I’m Not a Teacher, I’m A Parent! (Episode 249)
When you first bring your little babies home, you're typically lost in the parent haze of adoration and exhaustion, and there is one focus - it's on being a parent! Yet, like it or not, you are also a teacher from day one.
In reality, all of us "homeschool" to some extent. Our children are always learning. It's not a switch that gets flipped off and on when they enter into a classroom. So with the added load of being your child's first teacher, it can be intimidating. How do I cover all they need to know, and also be the best parent I can be to them?
Check out our podcast episode on this topic here!
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Yes, But...I'm Not Qualified!
Credibility – do you really feel comfortable teaching your children? Again, no matter what type of “school” they are in, like it or not, you are your child’s teacher. And even more crazy, you are a teacher to everyone you meet! We have the opportunity to learn from everyone – and this week we shift the terminology from “teacher” to “guide” to “lead explorer”. Let’s have fun on this journey with a big dose of grace and flexibility and see what happens.
First, a special video just for you:
Are you an Awakener?
A while ago, I stumbled upon this quote and it...well, it awakened in me a new perspective on what I was doing with my children -
You mean I don't have to take on the weight of knowing everything? Yes, it's not about just teaching what you know. It's awakening an interest in our children to explore and discover...even beyond what we may know ourselves.
For us, teaching our children encompasses the quote above. We don’t have subjects, tests, or comparisons to peers. If any of our girls were to be dropped in a public school classroom, I have no doubt there would be many things they do not know that we’ve not even addressed. But…my goal is not for them to mark off the list all that they've memorized. My goal isn't even for them to learn it all. (what??) Let me say that again – teaching my children what I know is not my goal. Knowing everything so I can teach them isn't, either.
Then what is it? If not to teach, and they are “homeschooled, unschooled, whatever”…how are they learning? They are learning by life. They learn by experience, and by desire. I don’t want to simply tell them how to think or what to think.
I want to awaken them.
- I want to expose them to opportunity, and allow them to learn as they navigate it.
- I want them to know how to find answers – through reading, research and talking with others.
- I want them to move past duplication and memorization to innovation and creativity.
- I don’t compartmentalize their learning into subjects any more than we as adults say we are only learning “reading” when we pick up a book, “cooking” when we prepare a meal, or “shopping” when we are buying new furniture.
- I want them to challenge what “is” and think outside the box.
- I want them to problem-solve and come up with something that works, even if it’s not the way I would do it.
- I want them to never, ever want to stop learning.
What Makes You Credible?
Your credibility has to do with your ability to flow way more than knowing all the answers. You're credible to be a guide for your children because you are their guardian! You've lived more life than they have, been exposed to way more, and are the adult decision-maker on what they will be exposed to. You are the top person in charge of their education and how it comes in and what stays.
We can dismiss ourselves and "leave things to the professionals", and we end up in a world of hurt. Think about the person who goes to the doctor and just asks them to "fix it" without any input about what's going on. Can the doctor help? Well, they're the expert, right? Yet if they have no input from the patient on what's going on, even as an expert, they could easily do something more harmful than good. They simply cannot experience what you are feeling in your own body - they have to trust you to communicate it to them.
Who knows your children as well as you do? Who else is feeding them, caring for them, making their medical decisions? Who is the most invested person in your child's life, who main goal is seeing their child succeed? I'd say that puts you not only as credible with knowing this person better than anyone else, and also, there is no ulterior motive beyond your child's success. You aren't in it for the paycheck (if only we could get paid for parenting), and you aren't trying to reach a quota. You are willing to invest in this child for no other reason but to help them thrive. That is a beautiful opportunity for an awakener.
I'm not a Teacher!
There is this fabulous "school" called Acton Academy. I joke about it being a private school for unschoolers. At this school, there are no teachers, only guides. This video lays out their philosophy and how they approach schooling. It's a very different model, and yet they are acing standardized tests...even with no traditional schooling.
They have a mini documentary that is 14 minutes long on "Disruptive Education" that is excellent if you want to dig even deeper. Additionally, the founders wrote an excellent little book called The Courage To Grow. It's a powerful book that introduces the concepts surrounding the Acton model. It’s an excellent read to explore the Socratic method, how to be your child’s “guide”, and look at what educational options you may have.
Look at reframing the word "teacher". What different approach do you even feel when you think of being one of these words instead?
- I am a Guide
- I am an Awakener
- I am a Curator
- I am their Lead Explorer
Yes, you are a credible person to be influencing your child's life. And it's our goal to empower you and give you the confidence that you truly are worthy of this task.
Instead of Knowledge....
Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Imagination encircles the world, and allows us to innovate and create what hasn't yet been.
It's in our imagination, our creativity, and our willingness to risk something new that we're able to keep building on this world vs. simply regurgitating what we already know.
Logic will get you from a to b, but imagination will take you everywhere.
Look at how you're even opening up your day. Individuals who watched just three minutes of negative news in the morning had a whopping 27% greater likelihood of reporting their day as unhappy six to eight hours later compared to the positive condition.
Remember Your Focus
Pay attention to where your focus is. Like Tony Robbins says, "where your focus goes, the energy flows." You are in charge of where your mind goes, and what you choose to focus on.
