“Oh, are you a teacher?”
“How do you know what to teach them then?”
You’ve been there.
The majority of people seem to be of the opinion that they are unqualified to educate their own children. I get it. We were thoroughly sold this view through our own schooling.
I’ve even had teachers take it as an attack on them that I dare to believe I am able to educate my own children without their help when they have spent years studying.
“In practice, educators who worry about “unqualified” people teaching their own children almost always define “qualified” to mean teachers trained in schools of education and holding teaching certificates. They assume that to teach children involves a host of mysterious skills that can be learned only in schools of education and that are in fact taught there; that people who have this training teach much better than those who do not; and indeed that people who have not had this training are not competent to teach at all. None of these assumptions are true.” -John Holt, Teach Your Own
The truth is, I am the best person to help and support my children to become ‘educated‘. I have all the qualifications I need, and you probably do too.
What qualifications do you REALLY need to be able to homeschool your kids?
Be a parent
You kind of need to be a parent (or guardian) of a child to homeschool them, ha! Don’t go around trying to homeschool other people’s kids, no matter how much you believe in it.
But seriously, what I mean is, the number one qualification you need to homeschool/unschool your child is one you automatically have. You are their parent. No one is more qualified than you. You know them better than anyone else, you love and care about them, no one is more motivated to want the best for them.
Home education is really just an extension of parenting. You probably see one of your jobs as a parent as preparing your children for adulthood and teaching them about life, right? You’ve been doing it since they were born! You continue to do it now, whether they are in school or not. The idea that some subjects are only for teachers in schools to teach is really quite bizarre. Who made this distinction? We believe it because we were taught it, but it’s not true. Just as you helped your child learn how to make their own breakfast, you are more than capable of supporting them to learn anything else they need to know.
“Today when most people think of education they think of schooling. In other words, they think of education as something done to children by adults. But education long predates schooling, and even today most education occurs outside of school.” -Peter Gray, Free to Learn
You have to want to
This one is obvious. You have to actually want to do it. You have to know that this is the right choice for your children and be committed to living that life. I think many people say “I couldn’t homeschool my kids because (insert one of 1000 possible reasons here)”, when what they really mean is they don’t actually want to.
It is OK not to want to! No one wants to be homeschooled by a parent who is resentful and doesn’t want to be doing it, right? What I wish is that people would just say that, instead of perpetuating myths about why homeschooling won’t work for some people.
The truth is, homeschooling/unschooling can work for anyone who is committed to making it work. You don’t need any superhuman skills. You just need the motivation and willingness to get up every day and do your very best for your kids.
Strength to be different
“It is hard to swim against the current and risk the negative judgments of parenting peers. Yet, some do, and if enough begin to swim upstream, the river may change its flow.” -Peter Gray, Free to Learn
You’ve really got to be comfortable going against the grain if you want to opt out of the schooling system. You have to be cool with not being ‘normal’. You have to know that no one else’s opinion matters. You have to be confident that doing the right thing by your kids is more important than other people’s opinions about what you should be doing.
You have to know that ‘normal’ is boring and predictable and monotonous, and that you are free to choose extraordinary.
“It is not your responsibility to want the life that others want for you.” -Colin Wright
You need to be committed to the process of deschooling. That means examining your views about what an education is, what learning looks like, what children should be able to do, and pretty much everything you know and believe. Yeah, not an easy task, and one that is ongoing. I’m not sure if anyone ever finishes it. Schooled culture is so deeply ingrained.
“Schooled culture feeds the false ideas that learning is not a natural process, authority is necessary, force is necessary (not autonomy) and conformity is necessary.” –Racheous
At school we were taught that we needed to be taught, that we could not be trusted, that we did not know what was best for us, that education was something forced on us by those in power, that we had no rights to decide on our own learning, that other people knew best what we needed to know, that we needed to be evaluated and compared, and that schooling was synonymous with education. None of this is true.
It is both difficult and liberating to overcome these oppressive beliefs.
“Today most people think of childhood and schooling as indelibly entwined. We identify children by their grade in school. We automatically think of learning as work, which children must be forced to do in special workplaces, schools, modeled after factories. All this seems completely normal to us, because we see it everywhere. We rarely stop to think about how new and unnatural all this is in the larger context of human evolution and how it emerged from a bleak period in our history that was marked by child labor and beliefs in children’s innate sinfulness. We have forgotten that children are designed by nature to learn through self-directed play and exploration, and so, more and more, we deprive them of freedom to learn, subjecting them instead to the tedious and painfully slow learning methods devised by those who run the schools.” -Peter Gray, Free to Learn
You have to trust, your children and yourself. Especially if you want to unschool, which is definitely what I recommend.
