I am an educator. I have a Bachelor of Education and a graduate degree, too. (If anyone cares to know.) I have seen and lived behind the scenes.
I also “educated” my youngest son for the last eight years of his pre-post-secondary learning.
The most notable difference that I observed between the teachers I worked alongside while gaining my education degree, and the parents of the children in our local homeschooling group was the willingness to admit, “I do not know the answer to that question.”
Guess which group routinely produced that statement?
There was a time when I had three children in public school because I honestly believed that’s where they should be: I believed that progressively thinking parents owe it to their community to BE in their community.
Change from within and without
I now see “community” differently. I also see that change does not have to come from within; in fact, change from within can have so many roadblocks that it is often a stronger choice to act from without. After decades of teaching in a post-secondary institution, I am convinced of this.
But now in the COVID times, people are not discussing what is the optimal learning place. The question right now is: Are my children safe?
And then the anxiety bubbles up…about children learning at home. About whether YOU have it. When my then 9-year-old son asked to leave school, I spoke to the principal, and the first words out of her mouth were, “Do you think you can handle it?” Those are the words you might hear in your mind as you make the decision to keep your child at home.
In all the time I spent working in an elementary school I never once heard a teacher admit she or he did not know the answer to a question. (Though I know there are some willing. That’s another article!) I did hear a lot of hedging. Some mumbling. And a few blatant lies. Once, my oldest son — a kid who always did very well at math — returned home from a high school math class in a state of disgust.
“I asked the teacher why are we learning this! And she said, ‘Because it’s in the curriculum!’ She couldn’t even come up with a real answer! Why didn’t she just admit she doesn’t know!”
After that day, he lost interest in math. He lost the thread of caring that had kept him going through years of boredom, I realized later. Too late. He never did go on to post-secondary, in spite of the curiosity he was born with.
But the homeschool parents who became part of our community routinely admitted not knowing. And their follow-up response would be,
“Let’s find out,” or “Let’s find someone who does know!”
Find someone who does
In our group of over one hundred families, with our science, biography, geography fairs, and more, I observed many times over how this idea of “let’s find out” or “find someone who does” actually worked. By the middle-grade years, the children themselves would have picked up on this, and would be seeking their own answers and ascertaining just who might help them. As the published writer in the group, I began to have parents and children approach me, and toward the end of that first year of my son learning at home, I found myself hosting a Monday afternoon writing workshop for all ages. Science groups popped up in the homes of those who had this expertise. A monthly boys’ cooking group was a favorite a few years later, moving from home to home according to the resident cook’s area of tastiness. Someone set up a grandparent who had been a choir leader, and one home opened to those who wanted to learn to knit.
“Let’s find someone who does” was a refrain.
Is about learning how to learn. If you cannot begin from a place that acknowledges not knowing, how far can you go?
Being smart is good. Being wise is better. You may be more ready than you know to educate your child at home.
Previously published of “A Parent Is Born”, a Medium publication.
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