How to Teach a Subject You Know Nothing About

One of the things we focus on at Home Education Council of America is making things easier for the home educator.

I've noticed that in many of the online forums, a lot of discussion the past week has been centered around planning for the new year.  Many parents are tossing out curriculum that they might have paid hundreds of dollars for, only to purchase more curriculum worth hundreds more dollars, and they aren't even sure that will solve all their problems.

Why continue to spend money on textbooks and lessons for all subjects, especially a subject you know nothing about?  Is that really going to lift your load? Probably not – because now you have even more reading to do to familiarize yourself with the lesson layouts and then customize them to your child's learning style and your schedule.

The best way to teach a subject you know nothing about is…..DON'T TEACH IT!   Homeschoolers all over the world understand that no matter what your background is, a parent can't possibly know how to teach every subject.   We also know that although home education is a constitutional freedom, some states and countries do regulate what courses students have to take – particularly when you get to the middle school and high school years.  This presents a problem for parents as children get older and there are courses that parents know nothing about (or in my case, just don't understand).  In some college applications your child might have to include transcripts or syllabi from certain core subjects.  Because you are free to choose HOW your child receives the core requirements, why not find someone else to teach certain subjects while you focus on the ones you do know?

There's lots of ways to do this – from trading with other parents, to private tutoring, to taking online courses.  Taking an online course is much like participating in a co-op class – co-ops are a very popular approach for homeschool groups. 

Asking for help or supervising a course that someone else is teaching does not signal defeat.  In fact, it shows that you know how to use your resources wisely.  While your older child is taking an online science course, you could be teaching a younger child handwriting or grammar, while still supervising your older child if you so desire.  

For me, teaching Chemistry was the single hardest course I ever taught my kids when they were in middle school/high school.  It was hard enough to teach them math at levels that I never reached in high school (I later resolved to expensive private tutoring for math), but all of the equations and scientific notations in Chemistry made my brain feel like it was going to burst some days!  I cross-taught my 7th grader and my 9th grader because I absolutely did not want to have to teach this subject twice.

But since my kids have all taken the ACT and the SAT, I discovered that I really didn't need to teach Chemistry as in depth as I did.  Because NOTHING that was in that chemistry course was on those two exams.  That's right – science is not part of either of the standard ACT or SAT exam.  And EVERYTHING that was in the course that I had purchased, is taught in their college course for chemistry.  They are not expected to have previous knowledge, none, nada, zip.  

Now, I would definitely encourage the basics of chemistry as well as physics, before college.  It will definitely give them and edge.  But to stress out about it, no.  Get your kids involved in co-op classes, hire a tutor, and take a load off!

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