When it comes to homeschooling, there are a lot of questions. Questions like…
Am I doing the right thing?
How many hours a day do we actually need to spend doing bookwork and worksheets?
Are we covering all the subjects we need to?
How do I balance homeschooling with things like keeping the house clean and cooking dinner?
But one of the biggest, most nagging questions that has the potential to undermine and completely derail your thought process is this one:
How do I teach my children what I don’t know?
It’s a big, scary question, isn’t it? It’s one that has the potential to keep you up at night. It’s one that has the potential to make you wonder if you’re doing the right thing!
Or maybe it comes at you differently. Maybe you know without a doubt you’re doing the right thing in homeschooling your children, but you’re trying to get a solid grip on the angle you should approach a particular subject.
No matter where you land on this question, one thing I know for sure: You can teach your children the things that you don’t know! But how?
Setting the Foundation
Before we get to the nuts and bolts of how to teach your child something that you don’t know, we need to set a foundation for what we’re about to talk about. You see, if we don’t start out on the same page, the rest of what I say won’t make any sense at all!
So hang on to your hat here because reading this statement might hurt a little:
You cannot know everything you will need to know to homeschool your child before you start.
Did you catch that? There’s a lot packed into that one sentence, isn’t there? And the truth is that this statement can cause you to sit back and go “Ouch!” Here’s the reality though: It is not possible for you to know everything about every subject that your child will cover in their learning journey before they even start their learning journey.
But here’s the great news:
You don’t need to know everything about every subject before you begin!
You don’t even need to know everything about homeschooling before you begin homeschooling!
Learning is a journey. But what most of us mommas tend to forget (especially when we’re being hard on ourselves) is that our learning journey hasn’t ended yet! Oh, our years of “formal” schooling or working our way through a curriculum book to pass a course may have ended, but we never stop learning!
And just like your child is on a learning journey, you as their momma are still on your learning journey.
Here’s the most beautiful part: When you’re willing to keep learning along with your child, you create one of the best learning environments for them.
How To Teach What You Don’t Know
This is the real question, isn’t it? Once you’ve accepted the fact that you don’t know everything you need to know…
Once you accept the fact that you will continue learning along with your child…
How do you begin to teach them the things you don’t know, but you do want them to know?
Well, the very first step is to identify the thing you want to teach them. Now, this could be what would be considered a “core” subject, something like math or science. Or it could be something outside the “core subject” group like drawing or teaching them about musical composers.
Whatever it is, your very first step is to identify what the subject is that you want them to learn.
And if your answer is, “I want them to learn everything I don’t know!” …that answer isn’t going to get you very far. You see, whenever you tackle a challenge like this, you have to identify what the end goal is before you can figure out how to get there.
In other words, your end goal here is identifying what you want your child to learn.
How To Get There
Once you have the what, the subject you want your child to know about, the next step is to work on the how. How are you going to get from point A (where you are right now) to point B (your end goal).
This is the step where many, many different options start to come in and, to be perfectly honest, it can get really confusing. So, let’s try to keep this as simple as possible, okay?
When you break it down, you really have 3 basic options:
Choose a book or curriculum you can teach from, but that lays out all the information you need. In other words, you’ll be the one teaching the subject to your children, but someone else has put it all together and written the book for you.
Have someone else teach this subject to your children. This could be a class you attend outside your home where the other teacher does all the work, checks all the assignments, and answers all the questions. Or it could be video-driven learning where your child watches the other teacher present the material, but you act as the facilitator (giving them assignments, checking their work, making sure they understand the lesson before moving on).
This option is the most time-consuming. It can be the most intimidating, but if you like the subject, it can also be a lot of fun! In this option, you research the subject, put together the information and teach your child what you’ve learned. Again, this option is very time consuming, so be forewarned before starting on this one!
Let’s see if we can break this down a little further, shall we?
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Option #1 :: Teaching What Someone Else Has Written
The first option you have when it comes to teaching your child something you don’t know is to teach what someone else has written. Let’s be honest: Many times this is flat-out called curriculum! Whether it’s history or science or grammar or any other subject, in this option you choose a curriculum, purchase it, and teach it to your children.
Keeping things in the realm of theory or big picture can be extremely helpful, but so many times it helps to see an example of this from theory to reality, right? Here’s how this option plays out in our homeschool.
When my husband and I first started talking about homeschooling, back when our oldest was still a baby, one of the first things I told him was that I would be finding a science curriculum. I know my academic strengths and I knew that math and science were not – okay, still are not! – my strong areas!
So, I set out to find a science curriculum. What I found was Apologia Science. We started with their Astronomy set designed for elementary students. It came with a textbook that we read out loud together, a workbook with pages for my kids to do, and there were even experiments and activities with full instructions included.
Along the way, I realized that not only were my kids learning, but I was learning right along with them as we journeyed together through the material that someone else had researched, compiled, and written.
