It’s more common than you may think; a certified former classroom teacher is now homeschooling her two children. Talk about a change in venue!
All of those management strategies for a group of thirty kids are now out the window. You can’t write them up with a detention and send them to the principal. You don’t tell them to go turn their happy face to a sad face on the bulletin board. There is no lining up to go to the restroom or lunch. All of a sudden, you have time on your hands for…gasp! Learning! Teachers are trained to teach formally. We get lots of teachers on the phone asking us questions about this or that product. They usually are well-read on the materials and often just want our opinion on their ideas. The first thing they tell us is, “I am a teacher.” What they should tell us is that they are a former classroom teacher. All parents are teachers.
Maybe I feel qualified to relate to these parents as a former classroom teacher myself. I know the environment they come from. But so does everyone who has been in a classroom at some point. It’s the format that is limited – one teacher to 30 students – not the teacher himself. A funny thing happens to these trained professionals. They essentially set up a classroom at home. After all, the structure is familiar. They probably have math from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., bathroom break, language arts until noon, half hour lunch, half hour recess, you get the idea. This is how they start, but it’s not how they land.
It begins with a child wanting to read a book instead of doing math. How to you discourage reading? Well you just flip-flop math and reading for the day. It begins. Another day you decide to take advantage of a museum exhibit to see dinosaur bones. Uh oh! The cracks in the structure begin. One evening you are playing a family game with play money, and decide that tomorrow you will have the kids take a calculator to the grocery store for your math lesson. Oh dear! You are no longer a formal classroom teacher! Now you are a homeschooler capitalizing on your children’s desire to learn and going where it leads you. It’s a bit like loosening your belt after a large meal. It feels good – satisfying even. Memorable. Ahhh. Sigh.
I think all homeschooling parents should know how nervous these former classroom teachers are initially about choosing curriculum. It is a leveler among homeschoolers. They fret about getting it all in, worry that they will create gaps in learning the size of the Grand Canyon, and wonder about something being too much to handle with a baby in the house. They may be even more nervous when it comes to meeting standards or taking tests than other parents. I think they feel pressure to be a perfect homeschooler because they have a college degree in education. The truth is that no one is exempt from the learning curve of homeschooling your children, not even the pros! Everyone eventually falls into a routine that works for their family. Everyone chooses materials that are not a perfect fit and makes adaptations. Everyone is doing this for their children’s best interest, even the pros.
The next time a fellow homeschooler tells you that she was a classroom teacher, cut her some slack. She needs support just like everyone else. Maybe they are telling you this in a way of asking for advice, especially the seasoned homeschooler. It’s a bit like the tension between stay-at-home Moms and working-outside-the-home Moms, we are all moms. Former classroom teachers and non-classroom-trained parents are all homeschoolers. Support each other. Learn from each other. Because in the end, it’s all about the kids.