From Homeschool Mom to Homeschool Teacher

From Homeschool Mom to Homeschool Teacher

By Xiomara Castro

I have two children, both adults now. My daughter is now 31 years old, and my son is 22. With a nine-year age gap between them, their upbringing differed significantly. However, one commonality they share is that they were both homeschooled at some point in their lives. While my daughter pursued distance learning education from a private school in California for three years (we live in the Peach State and no, that was not your typical homeschool but instead was school at home), my son attended traditional brick-and-mortar school for only three years and was homeschooled until high school graduation.

As a homeschool mom, life took on a different, often exhausting, yet incredibly rewarding rhythm. We engaged in play and learning together, and when I say “we,” it’s because I found myself learning alongside my children.

This dynamic was even more pronounced with my son, as I was his teacher from elementary school all the way through high school graduation. However, when the prospect of “high school” approached, I found myself attending countless workshops to prepare for this new phase of my son’s education. My mantra became “I may not be certified, but I am surely qualified.” I confronted every challenge head-on, persevering through both good and not-so-great days, always maintaining a glass-half-full perspective. Yet, there was one thing I staunchly refused to do: dissect anything on my kitchen table.

That got me thinking about the advanced subjects that I didn’t feel fully equipped to teach as a homeschooling mom. While I enjoy Algebra, explaining it isn’t my forte. Science isn’t my passion, and I certainly lacked the certification to teach any AP courses if my son opted for them. So, what’s the best alternative to teaching these subjects at home? You seek out teachers whom you know are not only experts at the subjects you outsource; but that you can trust with your children and are the right fit for your child. I’m not suggesting there are unworthy or unfit teachers, but just as you carefully select a church that feels like family or find a doctor who understands your needs, the same care should be taken when choosing your child’s teachers.

The beauty of homeschooling lies in parental autonomy. You, as the parent, have the power to choose what your child learns, when they learn it, how they learn it, and, most significantly, who teaches them.

Recognizing that my son’s future possibly involved college aspirations, I prepared him for higher education by ensuring he took classes necessary for college acceptance, such as calculus, biology, chemistry, and AP courses. As these were subjects I either couldn’t or didn’t wish to teach, we enlisted the expertise of exceptional teachers at a micro-school here in Georgia.

Who are these teachers, and where can you find them? They’re all around, but you must seek them out and interview them. Unlike in a public school setting where you have little to no say in your child’s teachers, or even in private schools where you may pay hefty tuition fees yet lack control over teacher selection, homeschooling empowers parents to choose their child’s educators.

So why am I sharing all of this? Because after spending a few years supporting my son at his micro-school, both as a parent and as the adult sponsor for a club he organized, I was approached to teach. Despite lacking a teaching degree (my educational background is in Criminal Justice with a focus on Human Services), I possessed a valuable skill: fluency in Spanish, a language in high demand. This led me to teach Spanish 1, 2, and 3 at two different micro-schools, with Spanish 3 being taught at only one of them.

Teaching at a micro-school, aside from educating my own child, proved to be one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had. As a homeschool teacher, you have the liberty to choose or even create your own curriculum, enabling you to teach in a way that resonates with both you and your students. This freedom extends to expressing yourself openly and authentically in the classroom.

Unlike many educators who find themselves constrained by systems focused solely on test scores and politicizing education, homeschool teachers in micro-schools, homeschool academies, or pods, have the opportunity to leverage their talents to create optimal learning environments. It’s important to remember that parents have the ability to select teachers whose expertise aligns with their educational goals. In essence, the education imparted is a product of the teacher’s expertise, allowing parents to enlist specialists in the subjects being taught.

The approach to learning in homeschooling mirrors that of capitalism. If a parent disagrees with what and how you teach, they have the freedom to seek alternative educational options for their child. This fosters a mutually beneficial arrangement for all involved: the student, the parent, and the teacher.

As a teacher, this autonomy allowed me to select textbooks that I considered great as a basis for my teaching, though I rarely relied solely on them. Instead, I crafted my own curriculum and lesson plans, employing a diverse and eclectic teaching methodology similar to what I practiced with my own son. Our in-person instruction sessions lasted 1.5 hours per week, but my commitment to excellence and the love for my students led me to go beyond this minimum requirement. I held additional Zoom calls with my students weekly to reinforce our classroom learning or introduce new concepts.

I taught beyond just grammar lessons typically found in schools, focusing on practical Spanish-speaking skills. We even organized movie nights over Zoom and facilitated cross-cultural exchanges by arranging meetings with Colombian homeschool students one to two times a month. These interactions allowed my students to forge lasting friendships across continents, practicing Spanish while their Colombian peers honed their English skills.

This brings me to my final point: as a homeschool teacher, you have the potential to profoundly impact your students’ lives. While it’s not to discount the impact of public or private school teachers, homeschooling offers unique freedoms and opportunities that are not always present in other school settings. Firstly, smaller class sizes—often no more than 15 students—allow for more personalized attention. As a teacher, you are able to accommodate for your students’ needs, including those with disabilities. Secondly, these smaller classes foster closer relationships between students, parents, and teachers. Not only do you get to know your students and parents better, but they also get to know you. Finally, homeschool teachers are not restricted in what they can express or teach, allowing for a more tailored and authentic educational experience. For instance, teaching at Christian micro-schools enabled me to openly share my faith, which was appreciated by both parents and students alike.

A wise person once advised me to focus not on my own teaching potential, but on unlocking the potential within my kids. This mindset applies equally to homeschooling teachers. By concentrating on nurturing the students’ potential, any challenges faced as a teacher become worthwhile because you are unlocking their potential and helping them shape their own futures. If given the chance to start over, homeschooling would remain a top priority for me, both as a mother and as a teacher.

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