Wondering if you are qualified to homeschool? Thinking you might need an “expert?” I’ll give you the short answer: If you are the parent, you are the expert.
Not long ago, parents were trusted and expected to raise and teach their kids. They had an option to send the kids to a formal school setting for a few years, but certainly not for for 13 years, and not for an entire day with work to do when they came home.
Over the years, as a standardized compulsory school system has taken shape, we have managed to convince most adults that they are only capable of raising kids to age five.
After that, step aside please. Let the experts handle it. They will tell you what is important and how you should behave as a proper supportive parent. Your job is reduced to chauffeur and buyer of project material. You might get to be in charge of snacks or phone calls or maybe chaperoning a field trip. But don't get silly and start thinking you are smart enough to teach your own child.
You know and understand your child best. This is extremely important. You know the cues that others misunderstand. You know his interests and his special skills. You know what motivates him, and you know what crushes him. You might be able to piece together some experts on certain topics to help support you, but no one else is a better expert on your child.
You can send your child to school and find many passionate, caring teachers. You can find many dedicated teachers, and teachers who know a lot about math or science or English. You’ll find many experts on how to get a group of children to meet standards and objectives set by the Department of Education.
But if you are asking a teacher to be the kind of expert that would give your child the most complete, customized education possible, the kind of education that will speak to your child’s soul and the individual that God created her to be, you are asking too much. You are asking a teacher to go beyond her job capabilities, and that just isn’t fair.
Here are the words of a high school English teacher, David Guterson, from his book Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense, specifically on the topic of parents’ expertise on their own children:
“Public school teachers, however well-intentioned, simply cannot match this. My students come into my life as a teacher, and I into theirs when they attend my class, for a few months, part of a year, an hour a day, and then we separate...I am not in a position to understand them, no matter how I might try….
...Our privilege as parents is to understand the thoroughness that true education requires, and our duty is to act on this understanding both wisely and energetically. Certainly not many parents will feel this means they must pull their children out of schools. On the other hand, the notion of parents as teachers is, in the broad sense, neither extreme or outlandish...All parents are potentially teachers of the sort their children need them to be.”
The truth is, your children were designed to learn from a specific expert - you! Your children were created to be raised in a family, and the family was designed for raising children. You are already your child’s primary teacher, whether your child goes to school full time, is at home full time, or attends a mix of tutorial and enrichment classes. The key is to recognize this and move forward with confidence to design the educational experience that is right for them.
This doesn’t mean that you have to do everything. It means that you can put together the best blend of resources for everything that you child learns. Sometimes that will be you and your child, one-on-one. Sometimes that will be you taking your child to the library and guiding them to a stack of books. Other times it will mean that you carefully select the tutor or class that fits their interests and needs.
You are more like the manager - the director of your child’s education. Does your boss walk with you through every task and responsibility of your day? Of course not! She’s got her own job and her won responsibilities. It’s more likely that she provides training, direction, and resources and sets expectations, monitoring your progress along the way. Take this approach with your child, and you are already giving her better preparation for the “real world.”
The truth is that you are the parent that God gave your child. The truth is that you have a special bond with you child, and an unparalleled expertise on his gifts, strengths, and learning style. You have been commanded to teach (Deuteronemy 6:7-9) and train (Proverbs 22:6) your child, and you are uniquely equipped to carry out that task.
There are many things to consider as you decide whether you will homeschool, but for heaven’s sake, don’t let the idea that you are not an expert stop you!