Two amazing homeschooling moms, Nancy and Rose!
It is time for true confessions: I have a teaching certificate from the State of Illinois. I graduated from college in 1974 with a degree in something the college called Human Relations, a combination of psychology, sociology, and anthropology. In another life I might have been an archeologist, a similar line of work to my more recent profession of trying to find someone’s clean baseball uniform in a 4 ft. tall pile of laundry that was hiding our bed.
When we began homeschooling our children, I had every confidence that I was well-trained and qualified for the task. In fact, I was frequently told, “Of course you can teach your own children, you have a teaching certificate.” I owned Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket. I willingly embraced this notion because, during those days, the only people I personally knew who did such a thing were missionaries in the outback of Africa and hippies who were making sand candles somewhere off the grid. But here is another true confession: rather than help me be a better homeschooling mom, I discovered how the course work I did to receive that certificate actually delayed my ability to become a successful homeschooling mom.
In researching the current requirements for obtaining teacher certification in Illinois, a lot of memories came flooding back to me…endless months of writing goals and objectives for various subjects, reading and analyzing the philosophies of noted educators, social science research methods for gathering pertinent data related to testing, weeks of classroom observation and months of actual student teaching. I had to smile because, while I spent the first few years of homeschooling pouring over teacher’s manuals and handing out boring assignments, my own children were the ones who finally taught me what learning is supposed to look like! When they were inspired by something they had read or seen, there was no holding them back. I became a more proficient instructor the more I facilitated and the less I got out of the way! As I began to really consider and understand the vocabulary of institutional education and what it meant in my life, I quickly realized that there wasn’t a single thing I had learned in all those years of education courses that had prepared me for being a successful homeschooling mom!
The truth is that institutional education places requirements on teachers to keep their college professors employed filling impressionable young minds with their latest ideas to experiment on the minds of innocent children and their unwitting parents. One young homeschooling grad I know who was taking college classes toward the goal of receiving a teaching certificate concurred: these institutions are more interested in preparing teachers to conduct further experiments on kids than to actually instill in them a love of learning and the ability to self-educate. They take simple, down-to-earth and proven methods of teaching and complicate everything, making sure these profs keep their prestigious jobs!
Here is just one example of this. About 15 or so years ago, I met a woman who longed to homeschool her two first graders but her husband was adamantly opposed to the idea. Nothing she could do would persuade him to at least let her try, so she ordered an Alpha-Phonics workbook and began teaching her children to read in the afternoons when they came home from school. In a few short weeks, her children were whizzing through early reading books, leaving their classmates in the dust.
One afternoon she received a call from one of the 1st grade teachers, wanting her to come in for a conference. When she arrived, all the 1st grade teachers were present. Her children, it seems, had told these teachers that their mother had taught them to read at home and these State of Illinois certified teachers wanted to know if this mom would share her secrets. Not only did she tell them but she began coming into the school during the afternoons and working with all the children, teaching them phonics. These “qualified” teachers expressed their frustration with the look-say method they had been taught in college was the best way to learn to read. They also told her how adamant their curriculum coordinator was that this was the material and method they would use. So they asked this mom to come in and teach them how to teach children to read!
Now that Senator Maloney has opened the “teaching qualifications” can of worms and many people are going fishing to find ways to make sure homeschooling moms are “qualified” to teach, according to some state standards and propped up by university professors with socialist agendas, we can only expect more and more people telling us how truly unqualified we are to teach our own kids! It’s just one more unnecessary, irrelevant, and costly notion that proves mandatory registration to be a bad idea!
And now for those who still aren’t convinced, I would like to share a testimony written by my dear friend Rose who is an amazing homeschooling mom and a true inspiration to all who know her. Please, please read her story in her own words:
In light of the new legislation trying to be passed in Illinois regarding regulating homeschoolers, I was asked to write out my testimony. As I thought about sitting and writing it all out, I became very insecure and even had a few panic attacks. Going through this process made it more clear to me how important it was share my story.
