31 May 2011

Qualified: The Case for the Homeschool Mom

My husband and I are soon journeying into "homeschooling" our preschooler. We hemmed and hawed at the idea even before we were expecting our oldest. We knew the sacrifices, the benefits and the things we would like to do differently (there's not much) because he and I, too, were homeschooled.

I have several friends currently dappling with the idea. Some are worried about structure and some about being "qualified" as a teacher. Let me set something straight, if you aren't a complete "ignoramous" you ARE qualified. The beauty of homeschooling is learning and growing with your child. Often your spouse will fill in where you aren't as versed. As a mother or father, it is our right, our duty to educate our children. We have been their primary educators since day one- why change that if the means (jobs, money, spouse, support, etc) allow us to do so? And since the institution of schools has been around for less than a century in the context that we know it, we can see that our children have grown and been nutured successfully in the home for hundreds of years. I know the argument could be made that only the wealthy were eductaed and had tutors but as truthful as this is, this isn't where all genius' came from.

I also realize homeschooling isn't for everyone. My husband and I support any family who decides a traditional school is best for their family. There is no "one way" for anything, education included. Homeschooling, for now, seems to fit us the best. Dan and I have agreed that we will take it one year at a time, each child individually and see what's working and best for that child, us (Dan and I) and our family.

Some would argue that because I'm a stay at home mom I'm not qualified since I don't have an education degree and haven't taught in a classroom setting. Well, I believe this absolutely preposterous! A few of my "education major" friends from college have straight-out told me that the parent is the most qualified teacher out there and that much of the schooling they experienced was about classroom management and planning lessons and bulletin boards, etc for a classroom. I won't have to worry about that. I won't have a classroom of 12 or more students in one grade level.

The fact is I am an educated woman. My husband and I have both earned Bachelors' Degrees and my husband holds a successful job. I went to school for Mental Health and Human Services, minoring in Theology and History. I held 3 internships in college and was offered a job at a local hospital with the agreement that I would be working towards my Masters Degree. After my time in college, I turned down this job in the mental health field, as I felt God had other plans for me and He sure did! It is humbling and sometimes overwhelming that I feel called to be the primary educator of our children- at least for now. It can be difficult to remain confiident in this, since both my husband and I have had conversations with people who aren't afraid to express that they don't think a mom or dad who isn't already a teacher is qualified to teach their own kids.

Because of our education growing up, my husband and I are interested and comfortable teaching different things, or at least different areas of subjects. We compliment each other well and feel we'll be able to provide our children with a well-rounded education. We want to make sure "logic" is something we stress with our children. I have heard that the homeschooled child only believes what their parents tell them. That can also be said of public school children in case you were wondering.  In the younger grades I believe this is important. They shouldn't be questioning their parents yet as they haven't fully cultivated their moral compass in order to figure out right and wrong. They need to trust that their parents aren't steering them wrong. As they become young adults we do want them to somewhat question, let's use the term "wonder", whether mom and dad are right or not. But I want them to do so knowing we are a sounding board. They can ask us questions, especially on morals, ethics, religion and politics. I hope they can see why we believe what we do. If they ask these questions they are making their beliefs their own and will be stronger adults, knowing what they believe, why they believe it and fighting for it. In summary, they should learn how to think not what to think.

Several things are also worth making mention of here. The more involved parents are in the now traditional school setting, the better the student is at excelling. This has been proven by studies of parental involvment and the percentage of high school graduates and college attendees. If we can easily see that parental involvement is important, almost necessary, why can't we go further and realize that if the parents are able to be their child's primary educators, it is such a gift to that child! To go further, let's bring in some statistics. Ew, I know, but important nontheless. The US has been rapidly declining where education is concerned. Once ranked #1 forty years ago, the US now ranks 27th in education among developed countries. The US also tied for 1st place in 1995 for high school graduates, but has since fallen to 14th place in 2006. It is sad to point out that we also have one of the highest college drop-out rates, being 53%. (In case you were wondering, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Finland, France and Norway rank highest in many of the percentages mentioned above.)

At these rates it seems obvious that our school systems are failing somewhere. I do NOT blame this on teachers who love their jobs and give their "all" in the classroom, but we all have experienced teachers who just get by, and have heard about the school systems you would never allow your children to go to. To see more on this click here. (This information came from Mothering magazine No. 155, July-August 2009.)

