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Myth #4 "You Need Teacher Training, Dearie"
Linda Dobson

An excerpt from the book The First Year of Homescholing Your Child

Speaking of high priced schooling, what about those teaching degrees? Don't people go to college for four years - or longer - to become professional teachers? Mustn't learning the skill of teaching be learning the secrets of how to light fires within youngsters' minds, setting them on a course to appreciate and pursue for a lifetime?

Not according to many reports, including one from the Council for Basic Education (CBE), a membership organization based in Washington, D.C. that advocates for high academic standards in K-12 education, titled "What Teachers Have to Say about Teacher Education" This is information any parent should have, but especially parents who may right now be stressing out over their own ability to teach.

Noting that teachers are rarely asked to critique teacher education and their preparation for the job, even though it's a cornerstone of many cries for educational reform, in 1995 the CBE sent surveys to 1,650 teachers, mostly award winners, in addition to all of those teachers certified by the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. More than six hundred teachers responded, 503 who had taught for more than ten years. The respondents taught in high, middle, and elementary schools.

The CBE report states, "We were expecting (and received) far more negative responses about their preparation for teaching than positive comments. Even the most devoted teacher educator admits to serious flaws in teacher education, and the teachers were eager to suggest major improvements."

A previous report from the National Commission on Teaching & America's Future, called "What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future. " listed five major problems of teacher education (apply what you've been learning about homeschooling to this list for an interesting exercise):

  1. Inadequate time (a four year undergraduate program is not enough)
  2. Fragmentation (course work is separated from practice, and education school and arts and sciences faculties are insulated from one another)
  3. Uninspired teaching methods
  4. Superficial curriculum
  5. Traditional views of schooling

To this list, the teachers surveyed added:

There's more. In November 1999, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, in its report "The Quest for Better Teachers," graded the United States on how it is doing "when it comes to putting polices into place that will improve teacher quality."

In its foreword the report states, "The news is not very good. Overall, the states earn a 'D+' for their teacher quality policies. The grades would have been even lower had we not engaged in grade inflation." [Emphasis added.] Two states, Texas and Florida, received A's.

Feel better?

Good. Now realize that when it comes to homeschooling, none of this need apply to you anyway! The school's method is such that it requires a teacher in the classroom, it requires that teacher manage a roomful of twenty to thirty children, and it requires materials that fill up the teacher so that she may "pour" out a lesson to a group of children.

This is not necessarily your job at home. "Everyone is nervous about this choice during the first year, because we've been taught that we can't do it unless we have a degree in teaching," says Cynthia McDaniel of Springfield, Virginia. "The nervousness about doing it causes many parents to recreate school at home."

So what do you have to take to take the place of a D+ teacher training (after cheating, previously called grade inflation)? "I found that if you can read, are willing to learn, and are willing to help your children, you can do this," Cynthia reports. "Learning to love learning again, through trips in the woods, alone or with a book about nature or with a specialist (ranger, scout leader), is an excellent way to proceed."

Over the years you've developed many characteristics as a parent that transfer well and can help in your new role as homeschooling parent. Instead of being trained teachers, successful and happy homeschooling parents, by and large, are:

As you can see from the above, you are a lot more likely to have what it takes to homeschool than what the myth of needing teacher training reveals. By using and constantly honing the parental qualities you already enjoy, you are much closer to learning the secrets of lighting fires within youngsters' minds, setting them on a course to appreciate and pursue learning for a lifetime, than many, if not most, trained teachers.

Copyright 2004 Linda Dobson - All rights reserved.

Linda Dobson, homeschooler since 1985, Linda was Home Education Magazine news columnist for 8 years and currently writes the magazine's “Notes from the Road Less Traveled” column. Linda coordinates the New York Home Educators' Network. She has authored seven books on homeschooling:

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