Why I Don’t Consider Myself a Teacher
I’m a homeschooling mother, but it’s been several months since I referred to myself as a teacher. I don’t have a teaching degree. Shocking, I know. My degree is in communications, specifically mass media. I know a lot about that. But I don’t know everything, and I can’t tell you everything. I can figure out how to find out, though, and if I understand it, I can help you understand it better. Instead of being a teacher, I think of myself as a learning facilitator.
Home education is a polarizing issue, and like all polarizing issues, I try to meet everyone in the middle if I can. I try to understand all the different perspectives so I’m not actually adding to anyone’s distress. And I have a lot of friends who are teachers and university professors. One of them despises homeschooling and has told me so to my face, but she respects me as a person, and so she continues to pass along information she thinks might be relevant to my kids’ education at home. Those university professors have Master’s degrees and Doctorates in their chosen fields. They know a ton of stuff. They are good teachers, because they already know what they’re trying to teach. Would I have them parent my children? Nope. But if I needed someone to teach a psychology or a poetry course, I know where I’d go.
I also know a ton of homeschool parents who are put on the defense all the time. “How are you going to teach math? You’re bad at math!” It’s funny because I tested out of AP Calculus. Of course, that was mumble-mumble years ago, and the last time I sat down to try the Calculus problems on Khan Academy, it looked like a foreign language (that was this morning, by the way). Many homeschoolers feel insecure about homeschooling because they didn’t do well in school themselves. Fifteen years ago, I might have said, “Rightly so.” Not today.
You can learn anything.
There’s been a grand shift in the last decade or so. Thanks to the internet and the availability of information, you don’t have to know everything anymore. You can look it up from several different sources. You can check out books from multiple different libraries, not just the ones sitting right there on the dusty shelves. You can network with astrophysicists and astronauts (just look at how available Chris Hadfield was and how much information he sent back while he was on his mission). There’s no barrier to entry anymore.
Open learning means you can take a college course in the comfort of your own home and meet hundreds or thousands of others around the world who are learning along with you. Open learning also means that you (adult you reading this) can learn any subject under the sun, FOR FREE. It also means that you (adult you who is homeschooling a child) can find resources for your children to learn from qualified professors and experts around the world, also for free, and also from the comfort of your own home.
Don’t believe me? Check out this inspiring video, which really nails my own philosophy of learning:
My kids are naturally curious. I have a notebook full of plans for our school year that include the topics we’ll study, the places we’ll go, and the books we’ll check out. And I do spend my days teaching them new stuff. But I’m not standing in my kitchen lecturing. I’m not assigning textbook reading and then requiring them to turn in worksheets to show me that they memorized their vocabulary words. Instead, I’m learning along with them, and we’re talking about, and writing about, and making videos about all the things we’re doing.
When we get to a topic that the kids want to learn more about, they usually ask about it. And if it’s something I don’t have memorized, my answer is always the same. “I don’t know. Let’s find out.” We hit Google. We hit the library. We ask experts we know. And thanks to online networking, we know a lot of experts these days. It’s fantastic, really.
So, teachers out there: I respect your work and support you all the way. Thank you so much for taking all those feral neighborhood children under your wings during the day so I can have peace and quiet. I’m not even going to label myself with the label you have. I am not a teacher. I don’t lead classrooms full of children, all with different needs, different backgrounds, and different learning styles, through a standardized curriculum that meets the requirements of parents and governments and school district supervisors. You do, and I know you work hard at it.
Be a lifelong learner.
What I am is a lifelong learner. I’m good at finding information, learning about it myself, and then imparting it to my children (and anyone around who will listen to me for a few minutes). And I think that anyone in the business of home education should be doing the same thing.
If we’re going to raise lifelong learners, we better be showing them how it’s done. If you’re scared to teach algebra because you didn’t do well in algebra, it’s time to take yourself back to school. Thanks to efforts like Khan Academy, there’s not a big barrier to entry. If you don’t like Khan, just stay ahead of your kids in the homeschool curriculum you already have at home. Read picture books until you can manage the adult non-fiction. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn if you try.