If you don’t see yourself as a teacher to your children…if you don’t sit with them and make them do schoolwork…if you don’t have a planner with the year’s curricula and lessons all laid out…what is it that you do?
If you ask 100 parents whose philosophy about education is similar to mine, you’ll probably get 100 different answers. That said, those 100 different answers can probably be sorted into five different basic categories: the guide, the mentor, the facilitator, the resource provider, and the partner. I personally slip back and forth between the different roles with ease, depending on which child I am working with and what he or she is wanting to learn.
While the guide and the mentor are similar, the difference as I see it is that the guide isn’t equipped to mentor. The guide lacks the expertise and know-how of the mentor. Instead, the guide is really, really good at asking the right questions. The guide helps brainstorm. The guide helps her children learn the critical thinking skills that are necessary for success. The guide is resourceful, and helps her children figure out what they need in order to navigate an uncharted trail.
The mentor does all the things that the guide does, but the mentor has the personal expertise and the know-how that’s necessary for helping a mentee learn something or achieve a personally meaningful goal. The trail isn’t uncharted when there’s a mentor in the picture. The difference between a mentor and a teacher as I see it is in the distinction between a mentee and a student. A mentee is pursuing a goal that is personally meaningful and has sought the guidance and expertise of the mentor, whereas a normal K-12 student is generally accepting (to varying degrees) the guidance and expertise of a teacher who is leading him toward a goal that was defined by the teacher.
The guide will oftentimes turn into a facilitator. It’s the next logical step. Once the guide has worked with her children to ask the right questions and figure out what might possibly be the next step to take, the facilitator takes over. The facilitator is the one who connects children with the mentors they need. The facilitator is the one who helps her children make things happen when they lack the resources or skills to do it all themselves.
THE RESOURCE PROVIDER
The resource provider is pretty hands-off, because her kids are doing all right on their own. They’ve figured out what they want or need to know. They’ve figured out what the next step is. They’ve found the resources they want to use…they just need the resource provider to get said resources for them.
Because learning never ends, the partner teams up with her children to explore a mutual interest more deeply. Rather than teaching her children anything, the partner is learning something alongside them.