This was me years ago. I was teaching a slew of topics I knew nothing about. Oh. Who am I kidding? That is me every year during planning time. It never fails. I find comfort in that we have all been there, teaching on topics we know nothing about. Yet, each year, we seem to make it happen.
I was an early learning teacher decades ago, but guess what? When I started homeschooling, my kids were way beyond the early learning stage. Basically, the only thing that helped me from my teaching experience was how to run my homeschool with rules and guidelines alongside a comforting environment.
Other than that, I was just learning as I go and researching topics during my planning season. And you know what? I have no shame about that. I remember almost nothing about what I learned in public school.
I know I had to have learned something, right? I have to admit that my brain blanks out when I start to plan my lessons. I feel as if I have learned more now teaching my students than I did when I was in school. I think I am not alone in that.
What homeschool mom hasn’t learned a thing or two while researching and working through lessons? We truly learn so much.
Teaching on topics you know nothing about can absolutely be a positive experience. An approach you can take in teaching topics you know nothing about is simply DON’T TEACH IT. I am not saying to teach it at all. What I am saying is that YOU don’t have to teach it.
Here is what you can do when teaching topics you know nothing about:
Trade with other parents. If you are good at one subject and another parent is good at another topic, offer to swap teaching duties. Your kids may actually like the break from any monotony in your homeschool.
Join a co-op for that particular subject (Head over to www.homeschool.com/groups for possible homeschool groups near you.)
Starting to kick yourself for not thinking of these? Here are some more, because it is OK to ask for help and it is OK to look beyond yourself to teach something. Here goes:
Get a tutor. You are not a failure if you get a tutor. Have you ever heard of that game show called “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” Why do you think that show even exists? Well, because many of us are not smarter than fifth graders ;-). If you have the means, get a tutor.
I use Elephant Learning’s math app for my kids as my math tutor. I have no shame when it comes to helping my kids academically, my kids have fun trying to reach new levels, and they are actually learning.
Find an online course. Sites like Luma Learn are aimed at providing students a variety of courses all in one marketplace.
If you absolutely cannot go these routes, that is OK. You will come to the same endpoint but with a little more elbow grease.
Here is what to do when you are teaching topics you don’t know about but want to teach them yourself anyway:
1. Grab a few sources on the subject. Not a few textbooks, a few sources. For instance, a textbook, sample exercises, YouTube videos/tutorials on the subject, and the library. Using a single resource can become boring as well as leave some questions unanswered.
2. You will have to do more in-depth lesson planning. I mean this is where you will have to take time and do the research, dig and understand the material for yourself. Over prepare, study ahead of lessons, make multiple lessons and practice materials and summarize critical things you need your students to know at the end of the lessons to set your goal.
3. I know you want to be there for your kids and be ready with answers, but this may not be feasible in subjects you recently learned yourself. This is what you do when your kids ask questions that you can’t answer.
Be honest and look for the answers together. You can also (still be honest) but task your older students to research the answers themselves and come back to you tomorrow to discuss. This is encouraging independent learning at it’s finest. Take the weight off of yourself and remember, your kids NEED this. Kids need you to let them find answers on their own.
4. Use online resources to help you and to come alongside your lessons. There are several online learning sites that provide a wealth of knowledge on various subjects by people passionate about them.
5. Tell your kids you may have to be learning together on this one. When you take steps to learn with your child in this homeschooling journey, you exemplify that learning is a way of life. It is a way of life to be teachable, to learn new things, and seek them out. Learning with your kids feels more like exploration vice them being taught another subject.
Here are some tips for teaching on topics you know nothing about:
Take it slow. Don’t rush through subjects like this. Take your time and make them meaningful and as simple as possible.
Your older kids can be independent learners with your guidance.
Never fake it ‘til you make it with homeschooling. You can’t fool anyone. Your kids need to trust you, so be real and admit if you don’t know something. Remember your goal is for your kids to know way more than you know, Amen? If you said Amen, then you are right on track!
Lord, help my kids if I only teach them things I already know, poor babies. We want them to learn way more than we ever did at their age. Pressure… off… self in 1,2,3 – GO.
Celebrate your student’s successes in this subject. It is worth acknowledging when your kids are getting through this – and you are too.
Above all, seek the Lord for encouragement and guidance. He already knows your heart and doesn’t see you coming to Him as insignificant.
Teaching your kiddos learning strategies is key in teaching them topics you know nothing about. These things you DO know, and you CAN teach. Teach them reading skills, how to do research, show them how to do experiments to get them thinking on cause and effect or critical thinking, and teach them trial and error as not to give up.
I have heard it said before that we can teach our students how to “learn” how to “learn.” Teach kids how to learn, and their opportunities to know new things can be endless.
Feeding facts doesn’t prepare them for the future. Practicing independent learning and asking questions does.
Jeannette is a wife, mother and homeschooling mom. She has been mightily, saved by grace and is grateful for God’s sovereignty throughout her life’s journey. She has a Bachelor in English Education and her MBA. Jeannette is bi-lingual and currently lives in the Tongan Islands of the South Pacific. She posts daily freebies for homeschoolers!