Homeschooling Subjects that Mom (or Dad) Can’t Teach: 4 Moms

What happens when you’re homeschooling your children and you get to subjects that mom and dad just aren’t able to teach? That’s what the 4 Moms or 35+ Kids are talking about this Thursday.moms of many manage

In our culture where it’s assumed that we need ‘professionals’ to teach everything from art to reading, let me just throw a couple of thoughts out there:

  • God has given parents the responsibility to teach, instruct and train their children and He is the one who will equip us to do just that.
  • If you and your husband are functioning adults who are raising a family, then perhaps the topic/subject isn’t as necessary as one may think.
  • Education isn’t about spoon-feeding information. It’s about teaching our children how to learn. If we’ve done this then our children should be able to learn lots of things that their parents don’t know.

I’m certainly not saying that we will never need to call in reinforcements, but the trend in homeschooling circles seems to be to farm out nearly all of our children’s education to others, creating more of an inconvenient ‘school’ situation than an home education.

Be encouraged: God has equipped your family to raise and educate the children that He has entrusted to you.

So what do you do when/if you hit a subject that is too tough for one of the parents to teach? (Keep in mind our oldest is a rising high school sophomore.) These are some suggestions in our order of preference.

Choose good curriculum

One of the specific subjects that was mentioned in this original question to the 4 Moms was dissecting for high school biology. That’s a perfect example of this idea. Our oldest, Amber (15), took high school biology, complete with dissecting an earthworm, crayfish, perch, frog and a chick embryo. With Apologia Science and lab supplies, she was able to do all the dissecting, learning what she needed to, even though Mark and I don’t remember a lot of that information that we learned in high school.

We’ve found this to also be true with math . Our children have easily completed high school Algebra and Geometry with very little (to no) help from their father.

If you have successfully taught your children HOW to learn, choosing a well-written, clear curriculum should solve most of the difficulties of teaching subjects that mom and dad don’t know well (or have forgotten).

*In particular with dissecting, you can find a lot of information online. Even YouTube has a selection of dissecting videos.

Enlist the help of siblings

Several of our children have 5-6 years of Greek under their belts and even though I took two years of high school Greek, they are more advanced that I am (or perhaps ever was).

Most of our children have easily grasped the harder grammar and structure, but one has had difficulty. The beauty of this is that even though I’m not much help to her (without a lot of review and time on my part), her siblings are able to step her through portions that are difficult for her to understand.

Enlist the help of the body of Christ

At the church where I grew up and Mark and I spent the first 11 years of our marriage, they are serious about assisting parents in the education of their children. (They are, however, careful not to enable parents to pass off the education of their children.) Men in the church, who are experts in their field, offer higher level classes for homeschool students. (i.e. Economics, Great Literature from a biblical worldview, Latin, etc.)

I realize not all churches offer this type of obvious support, but I’m confident that the body of Christ is willing to come together to work for the education of these children. Is there an engineer in your church? Ask if he would be willing to spend an hour helping your child with math. A scientist? Maybe he’ll help with chemistry.

Do you have a Christian friend who plays the piano? enjoys drama? Work together to share and pass on the knowledge and gifts within the body of Christ. Christians should be working together for His honor and glory, sharing the gifts that we have with others in the body.

Consider online options

I know that there are lots of online options with teacher student interaction (even including college level courses). We haven’t personally done this, but I know they are out there and available.

Consider local options

Since moving to Knoxville, I’ve been amazed at the local possibilities and opportunities for homeschoolers. You could literally homeschool and yet not teach a single class to any of your children.

Some options here are:

  • 3 day a week co-ops – These are in actuality traditional schools that meet 3 days a week and the children spend 2 days a week at home completing the homework assignments given on the “in-school” days.
  • 1 day a week co-ops – These vary from where children can take a single, suplementary class to full day co-ops where children are given a full week’s worth of home assignments in all essential subjects. They also offer everything in between.
  • Individual classes –  Our children have taken violin and piano classes locally.
  • Local Christian schools – When my parents homeschooled me and my siblings, several of us took high school biology and chemistry at one of the local Christian schools. I’m not sure how readily available this is, but it may be an option in an area with fewer options for homeschoolers.

Other than piano and violin, we haven’t chosen to participate in these local options, but I know that they are available. There is such variety, there should be something to fit the needs of every family.

What are your “tough subjects” and how have you taught them?

You may also be interested in:

Visit the other moms of many to read about how they teach those tough subjects:
Smockity Frocks
Life in a Shoe
The Common Room

For more Moms of Many posts visit the 4 Moms page.

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14 Responses to Homeschooling Subjects that Mom (or Dad) Can’t Teach: 4 Moms
  1. Janee Campbell
    July 26, 2012 | 10:23 am

    One thing you did not mention but that I have been doing the past 2 years is schooling with another parent. There is another family in our ekklesia who has been homeschooling for a long time. Our children all have a matching pair in their family one year either older or younger than they are of the same gender. Last year we met one afternoon a week and my friend taught our older girls writing while the boys played together. This year I’m going to do science experiments with all of the kids one afternoon a week. We may do some other things as well but this is our focus for the year. Although we could both handle those subjects on our own it is more fun to do something together each week so the kids are learning as well as getting to socialize since they are all good friends. We have done the co-op thing in the past as well as individual lessons but this is one thing we really enjoy!


