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The Privilege of Teaching Homeschoolers

September, 2013

As a veteran teacher of homeschoolers, I continue to learn, and often take workshops with teachers. I seek out master classes and master teachers (writers, performers, artists) who will inspire me and offer me new ideas and techniques. Learning is a lifelong endeavor and we need to stoke the fires of our passions. These activities put me in a room full of teachers. For the time being we are fellow students; as teachers we all feel something in common. Yet when we introduce ourselves and say where we work, everyone is surprised to learn that I teach homeschoolers. Most want to know how they can tap into the homeschooling community, as their jobs are increasingly dissatisfying. Our conversation invariably leads to the differences in teaching children who are outside of the school system. I try to explain the simple truth, which seems to many other teachers so incredible that it's hard to believe.

First, I say softly, imagine that you never have to fail a child. They pause and blink as they try and imagine such an impossibility. You never have to fail a child, and in fact, you never have to grade a child. You never have to compare one child to another, or make a child feel badly because s/he is not "up to par." This notion often stuns other teachers, but I continue.

Now imagine that you never have to test a child. If any testing is done, or any grading, it is done by the parents. (NYS requires far less testing for homeschoolers than for public schooled students). Since I never have to test, I never teach to the test. Imagine . .  no test prep.

Now imagine that as a teacher you are never evaluated by a superior. No principal ever shows up in your classroom to watch you with a checklist and then tell you that in the given hour you failed to cover the desired number of items on that list (maybe because you allowed the children to get excited about something, or to respond and share their own ideas). In the homeschooled reality, evaluation happens just like it does in any healthy competition. If the parents and children don't like you, you don't get hired again. It's that simple.

As a teacher of homeschoolers I am allowed to create my own curriculum. I can include the arts and the sciences when I am teaching history or literature. I can have an interdisciplinary, flexible, ever-changing curriculum, remaining adaptable and doing whatever works. In the homeschooling community, you can pursue what excites you! You can apply a child-led approach.

And the capper to all of this, the icing on the cake (and what a cake it is!) is that the child wants to be there. Just try and imagine, I whisper to teachers who have only seen the insides of a public classroom, just think — what if everyone in your class actually asked to be there? I can see how this boggles their minds, when virtually every child in their schools feel like they are in a prison, forced to be there when they wish they were anyplace else.

It is truly a privilege to be a teacher of homeschoolers. It is the luxury cruise liner of teaching jobs!