Are You Qualified to Teach Your Child at Home?

Are you qualified picRecently, I heard a teacher compare homeschooling your children with choosing not to take them to the doctor and (her words) “doctoring them” at home. Her point was of course that in order to teach one must have teaching credentials. I love teachers and have many teacher friends. I truly believe teaching today has to be one of the toughest and important jobs there is. NOT everyone could teach a room of first graders how to read – that is what teachers are trained to do.  But can anyone with the means and the will teach their own child academics? Can anyone can teach their own child at home?

Currently, the laws in most states say that you can. Many states only require that you state your intention to homeschool, some require some test scores and/or a professional evaluation of student progress, but only a tiny few require any kind of qualification of parents. So for most Americans, if you have the means and the will, you can legally homeschool your children.

The means and the will.

What does it take to satisfy the ‘means’ of this equation?

There is a commonly held belief out there suggesting that you need to have a two parent intact family where only one parent works. However, there is a ton of information out there showing that this simply isn’t the case (see Pamela Price’s book How to Work and Homeschool). Single parents who work while homeschooling? It can be done. There are also a ton of free or very cheap resources out there for homeschoolers, so satisfying the financial means does not require a six figure income.

But what about the intellectual means?

I don’t think there are a ton of people out there who would agree with our teacher friend from the beginning of this post. First of all, the comparison between teaching and medicine is ludicrous.

And secondly, as I mentioned before, teacher training would be a necessity in a classroom setting, but at home with your own children? No, I don’t think most people would say that there is a need for that.

But should we hold homeschooling parents to a certain standard before allowing them to school their own children at home? Can someone with, say, a GED, teach advanced chemistry? Can a high school dropout teach foreign languages? Can someone without a college degree teach advanced high school mathematics? Can someone with a college degree in English Literature teach advanced chemistry? The list is endless and clearly parents can’t be all things to all subjects.

The internet has become such an amazing resource for homeschoolers that they literally can find anything they need with the click of a mouse. And you can purchase curriculum in nearly every subject. There are free online courses in many subjects and public online high schools abound. So would teaching an advanced subject be problematic for a homeschool parent who doesn’t understand it themselves? I don’t think it would for a parent who places a high value on such study, assuming they have the ability to seek out and utilize the tools necessary.

But what if one is not motivated enough, or does not place a high enough value on a high school education to get one themselves? Are they going to impart to their children the view that education is not important? What about the parent who does not have the capacity to seek out the information they need to teach, or the ability to teach it?

I guess I would argue that the parent who does not place a high value on education is going to affect their children regardless of whether they send them to school or not. And anyone who does not have the capacity to seek out the information needed to homeschool would be unlikely to undertake homeschooling in the first place.

So are you qualified to teach your child at home? I believe that you are, but I would love to hear what others have to say.

About Jennifer Charboneau

Jennifer Charboneau was born and raised in British Columbia Canada and moved to Arizona with her husband and three children in 2009. Alongside her husband Kevin she has started and run several businesses and continues to pursue her entrepreneurial goals while homeschooling their children.

Posted on January 1, 2014, in Education, Gifted children, Gifted education, Homeschool, Parenting, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Cocooning is a major demographic trend in the United States. Psychologists tout the value of secure environments that are are easy to learn as being more conducive for early bonding with children, especially those who are fostered and adopted.

    • Oh, that may be why homeschooling has been so appealing to me. I am a natural at cocooning! I do find that when we eek out time to just ‘be’ at home everyone’s stress level goes down. Thanks for visiting Modern Homeschooling.

  2. As a homeschooling parent myself I was with you right up until your last paragraph (excluding the question). It’s true that parents who don’t place a high value on education are going to impact their children regardless. However if they’re also homeschooling, then as their children’s only influence regarding academic achievement then they’re going to have a much greater (and much more detrimental) impact on their children’s educational experience and goals than parents who send their children to public school, where they might encounter a teacher (or three) who can encourage them.

    And as much as we homeschool parents want to think the best of ourselves and our community, the fact is that some parents homeschool for reasons unrelated to academic achievement. (The data simply doesn’t exist for me to make a meaningful estimate on how many fall into that category, but it’s more than a tiny fringe group.) So I disagree with your statement that “anyone who does not have the capacity to seek out the information needed to homeschool would be unlikely to undertake homeschooling in the first place.” Such homeschooling parents exist–in significant numbers–and their children often suffer as a result. Pretending they don’t exist doesn’t help the children and it casts a shadow on the rest of us who are homeschooling responsibly.