  2. Erica Hale
    July 26, 2012 | 12:09 pm

    We are doing Apologia Biology this year, and have found a variety of resources for dissections online. We are doing the class as a co-op with two other families, so the kids will have “lab partners” they will meet with every other week in our home to do the projects that we might otherwise not get around to doing. I’m excited about it, and because it’s only an every-other-week commitment it won’t be adding something difficult to our schedule! One of the blessings I’ve found with homeschooling is that I myself have learned so much through the process…I enjoy getting to go through the kids’ curriculum with them, and I have learned so many things in these home school years…I have a better understanding of History, Geography and world culture than I had before, even though I took history classes through college. I struggled terribly in math when I was in school, but have been able to help my son through Algebra, Algebra II and even some Trig. I never “got” math until I had access to the resources we used at home…now not only do my kids understand it, but I finally feel like I do too. What a blessing!


  3. Rachel
    July 26, 2012 | 2:08 pm

    My boys are little at this point, but my plan is to send them to our local community college for certain things. Most of the harder high school stuff in our state gets repeated for lower division college work, so I’d rather have someone proficient teach them while they get college credit for it at the same time. You’re right–most of these things aren’t truly necessary to learn, but they are state requirements.

    Before that point, I also want to teach them things that I never learned but wish I had. In those cases, I hope to learn alongside my children–making it an exercise in practicing self-education. In that case, my teaching role is to provide help with study methods and clarifying texts. This will start pretty early, since dh and I want to teach the children and ourselves ASL.


  4. Mindy at Grateful for Grace
    July 26, 2012 | 4:11 pm

    This is a timely post. We are struggling with how to handle a higher science: not do it, do it at home (with some of the suggestions you gave, thanks!), through a co-op, or online.

    Hard decision for us.

    BTW, did you get my emails?


  5. abba12
    July 26, 2012 | 5:50 pm

    Asking to outsource practical skills is such a major way of making this happen in my opinion. My husband and grandfather have both tutored some homeschoolers in computer hardware. My grandmother has done the same in basic quilting and dressmaking. My sister loved horses but without knowlege or experience had no idea how to get involved with them. She asked to be allowed to volunteer and learn at a local trail ride stable. Well, she eventually became their senior employee, gained a qualification, and is now working full time at a racing stable! While he has not been asked, I know my father in law would happily teach what he could, as an engineer, and he also has an advanced knowlege of chemestry he could pass on.

    There are so many people willing to help and teach, but most of us never ask.


  6. Shannon
    July 27, 2012 | 7:14 pm

    I like the comment about thinking about whether it really needs to be learned. I never dissected a frog or a worm. I did do the cow eye, and a raw chicken wing. I successfully argued with my parents that dissecting a frog was NOT something I needed to be educated. They then backed me in not doing this with my public school teacher and the administration. Honestly as a stay at home mom, and previous professions how would being forced to dissect anything benefit me? It doesn’t, totally could get the same info other ways.


  7. Donna
    July 29, 2012 | 6:06 pm

    not sure what you mean by “harder” high school stuff but this post started by talking about algebra and at least around here you have to have that under your belt before you can even talk about going to the local community college. (just saying)


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Hi Donna,

    Our oldest child (15 years old) is a rising high school sophomore. She has done Algebra 1 and 2 and high school geometry. Since I can’t talk about teaching subjects that none of our children have taken and these are the only “harder” subjects we have had experience with, I used these as my examples. 😉

    It is my guess that, despite our inexperience homeschooling older grades, many of my ideas will work with whatever you consider “harder”.

    I know that my mom used these ideas when she was homeschooling. She had students who earned full academic scholarships to college, graduated from college with honors, were national merit scholars, and have earned a few patents.


  8. Donna
    July 29, 2012 | 10:10 pm


    this was for Rachel talking about sending her boys to the local community college; just saying they would need to have algebra completed first for that to be an option.


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Hi Donna,

    Sorry about the misunderstanding.

    I think what Rachel is talking about is dual enrollment, where high school students can take classes at a local college and get credit for both high school and college at the same time. According to our local community college (linked above), college Algebra is one of the most popular dual enrollment courses.



  9. Donna
    July 30, 2012 | 8:15 am

    Yes, Kimberly, I did think that might be what she was talking about but it’s not actually what she said; however, even if we are talking dual enrollment, College Algebra is the equivalent of Algebra II and you still have to have Algebra I completed first.


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    I suppose that the Algebra 1 requirement may vary with each individual college because it’s not a requirement at our local community college. 🙂


  10. Donna
    July 30, 2012 | 2:36 pm

    No, Kimberly, not specifically but you probably have to have to make the required ACT score 🙂


  11. Shannon
    July 30, 2012 | 5:08 pm

    Donna, I can honestly tell you that every college, and every college admin office will give you different info on this. I can also tell you that I had a public school sibling that took Honors College Prep classes including 4 years of higher math, I stopped at high school Algebra II, did so so in regular not AP classes. And at the same community college I started out in a higher math and English(same he was in Honors AP for 4 years and I was not) classes than he did.
    Just pointing out that while you want to make sure accurate info is giving, I can tell you that at 6 different campuses of the “same” college, you will get 6 Or more (if you ask more than 6 people) different answers to that question.


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