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Murphy’s Laws of Homeschooling

By Ann Zeise

On our Yahoo Group, Rebecca asked:

But if you don’t have any college behind you, wouldn’t you feel as though the teacher who has had 4 years of college to become a certified school teacher, could likely teach the children some things that you could not?

Well, I have a BA in Philosophy and something like 100 units past that, but from too many colleges, so I don’t have a masters.

There is a couple of Murphy’s Laws of homeschooling at work anyway:

Whatever you know a whole lot about, your child will refuse to learn it!

And the corollary:

Whatever you know nothing about, your child will desperately want to learn it.

Murphy's Law

Murphy’s Law
by Arthur Bloch
For more than a quarter of a century, Murphy’s Law has provided the last word on things going wrong. Positive thinking is all very fine when the world is treating you right, but when things go awry, it’s Murphy’s Law that comes up with the goods-the pithy revelations and undeniable truths that document our limitless potential for misplaced insight, hopeless wit, and pessimistic wisdom.This special anniversary collection features the best of Murphy’s Law–plus new 21st-century entries proving that with advances in technology, even more can go wrong.For example:

  • No matter what goes wrong, there is always somebody who knew it would.
  • Anything is easier to take apart than to put together.
  • For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.
  • The less you do, the less can go wrong.
  • Everybody lies, but it doesn’t matter since nobody listens.
    Kindle Edition
    Canadian editions

Our support group had a mom in it who was literally a rocket scientist. Did her children care to learn physics? Nope. They wanted to learn biology! They were real keen on nature! They wanted to identify trees by their leaves!

My husband had taken German, and I had taken French. Our son decided with a friend to learn Latin! Even more so when I protested I didn’t KNOW Latin, and besides, Spanish was so much more practical in California.

David Albert on this list has a story about learning how to play the violin just so he could talk to his daughters about music. David’s a smart fellow, but he’d never taken up a musical instrument in his life before homeschooling!

Teachers get a BA first in some subject matter, and then go a 5th year or longer to get a masters in education. Been there. Done that. I learned how to manage a class of about 30 kids, how to create tests, how to use various machines, how to help a non-English speaking kid learn English, the history of education. Stuff a classroom teacher needs to know to survive. There is NO correlation between what is learned at a school of education and what you need to know to teach your own children! (Well, it does help to know how to work a computer, but you have all picked THAT up!)

Want to do something interesting? Google “School of Education” and take a look at what is being offered at various education programs, usually ones near you. Is there ONE class that would be of use to you trying to help your own children?

Here’s Harvard’s education program —

The Masters Degree will teach the following:
The Ed.M. is designed to be a yearlong intensive program for students who wish to study a particular field in education, acquire a general theoretical background for understanding past and future field experiences, or develop skills for use in professional work in education. Our program offerings include:

  • Arts in Education
  • Assessment
  • Cognitive Development and Education
  • Culture, Communities, and Contexts
  • Curriculum
  • Development in Specific Age Periods
  • Diversity and Equity
  • Economics of Education
  • Education Policy
  • Gender and Relationships
  • Higher Education
  • History, Philosophy, and Foundations of Education
  • Language and Literacy
  • Leadership, Management, Organizations
  • Lidelong Learning
  • Research Methods & Data Analysis
  • Risk, Resilience, & Prevention
  • Schools: Leadership & Reform
  • Social Development & Education
  • Sociology of Education
  • Teaching and Supervision
  • Technology

Here’s a state college’s program – San Jose State University near me in California. Your more “basic” education college’s Masters Degree, which hasn’t changed in years!

  • Critical Issues in Education
  • Advanced K-8 Curriculum and Instruction
  • Sociology of Education
  • Learning in a Hi-Tech Environment
  • Seminar in Curriculum
  • Qualitative Research
  • Critical Perspective on Schooling in a Pluralistic Society
  • Critical Studies in Language, Culture, and Narrative
  • Classroom Issues in Language/Literacy Development of L2 Learners
  • Philosophy of Education
  • MA Project

Now I’m not knocking the titles, but the CONTENT of those courses will be on how to do these things with a whole SLEW of children in one small room. Yes, it is a “good idea” to incorporate “Arts in Education,” but do you really need to make your child learn every art available? If you have an “arty” child, then you just sign them up with the art museum course! Simple as that! If not available, you just supply the kid with different art materials and let them have at it! A book or two from the library may help with project ideas and technique as they get older. You don’t need to know the theories of art education in the schools to know to go buy your kid some crayons and paper!

The “Curriculum” classes are a semester long, maybe 3 hours a week. How much science or history do you think a new teacher learns in one of those? So how do “real” teachers manage to teach something they know nothing about? They read ahead, usually in the children’s text books, and those are often very wrong, just plain bad science and history! You, you get to read real books written by real scientists and historians, and then share your enthusiasm about the topic with your kids in any fashion that gives pleasure to both of you, taking hours or days to explore the subject together. I’ve heard of families who have participated for years with historic reenactment groups or making huge contributions to a specialized science or writing a novel, just because they’ve had the time and enthusiasm to do it.

Your first year will be your “Practicum,” so go easy on yourself. There is a learning curve, and it will take about a year for both you and your children to find a comfort level for living the learning lifestyle. It doesn’t happen over night.

You have so many advantages that teachers in public schools do not!

First off you really LOVE your children! Nothing forced or faked here!

They learn when they are ready, and you can go at a speed that makes sense, going over or dropping topics, repeating or moving on. They learn in a sunny room, or even outside! They are not hungry, but are well fed according to your family’s dietary beliefs. They can go to the bathroom when they need to. They get all the sleep they need, so are rested. If they need to move about, they can. They are healthier, as they aren’t exposed to so many viruses, and if they do get sick, they have time to recover. With all these proven and well researched learning pluses, you can’t miss! You just have to “be there” for your kids, and give of your time and finances to keep their learning projects happening!

I also liked Tammy’s reply to the post:

I’m going to surprise all of you and agree with Sarah, in several ways.

I have seen this actually, as a trend – parents who have not had any college experience tend to feel that certified teachers can give their children a better education.

A little (or a lot) of college teaches us that it’s not necessarily true.

Also, I do agree that a teacher who has been certified could likely teach my children things I could not. I also feel that pretty much anyone we meet could likely teach my children things I could not. I also feel that anyone we meet could likely teach my children things a school teacher could not. And, I can teach things other people could not.

Nobody can give a parent the confidence they need to live a life of learning with their children. But, after a while, homeschooling can teach confidence to parents who are nervous. Schools don’t generally teach that to parents.


She’s so right-on! Just about everyone in the whole world can teach my child something I cannot! Everyone has such unique experiences, that it is worth searching out others to find out just what they can teach your child about life.

Our Field Trips section is also a wealth of community resources for mentors for your children.

Check out the pages under “I don’t know how to teach.” We’re here to help you understand how you can learn how to be the very best mentor for your child. The very best! And when you can’t be, how to find others to volunteer or to do it for a fee.

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