Like a Tutor or Home Educator…

By Tamara Kidd from Tutor Your Own Child Photography Laura Hurley

We will get to the how in a short amount of time but first, let’s ask some questions.

What are you going to teach your own child? Your child becomes your student, you the parent or caregiver become a teacher and then, blank. There is your State or Territory Curriculum, which are written in edubabble and are taught in the schools. There are free worksheets, bought curricula, interactive websites, videos, advice from your relatives, neighbours, people in the street, the hundreds of other people who have taught their own children and of course, there is you and what you think your child should learn.

What you teach them is not just contained in a worksheet and never has been. You’ve been teaching them since they were first born and perhaps even earlier. You’ve taught them who you are, how you are as a parent, what you expect of them, the list goes on. How to feed themselves, what the spiked thing was at the shop counter, why that lady has those strange markings on her back or why that man smokes when smoking kills. You are part of their world and have been, in most cases, their first teacher. There is no need to draw a blank on what to teach because while you are drawing a blank you are still teaching them something. It never stops. Even after children leave home they reflect on their childhood and you will pop into their minds and they will learn something new.

When your child becomes an adult and has a child of their own, they will see a side of you that they just couldn’t see before. The lesson here is, what do you not teach them? What do you stay away from so they can find it out for themselves? Anything you teach directly you have a chance of ruining for them. I’m sorry if that sounds counter-intuitive but it’s true. The more you talk about something, give examples, set assignments, insist on memorization etc the less likely it will be learnt.

Here are some quotes to keep your head in the teacher zone, because becoming a boring teacher and boring your students, especially the ones you live with, will make your life awful, and you’re just too special for that. The fact that you want to teach your own children means that you’re willing to do something rather radical; you’re not going to go along with what most people consider to be ‘the norm’. That is something that increasingly is becoming a ‘choice’ as more and more parents realise that although ensuring your child has access to an education, that doesn’t mean it’s compulsory to ‘go to school’.

I’m going to walk you through how to DIY, then you’ll see how even if your child attends schools, has tutors, talks endlessly with some Professor who knows everything YOU ARE STILL ESSENTIAL! Here are those quotes… keep whichever ones speak to you in your mind when you feel off course or in the dark:

Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.
Maria Montessori

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.

John Dewey

The greatest sign of success for a teacher… is to be able to say, “The children are now working as if I did not exist.”
Maria Montessori

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.

When you know a thing, to hold that you know it, and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it – this is knowledge.

Since we can’t know what knowledge will be most needed in the future, it is senseless to try to teach it in advance. Instead, we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned.
John Holt

I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.
Bruce Lee

Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.
Thomas Jefferson

The object of teaching a child is to enable him to get along without his teacher.
Elbert Hubbard

The relation between parents and children is essentially based on teaching.
Gilbert Highet

The fact is that people are good, Give people affection and security, and they will give affection and be secure in their feelings and their behaviour.
Abraham Maslow

Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.
Maya Angelou

Beware the barrenness of a busy life.

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.
Albert Einstein

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They came through you but not from you and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
Khalil Gibran

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.
Nelson Mandela

Always Do Your Best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.
Miguel Angel Ruiz

Be Impeccable With Your Word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
Miguel Angel Ruiz

Don’t Make Assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
Miguel Angel Ruiz

Don’t Take Anything Personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
Miguel Angel Ruiz

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.
Dalai Lama

Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent.
Dalai Lama

With the realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.
Dalai Lama

(all quotes are taken from Thank you)

When to teach is just as important and natural as when to eat or when to sleep. Generally speaking, people have cycles of cognitive function that sees peaks and troughs. Some people are awake and ready to learn first thing in the morning, others late at night. Schools function during the day at set times. Many countries now have shortened or extended hours, depending on perceived needs or expectations. Be prepared that when you teach you are ready to teach.

Be prepared to teach when your student is ready to learn. As a beginner level after breakfast and before lunch are good hours for learning for young children. After lunch in the afternoon is a better time for teens who often need to sleep late. In fact, teens are often most alert late at night. After the evening meal may be more suitable. Compromise and communication are needed when deciding when to teach, it has to suit everyone.

Finding that key time is worth it as most work that is prescribed by departments of education in schools can be completed in less than half the time. If you do have to follow a curriculum, two to three hours a day can produce about six to eight hours of equivalent in-school time, so there will be far more hours to follow up on interests, further learning, hobbies, sports, socialising etc which are often what makes teaching your own child so worthwhile. Time spent on not teaching, while your child learns from the world around them.

Why are you choosing to teach? Discovering the purpose underlying your intention is key to predicting whether or not you will be successful. Are you teaching because you’ve always wanted to? You think you’ll be better than others at it? You have no option but to teach? You need to prove to other people or yourself that you can? There is one question you must answer yes to if you want your student to learn and therefore make you a teacher and that is, ‘Are you teaching because you want your student to learn?’ If your underlying intention is for your student to learn then you won’t stop until they have learnt, you won’t take it personally when they ignore your words and figure it out for themselves, you will delight in the ‘aha’ moments when they understand something and you won’t suffer from the burnout that will occur if you persist in teaching for the wrong reasons.

Who are you going to teach? Are you going to teach your own child? Are you going to teach other people’s children? You may be surprised that no matter who you teach there will always be one constant student who will never leave you, and that is you! When you teach someone something the person who often learns the most is the teacher. Teaching yourself is key to teaching others. Teaching is always a two-way experience, both student and teacher learn and often change rolls during the process.

