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Smart enough to homeschool?Posted Thursday, August 2, 2012, at 7:26 AM
The signs are everywhere. Stores like Wal-Mart, Staples, and Best Buy boast colorful displays of binders, spiral-bound notebooks, glue sticks and crayons to herald the approaching school season. If you are a parent, you may be busy shopping for school supplies, registering your children for school, or (if you are a homeschool parent like me) ordering curriculum and making reading lists for your kids. Or maybe you are torn between two options. Is this the year to make the switch from public school to homeschool? And if so, do you have what it takes to be successful? How do you know if you smart enough to homeschool your own kids?
If you worry about whether or not you are smart enough to homeschool, you are not alone. Many parents, even ones who have been homeschooling for years, tend to doubt themselves from time to time. Homeschool critics have protested loudly that parents cannot effectively educate their own kids. After all, if teachers have to go to college for years in order to teach, isn't it rather arrogant for a parent without similar training to think they could do a better job? Thankfully, statistics say otherwise.
Now, it is true that parental education does seem to slightly affect their children's test stores. In a 2009 study, the average homeschooled student with two college educated parents scored in the 90th percentile compared to the 83rd percentile for students whose parents did not attend college. Still, that's nothing to sneeze at. The 83rd percentile is still much higher than the average public schooled student who was educated by trained professionals (50th percentile). This proves that the key to success is not the education level of the teacher.
This is good news. This means that more than likely, you already have everything you need to teach your kids. Can you read? Good. Start by teaching your kids to read. This is the foundation of all learning. Get a phonics program and work through it with your kids, and they will learn to read. When you sit down with your kids and sound out words together, you have a huge advantage over the professionals. You have the time to devote your entire lesson to working one-on-one with just your child whereas a teacher in a classroom full of kids does not.
Learning to read is just the beginning. As you continue to teach your kids, you will discover that the most important qualities you need to homeschool are not intellectual brilliance, or a high level of organization, or even creativity, as nice as those things are. The keys to homeschooling success are being willing to learn with your kids, to get help when you need it, and to persevere.
Homeschooling is a lifestyle of learning, and when you, as a parent, are also willing to learn alongside your students, you model that lifestyle for them. It's okay if you can't remember how to diagram sentences. Read the books with your kids. Study the teacher's manual. Look it up if you don't know. In addition to refreshing your own memory, you are teaching your child how to find information years down the road when they've forgotten things.
It's also important to remember that as a homeschool parent, you are allowed to use other resources. Recruit friends or family members who are experts in subjects in which you don't feel competent. Maybe you still get hung up on long division and know you could never help your kids with an Algebra problem, but good ol' Uncle Keith is a math professor and would love to tutor your kids once a week. When I was in high school, I earned my foreign language credits by being tutored in Latin by a nun at a Catholic hospital where I volunteered. The best way to find resources is to join a good support group, preferably one with a co-op that meets regularly for classes. I have been a part of groups that have offered classes in chemistry, biology, puppetry, choir, speech, drama, and more, all taught by other homeschooling parents. One co-op group I was involved in even hired a public school teacher to teach Algebra classes. Another option is to enroll older kids in community college classes for those difficult subjects.
Another important key to homeschooling success is to persevere. I've seen so many parents pull their kids out of public school because they were frustrated with a teacher or some other situation at school, and then a month later give up and put the kids back in school. Homeschooling requires working with your child, day after day, week after week, year after year. If your kid doesn't catch on to a concept as quickly as you'd like, don't quit. Keep at it. It takes time. That's why God gave kids to their parents for 18 years. It takes every one of those years to train them into adults.
You love your kids and you want the best for them. I believe that is the most important key for your child's future, no matter which form of education you choose. If you decide to homeschool, it is a commitment that takes a lot of work and some big sacrifices on your part. You won't probably ever get your house completely clean and there will almost certainly be a half-finished school project on the kitchen table at all times. You will certainly need to learn to manage both your time and money, because homeschooling requires a good twenty hours a week at least, making it difficult if not impossible for both you and your spouse to work full time jobs. And being with your kids all day will certainly try your patience at times. But the rewards are worth it. You will get to be there and be a vital part of your children's learning. You will get to see the delight in their eyes as they "get" a concept you have been working on. You will learn more than you could have ever imagined--not only about math and science and history, but about yourself and about your own children. Sounds pretty smart to me!
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