Let me preface this article by saying that I have nothing but infinite respect for teachers. Teachers are on the front lines of molding young minds, and they do it without enough support, and often in difficult positions. They are held to testing standards that deny them the ability to teach to the child. Yet they show up, day after day, caring genuinely about the children they teach.
I homeschool my kids. Most are grown; one is in college while still living at home, and I have one left in high school. We didn’t homeschool out of frustration with the public school system. We chose to homeschool so that our children could travel with us and because we feel their education is ultimately our responsibility, whether they are in public school or not.
So, whether you homeschool or your kids attend school, their education remains your responsibility as a parent. Whether you have a fantastic school system loaded with amazing teachers, or a subpar school system with struggling teachers, the responsibility remains with the parent to ensure your children receive the education they deserve.
Education, or more importantly, a love of learning, is something that has to be instilled when children are young. It is far easier to do when they are young enough to see the wonder in everything. Limiting education to a classroom means they are missing out on the life lessons and skills they will need.
This point was driven home to me on our recent road trip when we took a few extra hours to visit the Grand Canyon. My daughter was, of course, mesmerized by the beauty and wonder of the place. She has been learning about geological formations and educated all of us about what we were seeing.
It reminded me of the many fantastic opportunities we have had to organize education around experiences. Some of the most meaningful were studying WWII and the holocaust, reading The Diary of Ann Frank, and then visiting a holocaust museum the day we finished the book. My children stood in a train car and cried tears for the souls who had made the horrific journey in the car.
We have studied oceanography then spent countless summers at the beach, putting that knowledge to use. They took advanced Spanish lessons and then had the opportunity to spend two months in Mexico City. They could speak the language far better than my husband and me, so the kids did most of the communicating while teaching us the language.
Science is a vast subject that covers many areas, but scientific principles never stick as well as they do from places like children’s museums where they can see the principles in action. Better yet, research homemade experiments that drive home whatever they are learning.
Formal learning, combined with life experience, sticks in a way that theory alone in a textbook never will. They have studied economics in a textbook, but they have also made countless trips to the grocery store with a budget and a meal list to figure out how to feed a family of X on a budget of Y.
Parents know that kids absorb far more than they pretend to from conversations with them and around them. We talk about politics, morals, belief systems, and the latest news. Sometimes they care passionately, and other times they seem entirely indifferent, but time and again, we see those conversations bear fruit.
I often think, despite our best efforts to provide quality education, that they learn more from simply being included in everyday life. Manners, respect, and a passion for knowledge are things that fall completely in the parents’ domain to teach. Teachers, no matter how fantastic, cannot be responsible for teaching your child to be a caring and responsible person.
Teaching your children at home does not have to be through formal homeschooling. If your children attend school, remember it is still your responsibility to ensure their education is as complete as possible. Go to museums, travel as much as possible, read books together as a family. Most importantly, model learning and enthusiasm for your children. They are always watching, and they learn by watching what you do. Scary thought, isn’t it?
You will never regret the time you invest in teaching your children, whether it is passing on your love of a hobby or interest, or taking the time to talk to them about what they are learning at school. The time you invest will pay dividends.
Previously published on “A Parent Is Born”, a Medium publication.
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