Ask Amma

Am I academically fit to homeschool?

In Yes / No on 11 April 2012 at 4:36 pm

Do you think you need to be updated in academic subjects to homeschool your child?

– mother of a 2 year old in Pune

The short answer is: No. Many seasoned homeschoolers elaborate on why this is so, reminding you that:

– You are learning together.
– You are not so much teaching what you know as you are supporting their learning whatever they want to learn
– your children will learn how to learn, to delight as they discover, and to navigate the ocean of knowledge, not just acquire a subset of your knowledge.

When the rubber meets the road, however, doubts can creep in.

One way that I think my education has helped me is that it gives me confidence to relax, be quiet and let my daughter discover things on her own rather than feeling responsible for teaching her. Where, if not in college, did I find solidarity for my persistent doubt since school days, “Is my understanding only blindness to my own lack of understanding?”  (Wittgenstein, On Certainty, § 418.)   This has given me respect for the state of not-understanding, without any desire to rush to the state of understanding. Often it seems that less educated parents are more likely to get nervous when children aren’t reading or adding at the expected time, while educated parents are not only confident that they will get it when they are ready, but are also more likely to appreciate the things their children are dong and learning in the meanwhile.

For some, the confidence to slow down and savor the path of learning comes naturally. Others like to read research that shows that in learning, it is wise to prefer the scenic route to the superhighway, and indeed the road offers more than the destination. Astute Appa Karthik from Bangalore shares a report (pdf) from the Alliance for Childhood called “Crisis in Early Education: A Research-Based Case for More Play and Less Pressure.” The authors cite Sebastian Suggate, who finds that:

… the most important early factors for later reading achievement, for most children, are language and learning experiences that are gained without formal reading instruction. Because later starters at reading are still learning through play, language, and interactions with adults, their long-term learning is not disadvantaged. Instead, these activities prepare the soil well for later development of reading.

Play, language, and interactions with adults also prepare the soil for seeking resources and resource persons as one’s learning advances. Learning advances in ways not always obvious to the observer (and sometimes resists observation). I think that being educated may have helped me to appreciate this and indeed marvel at the beauty of the learning process.

Miranda Hughes brings this to life at the close of Growing a Writer:

As I see it, good writing skills are the fruit of the plant. A plant doesn’t produce great tomatoes by practicing making beginner tomatoes as it is building its root system and putting out its first true leaves. It produces great tomatoes by putting its energy into growing strong and healthy roots, shoots and leaves.

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