Homeschoolers: “Chief Cooks and Bottle Washers”
James L. Casale, Ph.D.
Over the past several weeks, on separate occasions, I have had the pleasurable experience of interviewing two moms on my radio show, Common Sense Parenting on w4wn.com. One mom lives in Florida; the other in Colorado.
As a former classroom teacher and school administrator, I have always been interested in the logistics and processes of this endeavor. It appears to require an enormous amount of effort, determination, patience, persistence, enthusiasm, knowledge, skill, courage, and resourcefulness. Add vision and purpose to the mix, and the result is leadership personified.
What did I want to know?
Before the interviews, I hastily made a list of questions about homeschooling that I had been carrying about in my head for years. After all, as a school principal, I hired, mentored, and evaluated teachers for many years. And keeping in mind how difficult effective teaching is and how much work and skill and knowledge it requires; I couldn’t imagine how homeschooling parents did this successfully.
My questions focused on the obvious: Why did you decide to homeschool your children? When did you decide to tackle this job? How many children are you teaching and how old are they? Where do you obtain your curriculum and your materials? You are not a licensed teacher, so who mentors you? How do you measure the progress you are or are not making? Do you have house rules during school time? What are your frustrations? How do your children socialize with other children their age? Are there clubs and sports your children can participate in? Do you have to register with the public school?
I didn’t get all the answers, but…
There was not sufficient time during the radio show to obtain all the answers to my questions. I invited both moms back to continue the discussion at a later date. The Colorado mom had six kids ranging from elementary school to high school. They had attended public school before she decided to homeschool them. The Florida mom had two children, ages six and seven, who had never attended school.
Both moms were extremely enthusiastic about their choice to homeschool. They loved spending quality time with their children. They were fully supported by a homeschooling network and system that included local and state organizations. While their circumstances were slightly different, they never looked back or doubted themselves. Of course, their spouses were also part of the equation. This is a critical component of any household that has high expectations for the entire family.
Leadership at a high level
It occurred to me during one of my conversations that these moms were the “chief cooks and bottle washers” of their organization, which can be described best in John Gardner’s words: “The smallest school in America is the family.” We had quite a laugh about it when I realized and shared with one of the moms that, in addition to being the teacher, she also served as the principal, custodian, cafeteria worker, counselor, bus driver, activities director, media specialist, and teacher’s aide. Multitasking these responsibilities demands leadership. These moms (I’m sure dads are doing this too), to be successful, must be prepared, organized, decisive, communicative, knowledgeable, resourceful, energetic, disciplined, enthusiastic, and devoted to a goal and a mission that surpasses their own self-interest. I realize that these two situations are anecdotal, but so far so good.
Dr. Casale is both a state and national award-winning educator and the author of the highly praised book published by Skyhorse Publishing, Wise Up and Be the Solution: How to Create a Culture of Learning at Home and Guide Your Child to Succeed in School and Life. His second parenting book, Family Pledge: Raising Lifelong Learners and Good Citizens, has also received rave reviews. Both books are available on his website, jamescasalephd.com, in bookstores, and online in print and eBook versions.