When I first started homeschooling my two middle-school-aged daughters more than 10 years ago, I remember really struggling with the mother vs. teacher dynamic right off the bat. I thought that homeschooling my girls would bring us closer by adding “teacher” to the roles I already played in their lives. I loved the idea of us learning together. However my eldest daughter, who was very independent, thought I was trying to control yet another aspect of her life, and she didn’t like that. She also questioned my teaching abilities.
These battles carried over into our mother-daughter relationship, and that really hurt my heart. It took all of that first year for us to settle into a good working relationship. She came to realize I didn’t want to control every minute of her day or every bit of knowledge she learned: I wanted to share learning with her and give her the tools she needed to become a lifelong learner. It took a lot of learning and stretching for all of us. She also realized I really was “smart” enough to be her teacher.
Fast forward 10 years: Both of my daughters have graduated from homeschooling, and now I am teaching my 10-year-old son, who is a very independent learner. Really, all he wants from me is to give him the tools he needs and then leave him alone. He is very self-motivated and prefers to learn things on his own. My job is to make sure he also attends to subjects such as math and history that don’t really interest him.
As a new homeschooling mother, his independence probably would have hurt my feelings. However, I know now that this self-sufficiency isn’t a negative and should be encouraged. I have also learned to take a more holistic view of the mother/teacher dynamic with my sons.
The role of “mother” has always covered a wide range of jobs — nurse, comforter, cook, maid, hygienist, stylist and taxi driver, just to name a few. Now I recognize that “teacher” has always been part of that list, regardless of whether I homeschool my children or not. As mothers, we are already teachers in our children’s lives. As a homeschool mother, teacher just becomes a larger part of my mothering job. But it is not, and should never be, separate from motherhood.
Just as I believe education is a lifelong journey and learning is not contained within the walls of a school building, I also believe teaching is an inherent part of mothering. We may spend a few hours a day doing traditional school work at a desk, but I also teach my children in other ways all day, every day. For me, that is one of the biggest joys I have found in homeschooling.