Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Should Homeschool Parents Be Certified? Views From Certified Teachers Who Homeschool

I often hear people suggest that parents who homeschool should get the same training that certified teachers do.   There's even a bill going through the California legislature right now that deals with that question (UPDATE:   The bill was dropped, thankfully.).

But, when I asked certified teachers who now homeschool whether they think all parents should be certified before homeschooling, the answer has been a  resounding "NO."

Some of these former teachers have allowed me to share their reasons... 

Sandra Balisky
Homeschool mom, certified teacher, and blogger at Real World Learners 

As a former high school math teacher with a Masters in Teaching, currently homeschooling my own kids, I am completely convinced that homeschooling parents do NOT need teacher certification in order to teach their own children. There is enough material in the homeschooling market, internet, libraries, neighborhood classes, and community in general to educate any child about everything they would ever want or need to know. A formal certification process would not better qualify a parent to teach; they already have the biggest advantage in the world over any classroom teacher - parents love their own children with unconditional love; they are 100% invested in their future and, thus, success; they know their own children's learning styles and strengths and have the freedom and flexibility to adapt every single learning activity to best suit each child; and they have lower "classroom" ratios than any teacher can ever have. 

There are many aspects in which homeschooling may not work for any given family, but a parent having or not having a teaching certificate is not a determining factor in the success or failure of the overall experience. Parents who want to make it work will make it work, and will most likely provide a far superior educational experience due to the simple fact of their love and care for, investment in, and understanding of their own children's learning styles, interests, and needs.

~ Sandra Balisky, homeschooler and teacher and blogger at 

Emily Sara 
Homeschool mom and teacher, certified in CA and NC 
Teaching 1-5 kids who are yours and you have a vested interest is is WAY different than meeting the needs of 20-30 kids at one time who are all at different levels. You have to teach the same or similar content in a variety of ways. 

I do not think you need to be certified to homeschool but you do need to be to teach in a traditional classroom. 

Susan Evans
Homeschool mom, certified teacher in CA and TX, and blogger at Susan Evans.org.   The quotes below are from a post she shared about a time when she was called on to defend a fellow homeschooler's ability to homeschool in court.  Used with permission:  order of quotes has been changed.

I knew many certified teachers in the school system who were lousy.  A true teacher is anyone who is willing to break down a concept for someone else.  The education classes I took at university to become certified were mostly drivel. The History of Education in America was the most boring class I’ve ever taken. It was a bunch of fluff. Basically, certification is just a piece of paper. Yes, you had to pass exams, but that never proved that a person would be a good teacher.

... the parent is the ideal teacher because she wants the best for her child, and she will move heaven and earth to research what the best is, and deliver it. No one knows the child as much as the parent, and weaknesses can be strengthened much more easily because they are known. Strengths can be developed to a much deeper level, because so much more time is available. Homeschoolers can accomplish in two hours what took me a whole day to accomplish in the classroom. It’s the truth. I’ve been on both sides.

Kathy Gossen
Homeschool mom, certified teacher, and blogger at Cornerstone Confessions

College did not prepare me to teach. Teaching prepared me to teach. Some of the best homeschool teachers/moms I know do not have teaching certificates. They learned to teach their kids through experience. And there are so many helpful homeschool resources and curriculum aids now that taking the step to successfully homeschool your children is easier than ever before.

These are only a few of the classroom-teachers-turned-homeschoolers I've asked about this subject, and I've yet to meet one who thinks that homeschool parents need teacher certification. 

I will end with a little bit of my own experience.   Over 20 years ago I walked into a middle school classroom with a degree in English Literature and Certification in Secondary Education.   Even with that preparation, I was utterly un-prepared.  I crashed and burned within 5 weeks. 

So, I understand why some may wonder how someone can face teaching their own children without even that preparation, inadequate though it was.

But homeschooling has been a completely different experience than classroom teaching.  And why shouldn't it be?  As the other teachers mentioned, teaching ONE child at home is not at all the same as teaching a whole class.

