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Learning is More Important than Teaching

learning is more important than teaching


As homeschool parents, our goal is NOT to teach; our goal is for the kids to LEARN. I could have taught my kids "at grade level" and they wouldn't have learned a thing. Instead, I gave them curriculum at their ability level, and then they had to learn what they didn't already know. I believe that older teens MUST learn how to teach themselves. If our children go to college, they will be expected to learn all the textbook material on their own. College lectures are most often supplemental to the textbook - not the same content. If our children don't go to college, they will still have to teach themselves computer skills, online banking, or how to buy a car.

My kids taught themselves advanced math (pre-calculus) and calculus. They taught themselves physics. I know they learned the material because I gave them the tests. I didn't know what the calculus symbols meant, but I knew my kids' answers matched the answers on the key! I could have taught them biology and chemistry (because I'm an RN and I know that stuff) but they taught themselves instead. It worked out better for us when they taught themselves, and I just checked up on them from time to time. Alex taught himself economics, doing graduate level work in economic thought (we were later told by his Colege professor) while he was still in high school. He even taught himself psychology and business law, and earned fabulous grades on the college level CLEP exams in these subjects.

Here's my point: a child will teach themselves subjects they are interested in. It works out great for a kid who is working on an intensely academic, college prep curriculum as well as a kid who is in a relaxed homeschool environment. Learning is more important than teaching. I have seen SO many notes addressed to me about "getting it all done" that I just want to put in a plug for prayer and quiet time. I found that when I was consistent in adding them to my day that I could "get it all done." When I wasn't consistent, I got frustrated; either I was expecting too much, or was frustrated too easily. When I spent time with God, things went more smoothly in our homeschool. Do you think learning is more important than teaching? Please share in the comments!

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signature Please note: This post was originally published in November, 2007 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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Comments 50

Guest - MIchelle on Monday, 11 August 2008 04:57

WOW! that gave me a breath of fresh air...I haven't been teaching math for a long time and was letting them "learn" it on their own....They have always tested well. Now as two of my children are in High School the pressure is ON! And this little blog helped me to breath easy...

WOW! that gave me a breath of fresh air...I haven't been teaching math for a long time and was letting them "learn" it on their own....They have always tested well. Now as two of my children are in High School the pressure is ON! And this little blog helped me to breath easy...
Guest - Lee (website) on Monday, 11 August 2008 05:30

Dear Michelle,
This post was written almost a year ago, and I'm SO glad that it helped you today! My husband and I were talking about this topic just this weekend, at the convention. One "expert" was saying that you should never show your children the answer key. Huh??? That's how my kids learned physics, Latin, calculus - and went on to engineering school! We simply could NOT have done it without that strategy!

Do what works, Michelle! Do what works!

Blessings,
Lee

Dear Michelle, This post was written almost a year ago, and I'm SO glad that it helped you today! My husband and I were talking about this topic just this weekend, at the convention. One "expert" was saying that you should never show your children the answer key. Huh??? That's how my kids learned physics, Latin, calculus - and went on to engineering school! We simply could NOT have done it without that strategy! Do what works, Michelle! Do what works! Blessings, Lee
Guest - Mary on Tuesday, 12 May 2009 14:47

Thank you for that message. I needed that today. Sometimes I do get frustrated, lost, and intimidated by all the things on the list for a homeschooling mom of kids of many ages. I just need to step back and remember to be consistent with my prayer and personal preparation time, and all things will fall into place. I need to nurture my faith! Thanks for reminding me of that.

I appreciate your messages of wisdom and encouragement.

Thank you for that message. I needed that today. Sometimes I do get frustrated, lost, and intimidated by all the things on the list for a homeschooling mom of kids of many ages. I just need to step back and remember to be consistent with my prayer and personal preparation time, and all things will fall into place. I need to nurture my faith! Thanks for reminding me of that. I appreciate your messages of wisdom and encouragement.
Guest - Lee (website) on Tuesday, 12 May 2009 15:08

Dear Mary,
Big hugs to you! I'm glad it helped!
Blessings,
Lee

Dear Mary, Big hugs to you! I'm glad it helped! Blessings, Lee
Guest - Helen on Saturday, 16 May 2009 14:43

Lee,

I agree that students need to be able to digest the material from the textbooks to some extent on their own, but college profs actually explain a lot of what is in the textbook. The best methodology for college is: read ahead, then you are better prepared to understand the lecture, then review your notes and read ahead for the next lecture.

