I spent four years at university learning how to be a teacher, then another four years of night school earning my Masters while working in some very diverse and challenging schools in inner city London. I loved being a teacher, but it's a very draining and difficult job. So, I have to admit that I have more than a few questions for the mom who homeschooled her kid. Usually, if I'm being honest, those questions tend to be of the, "Are you freakin' crazy?" variety.
It's hard enough to teach children who aren't related to you, so how do you maintain order and authority in a home setting? How do you resist the temptation to just put the TV on, grab yourself a coffee and say, "We'll learn tomorrow?" How do you differentiate between "school time" and "normal, every day at home," time? See? I told you. I have so many questions. As someone who has taught for a big chunk of my life and is new to motherhood, I have a lot of questions about how you combine the two jobs and don't end up failing (to at least some extent) at both of them.
I am sure that homeschooling is right for some kids and some moms and, who knows,it might even be right for me. However, before I even consider the possibility, I need some homeschooling moms to answer the following questions:
"How Do You Know If You're Doing A Good Job?"
Moms are smart and capable and know whats best for their kids, but educators need to know more than just the subject matter they teach. They need to understand learning theories and have a strong grounding in pedagogy in order to effectively teach.
Only a handful of states require parents to hold teacher certification before homeschooling, so it's likely that you aren't a teacher by profession. If you didn't go to school for a degree in education or have secured the necessary certifications most teachers are required to have, how do you know if you're doing a good job? Are happy kids the seal of approval?
"Do You Have A School Day?"
I know you don't have a school bell, but do your days stick to a strict schedule and itinerary like regular school? Or, do you fly more by the seat of your pants? If you are flexible, how do you stay on task? I know on a warm day I would find it hard to teach a math lesson.
Some states require you to produce lessons plans and a curriculum for the year if you plan on homeschooling, but others have low or no regulations. So, do you have to be quite disciplined to make sure you cover a range of subjects during the year, or is it a totally different kind of education that doesn't fit into the traditional school model at all?
"Do You Have Recess?"
I know your kids get to play and probably in more interesting places than a concrete jungle gym in the school yard, but I am more concerned about you, as the teacher? I mean, do you ever get a break?
Teaching is exhausting, and the only other job I can think of that's as hard as teaching is being a mom. You're doing both at once, which just seems superhuman to me.
"I Mean, Why?"
I am really interested in the motivations that lead parents to this decision and always find that when I speak to homeschool moms, their journeys are as individual as their children.
Did it makes sense to meet the needs of a busy athletics schedule, like the one Olympian Simone Biles was faced with? Or perhaps a successful career as a child actor or dancer? Did you find your child was being subjected to cruel bullying and this was the ultimate way to protect them from what could potentially be a deadly situation? Or did regular school just not live up to your expectations or support your religious beliefs? Forgive my nosiness, I just wanna know because I think you're incredible.
"How Do You Say No?"
I read one mom's account of homeschooling her kids, and in it she said that if her children didn't want to do a math lesson on a particular day, they simply didn't do it.
My toddler already has me wrapped around his little finger, so exactly how do you maintain the authority of "teacher" when your student knows all your weak spots?
"When Does Your Kid Mix With Other Kids?"
I know homeschooling parents hate it when people bring up the dreaded word "socialization". Most homeschooling parents work really hard to make sure they have a network of other families that their kids can socialize with and make friends with.
However, not being chosen for an activity, being left out, even low-level teasing can all be beneficial to developing a thick skin and growing into a resilient person. To be clear I am not talking about any kind of systematic chronic bullying, that is toxic and always needs to be addressed. As parents we all want to protect our children from the cruel hard world but some negative school experiences can be beneficial and can form our personalities, give us "street smarts" and fuel ambition.
"What Happens In The Summer?"
Teachers look forward to the summer vacation all year long, but when you're done with your last class in June (or whenever you're finished with homeschooling) you still have to look after your kids. Seriously, are you some sort of wonder woman?
"Are There Downsides?"
Now I am starting to think about it, I can really see the appeal of home schooling. You get to spend a lot of precious time with your child, you are in control of their curriculum and level, and you can take your time covering subjects they find tricky while simultaneously glossing over things they've already mastered. You don't have to worry about the commute or attending parent teacher interviews so, honestly, are there any downsides at all?
Moms who choose to home school have to put up with a lot of preconceptions and stereotypes; about their parenting, their kids and their decision to educate their children in an alternative setting.
What it comes down to is a personal decision, we all know children learn in a variety of ways — from each other, from their parents, from playing and exploring the world — so if you have decided to take up the teacher mantel yourself, know that so many of us (myself included) are in awe of you.