By Michael Leppert
This is one of the most elementary questions that parents ask when contemplating whether to homeschool or not. Most of us assume that school teaching requires skills that we mere parents do not possess because we have not been trained. But the seasoned homeschool parent realizes that these skillshave more to do with crowd-control and the imparting and monitoring of knowledge to 30 or 45 children that are not one’s own. In most homeschooling households, the student-teacher ratio is 2:1 or 3:1 at most. Any teacher would love to work in such an environment! Plus, discipline should not be as much a problem for a parent as it is for a teacher.
A thought-provoking article from the past illustrates another twist to the question of parents being qualified when compared to professional teachers. Despite its age, it is still timely:
On July 2, 1998, a story out of Massachusetts was carried by the Associated Press describing the failure of 56% of the aspiring teachers of that state in the reading and writing portion of the teacher exam.
The then-governor (not Mitt Romney) referred to the failed test-takers as idiots and the state head of education suggested lowering the standards for prospective teachers. (Somewhat like intellectual limbo dancing: “How low can you go?”) The teachers’ unions considered this music to their ears, while much of the state legislature fumed along with the governor.
Most of the reason for the hubbub was that this exam was not particularly difficult. These “56 Percenters”:
• Missed spelling words a nine-year-old is expected to know
•Could not write in complete sentences and
• Failed to correctly define a noun or verb.
No matter how sympathetic one might want to be, this really is inexcusable! These college grads are supposed to become teachers — paid professionals! Having completed the degree portion of the certification process, the remainder should be a cakewalk, intellectually. Many homeschooling parents can attest to the fact that members of the teaching occupation strongly question (and doubt) if parents are capable of teaching their own children.
This is very poignant because one often overhears prospective homeschool parents expressing, with worry lines creasing brows, “What if I am not qualified to teach my children?” This statement takes on new meaning in light of the Massachusetts 56 Percenter performance. What exactly is “qualified to teach your children?”
A teacher’s job in public school is to move a group of 30 to 40 children through time, on time. If the school administration has decided that the 5th grade classes must be on page 65 of the math text by Thanksgiving break, then the teacher’s duty is to have her class on page 65.
I do not wish to demean the work involved in such an undertaking. (I do not believe that I could do it.) However, I wish to point out that this work is not particularly intellectual in nature. This sort of teaching is more crowd control and schedule maintenance than it is Plato strolling through the orchards of Greece switching on the cranial lights in the minds of his students. In most school districts, teachers do not choose the curriculum or materials, either. This is done by the Board or some administrator. Teachers deliver the material as they are told to do.
When it comes to teaching one’s own child, love enters into the picture. The loving parent teaches his/her child anyway, why let an intrusive government program interfere? Massachusetts’ 56 Percenters prove the folly of mass education.
• In homeschooling, unless one has more than three children, there is little crowd control to consider
• At home, time is on the parent-teacher’s side.
•You have a full 16 hours to teach
• If your child is not a “morning” person, you can teach when it is best for him/her
• Studies by teacher colleges have shown that 80% of class time is spent on non-academic pursuits
• Homeschooling can be 100% study time
•Many families spend 3 hours per day in academic work, compared to 6 hours per day in schools.
The fact that these 56% failed such a simple test indicates that of course, parents are just as qualified as school teachers to teach their own — and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Because the Associated Press story carried specific items these prospective teachers failed to know, you can defend homeschooling to skeptical relatives, friends and neighbors by pointing out these specifics that no salary-earning teacher should be ignorant of. Possibly other states have lower standards than Massachusetts did in 1998 and that is why teacher accountability is so stridently resisted by unions and others. You are qualified, if you want to believe it. MjL