Before walking into a classroom of kids you don't know, with pretty much just your authority to maintain discipline, and a workload level that will often have you doing grading and lesson plans long into the night, you NEED that teacher training to survive.

  • That training teaches you the different ways that children learn.
But in homeschool, you only need to know how your own children learn.
  • That training teaches you how to manage and maintain discipline in a classroom. 
But you KNOW how to maintain discipline of your own children... you've been doing it all their lives. 
  • That training teaches you instruction methods generally designed to work in a large group setting.
In homeschool, you are usually working one on one, or in a very small group setting with learners of varying ages.   Many of the best methods for teaching in this setting are different than the methods used for teaching larger groups.
  • That training teaches you methods for assessing and keeping track of the learning of a large group of students, and how to fairly grade those students.
When teaching your own children, it is much easier to assess how they are doing, even without that training.  Class size matters here.
  • That training teaches you the laws and regulations of your profession.
Homeschoolers have to follow the laws and regulations of their state, but  these laws are different from what teachers, who are acting "in loco parentis," have to follow.

Homeschooling is closer to tutoring than classroom teaching.  And with modern curriculum available that guides you on how to teach your child, homeschooling forums for advice, and co-ops with classes to supplement your learning at home,  a parent absolutely can teach their own children at home without the training that classroom teachers get. 

As for the parts of my teacher training which are applicable to homeschool, it's rare to find a homeschool parent who doesn't learn those things along the way.  I think many don't realize how much research and self-training homeschooling parents do.  They are getting the knowledge they need to teach their children, just in an alternative way. 

Requiring certification of homeschoolers would mean many people successfully homeschooling their children would suddenly not be able to.   Even those who could afford the cost of going back to school to do this would have to take precious time away from educating their children to get this training.  And many homeschoolers would find the cost of that training prohibitive. I know many homeschoolers who struggle financially--most are families living on a single income for whom going back to school while homeschooling is not a feasible option.  Single parents sometimes homeschool too, and this would be especially burdensome on them.

And, many of those who homeschool, like me, are homeschooling because traditional school did not work for their children. Some left because of bullying, others left because of violence in their schools, some left because their child had a special need that wasn't being addressed as well as they could address it at home (a learning disability, or on the other hand, extreme giftedness...and some with "twice exceptional" kids who have both).  Some have children who have medical issues that frequently cause them to be absent from school, so being taught at home means they aren't "skipping" lessons and can continue learning even while in the hospital. So, for many of these kids going back to traditional school would mean going back to a system that has already failed them.

And the people MOST LIKELY to be homeschooling because their kids were in a failing school, or a school that was dangerous...are more likely to be lower income parents unable to pick up and move to a better area, and less likely to be able to afford extra schooling to be certified.   So requiring certification would be likely to hurt the kids who benefit from homeschooling the most.  

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  1. I've done both homeschooling and classroom teaching and they are definitely two different realms! I definitely appreciate the freedom currently allowed to homeschoolers in the USA--though it is sadly abused by some parents and some families. I have known homeschooled kids who never learn to read and don't even have a basic education because their parents used "homeschool" as an excuse to not educate at all. Obviously the vast majority of homeschool parents have their kids' best interests at heart--but there's always a few bad apples.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment...and sorry I took so long to reply. Yes, this is true. There are bad apples out there who don't really "homeschool" their children, just keep them at home and say they are homeschooling. They are the exception, not the rule. Requiring certification MIGHT prevent some of these parents from using homeschool falsely in this way...but would also prevent some parents from homeschooling who would homeschool their children well. And it wouldn't be a garuntee against using homeschool to hide abuse or neglect. The case that prompted the California bill, the two parents who were "homeschooling" their kids to hide abuse were highly educated and had good jobs...requiring certification wouldn't have changed anything. It's a tough question how to protect kids who's parents mis-use homeschool. I don't think requiring certification is the answer.