Teaching Beyond Our Skill Level
© Beverley Paine
A few days ago I was asked: "What you do when your child exceeds your capabilities in a subject?" In this case the person's question related to maths: if your maths skills are poor how do you teach a mathematically bright child? It's a question that comes up time and again from prospective homeschoolers or as an objection to homeschooling.
I'm not very knowledgeable in many areas and, to be honest, I consider my knowledge of the areas I'm passionate to be fairly average. However, I tackle most things with enthusiasm, making sure I assemble the resources I need to find out or learn to do something new. Being organised about how I learn, and understanding that I'm capable of learning (having faith in myself as a learner) means that I honestly believe I can learn anything I want or need to.
One of the reasons I buy books and have a well-stocked homeschool library is because they are full of information and instructions. There are books, written in plain language and with clear diagrams and illustrations, to tackle just about anything now. And there's always the internet. There are even online lessons telling you how to get the most out of searching the internet... With a library like that at my finger tips I never feel inadequate when it comes to learning something new.
As an unschooler and natural learner I know that books are fantastic guides to just about everything, including text books used by school or university students. I know I can get to any level of expertise using books as the basis for my learning. At some stage though I may need to call on someone who is more knowledgeable or skilful and that's when I look for a tutor.
My friend, a single mum, found a local dad who loved fixing up old cars. Her son was keen on learning to drive and wanted to be able to repair whatever car he bought himself. Sue knew nothing about car maintenance. She talked to the guy down the road who was only too happy to get to know her son and have him hang around on the weekend and learn about mechanics.
Another friend realised that not only did she have no clue about maths beyond what she needed in her daily life, she didn't want to learn either, so from early in their homeschooling life she used a maths tutor, in much the same way as a music tutor, for her children. The woman showed her daughter how to the maths and set 'homework' assignments.
The other way that homeschooling parents tackle this issue is to start learning clubs. Ann Lahrson Fisher writes about this in her excellent book Fundamentals of Homeschooling , available from my Always Learning Books website. We've been involved in group learning for circus skills, art, science, and craft. We've also accessed art and music tutors.
Our experiment with school was based on my fear that my lack of skills and knowledge meant my children were missing out, but as I discovered, schools don't always cover those areas, especially to the depth that our children might want and need. We tried school as I wanted my children to have access to physical education, movement, drama, dance, art and craft, and music. The first year at school there were teachers who specialised in these areas. However, for the next five years the school community focus was on technological (read computers!) skills and suddenly the school had little time, money or resources for learning activities in the Arts.
In a neighbouring primary school they had an award winning marine biology focus because it was a hobby and passion of one of the teachers: when he was transferred all that excellence went with him. It's easier to find and access these kinds of people in the community outside of school, than to hope and rely on something happening in the school environment.
Home education naturally broadens one's perspective on the how and why of education. It's very liberating and leads to the development of life-long learning skills for the whole family.
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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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Beverley Paine, The Educating Parent
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