I started my teaching career 25 years ago this fall. When I think back to what I didn’t know, I’m amazed at what I was able to accomplish that year teaching a group of twelve third-fourth-fifth grade students in a brand new school that consisted of four portables. The reality is most teachers are inadequately prepared when they step into their first classroom, even if they graduate from a top program like I did at Michigan State University. There is no way to know everything. You must learn as you go.
I have often wondered why they hired me. Partially I think it was a God thing because most of my professional life traces back to that one job that I had for one year. I don’t think it was a coincidence I was there. But I can think of a few things I said in my interview that were not at all in line with what Hillsdale College stands for and promotes. They obviously looked beyond those comments and saw something else in me. I’m guessing they saw the following traits.
- A track record of being self-motivated
- A successful academic career
- A strong history of leadership
None of those things really have much to do with being adequately prepared to be a teacher. Or do they? I would say they do, especially in a brand new school.
I believe some of the same principles carry over into the arena of parents who feel inadequate to homeschool.
Many homeschooling parents feel inadequate for the responsibility of homeschooling their own children. That’s not surprising. Homeschooling may have never been on your radar. You might not have even liked school yourself. You might think you aren’t smart enough. You might believe teaching is something for professionals.
I think success as a homeschooling parent has far more to do with who you are willing to become than it does with who you currently are.
The questions you need to ask yourself are these:
- Are you are willing to learn?
- Are you willing to research?
- Are you able to be self-motivated?
- Are you willing to adapt and be flexible?
These are the character traits that parents need to have in order to be successful homeschoolers. Homeschooling requires a significant willingness to grow as an individual. Just as no teacher is totally adequate for the job when she starts, most parents are not totally ready for homeschooling. But if they have a commitment to doing whatever it takes, I believe the vast majority can be successful.
Even with all the experience I had in the classroom, I’ve still been on a huge learning curve with homeschooling my daughter. Gifted/2e was never on my radar. Dysgraphia wasn’t on my radar. My education experience prepared me to a certain degree, but when it comes down to it nothing could have really prepared me for this homeschooling journey. I’ve had to jump in and constantly educate myself in order to give my daughter the education she needs.
Honestly, when I think about moving toward middle school and high school, I am tempted with feeling inadequate. I’ve spent my teaching career in elementary school. This is my arena. So even though I’ve had to make a lot of changes in my thinking, this age was still my “thing”. I think ahead to how in the world I’m going to get Caroline through to a high school diploma and it’s truly overwhelming if I dwell on it.
But I know if I am willing to continue to learn, research and adapt, we’ll get there somehow.
And so will you.