Living in such a fast-paced technological information age, it may seem absurd that people grow up illiterate. Both my parents are illiterate. My mother went through the eighth grade and then dropped out of school in order to work. Her reading is very minimal. My father dropped out in eighth grade as well and is unable to read or write. I myself made it to high school unable to read more than a few memorized words. When I look back, my first memory of reading was in second grade. My teacher gave me a choice: to go to the reading circle or to the play area. I chose to play. Unfortunately, that was the first moment I “fell through the cracks” of our educational system.
Growing up in the public school system, I was moved in and out of low reading classes. A few teachers noticed me and worked with me one-on-one in order to “pass” their class. I went through elementary, junior high, and high school by memorizing things and learning to compensate for my lack of reading.
When asked how I made it through high school unable to read, my mind wanders to two specific classes: ninth grade science and history. During science class, my teacher helped me by reading to me and allowing me to earn credit for memorizing things that other students did not. In history I was in what was called “helping teacher history,” a lower academic class. I passed with flying colors. The tests were photo copied text book pages with words or phrases missing to create a fill-in-the-blank form. All tests were open book. All I had to do was match the sentences up and look for the missing words. Reading was not my only struggle. By tenth grade, I still did not know my multiplication tables. I “slipped through the cracks” time and time again.
In eleventh grade I attended a private school. I remember crying at my desk. All the things they expected me to already know I had never heard of. Being in lower classes and passing from grade to grade did not prepare me for anything or help me at all; I was no further ahead. When I realized that the school knew I could not read my heart sank. I thought to myself, “Here we go again.” The family that I lived with at the time bought me a reading program that used music to learn phonics. The school worked with me during the summer using this program instead of their own books. After that summer I continued with the same program and taught myself. It was not easy, but I was determined. Having fewer distractions coupled with my memorization abilities, I quickly learned phonics and moved through the program confidently. This program catered to all of my learning styles and relieved my stress over the whole reading process. Unfortunately I did not complete high school, but my learning did not stop. I continued to teach myself to read, and I vowed that when I had children this would not be an issue; I was going to break the cycle.
After having my first child at age 18, the one thing I had going for me was that all the books for her were written at my reading level. So read we did. By the time she was four, she was reading and writing. Pride filled my heart knowing that I did what seemed to be the impossible: I taught my child to read. By the time she went to preschool she was well ahead of others. This would not be the first time that my heart would feel this same joy. My confidence soared. I have now taught all four of my children to read and write, three of them before pre-school. My oldest was reading at a post-high school level by fifth grade, while I was still reading at a fourth grade level. Despite some of my children doing so well in public school, I still had some concerns but felt inadequate to teach them at home. However, as I thought about it, I realized that I had been teaching them at home all along by training them how to tie their shoes, brush their teeth, read and count.
I began to notice that although my oldest was reading at a higher level, she was “slipping through the cracks” in other areas. Even at my request to hold her back to give her time to catch up, they were still advancing her. I knew she would be lost if I did nothing. I then made the decision to bring her home for one year working through the summer to fill in the gaps. I figured I could not mess anything up over the summer and could always send her back. When summer ended, I beamed with pride and joy realizing that I had gotten her through a complete course. I also noticed behavioral issues began to diminish; she was definitely more focused. Seeing great improvement in her, I decided to work throughout the rest of the summer with the other three as well, thus our homeschooling journey began.
My goal in homeschooling was to instill a love of learning. I am often asked how I can teach something I do not know. My answer is I do not teach it, we learn it. I have since learned so much along side of my children. When I learn something new, I am eager to tell my children and they see the thrill I gain from the new knowledge I have obtained. Subsequently, they are just as eager to tell me what they have learned. Because I taught my children to read, the whole world is their class room. When we do not know something, we can look it up or ask someone who knows. This has helped them in so many ways. They understand they do not have to know everything all at once and by seeking out their own answers rather than them being handed to them, they actually learn the material rather than go through the mere motions to meet someone else’s standards. I honestly believe seeing my weakness showcased their strengths. I have learned over the past five years that I do not need a collage degree or even a high school diploma to educate my children. All I need is an eagerness to learn and a willingness to be transparent with them and allow them to teach me. Together we can learn and together we can and will succeed.