Will my child learn even though I am not a teacher?
My story considers whether anyone can home educate.
You always hear people saying, ‘teachers spend 4 years at university studying to become a teacher, how can you do it you are just a mum’. I had the opposite comments, ‘oh, you home educate, well it’s ok for you as you were a Headteacher’! I always smile and say, ‘funny you should say that but I don’t use any of those skills to teach my children’.
I have to be honest that when I first thought about home educating I did the same thing, thinking, ‘I will be ok, I have had all this experience’. When I first started home educating my two children I tried to do it like you would at school. That was promptly stopped by the children, who pointed out I was their mum and not their teacher. I had to reflect hard on what they were saying so I didn’t lose their respect. It was then that I discovered de-schooling. We did that for 5 months while we worked out how, when and what kind of way we were going to go about home educating. From that moment on I agreed that we learn together, side by side, I would facilitate as much as possible and lose the silly teacher voice!
SO, what do teachers learn at university to become a teacher? Initially, they all need to take a professional skills test in Maths and English before they are accepted on a teaching course and they also need to have qualifications in English, Maths and Science. But do you need that? My view is that it is helpful to have that knowledge but I think with so much on the internet today you can actually find tutors or online learning to support your child in any areas that you don’t feel confident in. I think it is important to show confidence with your children’s learning and that its ok to just say, ‘hmm, I am not sure about this as it is such a long time since I studied that, lets look it up’. You can’t know everything. A teacher who teaches in reception may have lots, little or no understanding of what a child needs to do in year 6!
There are so many ways to become a teacher. I did a degree followed by a final PGCE year. My degree was in art for the community, nothing related to education at all and I spent 3 years doing that. Then I went on to a PGCE course that consisted of 2 placements with different age ranges. My first placement was about crowd management! On my second observation day I actually stood up in front of a supply teacher who was being hit with a constant flow of paper airplanes and took over the lesson. I had a tough first placement and so for me it was about getting the kids on side and trying to make the lessons fun so they would want to learn. I then went on in my second placement to being more focused on differentiation of lessons so all the children in the class could try and achieve something at the correct level for them at the same time. Neither of these examples is particularly relevant to home educating.
Another route, which is more immersive in terms of educating as a subject, was the 4-year BEd course with lots of placements and a longer time spent learning about the curriculum. Split into education studies, learning about types of learners, classroom management, school policies and behaviours. For example, you would learn that if you had a concern you would track it, then share it with the special needs coordinator who would try and suggest strategies and if that didn’t work you would try and get external help. In the same way you would with your own child at home.
They would also study the curriculum, taking objectives and creating blocks of lessons, ensuring differentiation to try and meet all abilities, just as you would at home if you are formally learning.
They would study how to assess using school systems, to track and monitor progress. This I feel is helpful but you would not need to use a complex school system, it is about what they can do and what is next and reflecting on strengths and areas for development over time, which is why I created my app ‘Collage’!
And finally, it would be about getting experience of different age phases to consider the changes of ability through the ages.
When you are teaching a really small group or even one to one at home, it is personal, you know that child better than anyone else so you don’t need 1-4 years of study to do that!
You can also get teachers who have learnt within the school, often teaching assistants moving up through the school of SCITT students, again more immersive as almost all learning in and through the actual school setting. Following that qualification, all teachers have an induction year in their first year on the job which they must pass to continue in the profession.
I can honestly tell you that doing a 4 year course didn’t necessarily make you a better teacher and when I was recruiting in school that didn’t mean anything, in terms of the route candidates took to get there, I would always recruit the best person for the job irrelevant of actual teaching journey.
As a parent you do your best to make things fun, you learn alongside your child, focus on things that interest them but also try and broaden their experiences as much as possible. When things don’t work you rethink things and go in at a different angle. At home, children are able to ask all those searching questions immediately, when they come to mind and they don’t have to suppress them because the time isn’t right to answer that, allowing a flow and love of learning to develop.
As a teacher, the skills I felt you needed where to work as a team, be open and communicate well with others, be able to manage the class and plan in a fun way and appropriately for all abilities and differences. But as a home educator, it really comes down to modelling a love of everything you do, children will pick up on all those things you are passionate about and they will see that you can immerse yourself in anything, they will hear you question things and see you find out the answers, they will watch how you deal with daily situations and they will copy by your example. They will watch you make mistakes and correct or learn from them knowing that making mistakes is a good thing, it is how we learn! We learn alongside each other and share in that experience.
The real advantage that a home educator has over a teacher is the bits not in the curriculum or that can only be taught at home are the real life situations, even something like ordering new wallpaper, talking through how you are doing that, the cost, the way you put it up and organize yourself, all massive life examples and deep learning when they relate maths and other subjects to it. It will stick far better than if it is in a workbook!
The pace of learning in schools is also a massive plus for learning out of school, the pressure on children is so immense that it must be hard for them to produce their best, most creative stuff. Lessons can be too fast paced for some and too slow for others, it is extremely hard for teachers to get the balance right all of the time.
So I think my answer to the question posed would be yes, anyone can teach children. In fact, when you consider your child might go on a workshop about romans at the local museum, that person is not a teacher! Nor is the sports coach that comes into school, they may have played tennis all their life but may be delivering football lesson as a sports coach. We all learn from anyone and everyone and at a time that is right. You don’t teach a baby to walk, it does it when it is naturally, physically ready!