From Teacher to Tutor to Mentor (Homeschooling: How we do it – Part 1)

From the title of this post I am sure most of you can gather much of what I am about to share. It seems so simple now, but it sure wasn’t very obvious at the time!

I started out homeschooling our eldest at age 4 (that’s James at the top of this post).  You can read more about our decision to begin homeschooling and why we have continued on, by clicking on the “Home Education” tab at the top of the page.  At that time I was a bit nervous, but mostly excited and full of determination that this was the path that we were meant to follow.  Of course, my view on what I would be doing during our homeschooling day was pretty clear in my mind too.

I envisioned sitting at the kitchen table, the happy, fresh scrubbed face of my son shining up at me, ready to take in all I would teach him.

I was his teacher.

Yeah.  You know where this is going!

Instead I had a busy 4 year old who wondered why his Mom was suddenly set on pinning him to his kitchen chair and pushing workbook after workbook under his nose.  Oh sure I tried this project and that curriculum, but really all that boy wanted was to be allowed to get back to the business of being a boy!

Not only that, but as the months and years wore on, although I had long given up on both the kitchen table and most of the workbooks, suddenly I realized that my bright little boy just wasn’t learning.  And worse yet, that very bright, inquisitive spirit that we had so badly wanted to hang onto with keeping him at home, was quickly disappearing too.

I knew that something had to change.

I began researching ways to help my son with his unique learning challenges and began finding therapies and training that would help him.  As new methods and materials were being gathered to teach him, I suddenly realized something.  Much of what I was doing in our learning time was less and less about teaching him from my list of educational goals and learning outcomes by using many helpful tools such as this Chegg answers free website.  Instead, it had become much more of a one on one learning time that was tailored totally around what he needed.

I was his tutor.

Along came more children and subsequently more labels.  And with those labels, came more therapies.  More individualized lists of therapies and treatments.  Suddenly I was overwhelmed with the individual needs of my students.  It was a simply math equation.  A certain number of hours was needed to complete all their therapies and regular mainstream school work, and I only had, well, a much lesser amount of  actual daylight hours to accomplish it all!

What on earth was I going to do?

About the time I was ready to throw in the towel I read something online that piqued my interest.  It was all about apprenticeships and mentorships for young adults exploring their career goals.  Something clicked!   Now here was something I could wrap my head around.  I could teach my kids their lessons and train them individually in their therapies and then after a time of boundary setting and laying the groundwork, I could release them to carry out their tasks and therapies while coaching them.

I was their mentor.

So, what does this look like for us?

In the beginning of any new therapy or material we are working with, I spend, for example, an hour teaching about it, going through it step by step, making notes (in pictures or words) on the process that will be needed to do it.  That day may require that other schoolwork is lessened for that child.  Over the next 3 or 4 days (depending on what we are training them in), we practice carrying this out.  Each time I lessen the amount I do and increase the amount they do. Finally we come to a point where they are doing 80% and I do 20%.  The time that they are spending carrying out the task, I am available for questions, but they are expected to try and carry things out as best as they can on their own.  Sometimes I will select one of the other kids to be a buddy or helper in case they need it.   That way there is one more person that they can come to with a question or for an extra pair of hands.

I am amazed at how the kids respond to this.  There is something really empowering for them to be able to complete their work on their own.  And it gives me the freedom to move on and work with one of the other kids at the same time.

Does this cover all areas of our schoolwork?  No.

Does it all happen seamlessly?  Ha!  With 4 kids?  I’m not superhuman!

But, I am much more able to handle the tasks we have and much more able to also have time to focus on each of the kids’ characters, interests and giftings.

We even get to have fun once in a while. 😉

And it makes the decision of curriculum choosing much simpler.  Now curriculum must fit us, rather than us fitting the curriculum.  I look for resources that really compliment the mentoring ideal and as a secondary focus  the tutoring way.  It has to be a special pet interest of one of the kids for it to involve a lot of teaching from me, and then, I look for ways for it to be used for at least a couple of the kids at the same time (yes, you can use the same resource for a highschooler and a preschooler).

It’s all about the mindset.

And when my head is where my heart is,  my mindset is that of a mentor.

Questions?  Comments?  What journey have you undergone in your teaching?  I am always open to tips and new ideas and I’d love to hear yours!


  1. I like how you explain the prgression from Teacher ~ Tutor ~ Mentor, making me think about how I struggle with that. I need to make this shift aswell, but for some reason I’m finding it very challenging.

    I love the teachings/methods of Charlotte Mason and am triing to ‘model’ our new try at it similar to her standards. With my own interpretation of it to meet the needs of the family of course (-:

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