One of the most effective ways to show parents that they don’t need to be teachers in order to homeschool is to show parents how completely ridiculous forced curricula is. I internalized this idea when my youngest son was learning to read. I didn’t teach him. But I watched carefully to see how he learned.
He learned a lot from playing video games, but the first time I saw him actually sit down and read, page by page, was in a cab ride on our trip to Las Vegas. The cab was full of booklets advertising clubs with women in crazy, exotic costumes. He was determined to learn how to read those booklets. My first instinct was to tell him to put the book away. But not before I took a picture: self-directed learning.
There is no reading program with Las Vegas smut in it, but you know what? It works. And the best reading program is the program that works. You intuitively know why my son is not reading Dick and Jane. But what you also intuitively know is that forced curricula doesn’t work.
The idea of a common core curricula is developed by experts in testing, not experts in education. Lisa Nielsen, at Innovative Educator, calls the common core forced curricula, and she says it undermines the most important aspect of learning, which is interest-based learning.
Parents support forced curricula by saying that kids need to be well-rounded. But many people challenge the value of the well-rounded student, and it’s clear that even top-tier colleges don’t want well-rounded students. Still, it’s difficult for a parent to stand up and say “I’m not teaching math.” Or “I’m not teaching science.” (Ironically, though, parents have no problem saying, “I’m not teaching piano. My kid’s not interested in that,” because learning piano teaches the same kind of thinking that learning math does.)
So my favorite way to give myself confidence as a homeschooler is to approach the lameness of curricula on a subject-by-subject basis. And David Bernstein , writing in the Washington Post, presents a list of arguments for why it’s absurd that his kid has to take chemistry in high school. For example:
1. You do not need to learn a specific list of subjects in order to learn general analytic skills.
2. Teaching non-analytic thinkers more science will not help the US to catch up to rest of the world in science.
3. Suffering through classes that are not interesting is not a skill that helps in the real world.
Each of his arguments is independently great. Together, the arguments should convince you that they probably hold true for many students for almost any subject. Physics for example. Calculus for example.
The biggest barrier to parents feeling capable of homeschooling is that they don’t feel capable of teaching all day. But the only time parents need to be a teacher is when they are forcing kids to learn stuff the kids don’t want to learn. Do you know when you need to do that? Never.
Which is why homeschooling is so much easier than people expect.