Image by popofatticus
We’re all busy. We want short cuts, easy explanations, to do lists, and obvious, fast results.
Homeschooling doesn’t work that way.
It’s an investment—it takes time. Lots of time. Time you don’t have.
When you decide to homeschool, you’re choosing a degree program for yourself. You’re choosing to become an autodidact (self-taught student) of learning—how it happens, under what conditions, using what tools, for which sorts of kids, in what subject areas.
To get a quality understanding of the nature of learning requires reading.
A lot of reading.
It is on task to read email lists, homeschool bulletin boards, blogs, websites, curriculum books, the teacher’s notes for any program you select, books about learning, homeschooling books about the philosophy of education, Charlotte Mason’s education series, educators who have left the system to create new models of learning (Maria Montessori, John Holt), and more.
You have to do it. Most of us want to. Some of us worry that it will take too much time.
You can’t think that way.
If you get impatient—”I don’t want to understand the reasoning behind this program, I just want to know what to do”—you will, eventually, be frustrated by that program.
There is no “do this” and “it gets done” program. Each one requires knowing how to use it and what to do when there are blocks to progress.
Trained teachers spend years earning degrees to understand how to bring about the “aha” that is learning in a classroom.
School has its own properties that require specific skill sets to create learning.
Home has other properties! These need to be studied, tried, lived, revised, tested, and measured against new information as you get it. It is worth it (absolutely) to read the intent behind the philosophy before applying the practices.
If you are so busy that you don’t have time to invest in training yourself to be a home educator, you must consider whether this is what you want to do with your life. Your kids deserve a parent at home who is well equipped to make learning an adventure that leads to joy and competence. They should not be subjected to drudgery. Schools at least provide activities, field trips, friends, and variety.
We all need help. There’s no shame in signing up for a co-op or tutoring, taking online classes or swapping with a friend – she teaches your kids math and you teach her kids writing.
You make decisions to involve others based on your philosophy of education, not because you don’t want to do the work yourself. Even if you use a co-op, your involvement at home is critical. Parents of kids in school help their kids with homework every day. There are no shortcuts.
When you triangle-in help, involve passionate, competent people in the education of your children. I would rather have my kids learn how to shoot photos by my friend’s husband who is a professional photographer than to teach them myself. I would rather swap math and language arts with my other friend since she’s a whiz at calculus and conveys passion about math while I provide a similar experience with writing.
But in no case is it advisable to simply hand a child a book and ask that child to work through it—without you exerting some kind of effort to set up the lesson or to structure a context that makes that work meaningful.
I hear all too often that certain curricula (sometimes mine!) are too dense with philosophy or explanation about why and how processes of learning work. The parents are busy. They want to get to the practices.
But does that work, really? What do you do when you barge ahead and the child winds up reluctant, resistant, or in tears? What do you do when the boredom of the daily practice turns into “cheating” (looking up answers in the back) to get done? What happens when you get to a process in the text that you don’t “get” that had perhaps been explained in the opening?
There’s absolutely no shortcut to homeschooling. It’s an incredible undertaking of love and commitment—whether you unschool or use textbooks. In both cases, a sturdy, ongoing, investigation of how to problem solve and foster a love of learning will be your primary work for 15+ years.
It’s great work! I loved it. Most parents who stick with homeschooling do.
But remember: when you are tempted to take a short cut, you may be circumventing the most important part of teaching—understanding why and how to create the right conditions for learning to catch fire.
Invest. The dividends are rich.
Cross-posted on facebook.