Public School Teacher to Homeschool Mom

Allison Lalli is a former teacher. This is her first year as homeschool parent through Aquinas Learning. She blogs about literacy and life at thehousethatlallibuilt.com.

“I will never homeschool. Kids should be in school where they will learn from knowledgeable teachers. They will be around friends and learn how to work with others.”

Oh, how my opinion has changed. My grandmother used to regale me with tales of her days in the classroom, and I just always knew that was what I was meant to do. I graduated with a BA in Elementary Education and went on to receive a Masters in Reading Education. I have spent years learning and using strategies to effectively teach young children to read. My specialty was in struggling readers, and I used my knowledge to work with all ages in an effort to get kids reading at grade level.

When my children started school, I had this nagging feeling that they needed something else. I read about homeschooling and thought, “Well, I am a teacher so I can do this.” I had heard that homeschooling was completely different than classroom teaching, so I was prepared for some changes, but I knew that I had a solid background and I could do this!

You know when you are pregnant for the first time and you hear about all the life changes that will happen once the baby arrives? You hear it and you know changes will happen and you are ready for it. Then the baby comes and you realize just how much life has changed… and there really was no way to prepare for it. That is how I feel about going from a classroom to homeschool (although not nearly as life altering or dramatic). I heard there were changes, I was prepared for the changes, but not until I was in the thick of it did I realize just how different it would be!

One thing that I have learned so far is that it may almost be easier, at least in the beginning, to not have a teaching background. I went in thinking, “I was a teacher, and I will teach.” I quickly learned that is not the way to do it.

Fluid Scheduling & Co-op Support

In school you are given a schedule, and you follow it. You flow through the day because you have to. You have to get the kids to their specials, and they have a specific time to eat lunch. You get your lessons done, and you move on. At home, it is completely different. First, you decide the schedule. There are some daily obligations, but for the most part it is up to you to make that schedule and ensure things get done.

A bricks-and-mortar school is one long day of subject after subject; I went into homeschooling thinking we would get it all done by noon in one large chunk. Sure, I would give them 5-10 minute breaks, but then we’d get back to it flowing from subject to subject. I have since found that it is easier for our family to separate our school day into chunks. Instead of sitting and getting it all done in one fluid block, we split the day into 3 chunks with breaks in between. We do go past noon, but we are less exhausted and grumpy because we get breaks!

As I was preparing to homeschool, I knew I wanted to find a co-op. I wanted the kids to still have a “school” experience, and I wanted to find a group that we could connect with. I had heard of Aquinas Learning, I loved that they followed the classical model for history, and that there was a religious component. I also knew that I needed a program that would help me organize our learning. Having come from the classroom, I was so used to being told what to teach that the thought of doing it all alone was extremely overwhelming! I love that I have support via email, social media, and the course site to help guide me along this journey.

Time Spent on Subjects

When you are in the classroom, you are required by law to complete a certain number of hours per subject each week. Having come from that environment, I approached homeschool the same way: 45 minutes on math, 60 on science/history, etcetera. Boy was I mistaken! I am lucky if I can keep one child’s focused attention for 5-10 minutes! If you think about it though, in the classroom during that 45 minute math block, how long is a single child truly focused? Probably about 5-10 minutes. The rest of the time they are listening to others, fidgeting with their stuff, and talking to the teacher or fellow classmates. So I have put myself on a timer to remind myself to stop and break. I am grateful to have fellow Aquinas parents to talk to who helped me realize that 10-20 minutes on one subject is sufficient and effective. I also love that there are the weekly memory works that we work on. The kids pick up on that knowledge quickly, because we read and sing it daily, and it takes less than five minutes!

Management

Ninety percent of classroom teaching is behavior management. Teachers are working to manage an entire class, so it is difficult to really work with a kid who truly needs help. While you certainly have to manage your children, it is different because they are your children! You do this all day every day. And it’s not the same management. It is meaningful management. I am working with my kids to become involved in household chores. I am able to work with them to develop coping mechanisms for their emotions. These are tools that they will need throughout life that they might not get being in a classroom.

Teaching Multiple Levels

Obviously, a big adjustment is planning and teaching for multiple levels. I actually like it! I get to stretch my skills, and I get to spend one on one time with each of my children as we work and learn together.

Throwing Away Everything I Learned

Over the past eleven weeks of homeschooling, I have learned that everything I studied in school and used in the classroom is essentially useless or looks very different at home. All those tools were created for use in the classroom when you are teaching many children.

My background is reading, I have taught many struggling readers to read and brought them up to grade level. So I thought I would use my tools to teach my 5-year-old to read at home. I found out very quickly that at this point all I need to do is read with him. He doesn’t need all of my strategies. He is learning and exploring at his pace. He needs me to be there to answer his questions and help him when he is stuck. I don’t need a teaching degree for that. That comes naturally as his mother.

–Allison Lalli is a former teacher. She taught in several elementary schools for about ten years before officially staying home and homeschooling her children. She was both a classroom teacher and a reading specialist working with grades K-6. This is her first year as homeschool parent through Aquinas Learning. She blogs about literacy and life at thehousethatlallibuilt.com.

 

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