I think the sciences are particularly important in this way. Having a "teaching" format for them means that the students get a better chance to discuss and get a deeper understanding of the material. When I don't "teach" it to them myself, I don't have the context to have that kind of intelligent discussion that they need.

Lee, I agree that students need to be able to digest the material from the textbooks to some extent on their own, but college profs actually explain a lot of what is in the textbook. The best methodology for college is: read ahead, then you are better prepared to understand the lecture, then review your notes and read ahead for the next lecture. I think the sciences are particularly important in this way. Having a "teaching" format for them means that the students get a better chance to discuss and get a deeper understanding of the material. When I don't "teach" it to them myself, I don't have the context to have that kind of intelligent discussion that they need.
Guest - Lee (website) on Saturday, 16 May 2009 15:40

Hi Helen,

Great points! Reading ahead is a real key for success in college.

In many university courses, the professor will lecture on some concepts but other concepts are learned from reading the textbook. At the college level, professors rarely repeat anything in the book. It's important for students to learn from watching someone speak (in a lecture) and learn from books (like a textbook.) At large colleges, freshman classes will have hundreds of students will little possibility of discussion. I think it's good to be prepared either way. But like everything, take what will work for your family.

Blessings,
Lee

Hi Helen, Great points! Reading ahead is a real key for success in college. In many university courses, the professor will lecture on some concepts but other concepts are learned from reading the textbook. At the college level, professors rarely repeat anything in the book. It's important for students to learn from watching someone speak (in a lecture) and learn from books (like a textbook.) At large colleges, freshman classes will have hundreds of students will little possibility of discussion. I think it's good to be prepared either way. But like everything, take what will work for your family. Blessings, Lee
Guest - HomeSchoolMom (website) on Monday, 18 May 2009 17:44

Lee-

Your advice here is priceless for moms considering homeschooling high school students. Parents seem to think that they need to be brilliant at every subject that their kids need to learn.

I have always thought that we just need to be good at keeping them motivated and pray a lot!

Thanks for the great advice, as always!

Lee- Your advice here is priceless for moms considering homeschooling high school students. Parents seem to think that they need to be brilliant at every subject that their kids need to learn. I have always thought that we just need to be good at keeping them motivated and pray a lot! Thanks for the great advice, as always!
Guest - anne on Tuesday, 26 May 2009 14:52

Dear Lee

I'm just new to your wedsite. As an Australian mum homeschooling 2 highschoolers (sitting down for breakfast while you're probably all asleep over there!), I can feel a little isolated sometimes. Geographically, people are further apart here.
But thanks for reminding me that the
issues are the same anywhere. When I stick to facilitating a good work/study environment for my 2 teens, they are much more self disciplined in their approah to study. Im a much nicer person to be around too!
Blessings from Aussie Land

Dear Lee I'm just new to your wedsite. As an Australian mum homeschooling 2 highschoolers (sitting down for breakfast while you're probably all asleep over there!), I can feel a little isolated sometimes. Geographically, people are further apart here. But thanks for reminding me that the issues are the same anywhere. When I stick to facilitating a good work/study environment for my 2 teens, they are much more self disciplined in their approah to study. Im a much nicer person to be around too! Blessings from Aussie Land
Guest - Julie on Thursday, 28 May 2009 12:15

This idea of NOT teaching your homeschool child brought my 8th grader's interest back into math. We were having a continual struggle with trying to teach him math, and he hated it. Finally, I told him about your idea - he was to teach himself. We bought a math book he picked out, and we help when needed. But now he's learning algebra easily with no struggles and no fights with mom. It feels like a ground breaking concept to me.

