Monday, December 14, 2009

Mentor or Teacher?

If I teach someone how to make kombucha or knead bread, I'm handing over a skill or a certain amount of knowledge. That's teaching, but it's not being a mentor.

When my kids learned to drive, Mr Fischer was the teacher for most of the kids in the class, but for my kids he was, for a brief time, a mentor. He was someone to look up to, someone who taught them much more than driving, someone to remember for the rest of their lives. That's why I bothered to make the 2-hour roundtrip to take Andrew to Trident Driving School after we'd moved.

Most homeschool moms are mentors more than they are teachers. A teacher passes on a skill or a certain bit of knowledge. But a mentor teaches so much more: values and outlook and habits and mannerisms and skills and worldview and social habits and maybe even academic knowledge too. Mentors shape people.

It's a scary to be a mentor. You know your own failings. How can you teach other people? What if they grow up to be like you? Yikes! It would be so much easier to just teach what's in the book, avoid the risk. But then ... which book? Who decides which bits of academic knowledge are the important ones to teach? Who decides which worldview should be passed on? A school board? A government panel? Nah. I don't want them being mentors for my kids either.

It's scary enough to be mentor for your own children, the ones God placed into your care, the ones whom you've loved since birth, the ones who've trusted you all along. But then, to ponder (even briefly) the thought of teaching other kids, the scariness multiplies! You know you can't love those other kids as much your own. You suspect other parents ought not trust you with their child's mind and heart and life. After all, who are you? When it's your own kids, you know you have a call from God to raise them up. But other kids? That would be a daunting responsibility to take on oneself.

Maybe if I could convince myself that teaching was something simple like passing on spelling skills, or fixing a washer, or declining Greek nouns, then teaching wouldn't seem like such a big deal. But when you've spent most of your adult life as a parent, a homeschooler, a mentor, it seems like such a trivial thing to merely "teach," in contrast to investing all your life and energy into the people committed to your care.

1 comment:

  1. I was talking to a girl at work today who asked me (knowing that I was homeschooled) if we were going to homeschool our kids. I was trying to explain this exact thing to her. She (obviously) brought up all the usual objections (socializing, etc.). I noticed that she didn't try to claim that public school had the stuff I desired our children to have. She simply thought the other was more important.

    But, yeah, not sure how to explain all of that to someone... short of just saying, "If your kids could have this, wouldn't you want them to?"