors were slightly less lenient about deadlines than Mom (“Oh, you want to take a three-week Amtrak trip with Grandpa and Grandma? Sure, that’s fine. You’ll have to finish your algebra when you get home, though.”). Esther went on to finish her two-year Associate’s in five terms rather than the usual six, carrying up to 27 credits some terms in order to finish AND transferred to a four-year college with a GPA in the top one-half of 1% of transferring juniors, which garnered her a two-year, $20,000 per year scholarship! She has a bachelors in linguistics and a masters in teaching and now teaches fourth grade in a public school. And she’ll be 30 soon; I mention this because we homeschoolers really did have something to prove back in the day, when very few people were familiar with this radical new concept of educating children at home. I actually used to keep my children home during school hours in 1987 when we began homeschooling since some people were prone to think they were truant. Nowadays it’s difficult to find anyone who doesn’t know SOMEBODY who homeschools and the general attitude towards homeschooling is positive.

    I’ll step down from my soapbox now……..but I’d love to answer any questions anyone might have about what I term “relaxed homeschooling” and its effectiveness (without hijacking your post, Kelly!). And I hope this helps, Ben.

    Kim Walters, homeschooling farming momma in Oregon 🙂

    • Word Warrior says:

      WOW, Kim, I so appreciate your taking the time to share that! It’s so encouraging to see that a concept many of us simply must have faith in actually pays in tangible evidence.

      You are welcome any time to offer your wisdom!

  9. shanie says:

    kelly, i bet you have already talked about this, and because it didn’t apply to my life yet, i foolishly passed on reading it…were you and your husband of like mind about homeschooling? C and i have not agreed, and we’re years off to decide, i guess… his worry is that, in our conservative small town, he was happy in school, it was non-offensive i suppose, and he wants our kids to be able to participate in team sports… our current agreement is that i will be VERY active and aware of what our kids are learning, and to supplement, but if you have posts on your decision, i’d LOVE to see them… not sure how to procede, obviously i’m not going to force the hubs, but he will let me present my argument, and i’m letting him lead our family in this… thanks!

    • R. F. says:

      Shanie,

      I can understand where your husband is coming from. I went to school in a small town (less than 1200 people in the whole town). I was able to do drama, band, sports, clubs galore. I loved it. However, we now live in a smallish city. I wouldn’t dream of putting my children in these schools that are larger than the town I grew up in. I also realize there are more important things than having a good time in school, eternal souls are at stake here. My mom who works as a teachers aid in the little school I grew up in, tells me how awful things are. The junk that is taught there is no different than big city schools; homosexuality, evolution, politics, etc.

      I plan on encouraging my children to get involved with activities outside of the school system. We have a theatre down the street that teaches drama classes. An art museum, next to the theatre, that teaches children’s art classes. Lots of sports leagues outside of the school for just about any sport you can think of. And many public schools allow for homeschool children to participate in extra curricular activities (sports, band, etc.)

      Encourage your husband to take a good look at homeschooling. Present him with the options for activities that may sound enjoyable. And remind him that the public school will not encourage your children in their faith, but will do just the opposite.

  10. Word Warrior says:

    Shanie,

    Smart girl 😉 Neither of us were considering homeschooling when we married, but both of us, through researching came to the overwhelming conviction simultaneously (Greg Harris’ The Homeschool Workshop sealed the deal for us).

    I would encourage you to “present your argument”. And I have written extensively on this blog about my thoughts toward homeschooling and public education. I support homeschooling for a number of reasons, but have very strong feelings, in particular, about encouraging Christians to weigh their responsibility for what they are commanded to teach their children with the agenda of the public school system.

    Do a search in my side bar for “homeschooling” or select that as a category and you should come up with quite a bit to read!

  11. Sara says:

    Sometimes I get panicked that I’m getting behind, and my kids haven’t even started homeschooling yet. My oldest is 5, so would be starting kindergarten this year.
    I wasn’t homeschooled and am not a teacher, and my oldest and I clash a lot, so I’m hoping and praying it goes well.

    I think there’s a high standard now for homeschoolers. It seems it’s not just beat those public schoolers anymore or get a decent education devoid of relativism, but “my kid will graduate by 15 knowing Latin, Greek, and Quantam Mechanics, then on to their first Master’s by 17.”
    While I’m nervous that I’m going to stunt my very bright child because I simply don’t know what I’m doing.

    Some mothers tell me not to even start until later, like 6,7,8, to let them be children for a while. But how can you start them late and then also get them done early? So, I’m worried I’m already behind! She’s 5 already and we haven’t introduced a second language, pretty soon that part of her brain will atrophy and learning a second language will be impossible, etc!

    It’s overwhelming to think about. Structured or not!

    • Word Warrior says:

      Sara,

      I would suggest to you a heavy dose of Charlotte Mason 😉 You can read much about her methods on line, there is a series I did here (you can search for it) or purchase some of the books about her method.

      It really meshed everything together for us and her philosophy resonated against what seemed both logical and intuitive about a child’s learning.

      She has very high educational standards while maintaining that those standards can only be met by allowing a great deal of childhood freedom and exploration.

      Gotta love it.

      • Sara says:

        Thanks. I just bought a book about Charlotte Mason to familiarize myself with her.
        We had decided we really liked Sonlight because it incorporated so much reading, which we do a lot of anyway. Was confirmed in my choice when we went to our state’s homeschool conference.
        From what I’ve learned, it seems like Charlotte Mason was a big fan of practicality, which was why she had her students learn French rather than Latin.
        For us, I suppose that would be Spanish. Or maybe Chinese 😛

        I know their little minds can soak up so much, I just hope I can provide enough material!

  12. Amanda says:

    Kim W, do you mind me asking why your daughter teaches at a public school after such a positive homeschool experience? Does she have her children in public school as well? Just curious — I hope I’m not being too nosy.

  13. ladyscott says:

    This article reminded me of those who say I’m not “qualified to be a teacher to my children.” Never mind that I teach them just about everything from the moment they’re born to that “magic” age when I suddenly am no longer “qualified” but instead have to give them up to a college educated stranger.

    On the other hand, I do have a lot of public school teachers supporting me in my desire to homeschool. For that I am thankful.

  14. Kelly L says:

    Great points!

  15. Kim Walters says:

    @ Amanda……. My daughter teaches in a public school because that’s where she got hired and where she gets a paycheck :). She is married but no children yet. It will be interesting to see what they’ll do once they have a family. Naturally I’d love it if my grandchildren were also homeschooled, but it’s not my decision to make. Additionally, Esther’s husband grew up in a single-parent, working-mom home, with daycare and public schools being the norm, so obviously his mindset is very different. (Side note: Daughter #2 is getting married in a month, and she and her almost-hubby are nearly sure their children will be homeschooled! Yay. Now all I have to do is pray — and wait for those grandbabies! Our youngest is only eight — and our two boys, ages 12 and 17, are on the autism spectrum — so we ourselves have more than a few more homeschooling years left!)

  16. […] on the learning philosophy I talked about in the last Relaxed Homeschooling post, there are numerous ways parents can help facilitate a lifestyle of learning within their homes.  […]

  17. Irish Mazin says:

    An elderly woman at an ATM asked me to check her balance, so I pushed her over. Yup, she needs a walker

  18. […] are the most qualified to teach their […]

  19. Natalie says:

    Love it Kelly, thanks!

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