Friday, October 23, 2015

Answering a Question You Never Asked

I watched a documentary about homeschooling this week.  I'm not going to link to it because frankly, it wasn't very good.  But in it the mother is asked repeatedly why she thinks she's qualified to teach her children.  What makes her think she can do a better job than a trained, certified teacher in a classroom?

I've never been asked that directly, but I'm sure many have wondered it to themselves.  I didn't feel like the mother in the movie was able to answer that question (she was still very new to homeschooling), but after more than a year into this, I can answer it pretty well for myself.

I have so much respect for classroom teachers.  I love teachers and know that they have the most difficult job there is.  It may seem counterintuitive but what I do at home with my kids doesn't resemble what a classroom teacher does.  Teaching a classroom of 20-30 children takes skills and training that I don't have.  Teaching my own two children however, is very different.  I actually don't even consider myself their teacher in the usual sense.  I don't stand in front of them and tell them information they need to know and send them off to practice it.  I see my job as helping them to teach themselves.  I may tell them which pages to read, what problems to work on.  I'm there to help them as needed.  But for the vast majority of the day they're working independently.

I'm smart enough to know what my limitations are and know when it's time to contract out a subject.  We take full advantage of all of the amazing resources and brains that New York City has to offer.  Taking a history course at the New York Historical Society from professionals who have spent years studying history?  In a place where they get to see and touch real artifacts and original documents?  Yes, please.  Learning about habitats and evolution at the zoo from an animal expert?  Yep.  Walking around the Metropolitan Museum of Art every week with someone who has multiple degrees in art history and ancient civilizations?  They do that too.  And learning the craft of writing while sitting one-on-one with a published author?  I wish I could do that.

In the Information Age we can access an incredible amount of quality education and programming right on our computers.  The kids have both taken advantage of customized math programs online that adapt to their skills and will feed them questions based on their responses to previous answers until they have mastered a topic.  Unlike a textbook or workbook, online programs can instantly tailor to the needs of a student, giving more exercises on areas they need more practice on and moving on when it's clear they know what they're doing.  It's incredibly efficient.  And as I write this post, both kids are sitting next to me teaching themselves the computer coding language Python on a website that Holden found all by himself.

Kevin and I want them to learn how to learn.  We know we can't fill them with all of the information they'll need for their lives in a thirteen-year education.  And with the way technology has changed the world, we don't have to.  But we do want them to be able to think critically.  We want them to love the process of finding solutions and answers.  We want them to have the time and the resources to follow their own paths.  Not after they graduate from college, but starting right now.

So Kevin and I are not doing this alone.  I'm not so arrogant as to think that I could replace a classroom teacher.  Our kids have many classroom teachers, online teachers, other parent teachers.  They have me and they have Kevin.

But in the end, we believe they will be their own best teachers.

1 comment:

  1. Well put, Gretchen - you should have been interviewed instead!