I also realized that most of what my husband and I currently do for our careers hadn't been around when we were in school -- such as the entire web, most of the programming languages, shopping carts, online business, etc. So we learned it on our own. Our kids are going to have to be able to teach themselves just to stay up with the current technologies.

This idea of NOT teaching your homeschool child brought my 8th grader's interest back into math. We were having a continual struggle with trying to teach him math, and he hated it. Finally, I told him about your idea - he was to teach himself. We bought a math book he picked out, and we help when needed. But now he's learning algebra easily with no struggles and no fights with mom. It feels like a ground breaking concept to me. I also realized that most of what my husband and I currently do for our careers hadn't been around when we were in school -- such as the entire web, most of the programming languages, shopping carts, online business, etc. So we learned it on our own. Our kids are going to have to be able to teach themselves just to stay up with the current technologies.
Guest - Lisa Hydock on Sunday, 05 July 2009 16:44

Hello Lee,

I'm so glad I read your post today! I have stated the very same things, numerous times, to my family. For a few years now, my teens have been teaching themselves. As you said, I have no clue what those math symbols are, but I can see if the answers match those of my students. I allow my students access to the teacher's manual as well - it's been the best way for them to learn.

Also, I feel like my whole day is "out'a whack" when I don't get my quiet prayer and devotional reading in for the morning. I believe my time with the Lord each morning is what keeps me going, keeps the attitude straight, and just gives me strength.

Your article is extra confirmation that I'm doing O.K. as a home school Mom. Sometimes it's nice to hear that it's O.K. not to force 'school at home' - and just have fun with it and let the kids pursue their own interests - learning all the while.

Thanks again for your encouragement.
Sincerely.

Hello Lee, I'm so glad I read your post today! I have stated the very same things, numerous times, to my family. For a few years now, my teens have been teaching themselves. As you said, I have no clue what those math symbols are, but I can see if the answers match those of my students. I allow my students access to the teacher's manual as well - it's been the best way for them to learn. Also, I feel like my whole day is "out'a whack" when I don't get my quiet prayer and devotional reading in for the morning. I believe my time with the Lord each morning is what keeps me going, keeps the attitude straight, and just gives me strength. Your article is extra confirmation that I'm doing O.K. as a home school Mom. Sometimes it's nice to hear that it's O.K. not to force 'school at home' - and just have fun with it and let the kids pursue their own interests - learning all the while. Thanks again for your encouragement. Sincerely.
Guest - Stacy on Thursday, 23 July 2009 22:47

I've been reading the blogs about 'not' teaching your children. We have the opposite problem. My son is starting the 9th grade and has had problems in Math, teaching himself. After a year or so of bumping heads in the subject, we had him do Math online last year so he could be more in control. It went okay, but he wasn't doing the equations on paper (much)like I told him he should (therefore he wasn't learning the formulas/patterns). He mostly could do them in his head. So when the problems got a bit harder, he didn't do so well and got stumped. I think turning them loose to teach themselves is a process. I thought he was ready.. but he wasn't as ready to go solo as I'd thought. Now, we're starting again with me helping explain the lesson, making sure he writes the problems out and understands the process. Letting him explain the lessons to me and then showing me how they are done will be my goal for this coming year. I don't want to 'teach' him Math this year, I long for him to be more independent, but what option do I have? If he isn't naturally self motivated in Math, he has to be taught. I know he has self discipline because he's an accomplished violinist. He says Math just isn't his thing. Any suggestions?

I've been reading the blogs about 'not' teaching your children. We have the opposite problem. My son is starting the 9th grade and has had problems in Math, teaching himself. After a year or so of bumping heads in the subject, we had him do Math online last year so he could be more in control. It went okay, but he wasn't doing the equations on paper (much)like I told him he should (therefore he wasn't learning the formulas/patterns). He mostly could do them in his head. So when the problems got a bit harder, he didn't do so well and got stumped. I think turning them loose to teach themselves is a process. I thought he was ready.. but he wasn't as ready to go solo as I'd thought. Now, we're starting again with me helping explain the lesson, making sure he writes the problems out and understands the process. Letting him explain the lessons to me and then showing me how they are done will be my goal for this coming year. I don't want to 'teach' him Math this year, I long for him to be more independent, but what option do I have? If he isn't naturally self motivated in Math, he has to be taught. I know he has self discipline because he's an accomplished violinist. He says Math just isn't his thing. Any suggestions?
Guest - Lee (website) on Friday, 24 July 2009 07:45

