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Letting Go of the Teacher in You

Added by Heather Idoni

Thursday, December 8, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 43, December 8, 2011, ISSN: 1536-2035
(c) 2011, Heather Idoni - www.FamilyClassroom.net

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Guest Article

Letting Go of the Teacher in You
  by Carol Barnier


Ever think about quitting homeschooling?

Yeah. Me too. The question is... when you get to that point, what do you do next?

Take a look at a note from a mom who is right at the crossroads:

"I am homeschooling my 2 very active boys. Age 7 and 5 and I am stuck. I think the biggest reason I am stuck is that I taught special education in the public school system for 9 years and I just have in my mind how our school day 'should look' and it doesn't fit and honestly homeschooling is really frustrating and I don't like it. I just can't seem to break out of that and embrace what works best for us! I also think I have 'too many' ideas and things I want to cover and have trouble focusing on what is best. Anyway... I would love your thoughts and prayers." -- Losing Heart

Dear Losing Heart,

I have SO been where you are. I understand your heavy heart.

You might expect I'll give you a pep talk saying "Never give up! You can't surrender! The collapse of family structure is on the line" and so on. But those talks tend to heap loads of guilt on someone who's simply looking for solutions. My guess is you already have guilt (It's a mommy's way). The truth is you can give up and it would not be the end of the world. I won't join the ranks of those who tell parents that if they quit homeschooling they've failed.

All that said, I still don't believe you need to give up. There is so much of value in the homeschooling life that I'd hate to see you and your boys lose out on. So we'll go straight to discussion B.

When I first began homeschooling, I tried my best to make my school look and walk and talk like a traditional classroom. That was my model. I didn't think it was "a" way to teach; I thought it was "the" way to teach, the only way. After all, if it wasn't, why would teaching schools teach future teachers to use it? Thankfully I stuck in there, and with each passing year, my classroom grew more and more relaxed, less and less structured, more and more able to follow the gifts and interests of my children. This is a transition that almost every homeschooling mom/teacher must make. We all start with what we know. A few continue with the traditional model, but they are rare, and I believe in doing so, they lose out on the many truly glorious options available to them and their children.

Here's the bad news: moms who've been trained as teachers have the hardest time finding new models. You've already expressed this awareness. But you need to know you're not alone in this. It's hard for everyone. It's especially hard for teachers.

Keep in mind, the traditional model isn't a bad one IF you have large classrooms sizes and more kids coming up the ranks. If your goal is to process a lot of children through a system, this system truly isn't a bad one, but... you have to let some other things go. You can't follow the strengths of the individual child. There isn't time. There are too many other kids to consider. It's an okay system for moving groups en masse through a process.


  • If a particular student takes an interest in rocketry and all the physics behind it, nothing can be done, because the whole class doesn't share the interest AND... it's not on the lesson plan.
  • If a particular student has a gift for writing and would love to delve into Shakespeare and all the unfamiliar richness of the older language, nothing can be done, because the whole class doesn't share the interest AND... it's not on the lesson plan.
  • If a particular child shows an early interest in chemistry and would love to play with a lab kit, learning about reactions and properties,  nothing can be done, because the whole class doesn't share the interest AND... it's not on the lesson plan.
  • If a particular student just isn't getting multiplication facts and needs three times the usual time allotment to master it, nothing can be done, because the whole class doesn't share the need AND... it's not on the lesson plan.

We move onward for the good of the majority. And it makes sense to do so. Holding 25 kids back because of the needs or interests of 1 child doesn't make sense.

But in homeschooling, it's not about the majority. It's about one child at a time.

You can follow delights. You can follow interests. You can address challenges.

You can do pretty much anything that teaches a child that learning is fun and wonderful and lifelong.

Before you give up, I would suggest you try different approach. Your kids are so young that you can relax. You couldn't possibly screw up so badly that they would lose out. :-)

So if you're going to experiment, try it now.

How about a unit study that focuses on something that absolutely delights them?


Monster trucks?


Make models, Collect samples. Go on field trips. Watch kids documentaries. Read biographies of people who are into this subject. Role play.

