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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Nanny - Home School Teacher: A Perfect Fit!

A nanny by definition is a teacher . . . a home school teacher. In point of fact, anyone that has contact with children is, in some way, a teacher. We often don’t see this truth because we focus on the conventional definition of “teacher” rather than the genuineness of what it means to teach.

I have a dear friend who is not a child care provider by profession, in fact she would say she has no skills with children, but she is wrong. She invests significant time into the lives of her youngest niece and nephew – they learn new skills and have expanded experiences because she teaches. This kind of teaching and learning is subtle, intuitive, fluid and significant. Parents engage in this educational practice daily. As nannies we use this technique almost without thinking – it is second nature to us.

However, as nannies we go further. We critically think about offering and planning activities, experiences, and opportunities that will help our charges move to the next step of their learning process. Whether they are infants or teens – there is always a next step, a new concept or idea waiting for them – and we are their guides . . . their teachers. It’s important to me that you see yourself as that teacher – the way I see you. Then you’ll realize how easy it is to move into a more formal role as a home school teacher for the school aged charge.

For six of my almost 20 years with my only nanny family, I was fortunate to experience being the home school teacher for my oldest charge. We started home schooling her simply because our school system wasn’t open at that time to moving young children forward at their own pace. We looked at private schools but were not seeing a fit for this six year old girl and her needs. So we began – albeit a bit blindly at first, but it wasn’t long until we got our footing. This journey was a partnership – parents, nanny, and child.

The keys to successful home schooling are; finding curriculum that is appropriate for the child and teacher alike, pacing the day with the focus on the student’s needs, providing additional rich experiences beyond the textbooks, and having a teacher who is open to learning.

This last key is probably the most essential. A good teacher – and you can think about those significant teachers you’ve had yourself – is one who open to the student and eager to learn themselves. I can truthfully say that I learned at least as much as my student, partly because I was “relearning” some things and partly because my student had so much insight to share. I had expected this because of my previous experience as a preschool teacher. No matter what I had planned for my class each day, no matter how creative and exciting, I knew that I was the one who would be receiving the best lessons.

Appropriate curriculum for both teacher and student is huge. Knowing your students strengths and weaknesses, as well as your own will go a long way to finding the right program of study. Today there are so many wonderful curriculum packages to choose from. It is possible to find one that offers all subjects as a unit or you may pick and choose from a variety of sources. Most school districts offer their curriculum to home school families at little or no expense. Also, check with the school district for other support resources that are available.

One advantage to home schooling is that the daily routine and pace can be formatted to match the child’s individual needs. You will probably find a daily rhythm that works for everyone with the opportunity to try something new and different whenever it seems appropriate. Tailoring the learning experience to the child promotes success and progress.

Adding experiences beyond the textbooks is essential. Home school families can take advantage of group activities through home school associations or school district opportunities, or just head out on your own.
For example: a trip to the zoo can enrich learning. We would take a sketchbook, camera and notebook along. We would linger where she wanted to learn more, take photos or draw. Later we’d use this information to develop other skills in writing, art, science or research.
Participating in larger group activities like sports, music or community service builds depth of learning along with social development. Parents are often worried about the development of social skills and connections, but home schooling doesn’t avoid these opportunities, I believe it allows for more selective choices.

I wouldn’t trade my home school experience for anything. It was a wonderful time for us all. Her younger siblings were the recipient of some great experiences by coming with us on many adventures, but also in absorbing the literature, history and various discussions that were always part of our days learning together.

Many people are surprised that I didn’t home school the two younger children in the family. The decision was simply based on the fact that they needed a different teaching approach and environment. By the time they started school our school district had made many significant changes in their teaching approaches. I actually spent several years participating in the elementary school as a teacher support volunteer. Her home school years ended when she went onto high school – deciding that the high school experience was something she didn’t want to miss, and we all agreed she was right.

From my first day as a nanny I became a home school teacher – part of that time was simply a more focused teaching style, but most of it has been those fluid teachable moment experiences that all nannies have in which we learn a little something new each day. Enjoy your learning journey!

Becky Kavanagh
Professional Career Nanny
2006 INA Nanny of the Year

P. S. Becky’s three charges today are: 22 year old home school student who is a graduate of Wellesley and starting her second year at Harvard Medical School, 19 year old soon to be Harvard sophomore, and 17 year old soon to be high school senior – all gifted, all amazing, all dear to her heart.


Anonymous August 13, 2009 at 4:15 AM  

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Michelle August 13, 2009 at 9:32 PM  

I too have been blessed with the opportunity to homeschool my charges. It was without a doubt the most challenging yet rewarding activity in my life-time thus far. I homeschooled 1 child for 4 years from jk though to grade 2. I also had his brother for 2 years( grades 2 and 3). I loved this time with my charges, and learned more than they did.

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