Quoting Quiverfull: Qualified to Teach?

Quoting Quiverfull: Qualified to Teach? January 26, 2014

From Kelly Crawford’s blog Generation Cedar – Homeschooling Q&A Part 2:  “Am I Qualified to Teach My Child?”

“I’m thinking  of homeschooling and have a question: How do you teach a subject that you personally struggled with?  I’m not sure I have the skills it would take…”  Tonya

This question ranks right up there with the socialization question in terms of fears parents have about homeschooling. This fear is absolutely unwarranted, and I’ll try to peel back the several layers to show why.

We’ve been brainwashed by the system to think that education can only happen when an “expert” or someone really good at a subject, transfers that expertise to another person. Actually, this is a very inferior way to learn.

Comments open below

QUOTING QUIVERFULL is a regular feature of NLQ – we present the actual words of noted Quiverfull leaders and ask our readers: What do you think? Agree? Disagree? This is the place to state your opinion. Please, let’s keep it respectful – but at the same time, we encourage readers to examine the ideas of Quiverfull honestly and thoughtfully.

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce


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  • Saraquill

    *headdesk* I’m not surprised this was given a non-answer, but it still bothers me.

  • JeanPing

    I would not answer that question the way she does. There are lots of ways to get around the problem of teaching a subject you never liked. (This must be common in public school too–how many elementary grade teachers have you met who laughingly disclaim any skill in math? My 4th grade teacher was a great guy, but he liked art better than math and never got to long division.) The first is to revisit the subject with adult eyes and see if it doesn’t come easier now. If not, then you start looking for a competent friend or tutor, or a co-op or dual enrollment class. My charter offers optional tutoring as part of the deal. Last resort would be a video course/online learning, at least for younger kids.

    I do find myself interested by her statement about experts. I don’t know just what she’s talking about (didn’t follow the link), but there is a point to be made, and that is that when someone is really good at something, they don’t necessarily know exactly how they do it or how to break it down to teach to the average kid. Years ago, people thought “aha, we will get mathematicians to write elementary math programs, and then all kids will learn to be mathematicians!” But the result was that the programs got written for people who naturally love to figure out math and find it easy–and kids with average math ability just got frustrated and felt dumb. The same seems to hold true for people who are great writers; they can’t necessarily teach what they do in a step-by-step way that lays out just what they’re doing. The key seems to be to find a curriculum that breaks down the process into steps.

    The other day my daughter, who is taking basic algebra this year, came to the fateful day when she had to learn to factor trinomials. I remember struggling horribly with it myself (largely, it seems, due to a terrible math teacher; I didn’t get a reasonably good math teacher until late in high school, and then discovered that I am pretty good at math–who knew?). I know very well what it is like to have to beat your brain into a new shape over this skill, and so I could teach it to her in a day.

  • I grew up Mormon, and an interesting thing about the church is that everything at the local level is done by lay people that don’t get paid. This means that sometimes (usually) the person teaching isn’t an expert, and sometimes is unfamiliar with the material outside of the lesson manual. And as someone who had sat through many, many lessons from people unqualified to teach them, let me tell you, very little actually gets learned, because the teacher is so focused on self-discovery, that it’s difficult to translate that for other people.
    I can’t imagine schooling that way being successful for many people.

  • Trollface McGee

    She’s [slightly] right – you don’t need to be an expert, but you do need to understand the subject, you also need to understand how the human brain learns, how children develop and basic learning theory. If you’re homeschooling, it’s a bit easier because you only have to cater to your child(ren)’s learning styles but you have to be able to identify them first and know how to teach.

    Also, yes, your child does need algebra. Your child is young and likely does not have a clear idea of what s/he wants to do with life. Depriving them of algebra keeps them from learning most of the sciences and closes a lot of doors on them.

    You can learn a lot of stuff and then teach it to your kid, yes. But you have to be willing and you have to put the time in to learn first and teach second. It isn’t too hard when they’re young but you get to later years and you’re looking at teaching trig or calculus or physics and that requires some solid math/science knowledge.

  • Astrin Ymris

    I think what she may be referring to is the already-known fact that you have to actually understand and be able to use the material taught in order to have truly learned it. Or maybe that hands-on learning is better for most people than listening to a lecture. I can’t be sure, because the link leads to a jpeg file, at least when I try to open it in a new tab.

    However, all instruction involves imparting knowledge and skills to another person– whether it’s a mom showing her daughter how to change a flat tire, or a high school algebra teacher helping her students master quadratic equations.

    “Transferring expertise” sounds like she’s talking about Vulcan Mind Melds or something. It IS true that telepathic rapport isn’t a viable method of instruction for most learners… ;-D

  • Nea

    I tried to click the link to get more context and only got a .jpg. I want to know what she considers a superior means of learning before I comment, because I’ve been in the position of learning something from experts and learning something from someone who is only slightly ahead on the learning curve for the same subject, and depending on who that person was and how good they were at conveying information, both could be equally valuable.

    Or, if they were crap at communication, both could be equally valueless.

  • Nea

    Wait, what, the original link dismisses algebra as unnecessary? That’s so wrong! A lack of algebra (and basic geometry!) isn’t just a roadblock to the higher sciences, it’s a roadblock to actually mastering the sort of homecrafts prized by this culture. How big a freezer is needed to store a month’s food for your family? How big of a blanket can you knit from the yarn you have? How many tiles do you need to buy to put up a kitchen back splash? How much yardage to make a quilt? A skirt? Matching clothes for all the kids?

