Education in Two Systems

I teach as an adjunct at the local community college two evenings a week. And I homeschool two high school sons on a full-time basis. The college is in a public school system; it is in fact almost the pinnacle of the public school system. Homeschooling is the most private of private schools, in the states it is deemed a private school.

Thus I educate in two very different systems. I got to navel gazing, a favorite pastime of mine, and thought about my philosophy of education. Then I wondered if my teaching is similar in the two different systems.

Specifically I was wondering if my plan for Freshman English and my plan for homeschooling are very far apart. Do I approach them quite differently?

I often feel that I teach Freshman English much better than I homeschool.

As I noted before, though, I have finally figured out that it is because I teach Freshman English over and over again. It’s not a new subject for me, even if I have to change books. Also I have found different approaches that work well over the years and I can use those to facilitate understanding of the topics we are covering.

In homeschooling, I teach a class once, or maybe twice- since I have two boys, and then I am finished. I don’t redo the class. I may re-teach the subject matter, but at a much different level. (For instance, second grade American history versus eleventh grade American history.) This means that my creativity is going with the class, but that I don’t have a lot of experience at it.

I am so grateful to homeschooling. Because it is so different from my college classes, I have to stretch. How do I teach art to a gifted artist? How do I incorporate literature study and history study together with art? Where do I get vocabulary for a seventh grader who reads on the college level? Will a book that the older son loved be a good book for the younger son?

And homeschooling is responsibility in a way that college teaching is not.

If my students at the college do not do their work, although I am sad, I don’t have to argue with them, cajole them, encourage them, or find another way to present the topic, I just give them a 0.

If my sons do not do their work, then I move out of teacher mode and into parent mode. They must get that particular assignment done, even if it means that they spend ten hours at the table not working on it.

Now none of my projects take that much time at once. But I have had the boys sit at the table all day- except for eating- and do nothing. Whatever they were working on was too hard or boring. How could it be harder than sitting there doing nothing? How could it be more boring than sitting there doing nothing? Then in ten minutes of actually working they will finish the assignment.

I not only teach the topic, assign the work, and grade the work- things a typical teacher does- I also make sure the work gets done- which is a parent’s job. So I blur the lines of teacher/parent, in a way, as a homeschooling mom. I am the parent first, but I am also the teacher, which is a bit of a different approach from college teaching!

I feel responsible for making sure my students and my sons know how to do something. But I do not feel responsible for making sure the college students do it as well as they can. I do feel that responsibility for my sons.

In both college and homeschooling I have rewrites or redos.

For my college students, I require this. For some reason many of them will not do them if I give them an option. What it does for them is it shows them the grammar, spelling, and content problems that they have on a particular paper. When they correct the errors, they learn how to do it correctly, hopefully. (Sometimes they just do it wrong another way.) I figure that, for the best of them, those who really want to learn, this will provide individualized instruction I cannot physically provide in a college classroom.

I also require that my sons rework things until, if it is not perfect, it would be an A. I do it for much the same reason. I want them to know how to do a problem, a paper, a timeline correctly.

So my philosophy of education carries across the two groups. I am responsible for making the information available in a way that they can understand it and I give them opportunities to correct their errors on their own papers in order to learn from that.

But in other ways the two educations are significantly different. My college students are responsible for making sure they learn their material. I am responsible for making sure that my sons do the work and learn it. Very different.

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