Today I drove to Charles Town, West Virginia for my 7th Homeschool Review. It's a pretty drive. My reviewer has a cow in her front yard and a few horses. I went into her house and I showed her the portfolios of my 6th, 4th, and 2nd grader. I got the "magic" papers of approval to mail to my Superintendent of Schools.
As I drove home, I felt such a sense of peace about this journey. I've taught my children at home with the State approval of Maryland and then West Virginia for seven years. I told myself to start counting this experience as "real" teaching. Our society is used to call teachers people who stand in front of a group of 25 to 30 studens in a school building with chalk, a white board, and a textbook with standardized lesson plans. My Mom is a a Professor of Education. I certainly don't want to diminish the heroics of public school teachers in anyway.
What I protest is this division I had in my head that teaching my children by myself didn't count "as real teaching." I wasn't a real teacher because I didn't get a third party paycheck. I wasn't a real teacher because sometimes I untangled phonics lessons in my pajamas. I wasn't a real teacher because all my students share my same last name.
Driving away from the house with the cow in the front yard, I started to reframe the question. Teaching for the love of teaching is still teaching. I use the library. I use the internet. I even change tactics this year and embraced public school textbooks with "new math."
During the 2015-2016 school year, I taught writing and spelling and reading and math and science and social studies for three grade levels. I did this work without a principals office or guidance counselor or special education teacher or gifted teacher or a gym teacher. We did Yoga and Karate and King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. My kids made measurable progress from September to May. A total stranger, who has a current teacher's license for the State of West Virginia, could see the progress that all of three of my kids' made this year and agreed with me.
Inside my heart, unseen by anyone else, is the portfolio of growth that marks my own progress as a teacher. I've learned to keep my cool. I've learned how to stand my ground. I've learned when to push for a gifted student and when to slow down for a student who is special needs. I've learned to radically respect the different intellectual growth patterns of my children. I've learned how to encourage kindness and how to stick-up for respect.
Once a month, I teach Art at a Teen Art Club at the Hagerstown, Maryland Library. My first time in front of six teens left me shocked about how easy the process was to do. Teens are not usually considered the easiest group to teach. Yet I kept the class entralled about Artist Freda Kahlo for an hour. I had the self-confidence to teach other teens a subject that I never studied well in college because I've had 7 years of teaching experience inside my own house.
If there is anyone out there stressed about their homeschool review this month, I'd like to say "Relax," "Thank you," and "Good Job." For the Public School and Catholic School teachers, I'd like to say "Thank you" because your job is the foundation of our democracy and the future of our world. Teaching well is a great gift and I'm grateful to everyone who teaches others how to love a good book, or lick a hard math problem, or how to grow in their own self-acceptance.