Hi Stacy,
Try having your son choose his own curriculum. Sometimes the one mom chooses just isn't the right fit. Here is a blog post on some ideas for math:
http://www.thehomescholar.com/blog/homeschool-high-school-math-choosing-curriculum/1097/
Blessings,
Lee

Hi Stacy, Try having your son choose his own curriculum. Sometimes the one mom chooses just isn't the right fit. Here is a blog post on some ideas for math: http://www.thehomescholar.com/blog/homeschool-high-school-math-choosing-curriculum/1097/ Blessings, Lee
Guest - Stacy on Tuesday, 28 July 2009 20:54

I am glad you suggested that, because HE chose to go with Jacob's Elem. Algebra this year, from several options. The conversational style and the interesting way the lessons are introduced will (I am hoping) hold his attention better than just dry instructions and a page of problems. I want him to see Math as applicable to his life and think this is just what the 'doctor ordered'!

I am glad you suggested that, because HE chose to go with Jacob's Elem. Algebra this year, from several options. The conversational style and the interesting way the lessons are introduced will (I am hoping) hold his attention better than just dry instructions and a page of problems. I want him to see Math as applicable to his life and think this is just what the 'doctor ordered'!
Guest - Tonya on Monday, 14 September 2009 05:08

Amen! Thank you for this. My sons taught themselves Physical Science, Physics and Biology this past year and did great. What a blessing. Once in a while that feeling creeps in that I should be teaching this material. It's nice to hear the confirmation. You are right they must learn to learn. Thank God they are.

Amen! Thank you for this. My sons taught themselves Physical Science, Physics and Biology this past year and did great. What a blessing. Once in a while that feeling creeps in that I should be teaching this material. It's nice to hear the confirmation. You are right they must learn to learn. Thank God they are.
Guest - Jean on Wednesday, 04 November 2009 09:24

Lee,
I totally agree with everything you have said about children teaching themselves at the high school level. Something that hasn't been brought out yet (but you have addressed it in other blogs)is the fact that you need to choose a curriculum that is "self-teaching." A lot of popular home school curriculum are actually created for a classroom setting. I used one for a while for all my subjects and just about totally burned out because of the load on me, and the fact that my child and I butted heads constantly. Luckily, it was in the junior high years and not in high school. When I found that there was curriculum such as Apologia Science that speaks directly to the student so that they can teach themselves from the textbook, I was elated! My child learns best by teaching anyway, so why not have her teach herself? She will do much better that way. I think it is wiser to spend your time as a homeschooling mom doing research into what curriculum you should use rather than trying to learn a subject and teach it to your child. I have had a burden lifted from me by doing this, and my child is pretty much a totally independent learner. I just keep her on task and tell her what she can get by with and what she can't...because that's what a mom does! Thank you so much for all your wisdom that you share with us about being a homeschooling mom.

Lee, I totally agree with everything you have said about children teaching themselves at the high school level. Something that hasn't been brought out yet (but you have addressed it in other blogs)is the fact that you need to choose a curriculum that is "self-teaching." A lot of popular home school curriculum are actually created for a classroom setting. I used one for a while for all my subjects and just about totally burned out because of the load on me, and the fact that my child and I butted heads constantly. Luckily, it was in the junior high years and not in high school. When I found that there was curriculum such as Apologia Science that speaks directly to the student so that they can teach themselves from the textbook, I was elated! My child learns best by teaching anyway, so why not have her teach herself? She will do much better that way. I think it is wiser to spend your time as a homeschooling mom doing research into what curriculum you should use rather than trying to learn a subject and teach it to your child. I have had a burden lifted from me by doing this, and my child is pretty much a totally independent learner. I just keep her on task and tell her what she can get by with and what she can't...because that's what a mom does! Thank you so much for all your wisdom that you share with us about being a homeschooling mom.
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