  • Nea

    a) if you don’t already know it, your kid really doesn’t need it anyhow, ever.

    Oh my God, it would take 90 minutes to type up all the wrong encompassed in that statement. Starting with the fact that it’s a recipe for rising ignorance: Generation 1 doesn’t grasp algebra and thus doesn’t pass it on. Generation 2 doesn’t learn algebra and doesn’t entirely grasp fractions. Thus, Generation 3 doesn’t learn algebra or parts of basic math…

  • Astrin Ymris

    I Googled… Here’s the URL– Let’s see if the link works THIS time!


  • Trollface McGee

    Brilliant point! Yes, she dismisses algebra as nothing more as problem solving which you can learn in all sorts of ways…

    “When a parent says, “How will I teach Algebra–I don’t remember anything?” he is assuming algebra is a necessary part of a well-rounded education (admitting simultaneously that he doesn’t know it and is fine without it). It’s not. At least not in the terms we think. Algebra is the study of finding the missing part to an equation. Now that’s useful. It’s problem-solving. The good news is, there are thousands of ways to learn problem-solving skills without specifically mastering Algebra.” /facepalm

    “Also, unless your child plans to pursue a career that requires it, algebra is not a needed subject. If he does need it, he can learn it when the time comes. I taught my Dad Algebra when he was 45 when he went back to college. He made a B in the class and, of course, hasn’t used it since. There are too many things to learn that will most definitely be used to waste time on things that most likely will not. We would do well to question “standard” subjects, considering the advances in technology and demands of this century.”
    Also love the “he,” of course a “she” wouldn’t need algebra… which your excellent point demolishes… even a “she” in that culture needs to know that stuff… not to mention algebra… that’s pretty basic.. I can get by without having remembered calculus and trig but algebra is just basic stuff you need to know.

  • Nightshade

    All the better to keep the kiddies ignorant, unquestioning, and at the bottom of the income ladder where they have no option but to depend on their god for everything.

  • Nea

    I just felt brain cells die.

    I also used to think that I didn’t need algebra because I had a calculator, but the assertion Algebra is the study of finding the missing part to an equation is true — and it is vitally important to be able to both find the missing part of the equation and – this is also key – write said equation in the first place!

    I knit. I can write the equation of how much yarn I will need to knit a rectangle of x by y size. But then I realized to my humiliation that I could not do it backwards – I have this much yarn, how big of a rectangle can I knit? Nor could I work backwards from “I want a right triangle with a long edge of x; what are the length of the sides?

    And I NEEDED TO KNOW. Not knowing meant that I could not create my own patterns, not make something useful from my scraps.

    Fortunately, the hivemind retaught me what I forgot. I don’t know how hard a lesson it would have been if I never learned in the first place.

  • Nea

    Thank you!

    That said, having read the other comments, I’m afraid to click!

  • My mom was a school teacher for, doing some quick math in my head, around 11 years and she told me once
    that she always found that teaching something to someone else can be the best way to learn
    something. You can’t just wave it away with “then a miracle occurs and you get a quotient.” You have to really think about it.

    Of course, my mom had some intellectual curiosity. That makes a real difference.

  • Nea

    That makes ALL the difference!

  • Smelly the prophet

    Generation Cedar: always nonsensical and navel-gazing. Sometimes it even reads like a parody. I think she should have written the whole issue this way instead:
    You see, like Jesus, I don’t need algebra. I am algebra.

  • Independent Thinker

    There are two types of homeschooling families. The first type are those where mom or dad is basically the director of the child’s education. They may teach some of what the child needs to know but aren’t afraid to join co-ops, use local learning centers, library programs, or hybrid schools. I can’t teach art so I put my son a full summer of art day camp at the local art museum. The second type is families that do everything themselves or almost everything other than church activities. Many fundamentalist Christian homeschooling families blur the lines between the two types. This is extremely frustrating.

  • JetGirl

    I’m a journalist writing a book about numeracy in America and attitudes toward math. Is this woman’s views on teaching math unusual for homeschoolers? Or the norm? Because honestly, unless a parent has a strong math background, I wonder if he or she is qualified to teach the advanced stuff, like calculus. Anyone care to discuss?

  • Independent Thinker

    I would recommend you attend a homeschooling convention for research purposes. The most popular program among mainstream homeschoolers is Math U See. Math U See in the higher grades uses DVD’s. Some parents also use hybrid schools where the child attends part time (usually about 20 hours per week) and then does some of the work at home. Co-ops are also around but tend to be more in major cities or the surrounding suburbs. Places like Sylvan Learning Centers will also teach homeschoolers if the parent can’t handle the subject. As I have stated before in other threads there are different types of homeschooling families. The dirty is some parents simply aren’t going to teach at an advanced level and aren’t going to seek resources outside the family to aid in their homeschooling program.

  • JetGirl

    Thanks! I will look into that. I admit I found it depressing to hear Kelly Crawford downplay the need for math. Another homeschooler with a bigger platform who does that is Penelope Trunk, and that depresses me also.

  • Independent Thinker

    One more thing some homeschooling conventions are not representative of moderate homeschoolers. I wouldn’t ever attend the Teaching Them Diligently conventions. Some conventions focus more on indoctrination over education.