Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Mom Does Not Know Everything

the subject I struggle to teach
News flash: I like to think I'm pretty smart (and that I'm pretty AND smart), but I don't know everything.
There are lots of things I don't know, and lots of things I'm not good at. When it comes to teaching, that wasn't much of a problem when the kids were little tykes. For one thing, little kids tend to be under the impression that Mom and Dad do know everything, and that works to advantage. And honestly, from a homeschooling standpoint, it wasn't that difficult to teach simple counting and phonics and printing. After all, if I could teach them how to use the potty, surely I could teach them their alphabet. The ease of doing those two things did vary, but nothing I couldn't handle.
learning to read
Fast forward a few years, and the kids have figured out that there are some real limitations to my knowledge. For example, I really have no clue how to use our DVR. I am probably the last person to consult if you're having trouble with any kind of video game. Heck, after 20+ years of trying to learn, I'm still out of my depth trying to play Rook. But I have taken on the responsibility of teaching my kids high school level courses!
 
If you're like me, and don't know everything, but want to homeschool through high school, you might need some help. Here are some suggestions for getting through subjects that a teaching parent might struggle with.
Learn alongside your student. This is the most obvious method of handling a subject the teaching parent struggles with, and lends itself best to early grades. That doesn't mean that a parent can't learn - or perhaps re-learn - higher grade level material along with the student though! Read the text with your kid; have your kid read or explain it to you as they learn; use DVDs or computer-based programs that allow you to "sit in on" the class, and you may be surprised how much you can learn. Or maybe how different the experience of learning it can be from when you were in school. My son is doing VideoText Interactive Algebra this year. He and I grade his work together. If he gets something wrong, he goes over it and explains it to me. This means he has to find and correct his own mistakes, and in telling me what he did wrong and how to do it correctly, he solidifies what he learned, and I learn from him some of the things that I'd completely forgotten (if I ever understood them to being with) from my own high school classes. Win-win.

Look for teacher's guides that include everything you need. When my kids were in Kindergarten and first grade, I did not need the Answer Key for their math workbooks. In the middle grades, the Answer Keys saved me the time of working the problems myself. Then we got to Algebra and I struggled. Math and I are not the best of friends. But a good Answer Key with complete solutions made it doable, although not easy. Some Answer Keys or Teacher's Guides give WAY more information than I need. Some don't give enough. It depends on the subject. In the subjects where I am on shaky ground personally, I look for curriculum that has a Teacher's Guide that is clear to me - the correct answers and solutions for all the assigned work are given, and it explains how to use the curriculum and how to assess the student's work. For example, we used BJU Writing and Grammar for high school. I particularly liked that the Teacher's Edition included suggested class calendars to complete the course over one semester or two; and for each writing assignment, there was a Grading Rubric that made it easy for me to understand what I was looking for in each assignment and how to assign an appropriate grade.
  
Let the program do the work for you. As I mentioned, I made it through Algebra with my oldest two students with the help of a solid Solutions Manual. Then there was Geometry, and I was a goner. That Answer Key was incomprehensible to me. Fortunately, at about that time we got to review an online Math program called ALEKS and my son finished out his Geometry using that. We both loved it because the program graded his work and I didn't have to. He knew immediately whether he had answered correctly or not, and didn't have to wait until I slogged through the grading for feedback. Granted, I still don't know any more geometry than I did beforehand, but at least I didn't have to lose any more sleep over it. 

Trade expertise with other families in a co-op setting. Co-ops are often the easiest when children are in the younger grades. What a relief it was to have the artsy mom offer to teach an art class, because I can't draw a convincing stick figure! How grateful I was to have a mom who loved science teach a hands-on science class, because I wasn't in the least bit inclined to collect insects and study them. And in return, I was only too happy to help teach a class that focused on geography or history. I even taught a couple of science-based classes, and one about personal finance. Even though those weren't my strong suits, I had good materials and co-teachers to work with, and found that it's true what they say: to thoroughly learn something yourself, teach it to somebody else. For high school grades, co-ops may look a little different, but can still fill those gaps. Maybe you can teach music or a second language competently to your kid and a friend, and the friend's parent would like to include your kid in their science labs, or can teach photography or automotive repair. It's possible, and may be very rewarding, to set up a co-operative with just two or three families.
co-op classes
co-op classes
Let someone else do the teaching. Besides a co-op class, there are several options for doing this. If you stay connected with the homeschool community, you may find that another parent will offer to teach to a small group. In our homeschool community, I know a mom whose passion and expertise is in Math, which is a subject many of us find daunting at the high school level. She has been offering Algebra classes for homeschooled students for many years now and everyone speaks very highly of the classes. Students must have their own books from the publisher the teacher recommends, and there is a fee for the class. Students attend the class to learn the concepts, and the teacher even grades all the work. Another mom in our homeschool community has offered science classes. She has the teaching background, the space in her home, and the know-how, and figured that since she was teaching her own high school age boys the subject, she might as well offer to teach some of their friends as well. Once again, she specifies the books needed, and the students attend her class to review the assigned reading and work on labs together, and the teacher grades all the work. One of my sons was blessed to take his high school chemistry course in this way, and it was a huge blessing to me as well, because I didn't have to do anything beyond grading his chapter tests! (okay, I had to drive him to class once a week, but it was a small price to pay) Depending on several factors, you may want to consider other types of tutoring and classes. Local college students may offer one-on-one tutoring or mentoring for homeschool students. Specialized tutors can be hired. Consider dual-enrollment at a community college for some junior- and senior-level coursework as well. 

What subject(s) do you struggle to teach? How do you handle it? Leave a comment and let me know! Be sure to visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog (this link will be live on Wednesday, February 12th) to see what other Crew members have to say about "The Subject I Struggle Teaching Most". You can also visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog homepage to see lots of product reviews, and past blog cruise topics.
Subject Struggle
This post is also linked at the "Let's Homeschool High School February Blog Hop" .
LetsHSHS.com High School Homeschool Blog Hop
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2 comments:

Jackie P said...

Hi, it's Jackie stopping by from Let's Homeschool High School's February Blog Hop.

Wise words! I know when we started high school I let it intimidate me for sure. Your advice about learning alongside your child is right on and it is great for bonding with your child.

Thanks for sharing such great tips with all of us. I look forward to you linking up with us again in March.

Joyfully,
Jackie
http://letshomeschoolhighschool.com/2014/02/04/homeschool-high-school-february-2014-blog-hop/

Katie Shuler said...

Great, great advice! I knew I couldn't do the fine arts thing, so we signed the boys up for a fine arts program. They are in their 3rd year and love it.

I think the hardest thing for me was the "learn along side your child" thing. I just felt like I should know what I was trying to help them learn *before* I started teaching. Finally realizing that we could learn together, certainly helped not only me, but my boys too. :)

Thanks so much for a great post! Enjoyed reading your blog. Found my way here from the LHSHS blog hop!

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