An Open Letter To Moms Thinking About Homeschooling

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An Open Letter To Moms Thinking About Homeschooling~AreWeCrazyOrWhat.net

Dear Thinking Mom,

I’m writing to let you know you are the best most qualified teacher for your child.

I know, you must be thinking, “Who is this person to tell me they know who the best teacher is for my child? You don’t even know me or my child!” Yes, I admit it’s a pretty bold and presumptuous statement! My apologies if it offends, but bear with me a moment and let me tell you how I know this bold statement to be true!

Let me answer that first bit and explain who I am. I am a writer, a blogger, a proponent of a self-reliant lifestyle, a teacher, a wife and a homeschooling mom. The mom part and the teacher part are really the only things relevant for this conversation, but I want to be transparent.  I have three boys (the oldest will start high school next year) who have never been in public school. I am also a certified teacher in the state of Texas, and I have been in a teaching role most of my adult life; first, as a public school teacher and then as a mom.

As someone who writes about homeschooling one of the questions I get asked a lot is, “How do you teach all the subjects?” This question is usually followed by a distressed look and a bit of thinking out loud that usually goes something like this, “I’m just not sure I could teach all those subjects. I’m really bad at Math and I really don’t like Science. I just don’t think I’m smart enough.” It’s always a little painful for me to watch a mom doubt her abilities. Part of me still, even after all these years, identifies with her, because I asked myself the very same questions.

So let me lay it out for you as a public school teacher, and a mom and finally as homeschooling mom why you are the most qualified person to teach your child.

As a public school teacher I was trained in classroom management. I can manage a class of around 25 kids, as I was taught strategies and procedures to follow. I do not have a degree in child development, however, I have studied it in college as part of my certification process and then more as a mom interested in the subject. I have to say it is a fascinating subject and I do believe all parents should read a book or two. But, having a degree in child development is not necessary to teach your child, even if your child has been diagnosed with a learning disability or other developmental problem. If you have been watching your child develop from birth and have been engaged in their life you are qualified to teach your child at any stage of development. You know them better than any other person on Earth.

Will it always be easy? No, and there is always those days filled with doubt, just like those days filled with doubt about being a parent, or like those days in the classroom I (and other public school teachers) had filled with doubt.

The education a public school teacher possesses equips her (or him) for the classroom where she has to deal with managing many children, adhering to state laws as it pertains to public school, and communicating with parents. You do not need any of these skills to teach your own child.

When I became a mom I wanted a better environment for my children than I had as a child. I am a product of public school and although my mother did a great job raising my brother, sister and me, there were some areas where school did more harm than good.

I wanted my children to be closer as siblings than I am to my siblings. I wanted to be there to help my children through everyday struggles and guide them, because I remember when I was in school I often felt alone. I wanted my children and me to function as a family every day and not just on weekends.

By the time I became a mom I was also very concerned about exactly what was being taught and how. I want to be able to practice my religion with my children, daily. I also want to teach them to question rules and use critical thinking when learning facts. As my children’s mom I am the one most qualified person to do teach these things to my children, just like you are the most qualified to teach them to your child.

As a homeschooling mom I can tell you I have taught my boys how to talk, how to read, and how to write. Trust me, I’m not the greatest at any of those things!

Homeschooling is not about bringing a public school classroom into your home, although for many years I thought it was and if you start out that way, that’s ok. After all that’s all most of us know. Hopefully as your homeschooling journey progresses you will open up to new ways of teaching your children. There are a ton of philosophies about just how to do that. There is even a whole movement about how to “unschool” your child. You can just type in homeschool in your favorite search engine or maybe join a homeschooling group to learn more about all the different methods out there.

You do not have to teach the subjects you don’t like or don’t feel comfortable teaching.  My oldest son takes a science class from a friend with a PhD in science. Yes, it’s an old fashioned sit down at a desk, listen to lecture class, with a lot of experiments (there is value in being able to navigate those kinds of learning environments as most adult classes, a.k.a. college classes, still have this same structure).

Although I can teach my boys high school math I chose a computer based curriculum on CD. With my writing schedule and the nature of the complex math kids learn in high school, it works out easier for our family.  I did teach math problem by problem when they were younger.  A lot of my older son’s history is taught through the conversations we have.  One subject leads to another and soon we are looking at the history of why things got the way they are, for example in the Middle East.

But, let’s just say for the sake of argument that you got yourself into a pickle where you didn’t know all the answers. You know, like when you’re trying to teach Math and you know your baby just woke up from a nap because you can hear him crying and your toddler will not stop banging on the table, at the same time your oldest son asks you what the answer is to 7×8, and you have no idea. So you take a deep breath and begin to count by sevens as your son keeps count. Showing your child how to cope with that kind of situation is a golden teachable moment that he just can’t get in public school. So not only are you qualified, but, in that moment, you are more qualified than a public school teacher.

