This isn’t even MY story and yet I can’t help but take it on as personally as if it had happened to me. Sometimes sincere, well-meaning people can have the most ill-conceived ideas.
I have a friend who is a first-year homeschooling mom. She has decided to home educate her children from the start and she’s doing a phenomenal job of it.
Just recently she was sharing with me how she was in a local grocery store several weeks ago when an elderly man stopped to gush over her small, (and terribly cute,) children. In the course of their conversation she learned he was an educated man; a retired professor from a state university who had raised five children to be successful, respectable adults. Their chat was delightful up to that point.
But recognizing that at least one of the children was school-age or nearly so, (this was back in the summer,) he asked the kids when they would begin school. When my friend expressed her intent to homeschool, this kind, well-meaning, and incredibly ignorant man took her arm and began begging her not to do it.
“Now, honey,” he said, his words no doubt dripping with a condescending sweetness, “do you really think you’re qualified to do that?” After all, he went on to explain, he had once known a homeschooled girl who was overweight, socially deficient, and had never reached her full potential.
(Yeah. Okay. And I’ve known SCORES of kids who have gone through public schools who are overweight, socially deficient, and have never reached their full potential, but whatever. Anyway, back to the story.)
My friend, being a far sweeter person than I am, dealt with it quite admirably, smiling and gently assuring the gentleman she was pretty sure she could handle Kindergarten. I doubt I could have answered so sweetly.
First of all, all three of her children are young enough and small enough to fit inside one shopping cart! Obviously she wasn’t prepping to teach trigonometry or astrophysics! We’re talking number and letter recognition and basic phonics. Get real.
But it’s really the premise of the man’s question that makes it so offensive. At its core is the ridiculous, (and dangerous,) notion that only the “experts” can teach our children, that education is a medicine that can only be safely and properly administered by those the state deems “qualified” to do so.
One has to wonder how Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Thomas Edison and a host of other self-directed learners like them ever managed without “experts” to direct them in their education. If knowledge can only be imparted by and received from those with degrees from liberal universities who have jumped through all the necessary hoops to obtain state certification, then it’s a wonder any of us learn anything outside of a stuffy classroom! Yet the human mind has an amazing capacity for learning, often without the facilitation of an “expert” of any kind.
When a person is determined to learn, THEY WILL LEARN, with or without a teacher!
But I’m not writing this to dis teachers in any way! Teaching is a noble calling and a good teacher can inspire his pupils in amazing ways.
But it is the state which determines who is “qualified” to teach and who isn’t, even though their certification standards can’t guarantee good teaching any more than a driver’s license can guarantee good driving. In many areas a dearth of teachers results in a lowering of academic standards for educators. But even where that isn’t the case, a teaching certificate may be dependent upon fulfilling certain training and educational requirements, but the most critical of qualifications, like a genuine love for children, a desire to inspire a love of learning, and a passion for a particular subject, aren’t necessarily required. Some may argue that these are more elusive qualities and harder to assess, but few would try to make the claim they aren’t also the most essential ingredients for teaching success.
I know and count among my friends some extraordinary certified teachers who love their students and give them their best each and every day. But that said, I also know many homeschooling moms without certification who love their children in a way no teacher could ever love a child who isn’t their own and who have a passion for their learning that few teachers could ever equal. Yet by the standard of the many, these moms aren’t “qualified” to teach their children. Apparently no amount of love or preparation or self-discipline or self-study can put them on par with an “expert” who has received the state’s teaching stamp of approval.
If certification was based on love and commitment, and even a comprehensive knowledge assessment, most homeschooling moms I know would be certified as easily as their public school counterparts. Instead the state requires four + years of college which is ridiculously, even immorally expensive while being minimally beneficial, and more and more evidently these years of schooling focus more on pushing certain agendas than on preparing teachers to provide their students with the best education possible. (And don’t try to tell me that indoctrination of educators doesn’t happen. And don’t try to convince me it isn’t harmful when it does. Ask 1930s Germany how well it worked for them.) It’s hard then to question an average homeschooling mom or dad who doesn’t feel compelled to take on incredible debt and to subject themselves to regular liberal drivel, all for a state certification they know does nothing to make them a better person or teacher.
