Everyone who has ever read this blog knows that we're all about homeschooling here. You know I don't spend much blogging energy defending the "educational system" as a whole. I am much more likely to defend homeschoolers and their right to teach their children as they see fit. As a general rule, I don't believe that professional teachers are better equipped to teach children than parents are.
However, I've had a rant building up over a number of months. Years even.
But first a little background. First, I am a veteran homeschooler. I have homeschooled my four children for more than 20 years. Second, I work on a part-time contract as a homeschool consultant for Alpha Omega Publications (AOP), a large homeschool curriculum publishing company. I represent AOP at homeschool conventions all over the country, as well as help to administrate AOP's social media presence. (Oh, and by the way, yes, it is Alpha Omega's curriculum that Arby's wife hates!)
As a homeschool consultant, I answer lots of questions about homeschooling in general and about AOP's curriculum in particular. I am usually a pretty strong believer in the adage "the only stupid question is an unasked one." However, there's one question in particular that I'm getting a little tired of hearing.
"Are your Teacher's Guides really necessary? I mean I think I can do 4th grade Math!"Now, I know I'm gonna step on more than a few toes here, but that's a risk I'm willing to take.
Yes, teacher's guides can be expensive and I know that lots of families are necessarily trying to save money these days. And yes, that mom probably does know how to do 4th grade math. But does she really know how to teach 4th grade math? And is knowing how to teach really that important for homeschoolers?
I'll get back to the actual question of the necessity of teacher's guides in a few minutes, but first I want to address the more important issue of why I'm so bothered by the question to begin with...and keep in mind I've been asked this question more times than I can begin to count! Over the months I've grown more and more convinced that the question itself is a sign of a bigger (and somewhat troubling) issue. It seems there are growing numbers of homeschoolers who are trying to take the "easy road" to homeschooling--a road that costs little in terms of time and/or money. But children cannot teach themselves. While I believe that most parents can do at least as good a job (and often better) as most trained teachers can, the fact remains that teaching a child at home is a job not to be taken lightly. It requires a tremendous level of commitment. It can cost a great deal of time and money. If a homeschooler isn't willing or able to spend a lot of money, the commitment in time will likely go up significantly. And for parents who don't want to (or can't) spend large amounts of time, the financial commitment should go up considerably.
I am a trained teacher. But when I started homeschooling I didn't make the assumption that my teacher training meant I could do it all on my own. I used the resources that were available to me to assist me in teaching my own children. Over 20+ years of teaching my four children at home, I purposed to equip myself to educate my children. I spent countless hours learning how to be a good homeschooler. I spent money on resources that I knew would help me teach them. I learned Algebra and Chemistry so that I could teach it to them. I read books that I never wanted to read so that I could discuss them with my daughters . I invested a great deal in my children's education. And that investment has paid off in the lives of my children.
The changes in the homeschooling movement in the last 20 years are staggering. Those changes are mostly good ones. But in my opinion, they have created a problem as well. The exploding growth of the homeschooling movement and the plethora of available resources may have created the illusion that homeschooling is "easy." And it may be easy to homeschool, but it definitely isn't easy to do it well. By choosing to homeschool, parents are taking full responsibility for the academic development (and futures) of their children. I don't believe it is possible to overstate the importance of the task at hand. It is a huge, life-impacting decision. Parents who purpose to homeschool should also purpose to do everything in their power to do it well.
So, what about Teacher's Guides? Are they really necessary? Unfortunately, I can't answer that question for every parent. Some parents may be equipped to teach without them. But in many cases, the use of a teacher's guide is the most effect way to ensure that a child will receive the instruction they need to fully grasp the content of the lesson. Even trained teachers use teacher's guides. They are, in many cases, the main source of instruction. It puzzles me why so many parents insist that they are unnecessary.
So is the question of the necessity of teacher's guides really the right question? A far more important question to ask is this:
As a homeschooler, what is your goal? Is it simply to homeschool? Or is it to "teach your children well?"