Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"You Can Homeschool Because You Were A Teacher", "You Have Way More Patience Than I Do", And Other Lies People Mistake For Truth.

When we first started to tell people that we were homeschooling our children MANY responded with, “Well, that’s okay. You can do it because you were a teacher.” At first it seemed like such a benign thing to say (because when someone stands in front of you and says something positively CRA-ZY, you smile and say something nice, or try to justify it. “What’s that? You’re going to sculpt Michelangelo’s ‘David’ using only mashed potatoes? Well, that’ll be just fine. I’ve tasted those potatoes and they’re fantastic!”). It took a few months before I realized just how many people believed it and even worse, how many moms don’t believe they can teach their kids because of it.

I can tell you, absolutely unequivocally, that ANYONE can teach their child at home. Notice I didn’t say EVERYONE SHOULD teach their child at home. (For further clarification, please see Disney’s Ratatouille and pay special attention to the “anyone can cook” message.) Many people believe that teacher’s receive some magic key to the universe upon graduation that unlocks the mysteries of the human mind and how to shape it. We DO learn much about educational theories and practices, which is essential because it drives home the incredibly important fact that not all children learn the same way and what works for one, will not work for all. You see teaching is about reaching. You try one thing and it doesn’t work, but you don’t give up because something will, you just have to discover what it is.

Everything I learned about teaching, I learned on the job. It was a trial by fire. You have to do it and do it and do it again, until you find a measure of success. I’ll tell you another thing, it’s a good thing those new teachers are under contract because some days, you just don’t want to come back for the next one. It’s HARD work! Yet, with all things, practice makes perfect… or as close as you’re gonna get in this lifetime! The sense of accomplishment you feel when the year is over is second to none. You rose to the challenge and you’re fired up to do it again (well, after a massage and a vacation). I should have a Master’s Degree in Parenting for all the books I’ve read on the subject, but no book can substitute for the daily practice of actually doing it. It’s like muscle memory. You do something so habitually that what was once unnatural is now just like breathing.

Let me say it right here and now: ANY parent who feels called to homeschool their child, is already qualified to do it. I tell you I LOVED the students in my public school classroom and I wanted the very best for each and every one of them. That love is in no way the same as the fierce, “I would do anything and everything for this child of mine” love that a parent has. A teacher may throw up their hands in exasperation and say, “I just can’t reach this child today,” but a parent never would. A parent is compelled to keep trying because that’s what love does (even if we have to strap the kids in their car seats and drive around town so the Starbucks has a chance to flow freely through our veins before we go back into the fray).

Here’s another secret, teachers are not human sponges. I remember distinctly re-teaching myself the differences between mode, median, and mean before I taught a lesson on it. That doesn’t mean I was unqualified to teach it. It meant I needed to hold myself to a certain standard and plan far enough in advance that I did have mastery before the lesson came around. I love listening to homeschooling parents encourage each other by saying, “You only have to stay one day ahead of the students.” It’s true! Don’t overburden yourself by believing you have to have memorized every single second grade standard on the first day. Guess what? Your child might have mastered those standards in first grade, or they might not get it until third. You’re teaching a person, not a “norm”.

PLEASE don’t misunderstand me!!! Teachers have special training. They are qualified. Many of them know much more about “teaching” than I could ever hope to. I am NOT implying that ANYONE can go into a classroom and effectively instruct a differentiated group of 30-150 kids a day, in the same way I would not “gas” someone and do dental work in my home. Professionals are professionals because of their knowledge and training. They are the experts in the instruction of children within the scope of their training, just like you are the expert in teaching your own child. You are welcome to share my opinion with others, but just remember that not everyone agrees. J

Oh, and as for my patience… I am not some sort of superhuman! Are you kidding me?!? If someone said, “Would you rather stay at home all day, worn down by the bickering of your children and covered in baby spit or would you rather spend the day getting a mani-pedi and lunching al fresco with your dearest friends?” Hello?!? I’m going with the mani-pedi every time, but neither of those are realistic pictures of homeschooling or schooling moms. We ALL have our challenges. For us, life became more PEACEFUL when we brought our children home (see: Why We Do What We Do All Day Pt.1).

As for those other lies, “You’re incredible. I could never do that.” “Staying at home all day would drive me crazy. I could never do that.” “I could never do that. I don’t have that kind of patience.” Friends, hear each other’s hearts. Homeschooling mommies: Your friend or family member may really believe those things. They may also feel like you’re making a judgment about their choices. ALL parents want the best for their child. EVERY family needs to weigh the scales and decide what’s right for their family, and our knowledge is limited to our own. Where family members are concerned, remember they’ve got an interest in your children, too. If they want to justify what you’re doing, that’s probably okay, right? (“Well Myrtle, my daughter-in-law, Susie, has decided to homeschool her children, but she watches a lot of “19 Kids and Counting” and those Duggars sure seem to know what they’re doing. I’m sure it will be fine.”) YOU get to make the ultimate decision and only YOU have to answer for it. Friends and family members: You have NO idea what you’re capable of. You can do anything you’ve been called to do, but not by your own power. If we relied on our own strength, we would all fail. Your homeschooling friend is probably super-enthusiastic right now, too. They’re bubbling over and filled with the joy of finding the confidence to do something they didn’t think they could do. They are most likely not thinking a thing about what you did or are doing with your kids. Now… everybody hug it out. J

I love the phrase, “God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” The greatest triumphs of all time were not recorded by those who did everything right and made no mistakes along the way. It’s the brokenness that makes the story special. It’s the meager beginning. It’s the courage it takes to do what you know you should, but might not believe you can. Give it to God and He will qualify you by His authority.


  1. Awesome post, Lins! I heard the same thing from friends and family when we decided to homeschool. But I went from teaching junior high/high school to K-5 and first grade! I learned along the way like homeschool parents who had never taught a class in their lives.

  2. Just wonderful! You are able to put into words what I've been going over and over in my mind. My baby went to first grade today and well it stinks. These first few posts of yours, though, have really struck a chord and I'm wondering if I should have just not taken her today. Only time will tell where this all leads. Just know that I will be back daily (or at least as often as you post) to read your thoughts because they are mine too and it just feels good to see it coming from someone else. Thank you!

  3. Love your post today! When we decided to homeschool for sure last year, we got A LOT of others thoughts on it and mostly said it wouldnt be good for MY kids however its whats BEST for MY kids and OUR family...they dont see this and I dont care anymore...I know my children I know thier strengths and weaknesses and I dont expect everyone to be ok with us choosing to homeschool. I dont always agree with public schooling your kids either! You have to do whats best for your family nevermind what they all say! Keep the posts coming they are great! Also come see my blog its

  4. thanks for sharing this. i was homeschooled growing up and this meant a lot to me. :)

  5. So thanks for making me cry into my pepsi. You have a way with words that is truly wonderful! Can I come and take your writers workshop? Really- I'm serious. Can't wait to read more! Love you, too!