But back to the “only the experts can handle your children” argument. I think it’s only reasonable to take that idea a step further: Never in my life have I been more unqualified to do something than when I brought my first baby home from the hospital.
I’d had little to no contact with newborns my entire life and I had never changed a diaper. Never. My own mother was deceased, so she couldn’t offer me any assistance or advice. Had someone stopped me in the parking garage on my way out that day and told me I was a threat to my baby because I had no idea what I was doing, I couldn’t have offered much in my defense. Except for love and commitment, which, of course, goes a long way.
Regardless, it was expected of me to learn and learn quickly how to care for this tiny little person I had brought into the world. So why is it impossible to think I can’t do the same when it comes to my children’s education? I can learn how to feed them and diaper them, but I can’t learn how to teach them? Or I can teach them how to sleep, to eat, to coo, to talk, to walk, to zip their coat, to tie their shoe, but I can’t teach them addition and subtraction and, eventually, even algebra and geometry?
If parents aren’t “qualified” to teach their children math and science and language arts, then certainly they aren’t qualified to care for them as newborns. Our kids are more fragile and dependent then than ever again in their lives!
So shouldn’t we leave the care of infants to “professionals” who have the skill, experience, and knowledge to properly care for them? Perhaps then the child can be returned to the parents when it’s time for solid foods.
But wait. An inexperienced parent can’t possibly be expected to know how and what to feed a baby, so the infant should probably remain in the care of “experts” beyond that time. Oh, but then a baby needs proper interaction to begin developing language. Naturally your average parent couldn’t effectively train a child to speak, so perhaps the baby should remain with those who are “qualified” to encourage language development. Of course later on there’s potty training to think about and parents just don’t have the knowledge to tackle a job like that, so…
Surely you’re getting my point here.
If I’m not really qualified to handle my children from birth to adulthood, then they should probably become wards of the state from their first breath. Though few would ever admit it, that kind of arrangement is exactly what many within our educational system would like to see. To those of us who are normal, it’s frightening, socialistic jargon, but it’s also a completely logical conclusion if we’re going to embrace the idea that parents aren’t qualified to educate their children.
Do you want to know who is the greatest “expert” when it comes to my kids? Believe it or not, it ISN’T the woman with 16 years experience in elementary education. It isn’t the man with a Ph.D. in child psychology. Neither of those people have met my children or seen the way they operate in social situations or in the home or been so blessed as to observe their unique talents and strengths and weaknesses.
The greatest expert you’ll find on my four children is ME.
I’m the one who knows that my son is very bright, but often needs a lot of prodding to get things done. I know what motivates him and I know what leaves him discouraged.
I’m the one who knows that at the first sign of frustration or impatience in the teacher, my daughter’s learning will come to a sudden halt. I know when she’s overwhelmed and I know when she needs a little break.
I’m the one who knows when my daughter isn’t being challenged. I’m the one who knows when she isn’t understanding her math and when she’s just being careless.
And what about the other details a qualified teacher would benefit from knowing, like the fact Peanut will be bitten by every mosquito on the playground and Little Man will be sick if any other kid gets sick in front of him and Doodle is a germaphobe who sometimes has to be told NOT to wash her hands anymore.
I’m the one who knows where my kids struggle and where they excel. I know what best helps them focus and what causes their greatest distractions. I know how they interact with others, how they respond to criticism, and how they handle success. I know their greatest character flaws and their best virtues.
I know my kids like nobody else knows them. And if that doesn’t make me expert enough to teach, then nothing else ever will.
So to the dear old man who thinks only the “experts” should be teaching my children: I agree, sir. Because I am the expert. And I am uniquely qualified to teach my kids.