One night I had a most disturbing dream. I had been hired to teach 3rd grade, but I showed up for work completely unprepared. I didn’t know what the lessons were going to be covering, or where to begin. As I stood before a classroom of waiting faces, I pushed down the panic rising in my gut and hesitantly began. Suddenly, the principal of the school walked in and introduced me to a parent who wanted to sit in on the class. I nodded to the parent who took a seat in the back row. Then the principal said he would also be staying for a performance review. I tried to protest saying that I didn’t feel very well, and suggested he should come back another day. 'You’ll do fine,' the principal smiled confidently and sat at a desk in the back row next to the visiting mother. Fortunately at that point I woke up.
Have you ever had a dream where you walk into a public place without clothes? Or have to take a test for a class you have never attended? Or you decide to teach your high school student at home?
All of these dreams have the same thing in common. The dream is imaginary; the feelings of fear, embarrassment and panic are real. The fact is all of us struggle with the fear that we are inadequate and unprepared. We all silently panic at the thought of being found a fraud or a failure. And when the issue is the education of our children through the high school years, these fears are escalated.
I have encouraging news. In my experience, home schooling through high school has been the most joyous time in our home schooling years. It’s bittersweet, actually. When a child reaches the high school years, you realize that it is almost over. These are the final lessons and your days as your child’s formal educator are coming to a close. It’s the last few years to build memories and skills, to impart knowledge and discernment. It’s a time full of opportunity to get to know your teen as the adult they are becoming, and to say good-bye to the child you once chased down the hallway after a bath. It’s helping them to be prepared to fulfill their dreams, accomplish their goals, and meet their future.
Yet, I have a confession to make. I cannot teach algebra. I cannot teach chemistry either. I know no foreign language. However, my children have taken algebra, algebra II and geometry, Spanish and Latin, biology, and chemistry at home...as well as many other subjects. They are fully competent, independent learners capable of opening a textbook, managing their time, keeping a portfolio, and recording their grades. Let me share with you two of my secrets for preparing children for high school.
Don’t Answer All of Their Questions
Homeschooling high school begins when high school seems very far away. When children are small, when their curiosity about the world is strong, while they are still extremely pliable, that is the time to start preparing them to be independent learners.
At this stage, children ask a lot of questions. Instead of automatically giving the child the answer, teach them how to answer their own questions by investigating, researching, listening, reasoning, and discovering.
When a child is stuck for an answer in their schoolwork, help her think it through by asking her questions. Show her how to find the answer from a book, an Internet resource, or by asking an expert. Teach your children how to use reference books such as the dictionary, concordance, atlas, thesaurus, and encyclopedias. Make sure your children know how to use the public library and insist they find their own books. There is so much information in the world that it is impossible to teach everything that could be learned – so teach your children how to learn what they need to know.
In a few years, this practice will reap a world of rewards. Not only will your children be competent learners, they will be interesting, well grounded, and confident in their ability to learn anything at all.
Don’t Be a Teacher
One day I was extremely frustrated with homeschooling. For weeks my children had been consumed with 'getting done' with school so that they could play. My children were impatient when I tried to explain things to them. They didn’t want to play any learning games or do educational activities. They just wanted me to help them put the right answers on the spaces and call it a day.
So I decided to call their bluff. I said, 'What if we just copy the answers from the teacher’s manuals into your workbooks. It’s much faster that way, and I won’t have to bother you with learning anything at all.'
My children looked at me with horrified expressions. One said, 'Mom, that’s not fair!' Another said, 'That’s not right!' They all said, 'No, Mommy, we want to LEARN!'
I’m convinced that all children want to learn. Learning is interesting, challenging, worthwhile, and fun! But the problem with learning is that school gets in the way sometimes. Too often we get tied up in our curriculum and being a teacher and forget that our goal is learning.
In my classroom I had this poster, 'Your teacher’s goal is to help you attain yours.' Have you asked you children what their learning goals are? You would be surprised at their answers. I begin each school year asking that question.
When my son was in the first grade, I asked him, 'What would like to learn about this year?' He said, 'Rocks, bugs, and guns.' Do you know how much science you can do with rocks and bugs? Do you realize how much history you can cover when you learn about guns? In the third grade one of my daughter’s goals was to read all the American Girl books. It became my goal to help her accomplish this. This year, one daughter wanted to take geometry and algebra II at the same time. I’m helping her make that happen.
It’s important not to be a teacher, but a facilitator. All children want to learn. All children want to be prepared to fulfill their dreams. To have a parent who loves them enough to make their future secure is a much higher calling than teacher.
We aren’t the only ones dreaming. Only God can dream dreams so amazing that they are beyond our comprehension. He can turn our fears into confidence. He can turn our weakness into strength. He can turn our foolishness into wisdom. He can take our bumbling failures and create a resounding success. Even if you feel inadequate and unprepared, He is asking you to trust in His sufficiency.
Put you trust fully in God. Teach your children to answer their own questions, to set and meet their own goals, and to become the godly person He desires. Then high school will be the bittersweet joy it is supposed to be and you won’t have to worry about those pesky nightmares anymore.
Lori M. Henry is married to a very supportive husband and is mom to three terrific teenagers. She has homeschooled her children since kindergarten and graduated her eldest in May 2004. She has a B.S. in Elementary Education and has taught in many settings from public and private school classrooms, to homeschool co-ops, to one-on-one instruction at home. Her articles can be found in Christian Woman, The Gospel Advocate and Guideposts for Kids on the Web. You can reach Lori at firstname.lastname@example.org.