The Difference Between a Teacher and
a Homeschooling Learning Facilitator
By Linda Dobson
The idea of a homeschooling parent who is facilitating learning turns attention toward the one being helped, whereas teaching, “to impart knowledge or give instruction to,” shines the spotlight on the helper. With the homeschooling facilitator, the goal is to clear the path for an active learner. With the teacher, the goal is for the learner to remain comparatively passive while the active participant is the teacher who doles out knowledge, doing something for or to the student. The implications of these differences are astounding.
For your child, it means taking increased responsibility for, and therefore ownership of, his education. Even just a dose of such ownership in your home will have your child taking leaps, not baby steps, toward the goals of maturity, responsibility, and self-reliance.
Incidentally, these are some of the qualities that have college and university admissions officers actively recruiting homeschooling students. Here’s an excerpt from a Jan/Feb 2002 article in Brown Alumni Magazine: “These kids are the epitome of Brown students,” says Joyce Reed, who became an associate dean of the college almost two decades ago. “They’ve learned to be self-directed, they take risks, they face challenges with total fervor, and they don’t back off.”
Perks of Being a Homeschooling Learning Facilitator
If you don’t like the idea of becoming your child’s teacher, think in terms of facilitating, instead. It’s easier, more rewarding, much more likely to be graciously accepted by your child, and can change your notion of “I can’t teach my child” into “I can facilitate my child’s learning – and will!”
Homeschooling Facilitating Uses Multi-Tasking
Homeschooling facilitating readily integrates into family life. For instance, if you’re helping your child figure out multiplication by setting the table (if each of four place settings gets three utensils, how many utensils in all?), you’re not only placing multiplication into a real-life context, you’re multi-tasking! The “lesson” is brief, brilliant, and gone, to be repeated similarly tomorrow for another two minutes. It’s amazing how quickly children catch on to concepts presented this way. If instead you chose to “teach” multiplication,” likely you and your child would spend a larger chunk of time doing nothing but multiplication. In today’s busy households, homeschooling facilitating just makes sense.
Homeschooling Facilitating Strengthens Family Ties
I’m not talking about becoming your child’s best buddy (unless that’s what you’re trying to do). Rather, you become a trusted and respected guide your experience is valuable and your attention priceless. At the same time, you are trusting and respecting your child in return. This two-way street builds strong relationships that last through the years.
Homeschooling Facilitating Develops Thinking Skills
When we rely on our memories of school as we think about teaching, we picture a possessor of knowledge dispensing information and answering children’s questions. When we think of aiding the learning process, we turn things around. Instead of giving information your child may or may not have asked for, you guide him, often by asking questions, to figure out the sources of information he’s looking for, remove roadblocks to his obtaining them, and allow him to discover. It’s the act of seeking and discovering, not the act of listening and regurgitating, that is important. This is why it doesn’t matter what the topic of research is. Your child will only need to experience seek and discover a few times before he can readily transfer his thinking skills to any endeavor, making him a more efficient thinker and learner.
Homeschooling Facilitating Allows Room for Customization
In order to be able to dispense information, a teacher must have a prepared agenda, likely one of the more frightening aspects of picturing ourselves as teachers. Not so for a homeschooling learning facilitator who, as a matter of course in her homeschooling lifestyle, watches for those learning opportunities that life provides every day. Because you know your child and her learning style so well, you’re not trying to create learning, you’re helping learning to unfold. Example? Your child is having trouble remembering all the dates associated with the Civil War. Is he into rap music? Help him put together a rap song that incorporates the dates. Is she a visual learner? Make a giant time line. Kinesthetic? Put each date on a sheet of paper and spread them across the living room floor. Then have your child literally jump on the right answer to a question.
Homeschooling Facilitating Lets Us Pay Attention to Personal Growth
When we focus on simply dispensing information, we don’t allow ourselves many alternatives to figuring out the child’s progress except by comparison to other students or to a predetermined “norm” for a child of that age. Once again, let’s flip the perspective around to aiding an individual learner and her intellectual growth. When you act as your child’s homeschooling facilitator, you learn that comparison to others doesn’t make sense. Your goal is no longer to see how much dispensed information filled the container (the brain), but to keep your child moving forward on her own growth path.
Comparisons also encourage negative labels. As facilitator instead of teacher, you can give your child a welcome respite from school’s daily comparisons and negative labels. Now when you say, “Always do your best,” it really means something. In addition , you relieve the pressure that accompanies negative labels. (Positive labels in school can also cause problems, particularly when children begin to feel superior to others or that they are in some way entitled to special/different treatment.)
Homeschooling Facilitating Encourages Autonomy
Aiding a child in the learning process means just that. It doesn’t mean doing it for her. A true education is achieved through experience, and the sooner your child understands this, the better equipped for academic study, as well as adulthood, she will be. The hierarchical relationship of a teacher and student encourages the child to become dependent upon the teacher for the very same information and answers the homeschooling child learns how to find for herself.
As a homeschooling facilitator you are helping to create an autonomous, self-directing learner who knows how to track down the information she needs instead of waiting for someone to give it to her. An autonomous learner is able to answer questions because she has a facilitator asking them.