And perhaps most importantly, find another homeschooling mom who has already made that transition and see if you can shadow her in her schooling for a week.

Join together for a time.

Share the school week or month.

Watch what she does differently.

Give yourself permission to step away from traditional, even if only for a month.

When I first began homeschooling I collected Scope and Sequence documents from around the country. Public schools. Private schools. Expensive prep schools. Gifted schools. Montessori schools. I put them all together and studied them to get a sense of the most comprehensive scope and sequence I could formulate for my own school. And I made an amazing discovery. Other than a few essentials in learning to read, and of course math, there wasn't a clear path. Some schools studied earth science in 5th grade and others studies life science. Some studied Ancient Egyptians while others were learning about Thomas Jefferson. Some learned metaphors and similes while others were learning about proper citations. For almost everything, there was no clear chronology of learning.

This was very freeing for me. I realized that as long as they got the same information into their heads by the time they graduated, the method and sequence of how they got it could be completely of my choosing!

I was free to make learning delicious.

This should liberate you from designing your school based on how it "should look".

Instead, apply a new method --

What would you need to do for your child to say "THAT was wonderful! Can we do more?"

There it is.

That should be your method.

That should be your guide.

If you start with that idea and changed just ONE lesson in your day, you would see the difference.

I suspect that soon you would change another... and another.

And before you know it, learning in your school is delicious... and you'd never want to stop.


QUESTION: What about you? What are some ways you make learning delicious in your house?


Carol Barnier is author of three books, mother to three children and wife to one husband. She is a popular speaker and radio guest across the country. You may have heard her on Focus on the Family's Weekend Magazine or Moody Radio. She has written for Proverbs 31 Woman, The Old Schoolhouse, Club House Magazine and others. She strives to provide practical and usable ideas in each and every talk. She strives to have the wit of Erma Bombeck crossed with the spiritual depth of C.S. Lewis, but will admit to you that on most days she only achieves a good Lucy Ricardo with a bit of Bob the Tomato. And while this author of four books she be quite serious, probably the best description of her is what you find on her business cards:

Delightful Speaker, Entertaining Author, Adequate Wife, Pitiful Housekeeper.


How to Get Your Child Off the Refrigerator and On To Learning

If I'm Diapering a Watermelon, Then Where'd I Leave the Baby?

The Big WHAT NOW Book of Learning Styles

Engaging Today's Prodigal: Clear Thinking, New Approaches and Reasons for Hope


www.SizzleBop.com A place where the distractible are encouraged, celebrated and empowered.


www.CarolBarnier.com Author/speaker website


Your feedback is always welcome -- I will share it with Carol! :-)
Just send your email to heather(at)familyclassroom.net.

And this is from Carol, too... it speaks to our recent discussion on Life's Special Seasons:

"We took a year off from homeschooling as well and put my kids in a private school. This was the year my mother was dying and needed me around. So I'm comfortable that I made the right decision, but that doesn't mean there were no regrets. Nonetheless, as the years since then have passed, I've seen many valuable things taken away from that one year at school experience -- mostly how glad they are to be homeschooling." -- Carol Barnier


Online Curriculum for Kids & Tools for Parents

Hundreds of families have already recommended Time4Learning.com because of its ease of use, quality of lessons and the can-do attitude it promotes toward learning.

Parents love that the online learning program teaches the lessons, grades the activities, tracks the amount of time spent on activities (for attendance) and keeps reports perfect for portfolio usage.

Kids love the "outside-the-box" approach and the novelty of using the computer for school. The multimedia lessons feel more like video games than standards-based curriculum, making it a great tool for presenting new or difficult concepts in a non-threatening way.

Read parent reviews or view the grade by grade curriculum overview to see what’s available.


Winning Website

Mr. McGroovy's Box Rivets

McGroovy's offers ingenius, reusable plastic rivets for putting together cardboard forts, pirate ships, castles and more! If you are looking for an inexpensive way to "wow" your children this Christmas, take a look at McGroovy's downloadable plans and start collecting large cardboard. Check out the gallery of photos sent in by creative fans!