    • Fair points Karen. I agree with you on the fact that if we deny that there are any problems with homeschooling we don’t do ourselves any favors. I would love to see more input from homeschooling parents on how to deal with these situations – should we require testing of parents? Should we require home visits? Standardized tests for homeschooled kids? I realize some of these already happen in some states, but in many there is little to no oversight – is that the direction you would go?

      • Yes, I definitely think some level of accountability is good. Not testing of parents or home visits – that is way too intrusive in my opinion. We were required to do standardized tests once a year when I was homeschooling as a student. I think that’s great, because it’s beneficial to the state and the parents. Where I live now, homeschoolers are required to join peer groups to peer-review each other’s schoolwork and verify it met requirements. These seem like excellent options!

        There are definitely homeschool parents who should not be homeschooling, but the numbers are very, VERY small. I saw them occasionally when I was teaching in public school. The kids would come to the middle school unable to read. But, I think we’re talking one-half-of-one-percent at it’s highest. Most of the kids who came back to public school were respectful, well-rounded, social, and on grade level.

        Let’s keep in mind too, that just because a parent’s primary reason for homeschooling may be religious or moral or something other than academic, it doesn’t mean that learning isn’t important to them. My parents chose to homeschool because they wanted to be able to teach from a Christian world-view. But, we all did extremely well academically. My brother and I both got full-rides to college and graduated with honors. It doesn’t have to be one-or-the-other, when it comes to reasons for homeschooling. Often, people choose to homeschool for a variety of reasons.

      • Absolutely – just because your main reason for homeschooling isn’t academic does not mean you won’t do an amazing job teaching academics! I find it interesting that your perspective is that the numbers of parents who should not be homeschooling are very low and in the comment above yours, the reader feels that the numbers are “significant”. It highlights a very real challenge when trying to tackle this problem.

  3. Jennifer, sadly too many current homeschooling parents are unwilling to acknowledge and deal with these situations. Even the ones who are successfully providing rigorous academics and a variety of social/peer experiences would rather dismiss the issues as exceptions to the rule rather than risk doing something that might result in more hoops to jump through for themselves. Some of the first generation of homeschooling graduates who experienced or observed these problematic issues first hand are trying to come up with ways to address these issues. I highly recommend checking out for more on that (do click ‘read the stories’ for some of their real-life experiences and responses). There’s also a new site that is specifically working on policy issues related to improving homeschooling.

    For myself, I don’t think testing the parents is an effective way to ensure quality homeschooling. What would you test? Looking at their credentials isn’t all that great, either. I have a Master’s degree, but I wouldn’t trust some of my former classmates to teach my kids anything. On the other hand my husband’s highest credential is a GED, yet he works in the software industry alongside people with Master’s and Ph.D.’s, and is far better read than I am (and at the risk of sounding immodest, that’s saying something 🙂 ). He’s going to teach the kids in the more technical/mathematical/scientific areas where I’m weaker.

    I think mandatory home visits for all homeschool families is 1) considerably more privacy invasion than most public/private school families experience and therefore unfair, and 2) unrealistic given the current caseloads of social workers. Those folks need to target their time and efforts to where there’s a genuine problem, not as part of preliminary or ongoing screening. If the home visits were to be done by teachers, whose training is in teaching subject matter to a room full of kids, would they even know what to look for? How would you guard against anti-homeschooling bias? (Not all teachers have this bias, but many of them do.)

    In the end it comes down to somehow regularly evaluating the kids for academic progress (without eliminating the freedom that is one of the great benefits of homeschooling) and somehow ensuring that the kids routinely cross the paths of mandatory [child abuse] reporters. It’s defining those ‘somehows’ that causes all the problems, and I wish I had the answers. The best I can do is recognize the issues and be part of the conversation.

    Please forgive the tome; brevity is not my strong suit! Despite my critical comment, I liked what you had to say overall. Poking around your blog a bit, I like your approach, and will be adding you to my Feedly feed.

    I hope you’ll be part of the conversation, too.

  4. I live in a state that has no requirements and my children are only 7, 6, 3, and 1. Some days I am glad that I have no one to report to, no tests that the kids have to take, etc. Other times I wish there was something (no sure what though) that would help so that I don’t always have the feeling of am I doing too much or not enough. I think anyone that wants to homeschool can, especially with all the information out there now a days. However I am leaning more towards a “something needs to be checked” for people to homeschool, maybe because I have nothing here. I don’t think this should be “qualified” parents, but more of making sure kids are at least learning (I know most probably do, but I know we all have heard the horror stories and that is what a lot of people remember).

