The Unique Perspective of a Teacher-turned Homeschooler
This may seem counter-intuitive, but, yes—there are those of us who used to teach in a school and now homeschool our own children.
All our teacher training and classroom experiences make for an impressive teaching repertoire—and, at times, some educational baggage—which gives us teachers-turned-homeschoolers an interesting perspective on what it looks, feels, sounds like, and means to now educate our own children.
The Positives of All Your Teacher Training
All that college and teacher training does, indeed, provide some advantages to homeschooling our own kids.
Understanding curriculums inside and out
Teaching for multiple years gives us much insight into curriculum—how it’s written, what it includes, and what to do with it. If you choose to homeschool with a specific curriculum, this gives you the advantage of being able to dig in, dissect that information, and become comfortable with it in short order.
Writing our own curriculum
Or use all that knowledge to write your own curriculum. I did this during our first three years of homeschooling. No doubt that it’s a lot of work.
On the other hand, I tailored the curriculum to what works best for our children. I took a pinch of Charlotte Mason, a helping of literature-based study, and a dash of project-based homeschooling to create a curriculum that my kids thoroughly enjoyed.
Knowledge about evaluations and which ones will work for our kids
Our time teaching gave us great insight into assessments, as well as curriculums. There is no one better to choose what tests and evaluations will provide us with the best insight into our children’s learning and progress.
The Drawbacks of All That Traditional School Mindset
As with most things in life, the positives of that teaching experience is accompanied by some distinct negatives once you’re a homeschooling parent.
We tend to think in terms of grade level standards
We teachers absolutely think about skills and progress within the confines of grade levels. In first grade, kids are supposed to learn a, b, and c; in second grade, they learn x, y, and z… and along it goes as we compartmentalize skills and learning into nice, neat piles that match what is done at school.
And this is great if you’re homeschooling style is very much a school-at-home approach. If you’re like me and your style has evolved into something less structured, then these nagging grade level expectations can be the bane of your homeschooling existence.
Embracing more relaxed, non-traditional methods can be challenging
Much as the idea of grade levels is ingrained, so is the strict school-day structure, schedule, and rigorous academics.
For homeschooling parents wishing to embrace a more relaxed style, this presents a challenge. That rigor and structure tend to nag at you, like a little bird flittering around to question if you’re doing enough.
The “doing enough” is a common worry among most homeschooling parents, former teacher or not. However, in talking with other homeschool parents of both persuasions, I’ve found that this pressure and worry seems more intense among those of us who used to teach the traditional school way.
Comparing our child to traditional students
This is part of what traditional teachers do, right? By Christmas, my class of Kindergartners should know their letters and sounds, be reading x-amount of sight words and writing two sentences… and when a classroom student is not meeting those grade level expectations, then we kick into remediation mode.
With all those habits, it’s entirely natural to compare our own children’s progress to where they’d be if they were in a brick-and-mortar school. It isn’t necessarily helpful, but it’s entirely expected.
We sometimes make unnecessary work for ourselves
Every single worksheet-making, calendar-creating, cutesy-material-inventing instinct within me fights to create all my own practice pages, workmats, flashcards, and calendars.
If I had absolutely nothing else to do but homeschool and plan for our homeschooling, then all that work would be no problem.
But life isn’t so unfettered. There are household responsibilities, co-ops and meetups and field trips, errands, shopping, bills, balancing the checkbook, remembering family birthdays and other special occasions… (are you tired yet?)
So, I must relinquish some of my old creative tendencies in favor of finding pre-made items online and clicking print, when I can.
Using Our Backgrounds to Our Children’s Advantage
We used our knowledge and skills to our students’ advantage when we taught school; of course, we’ll do it when teaching our own children.
Identifying our child’s learning style
Our years of experience taught us to spot kids’ learning styles from a mile away. Use that with our own children.
A big bonus to homeschooling is that we can heavily tailor our child’s learning activities to best suit them. My oldest is almost exclusively a visual learner, so I do nearly everything to tap into his right-brain learning style.
Tailoring our child’s education
The ability to heavily mold our child’s learning activities to best suit them is one of the golden gifts of this endeavor.
In the case of our right-brain learner, math and spelling are almost completely visual; writing and grammar are heavily integrated; and since he’s such a strong reader, I help him choose books to meet his level and interests. In fact, we often integrate other “subjects” through whatever he is reading. Using our expertise can be an incredible benefit to our children.
Spotting potential learning issues early
Teachers often have knowledge of potential indicators of learning challenges and can spot them long before non-teacher-trained homeschooling parents.
Our son is a great example: I noticed near his fourth birthday that he was articulating some speech sounds incorrectly (cat was tat; dog was dod; Luke was Yuke). I knew that if these continued much past turning four, that this indicated a possible articulation problem. It did and we had him evaluated through our local school district, which revealed some speech articulation delays.
Without my teacher knowledge, I might not have known to even wonder about this until much later.
Providing a well-rounded experience for your child
Educators are generally creative, problem-solving creatures. As classroom teachers, we often tried to think outside the box to accommodate our student’s various strengths, needs, and personalities.
I know I was kept up at night (too many times to count) turning a problem or a student’s unique situation around and over and under in my head, trying to sort it out. The inclinations to help, to fix, to create solutions are major driving forces for us. We want to foster the most varied, well-rounded, best possible learning experiences.
It’s natural to apply this to homeschooling, especially when our “class” consists of our own precious children. More than any human being on Earth, we want our children to learn, to grow, to succeed in whatever they choose to tackle in life.
We know what it’s like on the other side—in the traditional schooling model. That knowledge affords us the unique perspective of shaping a well-rounded, meaningful, productive experiences and a life full of learning for our beloved children.