Are you qualified to homeschool?   Leave a comment

I often hear it asked, “What makes homeschoolers qualified to teach their children?” This question reminds me that we live in a society that has professionalized every aspect of our lives from birth to death.  This was not always so.  Births happened at home and were tended by midwives or other women in the community.   The dead were prepared at home and often laid out for their wake on the dining room table.  Sicknesses that cause people today to flock to walk-in clinics or grab over the counter medication, were once cared for with varieties of herbs and salves mixed and prepared by women who were taught how to use them from the generations before her.  If parents were literate, learning to read and write often began at home.  I’m not saying there isn’t a place for birth centers, funeral homes, clinics and schools, but we have professionalized all these areas of our lives to an extent that we either don’t know how to do them on our own or that society does not allow it anymore.

Many years ago, a woman I know often asked me how our homeschooling was going.  She was a professional woman with children much older than mine and she always commented that she didn’t think she was smart enough to homeschool.   I always got the feeling she was really trying to say, “If I don’t think I’m smart enough, what makes you think you are?”   

I think people envision that homeschoolers are knowledgeable in every possible subject that their children study.  After all, teaching is a profession and education is a complex system run by professionals.  That is what happens when we professionalize our lives – it complexes life and we forget that there is beauty and ease in simplicity.  What is often happening in homeschooling is not a teaching/learning process between parent and child, but a co-learning process.  I learn alongside my children.  If my twelve year old is reading about the ancient Middle East, I’ll  sit with her and ask her to tell me about it or we may read some of it together.  I don’t have to teach it to her – the information is right there in the book. 

The main thing that I teach my children, is how to learn, not what to learn.  My 15 year old son is in the process of building a wind turbine to put on our roof to generate electricity and he is learning about how to make biodiesel.   I did not ‘assign’ him these projects, nor do I know anything about these topics.  But his childhood experience has not been him passively waiting for someone else to feed him information, but to pursue what he is interested in and how to go about gaining that information. 

So then, what makes a parent qualified to homeschool?  A couple of states say that a bachelor’s degree is required.  Let’s take a look at that.  Thirty-five year old, parent A wants to homeschool her children as does thirty-five year old, parent B.  Parent A went to four years of college paid for by mom and dad, saw dorm life as one big party and had barely passing grades.  Parent B joined the workforce after high school, saw the need for a higher education in their life and paid their own way through a tech school for an associates degree.  According to these states, parent A is the only one qualified to homeschool.  I would conclude that this requirement is not an accurate assessment of a ‘qualified’ homeschooler.

My opinion is that the qualifications to homeschool are much simpler.  The first is fairly obvious – parents need to be literate.  All other information can be obtained because of the ability to read.  I don’t need a degree to help my children learn middle school science, but I do need to be able to read so I can learn it myself and help them to understand it. 

The second qualification is not one that can be measured with a degree or exam.  It requires that a parent must enjoy spending large amounts of time with their children.  One can have obtained a PhD in smart-ology with honors high enough to make their nose bleed – but if they don’t enjoy spending day after day, year after year with their children – they are not qualified to homeschool.  Sure, homeschoolers have days that we are irritated with our children and need time alone, but for the most part we enjoy what we do.

When we look past the façade that childhood education must be handled by the so called ‘professionals’, we see that educating children can be done by any literate parent who enjoys being with their children and has the desire to take back a part of life that society has come to believe belongs in the hands of experts.

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Posted March 26, 2011 by The Nonconformist Mom in Uncategorized

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