    • Thanks Melissa. I think I have the same sort of sense – I’m in AZ and all I have to do is send in my intent to homeschool and I’m good – no standardized testing, no qualification of my skills or background, nothing. And that’s great for me and I am thankful not to have another thing to do, but when I feel uneasy is when something bad happens to another child. Then I think, would a little oversight be so bad? I know there are horror stories that go the other way (when oversight goes horribly wrong) I just don’t know where that middle ground is.

  5. Ha!ha! I didn’t need to read the whole post to disagree with the teacher. Indeed, there are times when taking your kids to the doctor is counterproductive. But , that is a whole other topic.
    I (we) homeschool 3 kids. A “3rd. Grader ( fluctuates depending on subject up to 6th. Grade), a Kindergartener (who does fluctuate upto 2nd. Grade) & a 21 mos old.
    What would you think if I tell you English is my 2nd. language and when I talk I have quite a strong accent? Well, for the skeptics , let me inform you that both my older kids are totally fluent with no accent in my native tongue (Spanish) and he absolutely no issues learning any subject and performing both in Spanish or English in reading, speaking and writting areas.
    Homeschooling is a call from God and it is not subject to academics. In my household so far, academics is the least worries of all and I can barely speak English. My children are above their grade level and beyond any monolingual kid. My 3rd grader manges to understand easily Latin and Italian! She is an avid reader, plays the piano really well, and has been in dance since age 3. Our Kindergartener has a great aptitude in arts (coloring, painting and handwriting-motor skills), plays the violin outstandingly and her swimming skills are scary. But, to reduce homeschool to performance is to diminish its value.
    We don’t believe our kids performance is a total reflection of our investment on them, much less our schooling background or intelligence, Homeschooling requires much more than a brain. Requires a heart, a love not known and a sacrifice beyond our limitations. I strongly believe that it is the work of God in us who helps to lead our children not to academic achievement, but to learn about family life. Also, to preserve our faith and beliefs. It helps to travel on vacation whenever we want, and spend more quality family time. It allows to rest and waste less time on unneeded activities.
    We do hybrid homeschooling. It is the perfect fit for our family. Our kids attend a school with teachers twice a week and we enjoy the space, and the opportunity the girls have to meet other teachers and have some other homeschooled friends.
    Educating a child is definitively more than academics. As a mom and the one who loves my kids the mostest and wants the best for them, I don’t think anyone else as of now can “teach” them better that we do at home. I don’t care with all due respect if their degree is in teaching.

    • Thank you. I agree with you – homeschooling (and raising children generally) requires more than a brain and reducing homeschooling to academic performance does reduce its value. Ironically I feel like that is a big problem within our school system and yet I took the same path with homeschooling in this post – interesting.

  6. Lauren Polenske

    Of course parents are capable of teaching their children at home. I worked full time second shift and home schooled my sons from kindergarten to 7th grade. The world is filled with many wonderful ways to teach and educate our children. Not just the internet, but libraries, neighbors, co-ops and so many other ways. Fortunately many teachers in the traditional sense are beginning to understand (and approve) of home schooling. My children. my family, and my community are better for the choice I made to home school my sons.

  7. I just had a conversation on Facebook where the same comparison was made. I said that medicine and education were NOT comparable but that education and religion were. There are many different ways to follow a religion (or not) and I feel that the same applies to education.

  8. I’ve been questioned about my ability as a physician to teach my five year old at home! I can’t imagine what other parents go through.

    I agree with others that there should be some level of oversight. In Colorado we can choose between standardized testing or an “evaluation” in which our child shows a work portfolio, which I think provides a good level of oversight… I’m not sure how testing will go for my son as he gets older, depending on his tics, so I’m glad we have the other option. I also worry about kids who don’t have an outside support group in cases of an abusive/neglectful parent who is keeping them isolated or kids who want to pursue further education but are prevented.

    But the majority of homeschool parents are dedicated to providing an excellent education and there’s no reason why their children can’t learn anything they want. For gifted kids, being with even an amazing teacher will hold them back because they are having to work at the pace of the other twenty plus kids in the class.

    My hubby and I think the question of whether we can manage has a lot to do with the outsourcing mentality of our culture. We hire someone else to grow our food, cook it, repair our plumbing, teach our kids to drive, organize our closets, paint our living room. If making a batch of stock and canning it is something that must be outsourced by most people, it’s little wonder that educating a child (which is much more complicated) would seem to be in need of an expert as well.

    Hmmm. This is starting to sound like a blog post. Maybe I’ll go write it 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration.

  1. Pingback: Do You Have to Be Teacher to Teach Your Child? | Our Own Flavor

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