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Letting Go of Teaching

“I always thought the idea of teaching was highly overrated. I was more interested that my kids learned.” ~Lee Binz

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Stop Teaching and Start Learning
Do you sometimes long for an “escape from teaching?” I sure did, especially as my kids got a little older. The good news is that your days playing the “teacher” role will someday come to an end. Instead your role will evolve to that of a “learning facilitator.”

It’s true: there comes a point in most homeschools where you must let go of the idea of “teaching” everything. Usually, this comes in high school, with calculus, physics, and foreign language. Depending on how passionate your student is on a particular subject, this time can come much earlier. Sometimes that will mean you find self-teaching curriculum and allow them to learn without your help. But sometimes “not teaching” really means just letting go!

If your child loves something, and you see that it is your child’s area of specialization, then you don’t need to have control over it. Kids truly enjoy learning about their interests. You don’t have to test them, or make them write papers. You don’t have to outline a course or develop a learning plan. You don’t have to give quizzes or have oral presentations. Just let them experience it!

Here are two key strategies that will encourage a passion in your children without turning it into a school subject:

Find a Mentor
Encourage them in their interests by finding mentors through clubs and colleges. Ask yourself, if you had that interest as an adult, how would YOU find a way to meet like-minded people? If your child loves birds, you may need to Google “ornithology clubs” to find a group, but I know there are many. You can find mentors by contacting small, friendly colleges to find a helpful professor. Ask around at church and other community groups to see if you can find an adult with the same interests. It took a LONG time before we found suitable mentors in economics for Alex. The first two mentors we tried weren’t a perfect fit, but they were still helpful, because they eventually led to the two great mentors. Dr. Doug Downing (left), Seattle Pacific University Economics professor and author of “Algebra the Easy Way,” encouraged Alex (right) to present his research at an international economics conference. Dr. Jay Richards, co-author of “The Privileged Planet” (center), allowed Alex to collaborate with him on his upcoming book.

Of course, following their interests also means that you have to go with your child, drive them, wait for them, and all the other inconvenient things that happen to parents who encourage their child’s interests. Sorry about that! On the bright side, after spending so many hours waiting for my son at various coffee shops, I became friends with my barista!

If you hit a stagnant period, there are things you can do to spur on your child in their pursuits. You can search curriculum catalogs, and see what books and curriculum your child seems to love. My son actually ASKED for Sonlight American Government when he was young, just because he was interested. Accidentally leave various curriculum catalogs scattered about the house. See what the pick up and start reading. Pick up interesting videos from the library or from The Teaching Company. Watch videos on the subject they are passionate about and listen for clues about how to get involved while your child is just enjoying the content. You could search for scholarships in their area of interest, and see if they can apply for scholarships within that specialization.

Eleven year old Courtney became a Vet Assistant by following her dreams. How daunting that must have been for her mother! But if she can do it, then we can find a way of encouraging passion in our children, too! Here is the link to Courtney.

Don’t Work Ahead – Follow Behind Instead!
Don’t work ahead of them by writing tests or worksheets. Relax! You don’t have to assess them with tests, just look at what they are doing and saying. Allow them to write school papers on the topic of their choice. Then if they produce some high school writing on the subject they love, then you can include that in their documentation of the class. I tried OFTEN to give them the choice of writing topics. Toward the end of the year, however, I would have to say, “Ok, but this time NOTHING on economics or American history!”

As they are enjoying their interests, follow along behind them and try to shovel up what you can for class documentation. It will help in the long run if you keep some high school records. When they produce something on their own, make sure you save it in your file. Perhaps they will make a short video, perform with their violin, or teach a homeschool class. That’s how you know they are learning – you don’t have to give a test! Save the item, rejoice that they are learning for fun, and don’t stress about it! As they are learning naturally, think about what they are reading, using, or doing – and keep track of it. It may be book titles you can save, but not always. It may be plays they attended, computer tutorials they viewed, or instruction manuals they read. Later on, you can group those things together, and write a posthumous course description. It still doesn’t mean you have to control what they do when they are learning. You’re just writing down what they did while they were learning on their own.

Writings, drawings, work experiences, record of group meetings, etc. Just grab samples of what they do for fun, without making them do anything. When the year is done, you can group those experiences together and use it as a course description of what was done.

Take a look over my “Homeschooling College” Dig Deeper page, and see if you get some ideas from there. I have a page on “Homeschooling Gifted Teens.” I got a lot of support from Hoagies Gifted Education. It has a “Gifted 101″ page that may help you think through the issues and talk to your family.

On my website, you can read about my Sample Comprehensive Record, you can see an example of how we did “Self Directed Courses” (see links on this page.) Critical Thinking, Public Speaking, Occupational Education, and Russian History were on Kevin’s record. My other son had self-directed courses in Economics, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Business Law, Psychology, Principles of Marketing, etc. It’s possible for kids to learn things JUST because they love it. And parents can pick up the mess they leave behind and turn it into a wonderful course description for what the kid has done!

God put these passions in your children. He has also given them to you to love, encourage, and grow. It’s very challenging to have “passionate” kids, and each one is unique. It helps to remember that you are the best person for the job (in God’s opinion, anyway!)

The Teaching Company:
Courtney’s Critters:
Homeschooling College:
Homeschooling Gifted Teens:
Hoagies Gifted Education:
Gifted 101:
Self Directed Courses:

Lee Binz is a veteran homeschooling mom of two and the owner of The HomeScholar, “Helping parents homeschool through high school.” Sign up for our free monthly e-newsletter on homeschooling high school, The HomeScholar Record, and get great homeschooling high school hints, tips and advice delivered to your inbox each month!

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