Can Ma and Pa Average Teach Their Own?

My previous blog entry, about my personal motivations for home education, revealed that my family and I are somewhat “above average” in math and reading skills.

Does this mean that you must be some kind of freaking super-genius in order to help your children to learn? Not at all. Here is why:

First off, who teaches in the schools? Except for a select few schools, the average teacher is, well, very average. People with exceptional ability sometimes do teach – I’ve met a few, myself – but really bright people can usually do very well elsewhere.

Second, you are highly motivated; these are your children; you care about them. Many parents, who didn’t do well in school, have taught themselves and/or sought instruction in order to better help their children. Often this second go-round with learning is much easier than the parent had anticipated.

Third, you know your child to a degree that others do not. You are likely to know why your child balks at a task – and how to help your child to make progress.

Fourth, you can make more economic use of time. You are not bound by schedules.

To elaborate on the latter point: once your child has begun to read, the best way to improve is to actually read, not to wait 40 minutes for one’s turn to read two lines from the latest dopey primer. It is easier on the child to practice learning to read in a friendly, supportive environment. You might also want to read a few books aloud, even after your children can read; they can follow along and listen. If your reading skills aren’t that great, practice – you will serve as an example of the process of learning.

Research available so far finds that home education is superior, on average, regardless of socio-economic status, race, or level of education. Some will say that these studies could be better; let them fund and execute better studies, if they wish, but the evidence so far is that motivated parents can improve the education of their children.

One more thing – if you worry that you’ll need to spend 6 hours per day in formal “schooling,” don’t do that. Your children will hate you, and your results will be worse than those of the typical home educators, who are a lot more respectful of their child’s time and interests. And, come to think of it, you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting; you can find homeschool co-ops and friends who are willing to share a bit of their particular expertise.

You may recall from my previous blog entry that efficient communications focuses on what is novel, not on endless repetition. This is not to decry all repetition; it will take a few go-rounds before the patterns of multiplication sink in, for example. But when it’s mastered, it’s done; stop while you and your kids are still having fun, and still want more.

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