Our Kids Need Us To Teach
by Farrar William
As my kids have gotten older, they’ve naturally become more independent. For high school, some days they stalk oﬀ with their computers, online classes, and textbooks, conﬁdent in their assignments as they head to their rooms to stick on their headphones and get work done.
Wow, I think to myself. I am so awesome. My kids really have this homeschool thing down. And then I go to check their work. Oh, maybe we do not have this homeschool thing down. It’s not that bad, though I have to admit that one of my boys failed three physics quizzes in a row before I realized I needed to walk him through every little thing for a little while. I’m increasingly amazed by my teens’ ability to write surprising things and absorb diﬃcult math. However, when I’m not there, they work slower, they make mistakes, they miss key information, and they take assignments on tangents.
That’s all pretty normal! Kids need teachers. One of the ways that we humans learn best is socially, from each other. Being in a classroom, with other kids around and a teacher to keep everyone on track can be a powerful tool. At home, you have other powerful tools at your disposal, such as the eﬃciency of one on one tutoring. However, for the majority of kids, just letting them loose to learn and study doesn’t work very well.
I need that reminder sometimes. Kids need us to teach and be present for them, even when we have enrolled them in outside classes or set up programs that are geared toward independent learning. The more time and energy we put into actually working with our kids, the more they’ll get out of school. It really is that simple. Whether you’re planning fun experiments, setting up exciting art projects, reading aloud and pausing to discuss, walking them through each math problem, or simply listening to them, your teaching is a necessary part of this equation.
Now that there are so many amazing workbooks, online programs, and outside classes, it has become easier and easier for homeschoolers to hand oﬀ part of our job. Thank goodness, because teaching everything can be genuinely diﬃcult! I’m not saying you shouldn’t use outside classes or tutors. You absolutely should. Scripted programs, online videos and lectures, curricula written to the student, online adaptive learning software, and a million other things all make our jobs easier than ever before. This is an amazing era in which to homeschool.
However, the human element still can’t be fully replaced. The things that make homeschooling worthwhile for all of us are messy, human moments together. They crop up when we sit down and do math problems side by side with our kids or when we cut up an essay and rearrange the sentences on the table together. They happen when we plan making a Roman road out of pebbles for Playmobil men or when we watch a documentary together on the sofa, hitting the pause button to discuss as we go along.
Don’t let your homeschool be all organizing and no teaching. If your kids hide with their computers, go check up on them. Get hands on and dirty with subjects. Learn alongside your kids. Check their work and help them slowly learn the process of organization for themselves. Give feedback. Talk about what they’re reading. If you struggle to do it, set aside time to make it happen.
After letting my kids wander oﬀ in their own directions and turn in mediocre work for a bit, I made myself restructure our time, as I reminded myself that even the most independent kids need us to teach them. I sat beside them for a writing assignment. I gave detailed notes and went over a short essay assignment. For geometry, I pulled out the math manipulatives and used some angle tools that helped them visualize new theorems. I made them do proofs with me instead of trying them alone. I pulled out the physics experiments kit that really requires that I be present as they use it. It was more work on my part, but it also led to a better week where my students turned in great work. They did it on their own, just with more of the right kind of support.
Our Kids Need Us to Teach author, Farrar William is a founder and consultant muse at Simplify where she coaches and helps others individualize education for their own families.