Helpful Tips

Free Calvert Curriculum


"If anyone has been looking at Calvert, they have a way to get the whole program free. Call them and ask to be part of their efficacy study. Half of the participants will get the entire Calvert curriculum free for a year. The other half use any other program (you have to buy it), and then Calvert tests your child and gives you $170 for taking the tests (plus the test results). They'll tell you whether you're in the study and if you're going to getting the program for free before you enroll." -- Brian C.

Last Issue's Reader Question

"My 12 year old son grasps math concepts, but he cannot remember basic facts. We have tried Times Tales, drills, rewards, computer games, bribes, etc. I am not holding him back on progressing, and let him use charts. He still counts on his fingers, and spends about one hour doing 15 to 20 problems. I occassionaly let him use the calculator, but when testing time comes around he will not be able to use one. He has been tested for and has ADD and auditory processing disorder. We strongly feel he has dyslexia, but cannot afford any more private testing. Any help would be greatly appreciated." -- Betty

Our Readers' Responses

"This is going to sound cruel for your child but do NOT let him count on his fingers or use a calculator. Those are not tools; they are crutches -- and in the end it is going to harm rather than help. I would get the flashcards out and drill on them. Used timed fact sheets. Start out with 15 minutes and work down in the length of time from there as he improves. Get some dice out and have him write out a number sentence using addition, subtraction, multiplication and division using the numbers that come on the dice each time and solve them. If you have a deck of UNO cards (or regular cards) use the numbered cards only and draw two each time and do the same thing. Math is not going to get easier if he's counting on his fingers or relying on things like a calculator to do it for him. He's not always going to be able to carry it around that way with him. I wouldn't go any further in advancing concepts until this gets tackled. It may mean pedalling backwards on basics for awhile to help him so he can go forward better. It has to be frustrating -- not just for you, but for him. If he has a processing disorder, drill and repetition with loads for review on basics is what he is going to need. I've tutored kids with it before at different grade levels, and while it is hard to go backward to get them more secure in what they need, it is also a necessity. Pushing forward without the basics in place and solid is pointless. It's like jumping out of a plane with no parachute. It may sound impossible but trust me, if my 4 year old can do this and know his basic facts I know a 12 year old can. One of the hardest things I did was pull the numberlines after awhile from him, but now he's thinking it out and able to do it... no fingers or calculator necessary. Good luck." -- Kelly in Alabama


"If he has a math disability, or another learning disorder that prevents him from remembering basic math facts, then 'when testing time comes', he will be allowed the accommodation of using a calculator. And certainly as he progresses through the next few grades and into higher education, he will be allowed to use a calculator. My son also has ADD, dyslexia, and a math disability. His psychologist recommends that he use a calculator for all math work. We have gotten him accommodations to use a calculator on testing, even on timed math facts." -- Pam W.


"Betty -- We have had similar problems. We decided that the best approach would be to pray about the problem and then allow some time to 'step away' from the pressure of feeling defeated in Math. Time away from the constant battle helped us both.

We found helpful ideas and encouragement at www.diannecraft.org. Dianne has so much information to help struggling learners at her site. Perhaps you could take some time to research her ideas, while you allow your son some 'time off' from Math. Just learning that there are other ways to help your child will bring relief to your heart and soul. God knows the struggles that you are going through and He is there willing to help you... just ask Him to. Ask Him to guide you as you do the research to help your son.

I just learned about a collection of free web sites that offers visual Math help. Perhaps one of these would help, too:

www.coolmath.com for ages 13-100.
www.coolmath4kids.com for kids ages 3-12.

They use bright colors and bold print to bring 'life' to Math problems. She designed them 'for the frustrated, the confused, the bored students of the world who hate math'. I think that I will even use it to brush up on my math skills and learn some new ones in the process!" -- Brenda

New Reader Question

"Hi! My daughter is 6 and loves Reading Eggs and Looney Toons Phonics for learning to read. I was wondering if anyone knows of a fun, interactive program that is similar for math? Thanks so much!" -- Traci


Do you have a suggestion or two for Traci?
Please send your email to: hn-answers@familyclassroom.net

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