The Role of the Teacher

Our home school is unusual in that the teacher’s role is much different compared to more traditional education. When we decided to teach our children at home, my wife and I acknowledged that neither of us is a trained educator. At the same time, we believe that true learning is work and that each person must do that work for themselves. In other words, we do not believe that there is any such thing as passive “knowledge transfer”. The only way to gain knowledge is to do the hard work of etching it into the mind.

Therefore, when we began looking for a curriculum, we were impressed immediately with the Robinson Curriculum, which has been designed specifically with the idea that no teacher is present to “teach” the students. However, this does not mean that there is no adult present with the children during school hours! But it does view the role of that adult differently than one would normally think of a “teacher”.

The role of the teacher in our home school is simple:

Set and enforce study rules.
Provide materials.
Serve as an example.

These first two are fairly self-explanatory, I think. These encompass the “shushing”, the consistent urging of wandering minds back toward attentiveness, the printing of worksheets, the doling out of rewards and other consequences, and the like. I’ve written previously on the rules of our schedule and environment; perhaps I will write more in the future of the materials we use. But it is this last item of setting an example that I want to highlight here. I cannot stress overmuch the importance of this element of the teacher’s role.

Our goal as homeschooling parents is to raise adults who are equipped with everything they need to accomplish the purposes for which they have been made. Thus, we believe that children are served best to be in the presence of adults more than in the presence of other children, especially during the school day, when time is set aside specifically for the purpose of learning. It is to a healthy, well adjusted adult we want the eyes of our children to turn for guidance and an example, not to a childish peer.

And that adult should be engaged in work as similar to that of the students as possible in order to set the best possible example. When the children are working equations out of math books, it is best if their role model is also working on something out of a book. When the children read for two hours, it is best if their role model do the same for the same amount of time. When the children write, it is ideal if their role model also be writing during that same period.

I would not hammer this point so hard had I not witnessed firsthand the miraculous transformation in my own children when I began to sit with them and do the same sorts of work they were doing at the same time as them and for the same duration. Rambunctious boys metamorphosed into quiet scholars almost overnight! Boys who needed to be separated every day so they would not pester one another constantly now sit together at the same work space with me and hardly bother one another at all.

Of course, these are still children, and so there are yet times when one of them will stubbornly refuse to do the required work or cannot sit still or will not stay quiet, but this rarely lasts for more than one day in a row. When everyone else is working quietly and there is nothing else to do, it is much easier for them to become resigned to the inevitability of tackling the work. And this ability — to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done (i.e., self-control or discipline) — is a vital life skill, and I am delighted to see it forming in my children.

I am aware every day that this positive imitation will only occur if they see in me what I want them to begin manifesting. This is a terrific incentive to keep myself on track! And, since I am actually doing the exact same work as the boys, I am better able to relate to what they’re reading and studying, the challenges they face with certain material, and the successes they achieve. Not to mention that I am learning quite a lot myself!

And notice that I never once mentioned anything about teaching the boys anything scholastic. They do that for themselves!

tl;dr: Monkey see, monkey do. Make sure the chief monkey is doing the right kinds of things!

Jeff Herron

Homeschooling dad of two boys. Husband of one terrific woman. Disciple of and disciple maker for Jesus. My cup runneth over!

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