But let’s take it a step further. Public school teachers teach the same subject at the same grade level year after year.  They can easily get into a rut and make the subject drab and boring. If you are learning a subject for the first time, like how volcanoes are formed,  your child sees how excited you are about the subject and the steps you’ve taken to teach it to yourself as well as him. You’ve done something public schools fail at time and time again. You have demonstrated how to be self-driven.

There are seasons to homeschooling; teaching methods and hands-on time change with needs. You don’t have to have the knowledge base of an entire high school to guide your child through high school. You do not have to be a scientist, a mathematician, an English Professor, or a History Professor to graduate your child from high school.  If you have a love for learning and like to engage in meaningful conversation you are more than qualified!

So if you are thinking about homeschooling do research curriculum, do get involved in a homeschooling community, and do think about the possibilities! But please never doubt your ability or qualifications to homeschool your own child!

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An Open Letter To Moms Thinking About Homeschooling

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Comments

  1. says

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this! You are right when you say a mom is the best possible teacher for her child :) Yes, it’s a bold statement, but it’s truer than some people realize! So many homeschool moms doubt themselves, and the people around them often don’t help. Homeschool moms need reminders like your post :)

  2. says

    Jennifer, as a public school teacher, I wholeheartedly agree with you on the homeschool vs. public schooling issue. No teacher knows your child the way mom knows! I have encouraged several parents to homeschool children over the years. They are allowed to follow their own interests, avoid group think, and those pesky habit training bells.

    Keep doing the stuff, Jenn!!

  3. Michelle says

    Thank you so much for posting this, I really needed to hear it right now as we are considering homeschooling next year, a 1st grader and Kindergartner! It feels daunting at times yet I see lots of advantages and opportunities.

  4. Esther says

    Thank you so much for posting this. This is my first year homeschooling and I have had a few days where I had doubts about homeschooling. We have had more good days then bad days though :). I knew homeschooling wasn’t going to be easy but, it is also NOT as hard as I thought it would be either.
    As the school year is coming to an end, I asked the kids if they would like to go back to public school in the fall and to my surprise they all said “NO WAY MOM” ! That only confirmed for me that homeschooling is the best choice for our familyl. We love it and I know that with God’s Help we will get through all the school years just fine :)

    My only regret…….I wish I had started homechooling earlier :(

  5. jeanne says

    Jennifer, what a great article! For about 10 years, I homeschooled other parents’ kids. These were the square pegs, the ones who thought they were too different from other highschoolers. I was able to legally do this under our state laws by using the religious exemptions for certification.

    I had no formal teaching training, but I am a MOM-so I knew I could do it! It was the best “job” I ever had! We had short classroom hours, homework timed so that the kids could have a job and still get a “full” days education.

    I never considered math or science to be my strong point….but, with the awesome help of teachers’ manuals and solution manuals, we went from basic math to algebra 1 & 2 to geometry. Science included biology with labs (a blast!) I learned along with the kids, I did the homework, I planned the lessons, etc. It was a lot of hard work.

    Whenever a kid graduated (with ceremony, flowers, speeches, families) their parents would tell me that they so appreciated the time I spend with their kids. The biggest thing, we all agreed, was the free family counseling each kid got. Troubles at home, boyfriends, bringing a baby to class, all were handled.

    So, if anyone reading Jennifer’s post doesn’t get it by now, YOU CAN DO THIS! All you need is love and teacher’s manuals and determination.

    Oh, and btw, all my kids tested into the honors sections of English and the regular math classes (for credit, not the remedial ones) at the local community college. That was one of my main goals…to keep their learning on track and moving forward.

    thanks for the great post!

  6. C.M. says

    I’ll probably get slammed for this, but I’m not a big advocate of homeschooling. I am glad we live in a country where you can choose to homeschool your child, pay for a private education or send your child to public school. For that I am grateful. As a parent, I have been fortunate to have wonderful public schools, but I completely understand the desire to send your child to private school or homeschool him/her if the public schools are terrible. However, if you are in a good district with a solid pubic school system, I think that has its benefits. When I was a teenager, I worked at a Montessori school. It is a wonderful philosophy and wish that there was one nearby that I could have sent my children to. However, my children, due to circumstances, had to go to public school. Now that they are older, I see the benefits of a public education. There were/are Christian teachers in the schools that pray for the parents, admistration, and teachers. My children had the benefits of before school music lessons, Odyssey of the Mind, clubs, sports, etc. that I would not have been aware of if they weren’t in public school. In addition, both of my children took college level classes in 10th grade, AP classes and graduated with high honors. My daughter got a full scholarship to a college in Boston and is finding the classes interesting and challenging, but not overwhelmingly difficult. If you want to homeschool your child and feel God’s calling to do so, by all means follow what the Spirit is leading you to. However, don’t discount a good public education because “public education” is not the “in” thing right now. There are good public schools, with Christian teachers and administrators who work hard and pray for your children daily. I know because I am one of them.

