Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Are Parents Without Formal Teaching Qualifications Equipped to Home Educate their Children?

© Beverley Paine, Interview with Julia Harris, journalist student

1/ In your opinion, are parents without formal teaching qualifications, equipped to home educate their children? Why/ why not?

Parents do not need formal teaching qualifications - or any kind of qualifications for that matter - to help their children learn, either as parents of schooled children or home educated children. The majority of parents are equipped to 'learn-on-the-job' and simply pick up and continue using the skills they honed in their child's first five years of life. Some people might think that teaching a five or a ten year old is tricky, but it's a breeze compared with trying to work out and meet the developmental needs of a one year old!

To get the most out of the home education experience for both the parent and child, parents must enjoy the company of their children. The parent needs to have an open mind, willing to be flexible and adaptable. It helps if he or she enjoys learning and is willing to let go of some of the myths and misconceptions about how to learn and how to teach. Children are excellent at guiding parents to find the best resources and methods - especially if their parents are practiced users of observation, reflection and evaluation skills.

Being able to find one's way around a library and the internet are helpful. Basic literacy and numeracy skills come in handy. :-)

There are no requirements for home educating parents to have formal teaching qualifications in all states and territories of Australia.

2/ Do you see a need for a homeschooling teaching qualification/course for parents? do you think this would assist or hinder homeschooling parents? why/ why not?

I don't see a need for formal teaching qualifications or courses for home educating parents.

Voluntary, inexpensive (or free) courses and workshops do have a place in helping those parents that lack confidence or wish to improve their skills, knowledge and understanding in any topic. Home educating parents are always learning and the opportunity to learn with peers (either in small groups or by distance or online education) would be welcomed by many parents.

Home educators self-organise conferences, seminars and workshops for other home educating parents. As a course or workshop presenter I find that the majority of questions relate to parenting rather than educational issues. Parents are confident educators but, like all parents, worry about parenting. Managing life and parenting issues - organisational issues - can be a source of stress that is often expressed as a lack of confidence in ability to teach. Questions about time management are fairly typical - looking after toddlers while helping older children, finding time for mum's activities, getting the children to help with chores, etc - are asked more often than how to teach the times tables or Australian history, for example.

Home educating parents are very resourceful. There is a strong support network across Australia, especially online.

Home education is very hands-on learning. Parents often take an experimental approach to methods and materials. They drop what isn't working and find new resources and approaches as soon as it is obvious - and it is usually very obvious! What works for one child might not work for another. They develop truly individualised learning programs for each of their children that are responsive to the child's developmental and learning needs.

Because home education tends to be very responsive to the child's learning needs, parents are always looking out for better methods and resources. Many are often using tools and techniques at the cutting edge of education. I'm not sure that teacher training would be of any benefit to parents such as this: in any case, parents are constantly self-educating about more effective ways of helping their children learn.

3/ With your great experience, what in general is the opinion of the homeschooling parents in the teaching industry?

Most of the parents I have met (thousands!) would feel affronted if formal teaching qualifications were required to home educate their children. After 30-40 years the home education movement has adequately proven both here and in the USA and UK that parents from all walks of life and educational backgrounds are capable of teaching their children from home. Research studies have confirmed this - though hundreds of thousands of adults who were home educated are proof enough.

Nearly all of the parents I have met would think that implementing a teacher training course to qualify parents as home educators would be a waste of resources and money. The time and energy to provide this would be better spent on appropriate support for families and groups.

Teachers need training because they are teaching up to 30 children whom they do not personally and intimately know, and because they are answerable to the parents and to society in general. Home educating parents know they children very well and use this understanding and knowledge to help their children become motivated, self-confident and enthusiastic learners. Home educating parents are answerable to their children and society in general. They are not being employed to do a job - they are home educating because they love their children.

4/ What do you believe parents bring/give to their children when homeschooling, that 'regular' schooling cannot?

There is no short answer to this question. Parents bring/give their children so much - great parents will do this for children anyway. Parents simply need to be great parents, interested but not obsessed in their children's development and future. Interested enough to make space in their day to be with their children and to do things together. In other words, be attentive to their children and their needs. Few parents seem to manage this consistently. It's been my experience and privilege to hang out with a special bunch of parents who enjoy the company of their children and love learning alongside them. More have been home educating parents than parents of schooled children.

See my articles on the benefits of home education from a parental perspective for a more thorough list: http://homeschoolaustralia.com/articles/benefits.html. Although it lists the benefits I've gained, it is obvious that the benefits are a two-way experience. As I learned how to be a better parent from home educating my children they also gained much. I am a much better parent because I taught my children from home - this is a common experience in homeschooling families.

There are more listed on my Benefits index page: http://homeschoolaustralia.com/index/benefits.html

Saturday, April 23, 2011

How doing my best and working for better grades damaged me

At 52 I am rebelling against the need within to finish everything I start. It began to dawn on me some time ago that my sense of self-worth is tied to successfully completing anything I choose or am required to do. I think this began in school: my teachers were happy with my results and attitude to work but always put ‘Beverley could do better’ or ‘isn’t applying herself to the best of her ability’, especially if my report card showed more Bs than As. As a result I grew up thinking anything less than 100% wasn’t good enough and that to be completely successful one has to do the very best that one can do in each and every moment, striving for the perfect 100% all of the time. 
Sounds like a recipe for failure doesn’t it? It’s not surprising that every day as I reflect on my achievements I feel like and see myself as a failure. Or that, no matter how hard I try, I can’t reach that 100% goal - I’m always a few percentage points short! Most people think I’m crazy and that I’m an over-achiever and that I should be happy with 95%. But on the report card in my mind at the end of each day it says, ‘could do better’. That translates into ‘not good enough’: I’m not good enough. I’ve personalised those comments from long ago and taken the judgment to heart, made it about myself.
This message was reinforced continuously for twelve years from the age of five and became a conditioned response, a mantra that runs through my head every day. But it’s worse than that. For twelve years how I was judged as a person came down to whether or not I successfully completed discrete tasks called assignments, essays or tests. Finishing was all important. Failing to finish was exactly that – a fail! For the next twenty-five years of my life I was goal-oriented. Success was measured not only in how well I did (anything less than 100% fell short of course), but also occurred only when the task was completely finished. And once it was finished I could begin to enjoy the fruits of my labour.
This resulted in me becoming fixated on getting things done because only then could I fully enjoy life. When I had finished school I could get a job and enjoy being an adult (the whole point of school, right?) When I finished building my house I could relax and enjoy it (no one mentioned maintenance!) Finishing became the goal and the purpose, with the enjoying the end result the motivation.
As a home educating parent I discovered that the process of learning and doing is way more important than the products. It is where most of the enjoyment happens too. Learning and doing is fun. There is intrinsic motivation in both. I knew this as a child but school and grades systematically erased that knowledge and understanding. As a parent I worked hard to de-school my homeschooling practice but de-schooling myself is an ongoing process – it never stops.  

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