Are you paralyzed by the thought of teaching physics? Does the concept of tutoring high school chemistry cause your palms to sweat? Does teaching upper levels of math cause your mind to race in fear and panic?
If so, my friend, know that you’re not alone.
But also rest assured: you don’t have to do it all yourself!
In recent times, I’ve actually begun to refer to homeschooling using a different term. I find that the image portrayed by the term ‘homeschooling’ is usually quite different than what actually transpires. This revelation has birthed a transformed understanding and approach to our own homeschool, as well. Let me explain.
Although there are times that the kids sit around the kitchen table, quietly completing worksheets and checklists while mom hovers about, teaching and reviewing when needed, and otherwise tending to a range of domestic arts…this is not the norm.
Many homeschool families I know have a full calendar of co-op classes, music, art and/or dance lessons, sports, volunteering and/or job responsibilities, and the like. Domestic arts are typically accomplished only when considered part of the curricula. Additionally, there are often more days spent away from home than at the kitchen table.
As kids get older, they, too, begin to add things to the family “plate” – and having a teen driver in the house doesn’t necessarily lighten mom’s load!
Nevertheless, moms often feel like they have to know whatever subjects their children are studying. As if simply by benefit of assuming the title of “homeschool mom”, years of study and knowledge of all levels of math and science and history and English have been dropped into their heads.
Is it only me, or does that sound at the very least unreasonable, and ultimately, a bit crazy?
The answer, of course, is “Yes, yes it does!” And this leads to the new term I use for and understanding I have of homeschooling.
The Result: Parent Directed Education
So I propose we start using the term “parent directed education” and stop trying to be a “jack of all trades.”
The plethora of resources today, both online and offline, offers options to those of us who hold the above fears and limitations (please don’t ask me to teach calculus!). The adoption of this concept of education, directed by mom and dad but not necessarily carried out by them, will help these same parents implement those resources.
So how do I know when – and what – to outsource?
Of course, we parents have our children’s best interests at heart, but we also need to know our own limitations, and how they will affect the format of our efforts.
Factors that might indicate it’s time to outsource some learning might be:
- A major family change, such as the arrival of a new baby, a serious illness or death, or mom needing to go back to work
- The determination that your child has a learning disability or special needs
- The determination that your child has a special skill or ability that may lead to scholarship recognition and require coach-led team training
- Advanced classes that may benefit your academically advanced child as he prepares for college
- Mom feeling overwhelmed at the thought of teaching a particular subject
Now you may laugh at that last one, but please don’t. Being able to humbly seek and ask for help provides valuable character training and is an important life skill. Seeking alternative learning sources teaches our kids how to creatively find solutions for those times that life throws us a monkey wrench or two.
Fortunately, these days, there are many ways to outsource your homeschooling efforts when and if the time comes.
- Ask other homeschoolers you know in your area. They may know of classes at the Y, library, or small co-ops in your community. Ideally, your own homeschool support group may have weekly or bi-weekly classes – our family participates in two different co-ops, each of which have unique characteristics which led to our decision to commit to them.
- Online classes vary from the “public school at home” type, to the more creative “online unit study” type. This option will definitely incorporate knowledge of your child’s learning style, age, the vision you have for your homeschool and the goals you have set for your child in order to make a good decision. The math program that we use with our middle- and high schoolers does not even require me to correct papers or maintain grades. I get a weekly progress report (which I do review to assess progress or lack thereof) and grades at the end of the semester. Again, find one or two more seasoned parent educators who are willing to share their wisdom with you, or consider short-term coaching to get over this hump.
- Check with your State’s homeschool laws, but it may be possible to hire a tutor to oversee your child’s work. This will require a bit more work setting up, and you may have to use a textbook or curricula that you are unfamiliar with, but with which the tutor is. However, this option will allow your child to work independently at home in between tutoring sessions with a real live person.
- Finally, when high school looms its lovely head, check to see if the local college has a dual enrollment program in which your teen can enroll. This is an excellent opportunity for your high schooler for three reasons. One, it allows them to take advanced classes taught by college professors, and this totally removes the burden off mom. Secondly, it’s a great transition for a college-bound home educated child, enabling them to get a bit more familiar with both a classroom environment and the greater college environment before shipping off to parts unknown as a freshman. Lastly, it enables them to graduate high school with a few college credits already under their belt – less for you to pay for at a most-likely more expensive institution. A true win-win!
So in the end, feeling that you can’t “teach it all” is not a sign of failure, nor is it necessarily a sign that you need to “throw in the (homeschool) towel!”
Outsourcing parts of your child’s education when necessary is a valid call when the whole family is truly engaged in parent-directed education and a lifestyle of learning.
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