“You’re so lucky you were a teacher before you started Homeschooling!”
“I could never teach.”
“I’m not patient enough.”
“I would bore my kids to tears.”
“It sounds exhausting.”
“I feel like I’d be a bad Homeschool parent.”
These are some of the most common phrases I hear from “Suddenly-Homeschool-Parents” and “Considering-Homeschool-Parents” alike. It makes me sad when I hear these remarks because parents are so hard on themselves! (As if none of us ever had a teacher who “couldn’t teach” or who “bored us to tears” or who was more or less a “bad teacher.”) Overall, I think that there are some big misconceptions as to what we Homeschool parents actually do! Or at least in regards to THIS Homeschool parent (eh-hem) and others like me. So, I want to take this post to spread a little light on what it is that I actually do each day as a Homeschool mama.
Truth be told, I don’t really spend very much time at all actually “teaching.” I do not stand in front of a chalk board yelling out vocabulary words, smacking a pointer stick at math problems, or singing out states and capitals songs at the top of my lungs. I am not the teacher who raps the math lesson, sings the pronouns, acts out the sonnet, or does the robot when a kid gets an answer right. Talk about exhausting! Although I fully identify as an educator, I do not fit the mold of the “headmaster,” “lecturer,” or “enertainer” type. And honestly, I don’t think too many parents out there fit that bill or warm to those images! As for myself, I don’t even identify as, or aspire to be “teacher” for very much of the day at all. Been there, done that.
Rather, I aspire to the role of “keeper” in our Homeschool.
What do I mean by “keeper?” Think of the role of a bee-keeper. She doesn’t make honey. She doesn’t even teach her bees to make honey. A bee-keeper simply “keeps” her bees, facilitating their natural process.
She provides a lovely, quiet place for her hive . . .
furnishing the bees with a sturdy, suitable bee-box.
She works every day in her garden, planting flower beds and fruit trees so her little bees can thrive.
She observes her bees (usually in silence) and monitors their activity from time to time.
She allows her bees to freely explore the garden and work undisturbed.
She protects their natural process, not allowing herself or anything from the outside to disturb her bees in their precious work.
She tends the bee box often, making it always clean and comfortable.
She often pauses from her work to bask in the beauty of her bees buzzing in the garden.
She takes joy in her hive and marvels at the work of her busy bees.
She cultivates a respect and reverence for the miracle, the hope, the promise of bees.
She is awe-struck by the honey that collects in the comb, and harvests it gratefully.
Of course . . . our children aren’t exactly like bees. They aren’t born learning how to read, write, and compute like a bee is born just somehow knowing all on its own how to retrieve nectar and store it in a hive. And yet . . . our children need far less cultivating and intervening than we think they do!
They need a home.
They need protection.
They need materials.
They need quiet.
They need time.
They need space.
They need beauty.
And then . . . they need to be freed to their work.
Just as the apiarist is a “keeper” of her bees and garden, so can we Homeschool parents be “keepers” of our children’s home environment and their education, interfering only as much as necessary.
This philosophy and practice is a critical cornerstone to the methods of some of the most influential educators of all time, including Charlotte Mason, Rudolf Steiner (founder of Waldorf education), and Maria Montessori. This principal is most obviously referenced in the literature of Maria Montessori in which she again and again championed the importance of “preparing the environment.”
Indeed, Maria Montessori argues in her book “The Absorbent Mind” that the “prepared environment” is the single most important task to a parent or educator! (I was skeptical of this claim when I first read it . . . but a few years into this whole “keeping” gig and I have to say, I think she was right!)
Waldorf literature also calls for a “tending to” of a rich and inspiring learning environment where a child is “free” to play and explore. And Charlotte Mason literature emphasizes the importance of offering beauty and depth to the child in the form of books, tray materials, and allowing him freedom to interact with and explore his classroom and garden.
So, rather than spending hours each day “teaching” (aka performing and entertaining my kids), I spend most of my time and effort to the task of “keeping” in our Homeschool:
- I “keep” our kids stocked . . . with books, art supplies, music, and unstructured time.
- I “keep” and “cultivate” a learning environment that is inspiring and calm.
- I “keep” distractions down and intentionality high.
- I “keep” myself available and tech-free during learning blocks. Available to answer questions. Available to read (a lot). Available to offer help. Available to notice, observe, and offer an occasional wink or smile.
- I “keep” our kids to a routine and rhythm.
- I “keep” our kids to a task until completion.
- I “keep” lessons short and interaction time long.
- I “keep” myself busy with my own notebook (so I don’t lose my mind).
- I “keep” books, activities, trays, and manipulatives in a scheduled rotation.
- I “keep” the music to the right mood.
- I “keep” the lighting calm and just a bit cozy.
- I “keep” our kids curious.
- I “keep” the fire going.
- I “keep” our kids engaged by extending their interest and renewing their courage when needed.
- I “keep” myself well rested and in-focus (as much as humanly possible).
- I “keep” myself in books that inspire and challenge me.
- I “keep” our kids scheduled for outings, extracurriculars, and play dates.
- I “keep” plenty of opportunities for experience, exploration, and creative expression.
Want to give “keeping” a try???
Making the transition from “TEACHER” to “KEEPER”
~Freeing Ourselves to Facilitate in Ten Slow Steps~
1.) Keep your home stocked with everything you need for inspired learning.
2.) Keep it clean, keep it calm, keep it simple, keep it lovely. And make sure your KIDS keep it so, also.
3.) Maximize on hands-on or interactive learning; tray-materials and manipulatives (for littles) or unit studies/themed units (for bigger kids).
4.) Opt for a “read-as-you-go” curriculum and save yourself a LOT of time, stress, and frustration.
5.) Take a step back on “performing” and constant praise/encouragement.
6.) Smile more. Wink more. Read more. Talk less.
7.) Make extra room for exploration and creative expression.
8.) Emphasize process over results and journey over destination.
9.) Have your child grade and correct his or her OWN work.
10.) Test rarely or not at all.
Thanks so much for reading!
Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~