Welcome to The Educating Parent Beverley Paine's archive of articles about homeschooling and unschooling written over a period of 30 plus years

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Struggling with Feelings of Incompetence

by Michele Hasting, 2005
author of The Homeschooling Trail ~ A Journey of Faith
(reprinted with permission, first published in Jan/04 Homeschooling Horizons)

Ever feel like you just don’t have what it takes to homeschool your kids effectively? Let’s face it. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses… including homeschooling parents, but it’s important to understand your role. My role as a homeschooling mom is not to teach them everything they need to know, but to help them learn the things they need to learn. There’s a difference. A big part of my “job” is just being able to seek out mentors, teachers, classes, opportunities and resources so that our boys can pursue the things they’re interested in as well as the things that I believe are necessary for them to learn.

I admit that I’m weak in math and science, have limited computer skills and I’m absolutely illiterate when it comes to electronics, industrial arts and French, (despite the fact that three years of French was compulsory when I was in school and my Dad is a retired French teacher!) Therefore, I have to ferret out self-explanatory math materials, interesting and relevant science resources and people who are both knowledgeable and enthusiastic about each of these subject areas if the boys want or need to delve into them beyond the basics of being “functional”. So in these areas my job is not to teach the kids but instead, hook them up with those people and resources that can do the teaching for me! To my surprise I’ve discovered that many teachers in the school system aren’t teaching in their area of expertise. This is a real shame because while their real talents and strengths lie dormant they’re forced to take on subjects that they may know little about, busting their butts in order to stay one step ahead of their students!

My strengths as a homeschooling parent focus on my love of words (both verbal and written), my appreciation of the arts and the beauty of nature, my striving for balance in our lifestyle and surroundings, my organization abilities, and my love for and enjoyment of our boys. Through me they are being exposed to reams of great books that we enjoy reading out loud together. They are learning how to communicate effectively, both verbally and in written form. They are also being encouraged to explore the arts and enjoy nature.

Much of my “teaching” springs from the many conversations and discussions that the boys and I engage in and their ability to express themselves flows from the ongoing opportunity that they’ve had to freely do so. In school I remember that if you enjoyed talking it was considered more of a liability than an asset! In my opinion, far too much time was spent listening to irrelevant information, copying it into notebooks, memorizing and later regurgitating it onto test papers rather than having the opportunity to share what the information actually “meant” to you and how it affected your life, or even to apply it!

The boys are also racking up many life skills and are learning about being organized with their time and their belongings. (Although a glance at their bedrooms might indicate otherwise!) As well, they’re finding a balance concerning work, rest and play, socializing and solitary time, and healthy food versus junk food.

I am also very passionate about my faith and how it affects every aspect of life and permeates every “subject area”. The boys are being taught about life from a Christian perspective rather than a humanistic or even atheistic worldview… one of my most compelling reasons to keep trekking this homeschooling trail.

As well as being able to pass on the subject matter that I feel strongly about, and seeking out resources and “teachers” to help the boys learn about things that I know little to nothing about, much of their learning comes from following their own interests and pursuing their passions. When ones flame or primary motivation to pursue a certain topic is internal rather than external (someone telling you that you have to learn such and such), the learning experience is wider and deeper and more all- encompassing than other types of forced learning.

My enthusiasm for a subject, or the passionate teaching of a particular subject by a teacher or other resource can only take a student so far. Most of the time only a minimal output is the result of such learning. If there are marks or grades involved, perhaps the exertion may be increased somewhat…if the student even cares about such things as academic achievement or grades. But if the learning is self- propelled, you can’t stop the learning process from growing and developing and expanding into multiple areas of the student’s life.

For instance, if the consuming passion is sports, aspects of this topic will spill into other areas of the student’s life rather than just “gym class”. Not only will the individual engage in his favourite sport each season, pushing himself both during practices and games to hone his skills, he’ll learn as much about the sport off the field or court, even long after the season has ended! He will read about the sport in books, magazines and on web-sites. He will watch sports, live and on television, and he will play his favourite electronic versions of the sport, absorbing more than any bystander would think possible. He will also talk about sports with anyone who cares to listen to him or discuss the subject and he will even write about it if given the freedom to translate his passion into the written word. When desire is the fuel for the learning, learning never runs dry. Even his social group will revolve around his interests, never leaving him high and dry concerning friends to hang out with.

Therefore, a crucial function of the homeschooling parent is being able and willing to facilitate these interests. By registering your student in whatever program he wants to participate in, purchasing the equipment he’ll need, and accommodating him by being flexible enough to allow him to wrap his reading and writing assignments around his interest, you go a long way towards taking the strife and toil out of your homeschooling journey.

As parents who desperately want the best for their children, it’s hard to watch them wade into some area of interest that doesn’t appear to be very “productive”. Yet so much is accomplished in the way of learning when we carve out time in our schedules, and resources from our budget in order to facilitate our child’s passion. You never know what can transpire from allowing our children to gorge on an interest until they’ve had their fill. Having an enjoyable and meaningful life right here and right now is reason enough for our kids to get out of bed each morning isn’t it? Isn’t that what we want for them…and for ourselves? After all, no one is promised tomorrow and if life is a gift, let’s allow our precious offspring to unwrap it today!

As parents, we can’t do it all. Core subjects have to be learned. There are certain expectations. But with the world and all of its resources at our fingertips, we’ll always be able to find the tools and the teachers our young students will need in order to accomplish their goals and dreams. Maybe we’ll even achieve a few of our own! It’s not a mistake that your young charges are growing up in your home. The skills and abilities that you possess are valuable assets, meant to be shared with those you love the most…your children. When overwhelmed with everything you don’t know, try to recognize and make use of the many things that you do have and do those things with all your heart, trusting God to make up for the rest.

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

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 supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since 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. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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