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The Many Roles of a Homeschool Parent

by David Engle | Jul 19, 2023 | 7 min read

If you’re reading this article, you’re likely already a homeschool parent or are interested in becoming one. As current homeschoolers know, parents wear many hats when it comes to educating their children. A homeschool parent isn’t simply a teacher, though that is a significant role that comes with the “job.” A homeschool parent is also a coach and a mentor. What does that look like? Keep reading!

The Role of Teacher: Yes, You Can Do It!

It’s a big responsibility, and it can seem overwhelming to know that your child is depending on you (but not only you!) to provide a great education. Trust us, we get it! There are most certainly mixed emotions when trying to determine how to homeschool. At the top of the list is the concern that you’re simply not cut out to be a teacher. You probably doubt your teaching skills, just like new parents doubt their parenting skills.

Let us stop you right there. Do not doubt yourself. Sure, you may not have a degree in education or teaching experience in a classroom. But here’s the thing…

You know how to teach. Because you’ve been teaching your child since they were born. As a parent, you are a teacher. You teach your child right from wrong. And you teach your child how to play. You may have already taught your child how to read and write or ride a bike. Everything your child can do to this point, you taught them!  So, yes, you can teach! Classroom teaching? Not a problem. We can help you with that.

The Role of Classroom Teacher

One of the biggest advantages of you teaching your own child is that you know better than anyone how they learn best. And when you know their learning style, everything else falls into place. Say your child is a hands-on (or kinesthetic) learner–someone who learns best when keeping their hands and bodies busy with projects or activities. You can create classes and find a curriculum suited exactly to that learning style! Not sure what your child’s learning style is? Find out here!

One of the many benefits of homeschooling is that you can teach your child however you’d like. While many homeschooling families do at least some of their learning in a homeschool “classroom”–a dedicated area in the home used for lessons–others have school wherever the day takes them. When you start homeschooling, you might as well forget any preconceived notion of what a “classroom” is and what “school” means. The homeschool “classroom” can be almost completely virtual (on a screen) or a room set aside for learning as we mentioned. But it can also be outside at a park or at a museum or in the car as you’re traveling to a new destination. When you homeschool, the world is your classroom!

As you’re teaching, wherever that may be, keep a few things in mind…

  • Be flexible. Homeschooling secret: The best learning often happens outside of the lesson! There are teachable moments throughout each day, so embrace them. Perhaps you’re baking on a weekend…use that time to teach your child fractions and even kitchen safety! Maybe you’re taking a drive to see family…that’s a great time to discuss state capitals or even how to calculate your estimated arrival time based on distance and speed. Just about anything can be a teachable moment, and the knowledge you instill in your child during these moments is invaluable.
  • Ask for help! We wouldn’t be completely truthful if we told you that every day as your child’s teacher is fun and without challenges. There are going to be those days when you throw your hands in the air and question what you’re doing. It’s okay–everyone has those days. And that’s why you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help with your homeschooling. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, seek out a local homeschool support group for advice. Or consider joining a homeschool co-op or microschool. Or partner with an accredited homeschool academy, like Bridgeway, that will help you with record-keeping, classroom progress, assessments, state laws, and more!
  • Stay confident. Your child couldn’t have made it this far without you. That means you’ve been doing something right! Keep that in mind whenever you start to lose confidence in yourself. You know you can teach, and you’re giving your child a one-of-a-kind education that will open so many doors in the future.

The Role of Mentor

There is definitely some overlap when you’re looking at the roles and responsibilities of teachers, mentors, and coaches. We just discussed some of the teaching responsibilities–and your role as a homeschooler “teacher” is just that–teaching your child lessons as it relates to school (and beyond in some instances). When you think about your role as a mentor, things tend to skew “bigger picture.”

Really, your role as a mentor is quite close to your role as a parent. Putting academics aside, many of those real-life moments you teach your child are part of a mentor role. A mentor guides their mentee through certain situations and life events, often through an experience-based perspective. Mentors can relate their similar experiences to the mentee (in this case, your child) to explain how they accomplished a goal or completed a task.

Mentoring as a homeschool parent may be providing help with certain life skills. This could include explaining how to prepare for a test or a job interview. Or preparing your child for life after graduation, whether it’s college or a job. Or drilling home the importance of budgeting their money wisely based on how you did the same.

