Lots of public school teachers look down on homeschooling. There seems to be this pervading idea that nobody can do it better than a university-trained educator. Never mind that many of those same teachers would tell you that their college methods classes taught them nothing in comparison to what real world experience taught.
I’m not one of those teachers. I’m a firm supporter of homeschooling, and if I had children, there is no question that they would be home-educated. And it’s not because I’m a teacher that I think I know so much. It’s for two main reasons: first, I will never love my students as much as a good parent loves his or her child; second, a teacher can do so much more one-on-one with a student than with a class of 20 or 30.
One of the latest buzz-words in education right now is differentiation. Basically, this means that the teacher should meet each child where he is. So if I have some students in my 7th grade class reading at a 5th grade level and others reading at a 10th grade level, I should develop lessons to make sure that each child is challenged but not overwhelmed. I should create pre-assessments to determine where each student’s readiness-level is, and match my lessons accordingly, meaning that I have multi-leveled instruction for many (most? all?) of my units. Then I need to assess after the lesson to see which students got it, and re-teach to those who didn’t and offer enrichment to those who did. Also, I need to address various learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, relational, etc.) and interests. With all of these differences, though, I must make sure that each student is mastering each skill or standard that I am teaching.
Does that seem overwhelming to anyone but me? I think it’s a great idea and a noble goal. But thinking about creating three levels of lessons (below grade level, at grade level, above grade level) each day — or even each week — seems like a mountain to climb. Not to mention trying to figure ways to get kids to complete a project that matches their interests but still meets my state standards.
If I were homeschooling, it seems this would come naturally. I don’t mean to imply that homeschooling isn’t hard work, but it certainly seems easier to address a student’s individual interests in that setting than in one where there are 24 other students for whom I’m trying to do the same thing. And it would be easier to know, I would think, whether a student understood the concept or mastered the skill if you have only a few students rather than a grand total of over 100 students per day.
Public (or even private) school teachers just can’t do all this. Or maybe I’m a bad teacher because I can’t wrap my mind on how to really make it happen.
And maybe I’m idealizing homeschooling. (Homeschoolers, please feel free to set me straight.)
Feeling a little overwhelming in my summertime lesson planning…