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You Are Still Your Child’s First and Most Important Teacher

By Sam Grabelle

I just spent twenty minutes trying to help my child do three digit subtraction and then check his work with three digit addition. I’m exhausted. And I still don’t really know if I explained it correctly.

But last night when we were working on our 3-D puzzle carousel and it was time to put the spinning part on the dowel part…. I nailed it. He was so impressed with my technique.

And when he asked me to straighten the handlebars on his scooter, I did it in 2 seconds flat. [Note: stand facing the scooter and hold the wheel tightly with your feet.] Dinner was cooked and ready in under 30 minutes. The laundry is almost done. And our usual nighttime reading rituals are getting better as he gets interested in more topics and types of stories.

There will be more math tomorrow, but I’ve realized a few things that give me strength and confidence to face another day as a homeschool teacher and 24/7 parent.

What Hasn’t Changed

When homework became homeschool, our lives as parents dramatically changed. But our role in our child’s life essentially stayed the same. We were already our child’s teacher. Their first, their best and their most important. We have been teaching them about animals and money and nutrition and nature and a million other things since they were born (and some of us started when they were still in the womb!)

We’ve got this. We know how to teach. And we know our children.

Most importantly, we know how to share enthusiasm for their learning. We’ve been applauding their smiles and steps and toileting and reading from the start. All of what they are doing right now is learning – not just during the homeschool hours, but all the hours in between.

What You Already Know About Your Child Makes You a Great Teacher

Look for math, social studies, science, technology, and grammar inside the activities your child already enjoys. Look around your home, in your backyard, in your neighborhood, and, of course, on the internet.

Can you help them understand subtraction by adding and removing LEGOs from a castle? Do the writers of their favorite television shows reference historical events? What science supports social distancing? Or, what technology tools are used to design and produce their favorite video games?

If they can see their school subjects all around them, they can begin to understand their value.

To model learning, share your own experiences learning new things as an adult. What have you had to learn to do your job or run your household? What was your process? Do you have a hobby that involves ongoing learning? What about grandparents or others who you are staying in contact with? Can they share something they learned and how they went about it?

What It Means to Be a Teacher

In our most philosophical moments, we know that we never expected our children’s teachers to be know-it-alls. We never expected that they would be able to answer every question with a dissertation nor teach EVERYTHING about any one thing.

What we really want is a teacher who recognizes that each student is unique and can tailor their teaching to meet each student’s needs. You are already that kind of teacher for your child.

We also want someone who sees our child’s potential but doesn’t lose sight of what they are currently capable of. Who doesn’t push them past their limits and can help them get back on track when they fall behind. This has always been your role and continues to be.

We expect teachers to ask for help when they are struggling. To look things up that they don’t remember or never learned. To use a wide variety of resources to teach and reinforce concepts and information.

Very few of us would trade any of these qualities for mathematical genius, or an encyclopedic knowledge of the Cold War, or a savant-like memory for grammar rules (and all of the exceptions to those rules).

You’ve got this.

You just have to believe in yourself. And be willing to make mistakes. Exactly what we tell our kids, right?

Sam Grabelle is an educator and social worker in Warwick, RI. She is currently offering her services to (virtually) support families who are struggling with homeschooling. Learn more at www.samgrabelle.com or email her at samgrabelle@gmail.com to start the conversation.

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