When in Rome

When in Rome                                                 Photo credit: pedrojperez from morguefile.com


I wouldn’t know Rome if it smacked me in the face. Something tells me, that’s how people “know” homeschooling.

As a former teacher (yeah, here she goes again), I have experienced education through various curricula, supported the education of literally 1000s of children, dealt with mountains upon mountains of paperwork, attended professional development ad nauseum, hold a Master’s degree in Curriculum, Instruction, & Assessment and admit, I know nothing about homeschooling.

Wait…what? I know, I claim to be a homeschool supporter and even opened a business to help support homeschoolers and I know nothing about homeschooling?



I know nothing about your child.

Oh sure, give me a curriculum, or even just a topic and a grade level and I can teach your child all about Roman architecture, but there’s a catch…..he’s got to be interested.


The jig is up.

You gotta’ know the kid. You gotta’ know your own kid.

I admit it. I didn’t know mine.


Now, in defense, I’ll also add….most people don’t know their own children.

Shocking! I know.


We know our friends. We know our husbands/wives, but we don’t know our children. It takes a LONG time to really know your child. After more than a year of homeschooling, I’m getting to know mine.


What learning takes is a unique touch.
It’s a science, but even more…it’s an art.


When you learned how to make Grandma’s cookie recipe, when you learned how to sew; even when you learned how to fix a washer, use a bat, take a photograph, swim, to tell the difference between a rock and a mineral, and how to use Twitter, you did it for one reason- because you wanted to know. Maybe it helped you win over a boyfriend, helped you get an A on a test, or helped you understand business, but you did it for a purpose, for a reason. Without that reason, you didn’t learn.


Maybe you memorized the steps of a algorithm and were able to parrot it back. Perhaps watching that YouTube video step by step helped you follow those directions that got your clothes washing again, but could you do it again a month from now without the video? Probably not. That’s because you never really learned it.

The problem schools are running into now is that they’re cramming too much content into a more compact space with no time to develop an interest in the learning. Students and teachers are burning out because no one cares, so like nice little parrots they mimic, mimic lots and lots for testing, and then collapse. And then they wonder why the next year kids can’t apply what they “learned”.

No adult working in a job or career these days could learn as much new content as children are expected to learn in a year. Yes, yes. I know their brains are more adaptable to new learning due to their age, but I also know that those synapses aren’t going to stay connected without more practice and interest. Who has time for practice? It’s time to move onto the next topic the next day. Burn out.


How much of schooling is a YouTube video? How much of it is learning to ride a bike?


People often say, “It’s like learning to ride a bike.” What do they really mean? They’re saying that once you learn, you know. I haven’t been on a bike in years, but I bet I could handle it. Why? Because I really learned. Real learning happens because we want it; because we need it, because we’re interested, curious, determined, and focused on some result of knowledge or application or accomplishment.


Schooling messes it all up when you hand me a history book. I’d rather drink castor oil. Now, I know for some, history is alive; it’s today, but just hearing the word makes me cringe. I need a gentle approach with history. I enjoy politics and economics. I even enjoy reading short biographies of historical figures and their struggles and accomplishments, but hand me a history book and I’m out. School never found a way to build my interests and transition them into something I enjoy. That’s not their role. The role of schooling is to teach a prescribed curriculum. Much of it is not open-ended or up for discussion and so I memorized what I could, regurgitated it back onto paper and moved on; hoping and waiting for the day when I got to learn topics that interested me.

Those days didn’t come.


Finally, after even a prescribed college experience of 2 years, I took a year off. I took a semester of Criminology, of Business Spanish, of Modern Film. Topics that interested me. Though my scores may not have been the best, they engaged me in new realms of learning. They sparked my interest enough to get me through my last 2 years of college and onto my career.


I’m finding the same struggle with homeschooling.

I’m a teacher.
I’ll always be a teacher.


The struggle is that my son doesn’t want a teacher.

He wants to find his own way.


I would have chosen the same at his age, but I never had the choice. The choice to learn things in your own way, at your own pace, on your own time.

Self-directed learning is blowing my mind.


I realize that it’s right, it’s good, it’s true learning, but it’s oh, so much more difficult to be the teacher facilitator (because who is fooling who, I know nothing about quasars) with a self-directed learning child. Not that I’d trade the thinking, the probing, the in-depth discussions we have, but the rest of it is unsettling for someone with bell-to-bell training. The good news is, I’m getting back to me. I see the learning that I lost as a teacher. Though I tried to make learning exciting and interesting and pertinent to all, secretly I knew I couldn’t make it happen for everyone- because everyone is different.


Conceptually, self-directed learning makes perfect sense, but it doesn’t jive with schooling. It doesn’t check off learning the way you do in a classroom. It doesn’t demand a test. It’s more like a river….flowing…breaking off and flowing over and around obstacles. Sometimes it sits quietly barely moving and sometimes it rushes forward seemingly with no destination…over a cliff and turns into a waterfall.


There are no waterfalls in Rome.


Outside of Rome? Yes. But, why aren’t there waterfalls in Rome? They’re not allowed. Oh sure, there are the man-made ones that force water to flow, but Rome isn’t set up for waterfalls. Take a walk outside the city limits and you’ll see them.

They’re in a more peaceful setting. Less bustling, less power, less structure.

Beauty can be found in those places of quiet, of allowing the flow.


When in Rome…..do as the Greeks!




4 thoughts on “When in Rome

  1. Great post! I use the term teacher when I write for ease of context, but inwardly I cringe a bit. It is such an inaccurate descriptor for what homeschooling parents do. I prefer facilitator too.


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