It is hard to believe, but the Hill House is wrapping up our 12th year of homeschooling. Mamas, I know it is cliche, but it goes by so quickly.
Have you ever heard the saying “The days are long but the years are short?”
Yes. I can verify that this is true.
I have five children and next year I will have a child in 12th grade, 10th grade, 8th grade, 6th grade, and a Kindergartner.
When I started out homeschooling my oldest for Kindergarten, I had zero knowledge of how to be a “good” homeschool teacher. I didn’t know what being a “good homeschool teacher” was or what it should look like. I was so clueless and in dire need of a mentor.
Through the years, I have not had much of an in-person mentor, sadly, but I have certainly used many books as mentors.
I intentionally did not write the title of this post as ‘How I Became a Better Homeschool Teacher’, because I consider myself as still needing a lot of tweaking. Hence, I am using the present participle: ‘How I Become (as in currently ongoing) a Better Homeschool Teacher.’
If you are looking to become a better homeschool teacher, I hope a few of the following ideas will be helpful to you.
1.) I Study My Children
I would consider myself a very plugged in mother. When my children talk to me, I look at their faces and pay attention to what they are saying. Because I know them well, I can read their faces most of the time before they ever open up their mouths to say something.
I pay attention to what they like and what they do not.
I notice what type of work is hard for them and what type they breeze through with no sweat.
I take note of what assignments take a long time to complete and those that seem easy and are done in just a few minutes. I pay attention to what challenges them and what they perceive is busy work.
I also see what topics and subjects that love and which ones they would rather never talk about again. I see which subjects excite them and they talk about with passion and joy…and those that are never uttered unless prodded.
By studying my children through the years, I know which assignments will stretch and challenge them, and those that are necessary but they might balk and complain.
Knowing my children so well also helps me tailor curriculum choices and determine goals for our school year. My children are unique in and of themselves, so what works for one of my kiddos might not work for another.
I do not say any of these things in a boastful way, and I pray it does not come across that way. I only share it because it is part of my tactic of becoming a better homeschool teacher.
Intimate knowledge of my students is essential to my strategy of being a good homeschool teacher. Not to mention that these students are the joy of my heart and I want to know them this well.
I am their Mama, after all.
2.) I Read Widely and Often
When we first started homeschooling, I realized very quickly that I had no idea what I was doing. Sure, I could get us through Kindergarten, but in terms of having a plan after that, I was pretty much lost.
I had to teach myself about educational theories, which I didn’t even know was a thing until my son was in 2nd grade. Do people outside of the educational world know about teaching methods?
After learning about educational theories, I settled on Classical Education a year or two later and I needed a crash course in all things Classical Ed. So I read, and read, and am still reading on this topic. I find it fascinating, so that helps!
I also read a variety of other topics – how to help my child with attention challenges and dysgraphia challenges, how to teach specific subjects, specific time periods with which I am not very familiar but come up in our studies, motherhood, the current state of the educational system (yikes), executive function helps for teenagers, and more.
Many of the books I choose to read go along with #1 on this list of studying my children. If I see a challenge or problem, such as attention trouble during school, I read about it in the hopes of finding some strategies or solutions for us to try.
My favorite topic of choice is classical education, so my shelf is filled with those resources to pull out over and over again as needed. Not only do those books instruct me in how to teach my children, they are also like a shot in the arm to keep on keeping on in this very worthy endeavor!
➡ Browse through all of my posts on Classical Education Homeschooling if you would like to know more about how we homeschool.
3.) I Learn Alongside My Children
I was raised in a low socio-economic public school district in Eastern North Carolina which was about as far from Classical Education as you will ever find. To say I was starting from scratch in Classical Education many years ago is a vast understatement!
As is the case, I am tasked with learning alongside my children. And happily so! It is fun and exciting to know things.
When I first started reading about Classical Education a few years ago, I would often stumble over the phrase ‘The Great Conversation.’ I had no idea what this phrase meant.
Who is doing the talking in this conversation? What is the conversation about?
Later, I came across the phrase ‘Great Books’. Again, I was stumped.
What is considered to be a Great Book? I had only ever heard of The Good Book (The Bible!), and I didn’t know the collection to which these people referred. The authors writing this phrase seemed to think everyone knew what this group of Great Books contained.
I had no idea.
So I had to learn.
I am reading most of the classics I assign my children for the first time along with them. I was not required to take a civics course in high school, so I had to teach myself American Government prior to teaching it to my son last year. I was certainly never exposed to Latin, so I have also learned it from the ground up with my children.
For a long time, I was quite embarrassed and ashamed at how little I knew in regard to academics. Now, I embrace that there is a wide ocean of topics of which I need to learn and the best part is I get to learn them with my children! What a joy!
➡ This is an old (2006) article, but helpful in learning about the Great Conversation and Great Books. Plus it’s a dose of encouragement! Read on, Mamas.
4.) I Consider This My Full Time Job
I had a shift in mindset when my oldest son was starting the 3rd grade and I had a 3rd grader, 1st grader, Junior Kindergartner, and a Preschooler. I could no longer get by just by the seat of my pants. It took work to figure out where a curriculum was going and my days had to be organized in a more efficient way.
It never dawned on me prior to this that homeschooling my children was a full-time job. This is another time a mentor would have come in handy!
I had drug my feet in spending the time on homeschooling that it required and I was starting to see some not-so-pleasant fruit from that decision. I wasn’t doing my best work.
From that point forward, I made up my mind that homeschooling is a full-time job and I had better start acting like it. My entitled desire for “me time” came to an abrupt halt with the Lord’s help, and I re-prioritized.
It has made all the difference.
While it is true that I have very little free time of my own, this is the much better mindset for success for my children.
Dying to self isn’t easy.
My children deserve the best education, and I intend to do my best to make that happen. That requires my full-time attention and effort.
5.) I Keep Our Goals in Mind
If I am not careful, I lose sight of our main homeschool goal: Raising children who know, love, and honor the Lord.
It is frighteningly easy for me to get in the weeds of academics with homeschooling, and lose sight of the discipling of my children. Yes, academics and molding citizens of the United States that love our country are at the top of my list of daily priorities.
However, nothing is more important than raising my children to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and honoring Him in how they talk, think, and act.
And that task requires a lot of patience, talking about character, modeling good character for them, and prayer.
I do set yearly goals for my children, but they are always in second place compared to our main homeschool goal.
I will admit that Discipleship was not always my goal. For a few years there, I got too bogged down in academics and the scales were out of balance. That was totally my fault and I own that.
Thankfully, the Lord saw fit to take me by the hand and show me the better way.
The better way for our family is making sure the Lord is always at the center of our plans and asking Him for direction and wisdom.
Academics are important and dare I say enjoyable for us, but it is not the main goal at the end of the day.
Our relationship with the Lord and with each other is the focus.
6.) I Pray. A lot.
This is the “secret” to becoming a better homeschool teacher.
When I try to take control of our homeschool and steer it myself, I almost always mess it up. I need the Lord to show me which step to take next, which direction to move in, where to let up and where to press forward, and when to let go.
I need to know which classes to outsource so I can teach the ones I need to with excellence. I need to know how to handle learning differences that are making each day a challenge. I need to know how to reign my attitude in when it’s not what it should be. I need to know which subjects to drop when my child feels overburdened.
The Lord provides wisdom in all of these topics and more when I spend time with Him in prayer and reading His Word.
As I mentioned, I tend to mess things up and move priorities out of order when I am in charge, so I gladly hand this over to the Lord and listen for His instructions.
How do you become a better homeschool teacher? What practical things do you do or read that helps you teach your children well?