Option #2 :: Attending An Outside Class
Now, the option of attending an outside class sounds rather self-explanatory, right? These classes are fantastic as a way to open up your child’s learning journey with something that you cannot teach them like a specific skill or a foreign language.
A few years ago, my girls were starting to get into origami. Now, I am not an origami master! I can make a few simple things with detailed instructions, but when it comes to more complicated things, I’m lost!
About this time, a good friend who loves origami was holding a class to teach elementary students origami. Needless to say, my girls joined the class! And all I had to do was make sure they were there on time, picked up on time, encourage them, and admire their work.
Option #2 :: Facilitating While Someone Else Teaches
This option – well, the second half of Option #2, really – can sound intimidating. How exactly does someone facilitate while someone else teaches?
In homeschooling, the most common way I see this playing out is in video-driven lessens. In other words, you find and purchase a curriculum that comes with a DVD. Your child watches a teacher (not you!) present the lesson on the DVD. Then, you give them worksheets to complete and check the worksheets based on an answer key in the curriculum.
Remember when I said that math and science were not my strong points? Well, just like I knew I would need to find a science curriculum, I knew I would need to find a math curriculum to use with my children. You see, I know how to do math, I’m just very bad at explaining it to someone else and I didn’t want to confuse my children from the beginning!
So, I found the Math-U-See curriculum. When my children start a new math lesson, they watch their lesson being presented by a math teacher via DVD. After they watch the lesson, I give them worksheets (included with the curriculum set) to practice the new concepts they learned. Once they master the concept, we move on to the next lesson.
One of the greatest parts of Math-U-See is that it comes with 7 worksheets for every lesson, tests for every lesson and unit, and a teachers book with all the answers. So everything’s all put together for me, but at the same time there’s a lot of flexibility in this model.
You see, we don’t do every worksheet for every lesson. In fact, we’re not supposed to! We practice until my child has mastered the concept, then we move on. I’m not the one teaching or presenting the lesson, but I am the one assigning and checking the worksheets and deciding when my child is ready to move on.
Option #3 :: Create Your Own
This third option of doing all the research, putting together all the information, and presenting it to your child is a very time-consuming option. Now, if you really want to dive into a certain subject and you have the time to do it, go for it! But be very cautious with this option. In other words, make sure you have the time to put into it!
One simple way to create your own learning adventure is to dig into what your local library has to offer. Let’s say your child wants to learn more about a specific type of animal. You could head to your local library and get a bunch of books about that animal to read together.
Or maybe you want to spend more time celebrating a specific holiday and you come up with some fun ideas that make an often overlooked holiday – like Saint Patrick’s Day – fun and special.
Now, we’ve done both of ‘create our own’ options I just said many times. But the biggest way this option has come to life in our homeschool is through Adventures Around the World. When I first started putting information together about the different countries, people, animals, and cuisine in all the corners of our globe, I had no idea that it would become what it is today.
You see, behind each country in the Adventures Around the World Series is about 30-40 hours of research, fact checking, writing, editing, and testing (yup, my kids and I test out the crafts and recipes!). Now, I don’t say that for accolades, but I honestly think you need to know that this option could prove extremely time-consuming.
By the way, if you want to take advantage of my research through Adventures Around the World, you’re welcome to! You can even check out a whole country for free simply by clicking this link and clicking through to “purchase” the country of Botswana – for FREE!
Putting It All Together
When all is said and done, the best news is that you can teach your children even things you don’t know right now! You can learn alongside them and discover new things together. After all, isn’t that one of the best parts of homeschooling? Creating a fun learning adventure together?
One of the biggest keys to remember is not to get overwhelmed when you face questions like this. Sometimes it will take some time to think through your options and choose which option works best for your family. Sometimes the right option will be obvious right from the start.
Most of all, remember two very important things:
Your homeschooling is unique to you.
The way your homeschool is put together is different from anyone else’s. Your homeschool will not look identical to any other family’s and that’s okay! Your family is made up of unique individuals with individual learning and teaching styles. So find what works best for your family.
Remember, if your children are learning and making forward progress, you’re succeeding!
Learning is an adventure that never ends.
Learning new things doesn’t stop at a certain age. It doesn’t have to happen sitting in a specific chair in a specific room. Learning is an adventure that continues throughout your entire life. So, embrace it!
Learn along with your children as you walk with them through things you didn’t know before. And don’t forget to embrace your homeschooling adventure as everyone in your family learns new things each and every day!
- 3 Paralyzing Myths and How To Overcome Them
- Simple Ways to Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day in Your Homeschool
- 12 Reasons to Fall in Love with Adventures Around the World
- Teaching the Intangible: How To Teach Character Qualities To Your Children
Looking for some of the books or materials mentioned on this page? Click on the photo below to purchase your own copy today.
Elizabeth Tatham, founder of Inspiration in the Everyday, is a homeschooling momma of 5 who loves helping other homeschooling mommas create a unique homeschooling adventure your kids will love…without the overwhelm! Join in on the journey with 7 simple steps to make your homeschooling day go faster, easier, and with less tears here.