“I could never teach my own child. He doesn’t listen to me!” You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve heard this complaint. Long before I ever considered teaching my kids, I often heard “Someone else can always teach your child better.” I used to believe that too. Is there any truth to these claims? Not really. If you’re willing to learn to speak your child’s learning language and make a commitment to educating your child, the opportunities are limitless.
Can parents successfully teach their own children? Absolutely. We teach our children from the second they are born. In those first weeks of life, we teach our children what love is all about. We teach them that they are safe and protected and that we’ll be there to care for their every need. As they grow, we teach them words and letters, shapes and colors. We teach them right from wrong and about the world around them. We teach them about social interaction and inter-personal relationships. Every moment of their life, they are absorbing information and we are their personal tutor whether we like it or not. This process doesn’t end when they turn 5 and enter Kindergarten. You are your child’s first and finest teacher, no matter which educational method you choose, no matter your political or religious beliefs, or the color of your skin. Make the most of it.
It’s not just humans who teach their own young. Take a look at the animal world. A mother lioness teaches her youngsters how to hunt. A mother elephant teaches her baby to survive. No matter where you look, you’ll find examples of parents successfully teaching their offspring. It’s basic nature.
When parents run into difficulty teaching their child, it’s often because they speak different learning languages. What does that mean? Everyone learns in a different way. Some people are very visual and learn best if they can look at pictures, charts, and examples. That’s how I learn. I can remember anything if I can see it or read about it. Some people, like my son Ethan, are aural and can memorize and recall vast amounts of information they hear. Learning songs work tremendously well for him. Other people are verbal, physical, logical, social, solitary, or a combination of all of the above. There is no right mix of educational styles, and people can have more than one style.
Here is a learning style quiz from Scholastic to help you figure out your child’s learning language: http://www.schoolfamily.com/school-family-articles/article/836-learning-styles-quiz
If you want to speak your child’s language, learn his learning style. It’ll reduce endless frustration and misunderstandings and will improve his academic achievement. Learning is definitely not one-size-fits-all, and it’s perfectly natural if you and your child have different learning styles.
Perhaps you are a visual learner like me. You learn new information by reading and looking at graphs. Your son, however, isn’t grasping his new math concepts and you’re at your wit’s end. Why can’t he just read the explanation and comprehend things like you do? It turns out, he’s a kinesthetic learner. He learns by doing and touching. While he can’t stand to sit still and study, he easily understands the same concepts if he can learn it through hands-on activities. Instead of teaching him fractions on a chalkboard or paper, get out some blocks or other fun, colorful manipulatives. Learn to read him and help him learn the way he learns best.
Look at it this way: You speak Chinese and your son speaks Italian. No matter how many times you explain a concept to him in Chinese, he won’t understand it. You don’t speak the same language! You both feel so frustrated and disappointed. One day, you realize that if you learned to speak Italian you might get along a whole lot better. You take a few classes and the next time you meet, you engage your son in Italian. Bravo! His eyes light up and he understands you. What a difference it makes to speak your child’s language!
Also keep in mind that a child’s preferred learning style may change as he gets older and matures mentally. This is perfectly normal. It’s great to help your kids learn in many different ways. Just don’t pressure them to learn “your” way or the ”right” way if it’s causing conflict. Certainly teach the subject, just find a different way of teaching it.
Parents as Educators
Parents have been educating their children since the dawn of time. In early societies, men taught their sons how to hunt and protect their tribes while women taught their daughters how to cook and care for their families. In our fabulous American history, pioneers taught their children everything from reading and arithmetic to how to build a cabin, hunt for food, and survive off the land. In every culture across every land, parents teach their children.
As a parent, no one cares more for your child than you do. Not only did you give this child life, but they are a lifelong investment. It’s not a school-year-long commitment. Having a child is a commitment for life. You know your child better than any teacher ever will. There is nothing more natural than teaching your child!
According to statistics, home educators are doing something right. Homeschoolers perform better across the board than both public and private school students. Colleges are recruiting them. Also, studies show that there’s no difference in a student’s total reading, math, and language score if their parent was a certified teacher. You do not have to be a trained and certified teacher to successfully teach your child!
For more info on these studies, check out: http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/000010/200410250.asp
There’s Always Room For Improvement
Not everyone starts out knowing exactly how to be a rock-your-socks-off-amazing teacher and parent. Children don’t come with an owner’s manual explaining how to best communicate with them. There’s always room for improvement. There are so many books and educational resources out there. If you don’t know how to engage your child academically or to play with them, there’s never a better time to learn. Learn about educational and developmental milestones and what you can do to help your child succeed. Provide a safe, fun, and educational home environment where learning toys, books, and games are available.
Envision the type of parent and educator you want to be. Compare this to where you are today. What do you need to change? If you spend too much time on the computer or watching television and wish you spent that time playing outside and bonding with the kids, turn off the technology. What sort of memories do you want your children to have? Will they remember the amazing game of backyard soccer and the kitchen-table volcano experiment, or will they remember you sitting there on the sofa watching the Kardashians?
One great thing about being human is that we’re always evolving. There is always room for self-improvement. I’m a huge proponent of lifelong education. If you want to learn to be a better teacher, take a few classes or go back to school and earn your degree. Check out some books from the library or load them to your e-reader. The Internet also offers countless new ideas.
Yes, You Can!
Teaching your own children may seem like a daunting idea, but it’s seriously one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do. If you don’t have the tools, get them. Educate yourself. Muster the strength to follow the path less traveled. You really can do it.
Your journey won’t be without challenges and moments of frustration. There will be times when you wonder if you made the right choices and if you’re doing anything right at all. Relax. It’s okay. You’re doing great. There will be disagreements and perhaps even tears here or there, and that’s fine. We’re human and humans aren’t perfect. Rise up and overcome. Make tomorrow better.
Whether you homeschool or not, you are your child’s first and finest teacher. Make the most of the moments you have together. They won’t be young for long. Give them your all, and they won’t help but bloom.