Monday 10 February 2014

HELP! How am I going to teach ... ?

One of the questions I have had over and over when people find out I am happy to homeschool the high school years is: "But how are you going to teach ________?"  Fill in the blank with any subject that comes to mind, science, math etc. I find that these fearful thoughts are fueled by negative school experiences and it's these negative mindsets that are the hardest to over come. Over the years I have come to realise that there are six hurdles every home educator faces when tackling a difficult to teach subject. 

The first hurdle is FEAR. I once read a great acronym for describing fear - False Evidence Appearing Real. For each and every one of us there is a subject out there that makes us quake in our shoes and rightly so. There are a couple of things to remember about any subject. Firstly it is impossible to teach/know everything there is to know about it due to the information explosion age we live in and if we all could do everything we wouldn't need one another.  This is where co-ops and support groups come into play.  Networking to find resources to help us teach any subject is a must.  When my first two students were in the high school years (the internet was a limited resource) and came unstuck in math I would approach the high school math teacher at our church for a quick tutorial and we would continue.  After we moved away I discovered Teaching Textbooks and now I have a math tutor on call 24/7 living in my house on the DVD disks supplied.

The second hurdle is Confession.  So many homeschool families quit because they think to say HELP we are stuck in this or that subject area is somehow a confession of failure. To say I don't know how to do something takes courage. We look at other 'successful' home educators and assume they do it all, and somehow that makes us a failure.  95% of the time these other families are using a co-op of some sort or a tutor (on line or in real life).  No two families are the same and each one has it's own set of needs to be met.  What works for one family may not necessarily work for yours.  The secret is to keep asking until you find the key that unlocks it for your family. While this can be time consuming it is worth the effort it takes.

The third hurdle is a Negative Mindset towards any given subject born out of your own personal experience with said subject. One thing to be careful of is passing on this mindset to your children.  If they have never been to school then they don't know that it's too hard or uninteresting.  Leave it to them to discover which.  It's your job to facilitate learning not predetermine if it's good or bad.  A great answer for any question you can not answer is to say: "That's a good question, I don't know the answer let's find out together." and then make an effort to find out.  Be aware some things may be way out of both your leagues to understand but that is not the point.  The point is go on a journey of discovery together.  You may be surprised to learn that you actually enjoy (dare I say it out loud ?) Algebra or Chemistry or Quantum physics ...

The fourth hurdle is Burnout/exhaustion. Teaching complex difficult to understand subjects requires energy and a fresh mind.  If you are burnt out, exhausted or just feeling overwhelmed and stressed it's time to look at your routine.  Home education is a marathon.  This is not a sprint to the finish line. It is day in and day out, year in and year out.  Mama if you are not looking after yourself you are heading for trouble. You are doing no one in your world a favour by neglecting yourself. I once heard a high school Mom complaining about how much energy it takes to keep up and I thought she was crazy (I had preschoolers at the time nothing could be as taxing as preschoolers could it ?)  Yes there is.  The teen years are far more taxing on any parent than the preschool/baby years.  It's mentally and emotionally taxing.  If you are not looking after yourself you will not keep up. You need a good healthy dose of self care each and every week.  If possible schedule in an hour a day.  Keep it going through the high school years.  Our tendency is to drop these scheduled time of rest/time out in the high school years.  Do not keep do that.  Keep them scheduled.  It's good for you and it's good for your children too.  Go to bed early.  You need at least 8-9 hours of sleep on a regular basis.  I've done the burnout thing and recovery is not easy it takes a long time to recover.

The fifth hurdle is Google or what ever you use to access information on the web.  Home education and the internet have met up with each other to form a rather profitable marriage.  While this is good for home educational businesses it's really bad for the home educator who has no hands on experience and does not know what works for which particular situation.  In today's internet driven world even homeschool networking is mainly done online via forums rather than in homes with hands on support. On one hand this is great as we have an unlimited supply of advice at our finger tips, the counter balance is we don't have anyone who knows us and our children who can support us.  I am one of those very blessed home educators who home schooled for the first ten years without the internet and with a hands on support group.  So I've had the best of both worlds online and face to face support. I would encourage you to find real people to sit and have cups of tea with. Go from home to home within the group and see first hand how systems work then you will be better equipped to make decisions on what will or will not work for your family.  Then tackle Google and ask.

The sixth and final hurdle is Pinterest. For some of us Pinterest can be a source of anxiety and discontent and for others it's a paradise found. There are some amazing free resources and ideas to be found here.  The problem is that the ideas are limitless and can end up paralyzing you to action. When using pinterest remember these are simply ideas to try out. If you choose to look for answers here don't get too hung up on the perfection displayed by others.  Remember it's a cyber world where we can portray anything we want to any way we want to.  Nothing is as perfect as it seems.  Use with caution and enjoy.

Where do you go or what do you do when you struggle to teach something ?


Subject StruggleThis post is part of The Schoolhouse Crew Carnival this week called The Subject I Struggle Teaching Most.

Thank you to  Natara at Stockphoto for the knowledge image. 


  1. Such a pertinent post!
    My thanks.

  2. Great post Chareen! It's important that we as mothers keep healthy and energetic. I've just recently started my daily walks again and wiped the dust off the vitamin bottles. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Ths is insightful, informative, and well written. Great job! ~Heather @ Principled Academy/ TOS Review Crew


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