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Homeschooling Myth #3: Mom Needs to Be a Teacher

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Myth #3: Mom needs to be a teacher.

momandbaby

She happily drooled while rolling and teasing her tongue into new positions until that momentous day she stumbled upon "Dada."

Those  of  us  who  started  our  homeschool  journey  with  school-at-home
were  usually  under  the  spell  of  this  myth,  too.  Our  conditioning  led  us  to
believe  we  had  to  don  yet  another  hat  and  stand  at  the  head  of  the  class
pouring forth facts, acting as we presumed teachers are supposed to act.
There  are  two  misconceptions  rolled  into  this  one  myth.  The  first  and
most  obvious  is  you  have  already  spent  years  filling  the  role  of  teacher
under the label of parent. With every interaction with your child during her
first  five  years  of  life  you  teach  her  with  your  words,  your  actions,  your
examples.  With  your  guidance  she  learned  how  to  walk,  talk,  throw  and
catch  a  ball,  ride  a  bike,  drink  from  a  cup,  kiss  good-night.  These  feats
didn’t  require  a  different  hat;  they  required  your  commitment,  your  love,
and your trust that when she was ready your child would accomplish all of
these and more. Consider just one of these accomplishments. Let’s take the
incredibly  complex  action  of  talking  and  making  sense  of  sounds  as  they
become  meaningful  communication.  You  didn’t  have  a  text  book  (or
accompanying  teacher’s  manual).  You  didn’t  break  the  subject  of  speech
into  minute  sections  and  drill  her  endlessly  on  each  piece.  You  simply
spoke with her, encouraging her babbling each time you replied and smiled
and hugged her.
She  listened. She  experimented.  She  happily  drooled  while  rolling  and
teasing  her  tongue  into  new  positions  until  that  momentous  day  she
stumbled upon “Dada.”
Did  you  look at  her  with scorn and say, “The proper way to pronounce
your father’s name is Dad (points off for adding an A at the end) or Daddy
(go  back  and  say  it  fifty  times  with  a  Y)?”  You,  as  parent/teacher,  giddy
with happiness in what she did accomplish, showed her through your love
and  approval  that  she  was  on  the  right  track.  Her  inner  motivation
compelled her; your attention guided her. She learned.
The  method  you  use  as  parent  in  your  child’s  first  five  years  is  nature’s
way.  Your sustained relationship  in an atmosphere  of safety and trust and
acceptance  is  the  essence  of  education  as  art.  The  “information”  doesn’t
come  from  you,  it  flows  through  you,  through  your  conscious  and
subconscious  messages;  the  tone  of  your  voice,  your  face,  your  body
language, your deeds. The “learning” isn’t done to your baby, it comes from
her.  It’s  when  we  go  against  that nature  that  mankind  gets  in  trouble.  As
they are set up now, schools work against nature. You don’t have to.
Throw the teacher’s  hat away. The  hat you are already  wearing fits  you
just fine. And it’s beautiful.
The  second  misconception  associated  with  this  myth  about
homeschooling is that even if you choose to follow public school’s method,
teaching  is  not  as  difficult  a  task  as  all  the  college  years,  certificates,  and
teachers  unions  would  lead  you  to  conclude  it  is.  Remember,  you  begin
with a more intimate knowledge of your child’s likes and dislikes, strengths
and  weaknesses,  needs  and  personality  than  any  teacher  will  ever  glean
about her in a classroom filled with dozens of other children. If you need to
choose between three text books, for instance, you have a pretty good idea
which  one  your  son  would  prefer  (better  yet,  you  can  ask  him!).  In  the
classroom, one book must fit all.
If  you’ve  never  examined  materials  provided  to  teachers  for  classroom
use, you’ll be surprised, perhaps shocked, at how simplistic their directions
are.  I  attended  a  two-day  long  teachers’  seminar  sponsored,  in  part,  by  a
public  television  station.  Its  purpose  was  to  help  teachers  integrate  public
TV  into  their  day.  In  each  of  the  eight  or  so  workshops,  the  trained
instructors spent much of the time teaching us how to press a VCR’s pause
button,  showing  us  where  the  accompanying  paperwork  told  us  exactly
where in the program to stop it, and what to say / ask while it was stopped.
Choreographed  down  to  the  minute,  the  presentations  intended  for
classroom-use  appeared  to  my  non-teacher-trained  eyes  like  a  play
rehearsal. Here’s the script, say this now, ask that then, push the button here
(smile and take a bow).

