If I am not an artist, how can I possibly homeschool an artist?
Likewise, if I am not an engineer, how can I believe I am capable of homeschooling one? Or an inventor, or a philosopher, or a veterinarian, or any of the passions that my children may possess?
And the concept that a homeschooling parent is their child's single source of information? Well, that's a heavy burden to bear.
And so a common belief exists that in order to homeschool you need to know everything.
Math. Science. Spelling. Art. History. Grammar. Language. Technology.
And if you don't know enough math or biology; if you don't remember a thing about algebra or if your spelling is embarrassing, how can you homeschool?
And so, we reason, we cannot.
And off to school they go.
And while I personally had a positive experience in the public school system and know countless kids who are thriving there, the logic above is deeply flawed. Send your child to school if that is your best or most logical answer, yes, but not because you think you don't know enough.
When we think of learning in the linear, teacher-student-classroom paradigm then the notion of "teacher knows all" makes some sense. As a college student it was frustrating when I felt that a lab teacher didn't have a handle on the material. It limited my learning.
And if the teacher is in charge and the student is a passive participant in the learning process, simply soaking up the information before them and letting it seep into the empty space inside, then yes, I see the logic.
But when it comes to homeschooling I respectfully – yet passionately – disagree.
Because our children are not empty vessels quietly awaiting us to transfer knowledge from our minds into theirs. Their minds are not voids needing only a set of facts to be complete.
Think of them instead as gardens already rich with seeds, their passions and gifts just waiting to coaxed up into the sunshine with a bit of nurturing and encouragement.
Their minds are alive with interests of their own, rich with gifts and passions that they can pursue with abandon when their schedules are forgiving enough to allow it.
And so Sage can spend hours learning about wilderness survival, practicing fire starting techniques, and building his survival kit. Later he can research medieval armor and learn about different construction techniques, then set off to make some for himself.
And Lupine can spend hours each day exploring her art, with pencils and smudge sticks and paper in hand.
And none of that has anything to do with the knowledge that I possess.
It's not about me at all.
Indeed, Sage knows that during my Environmental Education days I wrote a winter survival curriculum and taught countless classes on the subject. Yet he rarely asks for my input, and I rarely find it valid or necessary to share. And Lupine knows that as a teenager art was my one passion, yet she often asks to teach me how to draw a portrait, a tulip, a landscape. Not the other way around.
Because I'm not their teacher after all.
Our knowledge as parents does not limit what our kids can learn.
And only when we deconstruct the notion of teacher and student does that begin to make sense.
If we are not our children's teacher, then what are we? Think instead of yourself as their liaison to a world of information and inspiration, resources and people, just waiting to join them on their journey.
And instead of pouring what we know into our children's waiting minds, I believe our job is to inspire them to fall in love with learning and nurture the seeds that are already there.
And so we watch them for their passions and gifts, then facilitate opportunities for them to connect with resources and mentors out in the world. We act as their liaison and connect them with the rich community of people who are just beyond our door.
Our work is not to teach, but rather to help them fall in love with their gifts and nurture the seeds that are already germinating in their fertile minds.
And that was how it happened that yesterday Lupine was the only child attending a morning figure drawing session at a local art gallery.
She had considered attending for weeks and was building her courage to leap when she found out that one of her favorite people in the world was the model. And that was that. We were going.
With a confidence equalled by any artist in the room, she pulled up her drawing bench and laid out her supplies. She set to work on her drawing, looking around the room on occasion to see what others were creating. The man next to her offered some gentle suggestions of whose work to look at, and I watched as she took notice of other mediums and techniques around the room.
And me? I sat in the back, observing, and knowing that I really had nothing to bring to the table except for helping create the space for her to join in.
Am I my children's teacher? No, I really don't think that I am.
But am I qualified to help her water and tend this garden of interests that is germinating in her mind?
That answer is a confident yes.
8 thoughts on “I am not a teacher”
I love your take on this so much! I have often been told by others that they couldn’t homeschool. They’re not teachers. Or their kids are smarter than them. They don’t know everything…etc., etc. This is the perfect response to that, and so beautifully said.
So wonderful! I totally agree. I try my best to be facilitator too. If that means right now, reading harry potter over and over or casting off weaving projects. I look forward to being there for my children as they get older like yours and really jump into something they are passionate about.
I do teach, fifth grade. I don’t consider myself much of an art teacher, but I see things I love and throw it out there. I’ve been known to say, “I can’t figure it out, can you?” I’ve yet to throw something out that someone couldn’t figure out. I decided to teach myself to knit so I could teach my kids to knit. After many years, I always have a kid or two who’s knitting puts me to shame. Currently my kids are making and testing space probes, ummm, not my field of expertise either. I’m not in public school however and am free to pursue such things. I believe we sell those amazing brains so short and you are right, sell ourselves short when we think we aren’t enough. I try to impress on my students, I don’t need to be all of it. They are well equipped to figure it out. Glad your little missy has such opportunities.
this is beautiful…my home schooled artist is now in college and attending close enough to home that I am invited to her art receptions, lectures and exhibits. Oh, I knew nothing about art or how it would look, but she ran with it beautifully and I have learned so much with her. Enjoy and watch….miracles and just plan awestuck joy at what these kids do if we just walk beside them and say go!…
That has become one of my favorite parts of homeschooling. Bringing the opportunities to them and watching them take off (or not, as the case may be!)
Thank you for sharing your story, Kimberly!
So lovely. Thanks, Stacie.
Gosh yes, my five could not be more different – there’s not a chance that I could know everything about everything they’re interested in! Stepping back and letting them learn how to learn is the most important part of my homeschool “curriculum” for sure! Seeing Lupine being so comfortable with adults really resonates, too – that is another great benefit I think. Lovely pictures!