Whether you are teaching a classroom of 20 fourth graders or four children of different grade levels, teaching is hard work. You have to plan out lessons, teach the material, answer any questions, and test their knowledge. It’s almost like its a full-time job or something…
If the curriculum is written for you, that is a huge time saver allowing you to focus more on teaching and all of those other things you have to do in a day. But you still have a ton of work, most of which your children may never fully appreciate. Unless of course, you give them an opportunity to teach a class themselves. Not just a one-off session, but a reoccurring weekly lesson on a topic that they can research, plan out, teach, and answer questions.
Have you ever met someone that was really knowledgeable on a topic, but struggled when trying to explain or teach others? It really is a practiced skill to effectively and efficiently show others how to do something. Many times, an instructor develops a much higher mastery of their given specialty. You might think well, of course they do, they teach that subject. But one of the reasons they are so good at it is actually because they teach it, not necessarily the other way around.
A great example is the karate school where my children take lessons. There are many student teachers helping out or running the beginner level classes. Sure they were good martial arts students before being chosen to instruct others, but they have all developed a far deeper knowledge and understanding of the material after teaching others. They became more confident in their skills, retained more of their own material, and progressed faster through their belt ranks. There is nothing better than repetition to help you memorize and practice skills.
Military drill sergeants, personal trainers at a gym, and high school academic tutors are all subject matter experts. Each made better at their particular discipline by continuing to plan lessons, teach others, and answer a wide range of questions on the topic.
Giving your child the opportunity to take the lead, to teach information that they know well, is a huge confidence booster and gives them a chance to really hone a variety of skills.
Have your child pick a class they can teach. It can be a weekly art lesson or a class on dinosaurs. They could choose any other subject they are already good at, or one they want to research and learn more about. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a “school subject” either. Once a week they could teach the family everything they learned the previous week in their karate class. Or they could use a cub scout manual or another book to teach the family “survival skills”. Or use a favorite cookbook to teach a cooking class.
But in order to teach a class, they have to write up basic lesson plans or course outlines and conduct the weekly class on an ongoing basis. They would also be expected to answer questions and test the knowledge of their students.
General research, note-taking, report writing, organization, and public speaking are all involved in this activity. The process and act of presenting material are much more important than the actual subject matter of the class they will teach.
To start, make sure they are realistic in their subject matter. They can’t teach riding lessons if you don’t have access to a horse. Or, if the classes would require a significant amount of gear or expensive materials that you would have to purchase, you might steer them towards something else.
You might also need to help them out with their lesson plans for the first few sessions to make sure they are on the right track. But helping them organize their thoughts and outline their intent will also have benefits in other applications. Once they get the hang of the first couple of lessons, they can start to do this mostly on their own. Of course, depending on their age, the length of the class and depth of the lesson will vary.
When presenting the class, all available and age-appropriate family members should be encouraged to regularly attend. Ask questions (even if you know the answers) and have them explain topics further. If you stump them, suggest you both look up the answer together. Take notes and engage in all aspects of the class as you would expect them to behave if they were the student. Perhaps your child will allow you a sneak peek at the upcoming lesson. Then you’d have a chance to come up with some creative questions and potential rabbit trails.
A great example is if you ever watched an Alton Brown cooking show. If the episode was about baking an apple pie, he would show you how to make an apple pie start to finish. But before the pie comes out of the oven, you would learn the differences between baking 10 different apple varieties as well as the pros and cons of using butter, margarine, or lard. He would also touch on the history of where the apple pie originated and basic apple orchard management. And then finally you get an actual pie, fresh out of the oven.
As homeschool parents, you are not just responsible for teaching subjects like reading, writing and arithmetic. Public speaking, learning to teach (or fully and effectively explain topics), and other life skills are extremely important. An activity like this is perfect for the summer months when you are on a more laid back schedule, but this can also be easily integrated during the regular school year!
Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-12 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 21 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also make incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books, and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.