    • CC mom says

      C.M. – I appreciate your honesty and respect your opinion. I agree that I’m thankful that, at least for now, we live in a country where we have educational choice for our children. Even though you aren’t a huge fan of homeschooling, I’m glad we agree there :)

      You shared a lot about your experiences with your children being in public school, and I’m so glad that all worked out well for you and your children! But, there are many things about homeschooling you don’t know because you’ve never been there, or at least you don’t appear to be aware of. For instance, many, if not all, of the opportunities you pointed out about public school are also opportunities for homeschooled children. Music lessons, clubs, sports, etc are all things my kids do. Homeschooled children also take AP courses and also have the opportunity to dual enroll in college classes while in high school. Many of these things I know about because I’m proactive – it doesn’t take a child being in the public school to find out about them. As a matter of fact, I feel that homeschooled children may have more opportunities. As a family, it’s not hard to take 5 or 6 field trips/year – some near and cheap, maybe a couple of them a little more costly. But for a school, that is not as easy because it costs a lot more money to take a few hundred kids vs. a family of five. Also, homeschooled children have more opportunity for socialization among several age levels. I’m not saying that a family can’t have a good experience sending their children to public schools, and I personally know Christian teachers – but, while you say you don’t think parents should discount a good public education, I also think you need to look at the flip side and not discount a good homeschool education.

      “If you want to homeschool your child and feel God’s calling to do so, by all means follow what the Spirit is leading you to. However, don’t discount a good public education because “public education” is not the “in” thing right now.” Homeschooling is hardly the “in” thing, at least not by my definition (since I often still get the look like I have a third eye when my kids mention they are homeschooled). However, even if it is by your or anyone else’s definition, most, if not all, of the homeschooling families I know hardly made this decision lightly – and it had nothing to do with whether it was “in” or not. A lot of thought and prayer goes into a decision like that as this is our children we are talking about. I don’t think you meant to offend in any way, but I wanted to address that comment because it makes it sound like this is a flippant decision made by parents who either want to do the trendy thing or want to live on the fringe. Hardly. Whether we live in a “good” public school district or not (and that also depends on your definition of “good”), the decision is based solely on one thing – what is best for my children? Is it a public education? Is it a home education? If parents feel the answer is a public education and they are comfortable with their district, that is the choice they will make. Alternatively, if it is a home education, they will move heaven and earth to make that happen – for their children…not for the fringe, not for the trend, not to be different.

      Again, I hope I don’t come off as a slam or anything, because it is not. I just don’t think you have considered all of the possibilities when it comes to homeschooling and why some families might choose that even if they live in the same school district you do that worked so well for you. What works for you doesn’t work for everyone – that’s why I don’t go around condemning parents who send their children to public school even though homeschooling works best for us. (And I know you weren’t condemning) Again, I’m so glad your children turned out great and had all those wonderful opportunities…but they aren’t any better off than a lot of grown homeschooled kids that I know and know of. Best wishes!! :)

  7. says

    Great article and thoughtful responses to the comments. I know (hope!) you probably would have included dads if that was your a big part of your audience.=) I plan on homeschooling our twins even though I also run my own business. I’m not sure how that will look yet, but with an awesome wife we will make it work. I simply do not want to leave their education to chance. While I also hope to instill in them some values along the way (that they likely wouldn’t learn in public schools), I simply think I can do a better job. We are also going to start Montessori style learning as soon as possible, as my wife worked at a Montessori school and I love their principles.

    I’m a little less positive about public schools than some. While I attended a good public school in a fairly upscale town (we were not ‘upscale’ as most residents were, however, and my dad just happened to find a decent rent there), the (negative) results across the vast majority of the country are staggering. Many cities are looking at a 50%+ dropout rate. And even in more rural areas, sometimes the results I’ve seen are less than reassuring. The constant fight by the establishment against charter schools and vouchers also indicates to me that many in the system don’t really have the best interests of children in mind.

    A funny anecdote (though a little sad), and I know anecdotes do not facts make (but they can illustrate symptoms): Back when I was working for at the Dollar General corporate office, I had several very intelligent young women working for me over the years (Between 20-25 years old). At break-time most mornings we would try to find something fun to do. We started doing History ‘Jeopardy’. So here we have 2 girls specifically, one who graduated college with a degree in HR and another who didn’t attend college back then (though she is now) but was very bright. The VERY FIRST question I asked them, more joking than anything, was History for $100: ‘Who won the Revolutionary War? With straight faces (and not kidding), the first answered ‘The French’ and the 2nd answered ‘The North’. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

    Over the next few months we played almost every day, and I did my best to do some teaching as best I could. Some of the things they thought they were taught in school: Pearl Harbor happened in the 1800′s, the Civil War occurred in 1650, and no one had ever heard of the Battle of Hastings.

