- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 21, 2004

One of the unique joys that I am receiving in my life right now is seeing my children teach others.

It’s a bit like having invested 20 years coaching Little League and seeing your son make it to the major leagues and pitch in the World Series. There’s this deep feeling of “Wow, it all paid off.”

One of my daughters is a very good public speaker and teaches rather complicated health information to large groups of teens. She also teaches dance and is starting classes in local schools and community centers.

She is so natural in front of audiences, big or small, and she has such a clear way of expressing things that even adults are impressed and able to learn from her.

My second daughter taught herself video production and now is teaching several other children. She has a quiet and methodical approach but was amazed to see how fast the two other young persons learned what she taught them.

She also teaches dance and is very patient, able to break down the information into small enough pieces for the students to digest and absorb easily.

My son has become a technical wizard, researching and passing on information about sound systems, video equipment and electronics of all kinds.

He also organizes and helps lead break-dancing and gymnastics lessons, and can get a group of rowdy guys to actually work together to create a solid break-dance act.

This is one of the most satisfying experiences for me as a home-schooling parent. Not only have my children become lifetime learners, but they are lifetime teachers as well. They know how to share information effectively, and they really want to raise the abilities of others.

Something I see them inheriting from my own teaching style is the habit of making goals.

At the beginning of every new phase, our family brainstorms and decides on some central goals for that particular project or time period.

Once those are clear in our minds, we develop some plans of action on the things that need to be done soonest.

We also set up some kind of timeline, at which at least the first things — and sometimes the last things — need to be done. This creates a mental structure for the activities.

For instance, if we know that we want to be done with two years of work by June, and we have seven courses that must be completed, we may make an artificial deadline of one month for the first to be done.

Even though there’s no magical reason that finishing that course at that time is necessary, just having a goal post helps create the momentum.

Another thing we do is intersperse periods of group discussion with individual work on a set of tasks.

Once the group has exchanged views and come up with decisions, each person will take on the particular responsibilities he or she accepted and work independently.

Then, as jobs are completed, we report and show the results to each other. Seeing one person finish a task pushes the others to do the same. Each person is his or her own timekeeper and disciplinarian.

Accomplishment, not acceptance, is the motivator.

What is now emerging is that each family member has expertise in a certain area, and we all trust and depend on that person to be the master of that realm.

We know that if we need answers to certain types of questions, the other person is our teacher for that type of information and the quality control manager. Yet, we all learn from each other.

As home-schooling continues to develop and produce young adults who go out into society, we will be able to see our investment bear dividends. Good seeds bear good fruit.

Home educators can be confident that the lessons they teach today will become the standards guiding the world in the future.

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer living in Maryland.

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