I was scrolling through one of my "mom homeschooling groups" online the other day and several moms were selling homeschooling informational books. My first thought was to jump on these and then the thought came to me that my husband and I already know all about homeschooling from personal experiences. We realize that we don't need to be versed in every homeschooling "philosophy". Instead, we need to focus on what works for us and our children and be committed to bringing the faith into our home. I don't need terms to define and defend what we're doing. My husband and I have talked extensively for the past 4 years about homeschooling, what our experiences were, what we want to keep, what we want to change, increase, decrease, and curriculuum we would like to use. The fact is we won't know every decision until we're at that point. A large part of the discernment will be our children, where we are, what new curriculuum is out there and is it better than the older textbooks that we loved. For now, my husband and I could name you almost every "textbook" for every grade and every subject we want to avoid and which ones we want to use, but I will not share this information with friends right now, because I simply don't know if we'll find something else by the time we get to that grade level.

I have been criticized for using the term "unschooling" as a philosophy that I believe in. To this I will say after reading "The Unschool Manual" a few months back I have learned that, for our family, this is much too lax as we become more involved with educating our children. I use the term loosely, as it is often interchangeable with "homeschooling" and "Montessorian" in our home. I do firmly believe that "unschooling" is the best for preschoolers, as I have seen firsthand how rigorous and strucutred preschools and kindergartens in the area can be. I do not agree with their form, but also think it may be necessary in a school-setting to teach a group of children to insure order instead of chaos. I, personally, do not believe in homework before middle-school and only as necessary after that. If a child is to be expected to sit for 6 hours in the classroom 5 days a week, how unfair to expect them to go home and do another 4 hours or more of homework. What a disadvantage for our children who should be out playing, getting dirty, exploring and questioning things he comes across in his world. This is another type of classroom; one where the child doesn't realize he's learning but he is! My husband recently read a study in a Men's Health magazine in which it was found that most sucessful CEOs spent a greater portion of time as children exploring, adventuring, taking risks and learning outdoors than those who headed up unsuccessful companies. I think the point is that you can learn some of your most important lessons outside of a structured environment. Making observations and asking questions is how the amazing men and women before us became great!

The beauty of homeschooling is the freedom of flexibility and changeability. If something isn't working, try something else. If a child hates learning about the earth's core and isn't planning on being a geologist or archeologist, teach it and move on without dwelling on this particular part of science. If they're interested in health sciences instead, expose them to more of this. I believe children need to learn everything, but it is unfair to force them to master every area of every subject. I spent a lot of my junior and senior years of highschool sitting in on pig's in lung surgery and rat's having spinal cords re-attached. (Really, I did and loved it!) I wanted to be a surgeon and my parents were able to provide ways for me to see what I could. As it turned out, I realized I was called to motherhood first and not to balancing a career as well.

For now we have a classical Catholic preschool curicuulum we have chosen for our daughter. It is meant to be done in 1 year, but already I'm splitting it into 2 years. I refuse to set certain days or times for preschool. We'll do it around the nursing baby, the toddler, the weather and other activities and family time. My oldest and I both thrive on structure, but since I don't feel this is the best way to instill a love of learning early on, we are taking unschooling and a structured curiculuum and melting them into our own preschool. I want some sort-of discipline early so she'll be able to be more independent and driven later on but I don't want any rigor or stress if lessons aren't learned in a certain time frame. Everyone learns at a different pace. I will not (or at least I will try not to) compare my children to other friends in the same grade or the same age. It's just like infancy- why force the baby to sit at 4 months, crawl at 6 months, etc when you know they'll eventually get it. We need to focus on our family not on others. I need to know that we're giving our children quality instead of getting caught up in competition.

May God make His will for your family known and may you be confident going forth in your decision!

Other articles worth reading: (You have to pay to read them. I do own these magazines and am willing to lend them to local moms.)
No More Homework- agree!
When Every Day Is A Homeschool Day- almost fits my unschooling thoughts to a "T"


  1. Wow, I never thought about parents without an education degree being unqualified to homeschool their kids! I know different states have different rules about the level of education needed, but we're good here. I wouldn't let any fears, negative comments, or insecurities worry you. Experience and the love you and Dan have is qualification enough! :)

  2. Also...I just passed along a blogging award to you. Check out today's post and pick it up for your website. :)