Teaching vs. Learning

As home educators, we want our children to use their childhood years of education to gain knowledge and skill and prepare their minds for the future. To that end, we research, purchase, print, and present various materials, supplies, and curricula. We study and write lesson plans. We sit down with our children, we show what we have collected — and they don’t get it. Or they don’t like it. Or they can’t recall it thirty minutes later. So we panic!

Have we failed? Are our children unteachable? Is there a better curriculum out there? Should we start all over at the beginning? Should we send for the school bus? 

Maybe. But probably not. Hang in there, and let’s talk about the difference between teaching and learning. According to the dictionary, to teach is “to conduct instruction regularly.” And the definition of learn is “to gain knowledge or understanding.” If you’ve ever met a human being, you know that the act of teaching does not always equal the learner gaining knowledge and understanding. So, instead of panicking when learning is not the outcome of our teaching, let’s look at what is happening and who we are teaching.

Knowing WHO we are teaching is one of the primary advantages of educating our children at home. No one knows your child better than you, and no one is in a better position to see your child gain understanding and to recognize how that happens best for each child. If you’ve spent five years watching Johnny ask and observe before trying something new, and five years watching Susie just jump in and repeatedly try until she understands – when you start formal schooling, you will know exactly which approach to use with each child. Knowing your child BETTER than you know your lesson plan is your superpower to facilitating learning, no matter what grade level you’re at.

As a homeschool parent, your role will be far less about teaching and more about facilitating learning. Children are hungry for knowledge (admittedly sometimes just for Minecraft knowledge) and usually interested in learning new things. As you spend years with your little people, you will soon instinctively know what approaches will or will not work with each child. Granted, there may be times that your older child needs to work through something that isn’t their particular preference or learning style, but the ability to face those things with determination comes with maturity and understanding of the end goal.

So what can you do when you hit this wall? First, don’t panic or stress. This is a great learning opportunity for you and your child! Take some time and discuss the context and importance of what you are teaching with your child. Then, talk to them about why it doesn’t seem to be sticking. Help them understand that you want them to be a partner in their learning so that they can excel in every area. Slow down on that subject for a few days until you both see what is and isn’t working. Adapt what you have before you run out to try something new.  Try to view your role as a facilitator of learning rather than just a teacher. If they didn’t get it today, you haven’t failed! You just found a way that they won’t understand this information, and you have a whole day tomorrow to present knowledge in a new way to facilitate their understanding.

You can do this!

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