So often, we waste a lot of energy worrying about what other people are thinking, and they are wrapped up in their own worlds. They are not only distracted by their own minds, they also may have nothing to do with your life.
Don't let someone "should" on you - are they the example of perfection you want to attain? Don’t allow anyone else’s opinions, don’t allow what is on the internet, don’t allow research- don’t allow anyone else out there to tell you what is possible/impossible for YOU. You get to make that decision.
How do you choose to think? I can guarantee it's a ripple effect to how your children will view things as well. If your focus is on how you're presenting to the rest of the world more than on what works for your unique family, recognize this is the message you're sending to your children as well. If you're focused on what all you're missing, on how everyone is out to get you, or on why bad things keep happening to you, you're creating the energy to continue that focus.
Try flipping the script. First off, imagine your child saying it - would you allow them to sit in their negativity and fear? Then why are you? Second, when all else fails, look for gratitude. What are you grateful for in this scenario? What is actually going right that can give you the encouragement to keep moving toward the good vs. sitting in the frustration?
The Family-Centered Home
A child-led home where parents simply follow a child's lead can result in chaos and confusion. A child is still navigating this world, their concept of time management and priorities, and they don't know what they don't know. Living in an adult world with a child directing it is a recipe for disaster, as there are responsibilities you need to fulfill that would never be on your child's radar.
On the flip-side, a fully parent-led home can easily lead to resentment and rebellion as a child fights to have a voice in the home. I'm a big fan of a family-centered home, where the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.
Our kids have a voice in our home. Their opinions are heard and respected. And, so are ours. Respect is earned, not demanded, by everyone, and we model the manners, grace and consideration to them that we expect them to have for others, including us. Family centered doesn't mean everyone has an equal say. What I referenced above about your credibility as a parent rings true here. You have a different perspective than your children, and you are running and creating this household.
Your voice carries the weight of what you're contributing to the family.
Opportunity vs. Agenda
As you're taking everyone into consideration, it can be stressful if you're trying to have every minute plotted out, or creating a full curriculum to teach your children at home. Look for loose anchors, like starting the day off together with clear communication on what is happening that day, what is expected, and making space for any desires/needs to be communicated.
Schedule time to tweak the dials of your family – don't launch into a whole new schedule and then assume it's written in stone. Give grace – recognize this isn’t a huge agenda; it's an opportunity to thrive better as a family – and experiment and try. Don't send your family off to just knock out every chore in the house and assume they'll figure it out. Inspect what you expect. This is the critical component of working with your child - if you have an expectation on an outcome, are you willing to walk with them as they learn the process to achieve what you're looking for?
We're not always "throwing our kids to the wolves". Yes, there are times they need to innovate and problem-solve and figure things out. And there are other times we can set them up for failure when we've not provided them any tools to succeed. Walk WITH your children through life skills as they learn. Let them experience walking alongside you as you practice the life skills you want to impart to them.
And allow the opportunities to unfold as they come vs. packing everything into an agenda. A little curiosity or question while you're doing a necessary life skill can open the door to a whole learning opportunity to share with your child what you're doing and why.
As a couple, support one another – you are embarking on new territory – everything is new. Give yourself and your kids buckets of grace. It’s okay to try and try again. Keep on trying. That's just part of life. Show up.
Open Beyond What You Know
Our kids have learned how to read, all about art, perspective, math, economics, profit/loss, investing, entrepreneurship and business, public speaking, language, history and geography (I could go on and on) based on their own creative desires.
Some examples of what we've done to open the door to more learning without a full agenda -
- Take your art-loving child to art galleries - our young children loved to see the lighting rooms where you see the showcased pieces of art, and hearing the people talk with passion about the intricacies in the artwork opened up all new ways of seeing things. Try exposing your child to all the different mediums of art - they may uncover something completely new. Explore all the ways artists share their work.
- Open the door to behind-the-scenes for your movie-loving child. Dig into all the things that go into making a movie. Try creating your own in iMovie. Explore foley art, what a Key Grip is, and stunt doubles. Look at all the professions involved in movie-making to learn all kinds of trades.
- Look for creative ways to get involved in the community with your animal lover. Is there a local bird walk? Can you foster animals? Volunteer at a animal sanctuary? Visit a veterinary clinic and interview a vet? Can you deep-dive into a specific animal love and learn all about them, from their care, their history, and their reproduction?
I love the concept that I don’t teach, but awaken. I believe we all have the opportunity to learn from one another.
When the learning comes from that deep desire within you to understand, the grasp of knowledge runs solid.
Your Challenge this week – give yourself the permission to explore the teacher you want to be. Have fun with it and try. Have an open conversation with your child about a new topic and see where it leads you as you learn together.
Thirst for knowledge: When the student is ready (delight led learning) – be the guide…or lead explorer, not the teacher. What is your guiding style?
Care for some Q&A? Hit us with any questions you have regarding education/school in your home. Ask in the Unschooling Families Facebook group, or shoot me a note here.
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- True Parent Struggles: BOREDOM (Episode 91)
- Why Travel (even just outside your own door) is the Best Education (Episode 242)
- Have You Forgotten You’re A Parent? (What truly is “parenting done right?”) (Episode 229)
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- The Seasons Of Life (Episode 3)
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