    The thing is, the schools in these towns are supposedly very good (I live in one of the towns where they grew up). Maybe its just me, but there is a baseline set of information that every child should remember from school. No, most of us couldn’t remember heavy algebra or chemistry…but seriously…the basic names, dates and events from history were absent from ALL of the young people who worked for me over the decade I was there, while ALL of the more senior adults remembered them regardless of having been out of school for many more years.

    Something has changed between the 70′s/80′s and now. I’m not sure what it is, but my girls are too valuable to risk putting them into such a hit or miss public school system.

    • Jennifer says

      Hi Toby,
      Yes, of course, Dad’s are included!! Thank you for bringing that up!! As my boys are getting older and the work gets more complex (not necessarily harder) my husband works with each of them more than when they at the elementary level.

      Wow, the story about people not knowing who won the Revolutionary War is beyond sad, but typical these days.

  8. susan says

    Thanks so much for this encouragement! My oldest is due to start kindergarten in the fall, and we are really feeling like public school may not be able to provide what we want for him, in many respects. We also don’t want to go broke paying for private schools.. we have found one that we love and if we get enough aid he will go there, if not we will try homeschooling (prolly using a cyber program). I am excited about the possibility but also very nervous as I work part time, and my husband and I would have to split to homeschooling responsibilities. But this article gives me hope that we might be able to manage it. Thanks!

  9. Misty says

    Great article – and perfect timing! I am and have been considering homeschooling my boys! We are, at the moment, living temporarily in Canada (Quebec province) and they are in a public school in grades 1 and K. BUT, oldest son was in Kindy in our hometown in the USA. He HATED school…..I did not know any kid who could hate Kindergarten, but he did. I began considering then that homeschooling may be a better option for us. Both of my boys are very kinesthetic / experiential learners and oldest has a formal diagnosis of Severe-Profound dyslexia and Dysgraphia and I suspect at least some level of both with younger son as well.
    So, even a “very good” public school system does not seem to be the best option for them! The district we live in (in the states) is known to be a “very good” school (it is actually the one I went to growing up – though MUCH changed from my time!!!). However, the more I research, the more faults(for us) I find with even a “good” public school.
    We are likely moving back to our hometown in the states this summer and I am hoping/planning/researching/feeling overwhelmed to begin homeschooling our boys for the next school year. Now, I just need to figure out HOW to do it….and to convince my hubby that it is the right step for our family (as it would also mean that I would not be going back to work (even part time) as we had “planned” once boys were in school – though we have been able to live with one income for several years already :)
    Anyway, this is exactly the kind of article I need right now!
    Thank you!
    M

  10. says

    Excellent post!
    When I first considered homeschooling, it was with my 4th and last child, and his 1st grade teacher was one of my biggest supporters. It turned out to be the best thing for my son at that time of his life, and we have never looked back. The following year, we pulled our middleschooler out, and then one of our highschoolers (my oldest had graduated by then). Again, it was the best choice for each child, to homeschool instead of continuing with public education.
    We move around a lot and we have public schooled longer than we have homeschooled. For us, homeschooling has so many more benefits over pubic education. That is just how we see it based on our experiences. My kids will happily list all the things they do not miss about going to school.
    Most of my doubts came from other people questioning my choice to homeschool, so I would like to tell anyone considering or new to homeschooling to respectfully ignore the nay-sayers, especially when they are usually parents who have never homeschooled themselves. Instead, form a support group of other homeschooling moms, and friends and family who recognize that you are doing what you consider to be best for your child, and your family. Because you are your child’s first and best expert.

  11. Miss Sami says

    Well that’s NOT nice Miss Jenifer, telling us we can teach math then putting a math problem on here to prove I’m a human ;-) Terrific piece, I could not agree more though I am a veteran HS mom. One question if you don’t mind, would you recommend any child development books for me? Epically any geared for young child diagnosed as exceptionally gifted w/no other add ons (IE twice gifted, no ADHD etc.). Thank you Ma’am, I love reading any good books on these topics.

  12. Valerie says

    I have another option for you as well. My daughter wants her children homeschooled, but her situation wasn’t working out for it. So I am homeschooling the kids. Grandparents MIGHT be an option as well. Obviously there are many factors in that, distance, age/health of grandparent and so on, making it a lesser option, but it may be a consideration for some.

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