Another homeschooling question from the reader, Tonya:
“I’m thinking of homeschooling and have a question: How do you teach a subject that you personally struggled with? I’m not sure I have the skills it would take…” Tonya
This question ranks right up there with the socialization question in terms of fears parents have about homeschooling. This fear is absolutely unwarranted, and I’ll try to peel back the several layers to show why.
We’ve been brainwashed by the system to think that education can only happen when an “expert” or someone really good at a subject, transfers that expertise to another person. Actually, this is a very inferior way to learn.
“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.” -Carl Orff
Most moms homeschool their children for their first 4 or 5 years, “teaching” them more in that time than they’ll learn for the rest of their lives. The first part of my answer is: we need to trust the human capacity for learning things and figuring things out on our own, when we need to. If a child is given the environment to explore, if he’s given access to information, freedom to experiment and learn about the world around him, he will have a richer education than comes from memorizing facts. Albert Einstein said, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.”
Secondly, we need to carefully scrutinize what exactly is an important part of an education. When a parent says, “How will I teach Algebra–I don’t remember anything?” he is assuming algebra is a necessary part of a well-rounded education (admitting simultaneously that he doesn’t know it and is fine without it). It’s not. At least not in the terms we think. Algebra is the study of finding the missing part to an equation. Now that’s useful. It’s problem-solving. The good news is, there are thousands of ways to learn problem-solving skills without specifically mastering Algebra.
Also, unless your child plans to pursue a career that requires it, algebra is not a needed subject. If he does need it, he can learn it when the time comes. I taught my Dad Algebra when he was 45 when he went back to college. He made a B in the class and, of course, hasn’t used it since. There are too many things to learn that will most definitely be used to waste time on things that most likely will not. We would do well to question “standard” subjects, considering the advances in technology and demands of this century.
Thirdly, and if you disagree with my first two points, a homeschooling parent has far more resources for teaching any and every subject than does a school teacher with one mandated curriculum. I don’t have to understand a subject to direct my child in learning it. Whether it’s a video tutor or typical curriculum that explains a concept, the goal should be to help our children learn how to learn, to discover the myriad of ways to become better educated.
An illustration of this as well as the demonstration of the overpriced, often overrated college education is a typical lecture class. I had one such marketing class that sticks out, though I had many more like it. Big room, lots of students, one man in front almost literally reading the text book. At the end of a chapter, he instructed us to memorize the terms and chapter outline, then we were tested on it. I paid hundreds of dollars to have someone read to me. We call this “higher education.” (By the way, you MUST go read Matt Walsh’s latest post, “Thank God I Wasn’t College Material” for more on this insane idea that most people need to go to college.)
So, Mama thinking about homeschooling, you can give your child a tailored, excellent education, no matter what your own shortcomings are.