I recently mentioned that a key for me has been to be a ‘mum who teaches’ rather than a ‘teacher who is also mum’. I was asked to explain this a bit more. …
I’m a Mum who Teaches
The idea that we have to be both mum and teacher is strong in our culture today – even people who don’t homeschool think that is what I am. But I’m not. I’m a mum. A mum teaches her little one to walk, talk, eat and try new foods, manners, how to be a friend, how to go to the toilet, and many other things in the first few years of her child’s life. As our society has developed we have drawn a line in the sand and said, from this age onwards kids learn from teachers – from professionals. And then along comes a homeschool family and we automatically equate what the mum is doing with the professional teachers. We must because we believe kids learn from teachers.
This is where I differ. I believe mums can keep on teaching their kids – and they can do so without becoming a professional teacher. They can do so by being mum. And because I believe that, I try and not become a teacher but instead remember that I am first and foremost a mother.
A mother – regardless of whether they homeschool or send their kids to school – is responsible for the well being of her children. This is the basis that I homeschool – I look after, direct, encourage, the well being of my children. I make sure they are growing and developing in their whole being: physical, emotional, moral, spiritual, and intellectually (I also like to add practical to this list as well).
So how does this play out during our study times. To be honest, sometimes I may look like a teacher – I may stand and deliver some instructions, I may make them re-do some work again, I may tell them off for not paying attention, I may tell them there is no way out of the assignment…. It isn’t so much what I do but the motivation that is driving me to do it.
I am a mother – and as such I teach my children. It is built into the role of mother.
As the mother I have an advantage over the professional teacher. I know my children well – very well. Though teachers, especially in the primary school years, spend a lot of time with their class, I spend all day, every day. I am involved in their recreation, in their family dynamics, in their highs and lows. I know my children. This gives me the opportunity to help and strengthen their weaknesses and promote their strengths even more than the most dedicated of teachers. This gives me an opportunity to fine tune our academic direction to each child’s individual needs and though the education department make lip-service to this concept reality is no teacher, no matter how skilled, can give individual direction to 30 kids in their class. As a mother I know how the rest of my child’s life is impacting their studies – a late night, a family commitment, an emotional turmoil, a broken relationship. These things affect kids in schools but there is no time to deal with them, they have to keep up with the programme. A mother’s heart though will pause the programme (so to speak) and deal with the heart issues.
One of the things thrown out there to homeschool mums (as a criticism) is that a mum can’t teach everything to her kids – especially in highschool. This is true. But neither can a teacher. A teacher uses resources and gleans from other teachers experiences. Schools, depending on budgets, will bring in experts for certain subjects, or employ specifically skilled teachers to take on those classes. This is exactly what I do in my homeschool too – I don’t teach everything, in fact I teach very little in terms of academics from my own head and bank of knowledge – instead I draw from many resources and experts. But because I am a mother I have the opportunity to guide my children through those resources always ensuring their hearts are protected and yet growing at the same time.
For example, my son Joshua was an independent learner from the age of 9. He was learning stuff I had no idea about, neither was I particularly interested to learn about. This has continued for on for many years – he is still talking about stuff that bamboozles me. But he would acknowledge that I have taught him lots. I haven’t taught him content but I have showed him how to relate to God, I have taught him character, and life skills, including how to think and how to communicate. These things happen as he interacts in life, not from a specific curriculum. These things happen because they are things that happen in our family life – whether we homeschool or not. These things happen because I am his mother.
Another thing that I see happening in homeschool circles is that if Mum is the teacher, Dad is the principal. This is also copying the school model – and based on the idea that there needs to be a school structure in the home in order to teach our kids. In our family we deal with study just like we deal with any other activity or focus that our kids do – we expect character based responses whether our kids are studying, doing chores, relating to other people, playing sport, volunteering or working for pay. Mum and Dad instruct, encourage, correct, support, praise – because we are the parents.
The idea that I am a mum who teaches, not a teacher who is also the mum – is really an attitude that I have adopted. I am not a professional teacher, I am not teaching in a school. I am a mum who encourages her children to learn day in and day out. I teach, but always with the heart of a mother.
Over to you:
What do you think of this idea? Do you struggle to stay being Mum while you homeschool?
You might enjoy this blog post about being a Homeschool Mum without a degree