A local radio station, KTAR, recently interviewed a friend and me about homeschooling. From a twenty-minute interview they put a couple of sound bites on drive-time radio the next morning (I didn’t hear it, but someone I know did!) and a brief article on their website. Thankfully, they didn’t try to make us or homeschooling in general look bad, which was pleasant! But I felt the author did pick out what could be considered my most inflammatory remarks and play them up, with the softening part played down, and I’d like to clarify. (Not to mention, they don’t really quote word-for-word; it’s more of a “gist of it” kind of quote.)
Carma Paden of Phoenix decided to home school her four children because she was turned off by what she calls the “institutional nature” of schools.
“There’s so little flexibility in schools, and so [little] ability to individualize education to the child,” Paden says. Paden has a four year degree in elementary education, and says first-year teachers are no better trained than the average parent on how to teach children. “Teachers that are just out of teaching college don’t know anything that you don’t know,” she says.
Paden believes that teachers coming right out of college may have learned how to manage a class of 30 kids, but they don’t start really learning how to teach until they work in the classroom as a student teacher.
She says that many people can learn how to teach their own kids by simply jumping in and doing it.
“You learn to teach by teaching,” says Paden. “That’s just as true with someone who has a four year degree as it is with a Mom.”
The reporter looked shocked when I said that teachers don’t know anything parents don’t know, and when he asked for clarification, I said something to the effect of, “Well, nothing that anyone with any four-year degree doesn’t know. What future teachers learn is classroom management and record keeping and so forth, but once that degree is in hand, they still have to learn to teach. You learn to teach by teaching, and parents can learn that just as easily as someone with a four-year teaching degree can.”
Who Can Teach?
This is not to denigrate teachers in any way, and please note that I am not comparing a first-time homeschooler to a twenty-year veteran teacher. Both of my parents are teachers, my sister is a teacher, and I chose teaching as my own potential profession. I am very aware that a majority of teachers love kids and are truly working their best to help them. As with any profession, there are some superlative examples, some quite dreadful examples, and a large middle population of people who are good to very good at their jobs.
No, my point is not that teachers can’t teach or don’t teach well; my point is not really anything to do with trained classroom teachers at all. My point is, anyone can learn to teach. The skills learned when acquiring a teaching degree are skills that are very specific to the classroom. My children and I do not live in a classroom, so those skills are unnecessary to me as a homeschooling mother. One learns to teach by teaching.
I’m happy to have my degree; there are parts of it that I find quite useful, not least the fact that that little voice that makes itself heard now and then inside the heads of most homeschooling mothers, the outraged little voice that says, “You’re not a trained teacher, what do you think you’re doing?” is not really something that I have to deal with for myself. Too, I find that sharing this knowledge with other homeschooling parents, especially those new to or just considering homeschooling, can open up a whole new way of looking at things for them and I am very pleased to be able to help them that way. If I had it to do over again, though, I wouldn’t choose education as my degree even knowing that I planned to homeschool. (In fact, there were several very specific factors in the last part of my college career that decided me quite firmly on homeschooling my own children, long before I had them. You can read that story here, if you’d like.)
You Learn to Teach by Teaching
I recently met another mom, one who has not chosen to homeschool. We were talking to a mutual friend and the subject of teacher training came up. I began with my usual spiel of what I had learned and not learned in teaching classes, and the new mom, the one who has her children in public school, started nodding along with me. Apparently she has a teaching degree too, and as if we had rehearsed it, she chorused with me at the end: You learn to teach by teaching!
So, my apologies to all the dedicated professional teachers out there. If for some reason I were unable to be at home with my children, I would be very glad of your services, in much the same way that if I had been unable to breastfeed my children, I would have been glad of formula. I’m glad it’s there, I know there are people who really need to use it, but I’m even more glad that I do not have to use public schools and can instead give my children the more personal, custom-tailored nurturing they can get at home.
I know someone will comment that there are a lot of things that a professional teacher could teach that I cannot, and I agree; that is true. On the other hand, there are many things I can teach my children that a professional teacher cannot. And, to be perfectly honest, there are even more things that my children can teach themselves than either of us could ever dream of, which is what they’re doing now.
So I’ll just leave all you veteran homeschoolers and new homeschoolers and thinking-about-homeschoolers out there – along with those who would never dream of homeschooling – with this thought:
There is no school equal to a decent home,
and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.
~ Mohandas Gandhi
Hey, Gandhi said it, not me.