What Kind of a Teacher Are You?
by Beverley Paine, March 2008
"I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide
the conditions in which they can learn. " Albert Einstein
"Let the child be a human being and
Every one is a teacher. Even parents who practice natural learning are teachers. Not many of us consider that we are natural teachers, even though we amass a great deal of experience teaching our children a vast array of skills and knowledge during the first few years of their lives. We learn how to teach and parent 'on the job', through experimentation and by reflecting on our own and others' experiences. Sometimes we'll turn to experts for advice, but for most of us it doesn't take long to learn to trust our innate abilities as parents. Teaching is one of the skills we naturally have in our parenting toolbox.
In homeschooling families the focus is usually on what is taught - the content. My booklet Teaching Strategies seeks to examine the how of teaching.
What kind of a teacher are you? To answer this you will need to think about what kind of a parent you are... How you parent determines to a large degree how you will teach your children. But that's only half the story, because your effectiveness as a teacher is also very dependent on what kind of learners you have, how the learning environment is set up, as well as what resources are available.
The teacher's role is not a lot different from that of a parent: both participate in an ongoing cycle of observing children, guiding their learning, and assessing their developmental and educational progress. Along the way we help to motivate our children, build on their prior knowledge and strengths, and support their learning in an intentional way by using a variety of strategies to increase their knowledge, skills, and understanding.
Anna Kealoha, author of Trust the Children , tells us that learning and teaching are made easier when the learning environment is an 'oasis', a place where people enjoy to be, feel welcome and useful. It is a calm environment where stress is kept in balance, with just enough to propel motivation and action without causing distress. This is no place for coercing others. If cooperation is one of your long term homeschool goals, then make this a cooperative learning space that is respectful and tolerant of the occupants. This 'oasis' is also a well-resourced environment, with whatever is needed to complete learning tasks and activities close to hand.
The first tool you need to master in your teacher tool box is the ability to create this 'oasis' of learning. In the Always Learning Books Practical Homeschooling Series booklet, Learning Materials for the Homeschool, is an immense list of resources and materials that "will spark interest in creative learning activities, or motivate your children to investigate and explore new areas of learning". This small, inexpensive booklet offers many tips and ideas on how to set up an exciting and stimulating learning environment.
Understanding how each of your children learn is also crucial. Some children respond well to instruction and feel insecure if left to plot their own learning course, whereas others feel constricted by lessons and need to use their imagination and problem solving skills to learn at their own pace. The opportunity to create truly individualised curricula, by tailoring activities and lessons to the learning needs and styles of each of your children fosters the success so often reported by homeschooling families.
Knowing that you are not alone - that you aren't the only, or even the most important, teacher of your children - is another key factor in feeling successful as a teacher. Learning is essentially a social process. Children teach each other. They will learn from whoever or whatever they bump into. Children are natural learners with huge appetites for making sense of their world. Begin with the end point in mind: the object of teaching is to make yourself redundant by helping your children reach the point where they don't need you at all.
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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