Lots of folks wonder if you have to be a teacher to homeschool. Or, if you’re not an actual teacher, they figure that the homeschool parent actually has to do most of the teaching.
When I mention homeschooling, one of the most common objections I receive from strangers (second only to socialization) is that homeschooling surely requires too much teaching from the parent:
“Oh, honey, I could never do that job. I leave it to the professionals.”
“You homeschool? Does that mean you have to teach everything?”
“Homeschooling is fine in the younger grades, but once they get older you really should send them to someone who knows what they’re talking about.”
Happily, you neither have to hold a teaching certificate to homeschool, nor do all that much actual teaching if you don’t want to.
Assumptions about homeschooling and teaching
Underneath all these statements is the assumption that you, the homeschool parent, are the one primarily responsible for teaching your child. Many people think that it’s the homeschool mom who plans and teaches all the lessons, and may even imagine the homeschool as a smaller, more individualized microcosm of the public school setting.
There’s also a soft assumption that you, the homeschool parent, are most likely unqualified to teach your children. After all, if you were a real teacher, why would you be homeschooling? (FYI, I did go to school for my music ed certification– and I still chose to homeschool anyway.)
I have nothing but respect for classroom teachers. Teachers are highly trained, highly qualified individuals. They know their subject matter inside and out, and they have to study special skills and management techniques for the classroom environment. I think teachers are amazing, and I applaud all that they do in public, private, and community classrooms.
However, a teacher has a certain set of skills for a specific situation- the classroom. Homeschool is an entirely different setting than school. “Classroom” management is different, relationships are different, social aspects are different, and, yes, learning can look different too. The skills required of homeschool parents are simply not the same as those required of the classroom teacher.
What makes a parent qualified or unqualified to homeschool can easily be a full discussion for another post. However, for now, let it suffice to say that an invested, engaged, curious parent can do a lot for their child’s education without a single letter behind their name.
Some homeschool parents might enjoy planning and teaching lessons, and many do choose to be engaged in the teaching part of homeschooling. However, there are a lot of ways to do homeschool that don’t require the parent to do much, if any, teaching at all.
You don’t have to be a teacher to homeschool.
As a homeschooling parent, I like to think of my role as less of a teacher and more of an educational facilitator.
I am not solely responsible for knowing and administering all information for every subject from now until graduation, thank heavens. Every homeschooling parent takes a different approach, but I tend to focus on being responsible for things like:
- Choosing curriculum that works well for our family.
- Researching and selecting virtual and in-person classes that my kids can attend.
- Taking my kids to homeschool co-op, sports practice, art class, or other activities.
- Helping my kids to stay on task and checking their assignments.
- Reading aloud.
- Working through select lessons with them.
- Playing, exploring, and going on adventures together.
- Modeling what it is to learn.
If there’s something I don’t know, we find out together! I make it a priority to model what it is to not know yet, but to find out. This encourages kids to take a proactive part in their education. As the homeschoolers so often say, it helps kids to “learn how to learn”- and that’s a tool that will serve them for the rest of their lives.
Educational resources abound.
One blessing of living in the information age is that there are so many means of education available to us. If there’s some part of homeschool that you don’t want to be responsible for teaching, you can very easily outsource it to one of many affordable resources.
Let’s face it- it’s the 21st century, and the internet is kind of a thing. We’ve got complete virtual schooling options, a la carte online classes in anything from Jedi training to algebra to automotive history, educational games, online tutoring, practically limitless databases, citizen science projects, amazing videos on any imaginable topic, documentaries, social gaming platforms, homeschool clubs… you name it, it probably exists.
If sitting in front of the computer isn’t your thing, there is also a wealth of in-person resources that you and your kids could take advantage of. Obviously, the specific resources available to you will depend on where you live. However, here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Library books and classes
- Homeschool co-ops
- Homeschool hybrid programs
- Community centers
- Art or music classes
- After-school tutoring
- Team sports, YMCA’s, gym class, etc.
- Girl or Boy Scouts
- After-school clubs
The options are almost limitless. What would you add to the list?
Curriculum makes it easy on the parent.
What if you don’t want to outsource completely, but you’re still not confident that you can teach everything competently? This is where a good curriculum can really shine.
Picking a curriculum can be a challenge, but I’ve found that the best ones provide lessons, assignments, and guidance while still allowing for flexibility in learning methods and pacing. Here are some things to look for:
- As much guidance as you need to feel comfortable leading your students. This could be a pre-recorded lesson, a short paragraph explaining the concept, or a complete script that you can follow. (Obviously, if you choose a scripted lesson, adapt so that it’s comfortable for you and your kids- you don’t need to read it word for word!)
- Teaching tips for when you need to try a different approach.
- “Additional resources” or “extension activities”– this is often where the fun stuff happens that really helps your kids get the concept. These activities can also present the material in new and refreshing ways.
- Suggested schedules: These can help give you a framework when you’re not sure how to fit everything in. Just remember that you are in charge of your schedule and learning pace– not the book!
You can learn more about choosing homeschool styles and curriculum that fits your family in my course, How to Start Homeschooling.
Embrace self-directed learning.
Lots of homeschooling families find that self-directed learning, or even total unschooling works really well for their kids. In this mindset, the parents aren’t in charge of educating their children- the kids are!
The idea is that when we, as parents, create a rich environment for learning, model curiosity, and foster our children’s natural interests, learning will take place without us pulling out a single textbook.
The nice part about self-directed learning is that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can make your kids sit down and work on math if that’s your style, but you can also allow lots of free time for them to learn and explore without a “teacher.” They can tinker with small machines, build a fort in the backyard, care for an animal, draw maps, create an invention… the sky is the limit!
You can provide a great education without being a teacher.
As you can see, there are so many ways to homeschool without being responsible for all the nitty gritty of daily teaching. You can:
- Bring great resources to your kids.
- Research topics you don’t know much about.
- Lean on talented people in your community.
- Learn together.
- Pursue interests.
You don’t have to be a teacher to homeschool. As long as you continue to seize opportunities to learn, grow, and explore, your kids will have rich and exciting opportunites to learn– even without a certified teacher for a parent.