I’ve experienced a taste of what teachers do every day in their classrooms. Eight months ago our family began this trip around the world and I became the lead teacher in homeschooling our three daughters. Now that I have a better understanding for what it takes to shape the mind of a young child, here’s the question I have for all the teachers of the world:
How in the hell do you do this?!?!?!?!?
Seriously. I genuinely want to know how you still have hair on your heads because I’m literally pulling mine out some days. My husband and I have both dealt with some complicated stuff in our careers – large project coordination, complex programming logic, mathematical algorithms. We considerable ourselves to be pretty capable people. Yet trying to get a third grader to learn her math facts feels like rocket science to us.
We do have our good days. There are a lot of great tools and apps to help young students with various skills. Our travel experiences create some cool research projects, and the girls are definitely picking up a lot of valuable life lessons they couldn’t learn in a classroom. I can say we’ve had some really good experiences with this whole homeschooling thing, but some days…it feels like an uphill battle.
I genuinely didn’t think homeschooling three elementary school students would push my intellect and patience to the limit like it has. I had seen all of these TedTalks and blog posts about the joys of homeschooling and how motivated kids are to learn when they can follow their own interests in a flexible and customized learning environment. Um, I’m sorry, but I have to call bullshit on that a little bit. The engaged learner concept can ring true for our girls when it comes to writing, science and other subjects naturally lending themselves to creativity and experimentation. However, sometimes kids simply don’t want to learn what they really need to learn.
For instance, I can assure you it wouldn’t matter if we let Liv focus on fairies and puppy dogs all day every day, she would never develop a “natural curiosity” for memorizing her math facts. Likewise, even though I might be able to disguise Emily’s fractions lesson as a “cooking class”, calculating measurements and doing conversions takes a lot of practice and repetition…and I’m only baking so many cakes. This is where all the “follow their curiosity” talk loses its luster for me. Sometimes the magic of learning has to come in the form of an educator with a gift for inspiring and motivating children to do things they absolutely don’t want to do.
Unfortunately, I’m not that magical educator. Teaching simply doesn’t come naturally to me. We’re getting through it and the girls are keeping up with their studies, but…. Well, let’s put it this way. Sometimes I fantasize about having a computerized machine like the one in The Matrix where I can jam a metal rod into my kid’s head and she will instantaneously learn everything she needs to learn. Instead of Keanu Reeves opening his eyes and saying “I know Kung Fu” I envision Liv saying “I know math facts.”
Since no one has invented such a machine yet, I will continue to be extremely grateful for those people who do have this gift for teaching. My mom, my mothers-in-law, my brother-in-law, friends and other family members who chose teaching as their professions, I say to you THANK YOU! I totally get how hard and important your work is in this world. After we end this journey we will be ending this homeschooling adventure as well. When the girls walk into their new classrooms next year, their teachers will have my unending parental support.