Strengths and Challenges of Teachers in the Homeschool Classroom
According to several homeschool studies, a growing number of educators are homeschooling. In a Hanover Research study, commissioned by Time4Learning, 36 percent of the 976 survey respondents said they were employed in K-12 education.
Why is that? Teachers are increasingly challenged by shifting state requirements, staff shortages, and increased demands for virtual instruction, all while trying to also meet ongoing stringent state standards, bullying, and mental health challenges. Simply put, teachers are burnt-out, perhaps more than at any time in recent history. They are on the front lines in classrooms across America, getting a birds-eye view of what is happening in the schools. They also have their unique educational expertise to tap into, and of course, like all parents, know what is best for their own children.
Educators may be turning to homeschooling with the idea that it will be temporary. Yet, soon, they discover that homeschooling combines what they love to do most with the people they love the most. Simply put, they eventually get hooked on homeschooling! This is precisely what happened in my situation, as a homeschool mom and learning (dis)ability specialist.
Advantages of Educators Who Homeschool
Educators bring certain innate qualities that are a great fit for homeschooling. Here are some of the advantages of being an educator who homeschools.
- Knowledge of how children learn: As a trained educator, you have had courses in child development and learning, age-appropriate milestones, and how the brain works.
- Ability to modify instruction: You have also learned methods for challenging children with the proper support to avoid frustration and how to adjust instruction on the fly to adapt to student needs.
- Access to resources: As a practicing educator, you have a toolbox of teaching strategies, access to academic resources, and a network of colleagues that may not be readily available to other homeschoolers.
- Expertise related to current best practices: Through continuing professional development, you are familiar with current trends in best practices in education.
- Integrity with respect to the academic process: Because of your profession, you hold academic integrity as a high priority, making sure to uphold the rigor that is necessary to ensure that your child is prepared for college and/or career.
- Enthusiasm for teaching and learning: Having chosen the field of education, you are likely to bring a love of learning and enthusiasm for teaching that you will pass on to your child.
Double Duty: Meet a Virtual Teacher and Homeschooling Mom
Discover how a virtual teacher who also homeschools leverages her expertise and the help of Time4Learning to help her son reach his full potential.
Challenges of Educators Who Homeschool
While educators who homeschool may seem to hold an advantage, their new roles as homeschoolers are not without challenges.
- High standards for teaching: As an educator, you may pride yourself in the ability to engage a classroom of children or young adults, create “Aha!” moments for students who are struggling, and balance behaviors and distractions in a way that promotes learning. As a homeschooler, you may discover that you take it personally when your child doesn’t learn everything perfectly. You may constantly feel that you are not doing a good enough job teaching your own child.
- Frustration with the parent-child teaching phenomenon: When you provide instruction as a classroom teacher, you are fulfilling a role that is expected by students. You inherit an institutional authority that is valid for most students, and your expectation of them as students is generally clear. However, when you are providing instruction as a homeschool parent in your living room, you may encounter some resistance as your role of parent blends with your role of teacher. You may think, “How can I teach a classroom of students and have so much difficulty teaching my own child?”
- Tenacity to the “school at home” model: With a career based on the academic calendar, school policies, standards, etc., you may be more attached to the tenets of traditional schooling. You may try to provide a classroom environment, a school-day schedule, and typical methods of instruction and assessment. You may be resistant to activities and schedules that look less like “real school.”
Tips for Educators Who Homeschool
As an educator who homeschools, I have heard the naysayers. I have experienced the challenges, and I hope that my child has benefitted from the advantages. Here are just a few tips for those of you starting or already traveling this path.
- Be kind to yourself: Yes, you are a teacher, devoted to the profession and your child, but don’t be too hard on yourself. We all have bad homeschooling days from time to time. It’s okay if a lesson plan isn’t stellar, your child doesn’t understand something the first time, or your delivery or scheduling suffers because you are also handling household obligations. Be content that you are doing the best you can, given the circumstances, and your child is learning and loving you for it.
- Have fun: In addition to your own high standards, you may also be trying to meet your state’s homeschool requirements while juggling household obligations and even work. Try to remember, too, that you are still your child’s parent, and sometimes just being silly and having fun can go a long way. Use these moments as breaks or incorporate learning through movement or play. Recall your own love of learning as you revisit ancient Rome by wearing a toga or test the pH of a creek behind your house.
- Embrace the flexibility of homeschooling: Try to break through some of your typical notions of what school must be like. Think about alternative seating (e.g., the couch, the floor, a blanket on the front lawn), background music, and active learning activities. Vary your schedule outside of regular school hours, when necessary or just to add variety. Experiment with what school can be rather than sticking to what school has always been.
The truth is that homeschooling is not for every parent, and it is not for every child, but it is a viable option for some families, and more and more educators are realizing that it may be right for them. Regardless of whether you are new to homeschooling or are a seasoned veteran, embrace the network of homeschoolers who can support you. A growing number of us are educators choosing to homeschool with knowledge and techniques to share; however, we can all learn from each other—whether we are educators or not!