You have to trust that your children are capable, that they were born knowing how to learn, that they will learn everything they need to know, in their own time. You have to trust that you are the perfect companion for them on this journey, that you are capable, that you are enough, just as you are.
Now, many people use this as a reason they couldn’t homeschool… “I wouldn’t have enough patience!” That’s not the kind of patience I’m talking about. I definitely DO NOT think you need to have superhuman patience to be able to homeschool. Parents who homeschool are normal parents. As I’ve said before, homeschooling is actually a lot more relaxing and there’s more free time than all that school run/homework/lunches/uniform business.
No, the patience I’m talking about is towards your children’s learning. Being patient and knowing they will learn what they need to learn, when they need to learn it. Not trying to keep up with the one-size-fits-all education timeline of school. Not pressuring children to read at 5, for example. Knowing that when they are ready, they will learn. There is no expiry date on education. If they don’t know their letters by age 4 they are not destined to be forever illiterate. Children learn, when they are ready, and when they are ready is completely individual. What a gift to be truly accepted for who you are and allowed to develop in your own way, in your own time.
Know your child
To be able to homeschool you need to know your child, you need to be connected, you need to enjoy each other’s company. Unfortunately, the interruption of schooling often means that there is less connection than there should be. The good news is, these things are also a product of homeschooling! Through spending so much time together, and being more involved in each other’s lives, you will come to know your child more deeply, be connected more strongly, and truly enjoy being together.
You need to be curious yourself! You need to wonder with your child, you need to be willing to learn. Your child is not the only one learning here, and that is an awesome thing! You will find out so many things you never knew before. Like did you know a Newt can regenerate it’s body parts if they are amputated? Or that spiders amputate their legs for self-defense? Or that there is a creature called an Aye-aye that looks like something from a horror movie? All things I have recently heard.
And the best part, you get to see the joy in your kids faces when they learn something new. School was boring, and I honestly thought some parts of homeschooling would be boring too. Like learning to read, or maths. Did I really want to sit through that again? How wrong I was! I can never get enough of watching them figure out the world. It is a joy to witness, and so many people don’t know how much they are missing.
What things DON’T you need for homeschooling?
All the answers
You absolutely do NOT need to have all the answers to your children’s questions, or a certain set of knowledge. Remember what I said about learning together? It’s ok to say you don’t know! In fact, it’s probably better. Because then you get a chance to figure it out together. That’s much more exciting and your child is learning HOW to learn. That way they will have the skills to be able to find any information they ever need.
All the resources
Oh there are a lot of lovely things we could buy, aren’t there? I think a lot of people get caught up in replicating school when they first start. Providing all the opportunities, all the resources, all the materials! It’s really not necessary. Save your money. Invest in a few high-quality things if you like, but you don’t need everything. You don’t need every variety of resource, multiple maths manipulatives, early literacy games, globes….and whatever else. Pay attention to what your children are truly interested in (not what you think they should be interested in), and invest in that. You don’t need to replicate school. You have something much better: life.
Curriculum is for robots. Children are individuals.
A stranger who does not know your children is not capable of writing a plan of all the things they need to know to have a successful and fulfilling life. No matter how ‘qualified’ they are. Who holds that information? The person doing the learning!
“…children learn best on their own initiative, through their own self-chosen and self-directed means, and the best way to help children learn is to leave them alone except when a child asks for help or advice.” -Peter Gray, Free to Learn
You innately know how to ‘teach’ your children, and it has nothing to do with lessons, tests, and curriculums. Trust yourself. You’ve got this.
“Human beings have been sharing information and skills, and passing along to their children whatever they knew, for about a million years now. Along the way they have built some very complicated and highly skilled societies. During all those years there were very few teachers in the sense of people whose only work was teaching others what they knew. And until very recently there were no people at all who were trained in teaching, as such. People always understood, sensibly enough, that before you could teach something you had to know it yourself. But only very recently did human beings get the extraordinary notion that in order to be able to teach what you knew you had to spend years being taught how to teach.” -John Holt, Teach Your Own
If you want to home educate your children, if you want to ditch school, if you want to opt for freedom and joy and connection and a million other wonderful things, you can.
YOU are enough.
Yes, YOU! You’ve got what it takes. You can do this.