There is a theory among some homeschoolers that everything a child needs to know can be taught by the parent.  If you don’t know how to play the piano, you learn while you are teaching your kid.  If you are afraid of math, get over it.  You were probably afraid of dropping your newborn on her head when you brought her home, but you didn’t leave her in the hospital, did you? I admire the spunk, but that’s not me.  (This might be a good place to admit that I paid someone to teach the boys how to ride a bike. That’s right, even though their father is an avid cyclist and advisor to the Harvard cycling team, I paid Chuck to teach them for us.  I’m a sucker for “experts.”)

The problem for us now is that there are a boatload of homeschool classes within a few miles of us, all falling into areas of expertise that are not mine.  The boys could participate in:  sword play, weekly park days, homeschool swim team, homeschool soccer league, several science classes, several math classes, break dancing, corn husk doll creation, homeschool days or classes at nearly every museum, art class, pottery class, circus training (seriously), and the list goes on.  I decided not to sign up for anything for the first month, during which I was desperate to deal with my dread by filling the schedule.  But now that I’m a one-month veteran, bring on the experts!

We settled on two for the fall:

A class at Belmont Habitat called Homeschool Naturalists, led by Birkenstock Jane. It’s for 6 & 7 year olds, and there are six boys in the class this year.  Zach and Ezra came out of their first class yesterday bouncing with excitement. They had gone hiking in the pouring rain to collect and identify falling leaves.  The best part for me was that they taught me how to identify a maple leaf.

“How could someone who doesn’t know how to identify a maple leaf get permission to homeschool?” you might be wondering.

Apparently, so was the Cambridge Public School District.  When I sent in our homeschool application, I had to list our qualifications to teach.  I mentioned Jeff’s engineering degree from Stanford and multiple graduate degrees.  I mentioned my 8 years teaching high school in NYC and my doctorate in education from Harvard.  To which they responded in writing, “Can you please elaborate on your qualifications to homeschool?”  At first, I was outraged.  Now I’m wondering if they knew about my lack of all practical knowledge.

Proud, proud, proud, he was!
Zach's Flower

An Artful Adventure at the MFA, led by hip art dude Jake.  For three Thursdays this month, Jake will teach the boys and me about Chinese art.  During each visit, we visit the galleries for 45 minutes and play in the studio for 45 minutes.

Ezra's Brushstrokes Experiment

The boys were PSYCHED after our first class today, during which we learned about Chinese brush painting.  The best part for me was that I have never had so much fun making any kind of art.  Did you know that you can mix your own ink?

I’m no expert homeschool teacher, but I’m going to learn so much as a homeschool student this year.

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  • Amira Abuzeid Aycock

    Hi Tara, I'm reading your blog again when I should be homeschooling my boys, but Jamie's home today so he's reading briefs, cooking, cleaning, and teaching math while I sit here and read….and nurse the baby, so there…. Your post "Qualified" made me think "What?" (and a few other nasty things a lady never types in public), when I read that you had to explain your qualifications to the Cambridge Public School District. Also, it reminded me of something I read recently. According to several studies, apparently there is no correlation between parents' education levels and homeschoolers' success on achievement tests (not that I necessarily place much weight on those). There is a correlation, however, between parents' education levels and public school students' performance. Weird, huh? And if it makes you feel any better about your recent unschooling day, we have some friends who only taught their kids how to read and made them do math every day, and then just set them free to read all they wanted. The results: two went to Harvard, one to UVA, one to BU….Love you guys!

  • Susi Lundquist

    Hi Tara,

    This is Susi. In case that doesn't ring a bell, we stayed with you 2 summers ago while seeing Boston sites. I came with my friend Mary and 2 of my daughters, Katie and Carrie.

    Anyway, I was reading Jeff's ministry email from yesterday and he mentioned your new venture. So, I checked it out. Thanks for sharing. We've always homeschooled and it's kinda funny because the ones I school now have never known anything else. They were born sitting with me at the table or on the couch and having to be quiet while I helped someone else. In some ways that has helped. They know the drill, routine isn't an issue. But what's really funny is the 2 youngest (Haddon and Soren and they are 6 and 8) are running around the house (think crazy) and Haddon is alternating between laughing and crying. And what's even funnier is that I don't even really hear it. I figure they're having to learn life coping skills.

    I'm glad you're homeschooling. I think you and Jeff have a lot to offer (not that you have to, but it helps). You'll settle into a routine (rut) soon enough and then you'll have other frustrations. Over the summer I was trying to figure out something for history for Katie (senior this year). I wanted her to do some sort of overview. I showed her a couple of options I had on the shelves and she looked and them and said, "mom, I don't remember a single thing from history." Talk about crushing. I love history, I read aloud ton's of history books as she grew up, we've traveled a lot and seen history up close. I brought up specifics to her, like going Boston and walking on the Freedom Trail. She said, oh yeah I remember that. I brought up going to civil war reenactments (in costume) and she said, oh yeah I know about the civil war. I brought up WW2 and Hitler, same answer. So….what's missing about history? Basically she doesn't have a chronological understanding of how it all fits together. Well, she'll get that eventually. I didn't have it until I homeschooled!!

    You're probably wondering what I decided for history for this year? She's not doing any. She's reading lots of literature and that's history of sorts. The books she's read so far this year are Frankenstein, Father Brown and Pudd'nhead Wilson (Twain). She's loved them all and even remembers what they're about.

    My goal as a homeschooler is to create lifelong learners, give them a love of learning and the skills to learn. We've traveled a lot and my adult kids love to travel.

    Well it's now 9:20 and we're "late" starting. But I did have the boys carry down 38 qts of carrots that I canned. And now they're coming (sorta) to the table to get their books out.

    Enjoy the journey. It's as much a learning process for parents, maybe more so. That's a good thing. We need character building as much as our kids do. Getting along with others is a huge life skill and what better way to practice than at home.

    Have a good Friday,


  • Theresa

    I think this says more about the sad state of our schools than anything else. California rules are a little different, so I don't have to deal directly with the local school district. Mind you, I am half hoping they would come after me just so I can start a ruckus about how the schools' priorities are all wrong. I for one do not want my kids to be able to recite a bunch of facts and have knowledge without morals nor understanding. You would think the school districts would be elated that you are actually taking responsibility for the schooling of your children instead of leaving it to the teachers and blaming them, the neighborhood, the school's poor facilities and the other kids for your own children's problems/failures. I am sadden that so many of these "requirements" and "qualifications" are more about keeping the kids in school so the schools can get their money and the teachers/administrators can save their jobs, rather than doing what is best for the kids. I am all about discussing real concerns, but putting up barriers for the sake of the budget makes me mad.

    All right, enough of that. I have to get back to teaching my kids. Clearly I have to be on top of it so they won't get sent back to "regular school". If you are not qualified, I am even less so…