“You are your child’s first and best teacher.”
This is what my fellow parents Mariel Uyquiengco and Rosanne Unson of The Learning Basket (www.thelearningbasket.com) advocate. Although they are homeschoolers, Mariel and Rosanne believe that all parents are called to teach their children – whether or not they homeschool.
I believe the same thing, too. More than being a homeschooling mom and an advocate of home education, I am an advocate of intentional parenting, and of parents being their children’s primary educators. I believe that homeschooling is just one way to be an intentional parent. I also believe that being our children’s primary educators is a role we parents must take seriously.
Before I go further though, allow me to share with you some benefits of homeschooling, just in case you have never heard of it. You get to:
- Controlwhat your children learn and when they learn it.
- Show your children thatlearning is not boring, but exciting.
- Build intimate andmeaningful relationships with your children.
- Customize your teaching to fit your children’s dominantlearning styles.
- Give your children in-depth, personal attention in any subject with which theystruggle or excel.
- Transfer your values and beliefsto your children and address their questions when they have them.
- Protect your children from thenegative influences they may encounter outside the home.
- Address “big issues” with your children when you feel they’re ready.
- Share with your children the common, everyday joys of life.
- Help your children mature through the difficult times in their lives.
(Reference: Pros and Cons of Homeschooling. Sonlight.com. http://www.sonlight.com/before-you-start-homeschooling/)
Considering the aforementioned benefits of homeschooling, let’s look at how even non-homeschoolers can integrate a few basic principles of homeschooling into their family life. This is more commonly known as “afterschooling.” Again, it all boils down to intentional parenting. (Credits go to Jamie Martin of SimpleHomeschool.net, who wrote an article about afterschooling – these “tips” are inspired by her article!
- Have a vision and mission.
Most, if not all, homeschoolers will probably tell you that having a vision and mission as a family is crucial. The same goes for any other family that wants to live intentionally.
Pray together as a family and come up with your own vision and mission. Make sure to include your children’s education when you do so. (If you’re unsure of how to do this, try searching the Internet for ideas.)
- Create the right environment.
Let’s face it – kids who go to conventional, brick-and-mortar schools spend many hours of their day outside the home. So their time after school is very limited and precious.
Make the most out of those hours by being strategic with your children’s “decompression” activities. Don’t let them idle the time away in front of the TV or other gadgets. Instead, cultivate a love of learning by surrounding your children with learning “tools” based on their passions and interests. Examples of such “tools” are good books, good conversation, and parent-screened, educational media.
- Emphasize the importance of free play – and let them do it for as long as they want.
Kids nowadays don’t have that much freedom to play after coming home from school. Try to inject as much time for free play in your children’s daily schedule, instead of tutorials and other activities. And if you’re doubting the importance of play in a child’s life, read these quotes:
“Play is the work of the child.” – Maria Montessori
“Play is the highest form of research.” – Albert Einstein
- Live passionately and encourage them to do the same.
One of our tasks as parents – particularly as intentional parents – is to help our children discover what it is they are meant to do in the world. Each of us was created by God for a special purpose, and once we discover it, we are called to live with passion, driven to fulfill God’s plans and purpose for our lives.
When we allow our children to see us live with passion, we are able to inspire them to do the same. We must also help them to discover their passions and pursue their interests, so they can eventually hone in on what they are called to do for God and for others.
Ultimately, we need to see that being our children’s primary educators is part and parcel of our vocation as parents – and it’s not just limited to homeschoolers. As Aleteia.org author Caitlin Bootsma once wrote:
While parents may choose various modes of education for their children (Catholic education, public school or homeschooling), it remains the parents’ duty above anyone else’s to teach their children. This necessarily means remaining informed and involved in the education children are receiving and supplementing or moderating when the need arises.
The Catechism reminds us of this role by saying that parents “bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues” (Catechism, 2223).
Pros and Cons of Homeschooling. Sonlight.com. Retrieved from http://www.sonlight.com/before-you-start-homeschooling/
Bootsma, Caitlin. (2013, April 11) What does it mean for parents to be the primary educators of their children? Aleteia.org. Retrieved from http://aleteia.org/2013/04/11/what-does-it-mean-for-parents-to-be-the-primary-educators-of-their-children/
Martin, Jamie. (2014, July 7) How to homeschool without actually homeschooling. SimpleHomeschool.net. Retrieved from http://simplehomeschool.net/afterschool/