Friday, March 15, 2013

A Classroom Homeschool Teacher

What I hadn't realized at the beginning of the year is that I am a classroom teacher who homeschools.  What I usually hear when I tell someone I have my master's degree in education and that I homeschool is "it must be easier for you."  

It actually isn't.  It's just different.  In some ways, I think it does make it easier, but in many ways it also makes it harder.  I've learned more from homeschooling my children about how children learn and how to teach than I did when I was a classroom teacher.  

How is it harder?  Well, homeschooling isn't classroom teaching.  You don't have the positive peer pressure of twenty or thirty students doing the same assignment at the same time and staying on task (hopefully).  You don't have daily, studentless planning time (even a little), because your kids are always there.  You have to juggle the needs of your home, friends, family, and homeschooling at the same time.  There's always something that needs to be done.  You have a lot more distractions to deal with.  You don't get paid, so it is not seen as a full time job by most people.  I had one gal say to me at church once that of course I should be able to serve because all I do is homeschool.  All I do is homeschool?!  Anyone who's homeschooled knows how much energy and time it really takes to do it well.  Also, switching between mom and teacher can be tricky.  The person they're going to get corrected by when they get a problem wrong is me.  They're also going to be corrected when they don't pick up their room by--me.  I could go on, but you get the idea.

How is it easier?  I get to really observe my kids.  I know when something doesn't click and can switch gears because one child doesn't get it.  I get to be concerned about whether they are learning, not whether they are able to pass the state's standardized test.  I get to spend time with my kids and have the opportunity to daily encourage them.  I get to choose my curriculum and figure out what connects with my kids and what doesn't.  I don't have to put my children in a box.  I get to pursue what they're interested in.  If a family emergency comes up, I can take care of it during the day and be flexible with our school day.  

What I hadn't considered until recently was how being a classroom trained teacher could help my homeschooling.  From the beginning I gravitated to public school curriculums, because they were what I was used to and already loved using.  Over the years, I've been able to see how being a teacher helped me plan and select materials.  My understanding of schema theory framed how I taught our kids and what I expected of them.  Yet, I stayed in the homeschooling box and kept classroom teaching in a separate box in my head--until recently. 

I keep up my professional teacher certification because I feel like it's good for me.  To do this, I have to take two college education courses every five years.  Last summer, I wrote two literature units for a class.  I enjoyed it and it reminded me of what I did when I taught middle school.  This past Christmas I wrote a photography unit for my kids.  Again, I enjoyed it.  I felt like God wanted me to get more engaged with my kids.  I realized that I could supplement with worksheeets I found online to fill in gaps and in the case of Eli, to keep him busy.  I put together a U.S. Regions study for social studies for Autumn.  When I taught in school, I didn't have curriculum, so I had to write all of my lesson plans and any materials I needed.  The schools I taught at had very limited resources for textbooks.  Writing these materials made me think more about what I could do with what I learned in school.  I also began to feel like a classroom trained homeschool teacher.  

I am not a natural teacher.  I have met many homeschooling mom's who are.  As I listen to them, I realize all that they understand about how to teach and how children learn that they simply have picked up through their homeschooling experience.   I am a learned teacher.  My master's gave me a solid foundation and it helped me learn how to teach.  Once I have a foundation, I can go from there.   I do love to teach my children. 

What we bring to homeschooling as moms is the unique experiences we each have.  In my case, I bring my teacher education and classroom teaching to homeschooling.  It has helped me understand how to adapt a lesson to multiple ages.  It has helped know how to observe my children so that I understand what they have mastered and what they haven't.  It has helped me understand how to challenge them, but not overwhelm them.  

I am thankful I was a classroom teacher before I homeschooled.  But, I am a better teacher because of homeschooling.  I have a much better grasp now of how children learn to read.  I have an idea of how a pre-reader becomes a fluent reader.  I have come to grasp what and how children learn in kindergarten all the way through fourth grade so far.

In the next few weeks, I'm going to try and explain how I observe my kids and some basics of schema theory.  I am also going to try and explain how I adapt lessons that I teach.  My mother in law has encouraged me to do this.  I hope it will be helpful in some way to someone who reads it.  

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