In  the  workshop  on  presenting  the  function  of  skeletal  bones  to
elementary-age  children,  my  group  received  a  box  of  popsicle  sticks
from which we were to construct a three-dimensional frame. When that
was  complete,  we  connected  bones  for  a  paper  skeleton  with  brass
fasteners.  After  class  I  called  home.  While  I  had  been  sitting  inside
playing with popsicle sticks, my three “teacherless” children were out
in the woods in the fresh air constructing a fort which, within a short
period of time, sported a roof, smoke hole, and a second story lookout
deck.

Standardized  tests  contain  the  same  type  of  step-by-step  directions  for
administration,  easily  followed  by  anyone  who  can  read.  Some  states
require home educators to attend a training class before giving the tests to
their  children.  Before  I  attended  a  seminar  I  couldn’t  imagine  the  class
needing  to  last  more  than  five  minutes,  but now I  see how the  presenters
could fill a couple of hours. If teachers’ lessons are a community playhouse
production, management techniques are full-scale Broadway productions.
Browsing  through  the  February,  1994  issue  of  Education  Digest  (the
Reader’s  Digest  of  the  education  world),  I  encountered  two  enlightening
articles about classroom management.

1. “When  Parents  Get  Aggressive,”  Lorna  Brooks-Bonner,  from  School
Safety: You (teacher) have to diffuse “angry mama’s” hostility, so “a strong,
clear, forceful voice demonstrates your concern.” “Position your body at an
angle – keeping a distance of at least three feet.” “Keep your hands open; do
not make a fist.” “Do not break eye contact.” When a school counselor joins
in  the  action  “…the  counselor  and  I  will  play  roles  of  ‘good  guy  vs.  bad
guy.'”
And you thought you went into those parent-teacher meetings prepared?
2. “Practical Peacemaking for Educators,” Peter Martin Commanday: To
overcome their “sense of powerlessness in today’s classroom,” teachers are
advised “to formulate…a guide for practical behavior in school each day.”
The goal, we’re told, “is to win small, sequential victories.” I’m taking these
excerpts from Concept 3 of the six explained, and the summary.
A student (John) has picked up a chair during words with another student.
Get his visual attention with a comment. “Using both hands, not one, with
palms up and fingers together, you motion toward the area [where you want
the chair]. Be sure that one hand is slightly in front of the other…” “Take a
step to the side, on a diagonal” “No longer can we assume that we will be
able to command immediate obedience.”

Obviously  you  won’t  have  to  deal with  these  problems  in  your  home.  I
share them with you because I know you may believe the myth, and these
are  just  two  examples  of  where  today’s  teachers  must,  of  necessity,  focus
their  training  and  professionalism. You  can  spend  your  time  focused  on
tasks important to and only related to learning.
I  am  not  saying  there  are  not  good  teachers  out  there.  The  difference
between a good and bad teacher is not which script she’s using, but whether
or not she’s also using  her heart and  her soul. You will  naturally use  your
heart and soul, and you can read the script. And if you’re fortunate, there
will  come  a  day  when  you  throw  the  script  away,  work  with  nature,  and
enjoy learning as a process, not a show.
This is the art of education.

From The Art of Education: Reclaiming Your Family, Community and Self by Linda Dobson (Home Education Press, 1995)
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One Response to “Homeschooling Myth #3: Mom Needs to Be a Teacher”

  1. Arby says:

    Well written. There's some food for thought for a future blog in here. "Teacher" is an inherent part of the job titled "Parent." Does that mean that all parents who send their children to a public or private school abdicate that part of their parental duties? Are homeschoolers the only parents who retain full command of their parental duties and responsibilities by continuing the teaching process into what society calls the school age years? Hmm…

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