Family portrait by Sarah Richman, then age 5

First Steps: More Teachers

by Patricia Richman

[This article first appeared in Issue 100 (fall 2007) of the PENNSYLVANIA HOMESCHOOLERS® newsletter.]

Fall has arrived. With this shift in the seasons comes a shift in our education journey. I plan, and buy, and double-check my state’s homeschool law. (Actually, I think I checked it at least twice a day for two weeks, since this was my first year to file.) And I begin to search for more teachers. When we choose to journey this home learning path with our children, we choose to be parent, teacher, coach, nurse, principle and field trip coordinator. We prepare to be this and more. However, I also have learned the value of welcoming others to guide our children’s education steps, even the early ones. Hence, I seek more teachers.

“She was so sweet yesterday.  She’s sweet everyday, but especially yesterday, helping the new girls.” This was in an email from Sarah’s wonderful homeschool Brownie troop leader. It shows one of my favorite reasons to have more teachers: feedback, usually positive. I find that when I am with my children 24/7, my view can become tainted. Will she ever learn a-n-d as a sight word, so I do not have to listen to it sounded out for the thousandth time? Will he finally come to a stage where he interacts peaceably with other children? Do they remember anything we talk about or do during the day? Yes, they do, and hearing this from others provides a warm reassurance.

Along with the feedback, I often see a different side of my children when more teachers are introduced. When my co-op met, Sarah and David would run about the house gathering items to share that started with our letter of the day. Before we started co-op, this “treasure hunt” was a chore. I also have seen more manners, helpfulness, and intent listening. Sometimes I am surprised by what additional teachers notice. Last year, Sarah’s dance teacher said that she was very quiet at first. She did not hear a peep from her for the first few months. Quiet? My spirited, always talking and thinking and singing out LOUD child was quiet, for months? She did begin to giggle and chat with her classmates as time went on, but this reminded me to give Sarah space to “warm up” to new situations, and I know she will soon be back to her boisterous self.

More teachers’ skills are valuable. I taught Sarah how to square dance, and know a few ballet positions. My dancing knowledge stops there. For a child who is passionate about dancing, more is needed. This provides an easy way to introduce outside leaders and teachers to your homeschool path. Look for talented people who are willing to share with your child. Even when we are qualified to teach a specialty area, it may be best to find another resource. I took piano lessons for twelve years. I taught for two years. Sarah’s piano lessons from her mother left much to be desired. We are discussing other instruments as I type.

Not only do outside teachers have unique skills, they also have their own teaching style. My piano teaching style did not fit well with how Sarah was ready to learn. It is important to me that my children experience information presented in diverse ways. From outside teachers, I can also learn what methods appeal to my children. When we were about to quit Brownies last year, one of the troop moms led a few meetings. The way she offered information to the girls had Sarah excited again, and me taking note of a style that works well for my eldest.

Teaching little ones can be strenuous and rejuvenating, like a good workout that never ends. When I find more teachers, I can take a break for that hour or two during the week. This is an invaluable benefit of finding extra teachers when your children are young. I try to schedule dance class at a time when my husband Jesse can watch whoever is not dancing. This gives me one hour to read, knit or plan school, all by myself. If this cannot be coordinated, or an event is scheduled during the day, I use the time to focus with my children who are not stepping with others. David and I can build incredible Duplo complexes and complete an entire week’s worth of school in the 90 min. Sarah is in Brownies. I also am amazed at how much easier it is to run errands and grocery shop with only two little ones, compared to three. Extra teachers help me to value my time and use it wisely.

So where do I find more teachers to share our children’s education path? Sarah takes dance through our Parks & Recreation Department. Numerous classes are offered there, and we may try an art appreciation class this year. She is in a member of a homeschool Brownie troop. We are starting a new co-op this year. Sarah will have three different teachers there. David will have me. Now that he is four, I did start looking for opportunities for him to have more teachers. I found a homeschool preschool class at the zoo that sounds like a good fit for us. Mommy stays, and little sister Leah can participate too. Last but not least, we have Daddy. With the rhythm of our day, Jesse often can feel left out of educational experiences. When he spontaneously took them on a tour of a firehouse when out walking, the kids were delighted. (I was thrilled too.) All three of our children are included in his building projects – tree fort, picnic table, and currently play house. He also is looking forward to exploring subject areas with Sarah, David, and Leah that I know very little about, like electricity. Keep seeking. Wonderful guides are out there for you and your children.

There is a favorite song in our home – “Thank You For All That You Do” - Peter & Ellen Allard. The verses thank each member of the family and tell how much we love them. A tradition we started years ago is to dance with the person we are thanking. I always get two spins, one for mommy and one for teacher. I treasure the honor, and hope to continue my dual role, even as my children’s journeys lead them to more teachers. <


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