If you are joining me here, I've been blogging about ten hesitations that face families who are considering Home Education. If you want to check out the rest of the series you can go (here, here, here and here). In this post I am going to address what to do when you feel ill equipped to teach a given subject.
Home Education is different from traditional institution-based education in many ways. For one thing, in home education you live with your students. 24-7. As a matter of fact, you gave birth to them or adopted them. They are yours. They don't "go home" at the end of the day. Now in most school settings (not including Little House on the Prairie) each teacher specializes in a given grade. No teacher in a public school in this era teaches both 2nd grade and 6th grade -- on the same day -- in the same classroom -- while nursing a baby and trying to occupy her toddler. Yes, there are differences between homeschool and public school.
So, as a home educator, you will have a variety of levels and topics you are teaching simultaneously. I discussed this in a previous post and suggested ideas on how to combine some things to make your own life a bit easier. The question comes up: Concern #8 - "I don't even remember how to do algebra, how will I teach it to my child?" So you feel somewhat ill equipped to teach certain subjects. You are not alone. Maybe you don't even feel comfortable teaching your child how to read. Maybe it is Math or Science that gives you both the chills and hot flashes. There is hope.
I have found in our experience home educating that we go through the material together much of the time. I say "much of the time," because there are seasons (like when you have a new baby or when the infant turns into a toddler and is constantly trying to demolish your home) when you can not give full attention to every minute of home education. There are times when your child will just be learning some things on their own. That is just okay -- it's actually better than okay. Independent learning is the precursor to life-long self-motivated pursuit of knowledge. When our younger son was becoming a toddler, I would often hand a book I had pre-selected to my then eight year old son and say, "Read chapter six in this and come tell me what you learned." Outside of that kind of chaotic season, we often read much of our material together. The benefit of this is that I am actually refreshing my own knowledge at the same time that my son is learning something for the first time.
There are many subjects (especially now that he is older and studies more things on his own) that I just can't keep up with at the same pace that he can. He reads and comes and tells me what he learned in those areas. When he gets stuck on something -- such as Math, we go to a website like Khan Academy and watch a video about that area. If I don't know how to explain something, the people at Khan do (and they do a great job!) and I can watch the video with my son so that we are both brought up to speed.
In other areas, we have chosen to "outsource" our learning. We are in a science co-op which uses an agreed textbook and materials each year. The moms take turns teaching. If I am not familiar with the subject I am scheduled to teach, I take time to brush up on it through reading and research. But, the benefit of the co-op is I only have to do that three times a year instead of all year round since other moms are teaching all the other weeks of the year.
There are online supports for all kinds of things nowadays. You can get involved in an online academy where your child does distance learning and has a teacher with whom they meet via a web chat monthly. There are also great educational videos on all kinds of subjects available at You Tube, Discovery Education and other sites.
The local college campuses have students who are majoring in subjects in which you may not have expertise. You can contact that department and ask if there are students who would like to earn some extra money tutoring. Actually, sometimes High-School Aged homeschoolers like to tutor as well. And, there are even other homeschool moms who want to earn some extra income and will tutor children beyond their own family. You can look into asking High School teachers as well. Some of them are open to earning extra income by tutoring in their area of specialty.
I don't want to forget to mention that sometimes a husband has knowledge in areas that the wife doesn't have or vice versa. There was a season wherein my husband sat with our son to do Science projects every Tuesday evening after supper. Now, my husband isn't a science whiz, but he does understand electricity (and I don't really understand it all that much, though, thanks to home schooling, I know a lot more than I used to). He and my son were studying electricity and magnetism together. I had started the unit with my son, but our then two-year-old would try to get into all the batteries and wires every time we got things out to work on, so I asked my husband and he gladly pitched in. Sometimes immediate or extended family members can provide instruction in areas where you cannot. You don't have to be a one-man-band.
In our town there is a resource center for homeschool families which offers courses (for a fee) which go all the way through High School. You can enroll your child in various courses and there are options such as Writing a Research Paper, Calculus, Biology and others. Sometimes Private Schools have homeschool options where a family pays a fee to homeschool under the umbrella of that school. As a part of that package, the student can take one or more classes at the High School.
You don't need to know everything to home educate. Much of the knowledge you explore with your child will trigger memories of what you learned years ago. I have learned so much more about European History and about Science than I remember learning as a child. I have learned it with my children. And, there are so many supports outside your home to fill in the blanks if there are areas in which you do not feel proficient. None of us is a master of all subjects. What you need is a love for your child and a willingness to pull together what your child will need and you can provide a wonderful and rich education from home.