The reality is that good quality teaching is not the emptying of your brain into your student’s empty brains, or topping up a student’s brain like you would ‘fuel in a car’. No, good quality teaching doesn’t look like teaching at all. That’s because who you end up teaching is no one. The aim is to become redundant and allow the student to become their own teacher. Lifelong learning is a continuum of learning, happening without effort, with much joy and allows you to be an independent and at the same time interdependent person in a community.

It’s a joy to be around a person who enjoys learning. Waiting to be taught something drains the people around you, keeping you dependent on others. When you teach someone always encourage them to ‘take over’ the process as much as possible. Autonomy should be the teacher, and being a teacher means being a learner as well.

And so, how to teach your own child…

You teach your child the same way my Nana made scones. She washed her hands clean, dried them thoroughly took the butter out of the fridge, sifted the flour twice, used a knife to mix in the butter and with a ‘lightness of touch’ quickly whisked in the milk with the knife and gently kneaded the dough without any more than ‘just enough’ presses. She prepared the sharp metallic ring with a little dry flour and quickly cut out the scones and used the left over dough to form a last scone, for testing. Using a brush she would quickly brush each one with milk and put the tray of scones into the oven on the middle shelf until they had just turned brown. Practised and thoughtful, wiser than she knew.

Good for a beginner, still more practice required. Expecting perfection moves the focus from learning to product. Children will learn more effectively when they are free to make errors, not judged for work that isn’t perfect and have the freedom to be creative. Refining skills comes later, usually after puberty when they are looking at the door and planning their future life.

Prepare yourself by coming clean and being honest. If you don’t know something that your child wants to learn then discover it together.

Be mindful that you’ll need the ingredients, such as rest, peaceful mind, ability to put the needs of the student first. Just as the scones required a gentle touch, so does your child.

My Nana used a knife because it caused the least disruption to the dough. Maybe being close to your child comforts them, maybe they don’t like it at all, either way, you need to respect that for your child, your student, to be true to their nature and perform at their best how you treat them will have an effect.

How much you talk, how you talk, what you say will have an effect. If you take the time to get to know your child then you will know how to be an effective teacher, a teacher who has a student that learns. My Nana understood the nature of flour, the temperature of butter and milk, what happens when you are too rough or miss a step. She was also very well practised and although I never heard her admit it I’m sure her first scones were not as nice as those I had as a child.

Teaching takes time, be patient with yourself, be attentive to yourself, reflect and take notes, don’t be afraid to ask your child for advice as it’s one of the most effective methods for improving your teaching. The testing scone my Nana made was always a little tougher than the others but that was the one she always ate. If that was fine the rest were good.

Allow the experience to show you parts of yourself that may have made you feel uncomfortable as it’s a good opportunity for you to learn and become a better teacher; the measure of which is learning.

Here are some last thoughts and information for you. I wish you much luck and joy:

  • Leave your ego at the door… teaching is about learning, not about you being a ‘Teacher’.
  • Never be afraid to be wrong… mistakes are learning opportunities and your student needs to also not fear mistakes. Show no embarrassment as there is no need to be embarrassed. Demonstrate turning around these natural situations into opportunities to grow and learn.
  • Create the right conditions for learning… pay attention to what works and what doesn’t.
  • Be prepared, have a plan, think before you act… and then be prepared to let your plans go when your student gets hooked into learning something else. It is more important that the child is learning, not that you are following your notes. Remember this is not about you, it’s about them.
  • When you observe your student keep a note of when they learn something naturally that you had been preparing to teach them later on. You can now ‘tick that off’ as something learnt. Remember it’s not about ‘teaching’ it’s about ‘learning’.
  • Follow the learning, follow the child, follow the interest. Learning is never a one size fits all scenario. We all learn differently, about different things in different ways at different times. How you teach is to ‘follow the learner and follow the learning’.
  • COMMUNICATION IS TEACHING. Communication requires more than words, it is understanding, comprehension, application. It’s dynamic, subtle, quiet and loud. It is unique between two people, between a group, within yourself. Communication between teacher and student is the true ‘lock and key’ to teaching effectively. You can have a brilliant idea, but unless you can communicate effectively that idea cannot be fully shared. Words are not always necessary in communication, good communication feels like ‘being connected to each other’. A fundamental component is honesty and trust. Be honest and trust that your student will eventually understand. An example may be that your student shows interest in something, you ask a thoughtful question which generates a discussion which leads to researching that topic. These occasions are organic and are what classroom teachers crave! There is precious little time to conduct these conversations with every student in a class of 25-35 students! You really do have a wonderful opportunity to help your child to learn deeply, broadly and widely!
  • Patience. If you are working with someone who has only been alive for Seven or Fifteen or even Eighteen years remember they have not had your years, your experience, they don’t know what you know. Especially for young people, they have been a human on earth for a significantly short amount of time compared to you. Exercise patience as learning takes time. Unrealistic, unfair or unjust expectations will erode trust, respect and communication between you. They will undermine your efforts.

So why do I think you are essential? Because the quality of the connection between a child and their primary caregivers is what provides the framework for self-esteem in that child. Self-esteem becomes the courage to take risks, learn and grow. This becomes self-reliance and in turn the ability to take care of others. You are essential for the continuum of our species. How you treat this child will have an impact on how they treat their child and so on. You made the decision to create this person, now you have the responsibility to create the best relationship with this person that you can. You are essential, but it’s not about you in their reality. For them, you may be the world but soon enough you won’t be.

While you are their world though be the best that you can be, be the most honest, loyal, real, loving, generous, forgiving, compassionate person you can be. Be the example of what that is, because whether you are conscious of it or not, you are teaching them. THIS is how to ‘be a good teacher’, this is how you teach your child – through who you are when you’re with them.

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