As a mentor, you’re demonstrating to your child how you achieved certain things based on your personal experience. Or you might be providing your child with specific tips on how to succeed in whatever they want to do. So, when you boil it all down, mentoring is basically parenting. You’re serving as a role model for your child. And that’s something you’ve been doing since day one!

The Role of Coach

By definition, a coach is a trainer or instructor whose goal is to improve someone’s performance or skill or help them prepare for something. While a mentor guides, a coach instructs, similar to a teacher (we told you there was a lot of overlap!). If you look at coaching in basketball, a coach instructs his or her team on strategies and execution of plays during the game. The players get instant instruction and feedback during the action. And coaches can change their methods to adapt to specific situations or needs.

Sounds very similar to teaching, doesn’t it? That’s because coaching does involve teaching. But there is a subtle yet important difference that can be simplified. Teaching focuses on students gaining new knowledge and abilities. Coaching focuses on improving upon and enhancing a student’s existing knowledge and abilities. And a coaching relationship is based on equal and open communication between coach and student, which leads to more engagement. 

So, when you’re going over a lesson on a particular subject or topic the first time, you’re teaching. But when you go through some practice quizzes or expand on the subject a bit more, you’re doing more coaching than teaching, since your child already has the initial knowledge on the subject.

Coaching can take on many forms when it comes to education. The ICF Thought Leadership Institute offers some great ways to coach your child as a parent-teacher.

  • Allow your student to participate in their own learning. Ask and answer questions to make the learning process about discovery. This invites students to form their own opinions and communicate them. Plus, coaching in this way allows your child to express interest in a particular subject, ask for more information, and share their personal feelings on the topic.
  • Help your student figure out their goals. According to the ICF Thought Leadership Institute, “coaching emphasizes the importance of identifying skills and nurturing those key aspects that make each person unique.” As a homeschool parent, you will be able to see and acknowledge the growth in your child. And that can help you both set achievable goals to set them up for success.
  • Inspire curiosity. Curiosity may be the only teacher better than you. Why? Because once kids become curious, they develop a love of learning. They need to know more, and they want to become experts on a topic. As a homeschool parent wearing your coaching hat, you can pave the way for curiosity by revolving your lessons around questions and open discussion. Plus, when students know they’re heard, academic engagement increases. As a bonus, these types of discussions help them hone (coaching!) critical conversation and communication skills.
  • Listen actively…and teach your child to do the same. It doesn’t require much to listen, but it certainly goes a long way. And coaching involves a lot of listening. But you can also coach your child to do their own listening, which promotes compassion and empathy for others.
  • Teach your child to fish. Not literally…unless you want to (it’s a fun and useful skill to have, after all). You know the saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”? That is a form of coaching. Rather than simply providing the answer, a parent-teacher can coach their child to solve a problem by using the resources and skills they have at their disposal. This allows your child to grow their problem-solving skills and not rely on solutions being handed to them.

You Can Be Your Child’s Teacher…and Mentor…and Coach!

Like we said, a homeschool parent wears many hats, and they probably don’t even realize it! Parent educators are simultaneously their child’s teacher, mentor, and coach. Some of these responsibilities overlap, but they’re each important in their own distinctive ways. The bottom line is, you’ve been parenting your child since their birth and have raised them by…you guessed it…teaching them, mentoring them, and coaching them. If you’re new to homeschooling or are strongly considering it, don’t be apprehensive. We know it’s a tall task with a lot of responsibilities, but be confident in the fact that you’ve already succeeded to this point.

Don’t forget…Bridgeway Academy is always here to help if you’re looking for a homeschool partner! Call (888) 303-7512 to speak to a homeschool consultant today. You’ve got this, and we’ve got you!

David Engle
Hello, and thanks for reading! I’m David Engle--dad, husband, sports fan, and writer/editor. As a father for the last 18 years (father of two for the last 14), I consider myself to be pretty well-versed in all things related to education, childhood, and parenting, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to share some insights and knowledge with fellow parents. I have been a professional writer and editor for a quarter of a century (it pains me to admit that) and have been writing in the educational space for a number of those years. I reside in southern New Jersey with my wife, two kids, two dogs, and three cats. Never a dull moment.
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