One-Room’s Educational Philosophy

Rationale Behind the The 10 Educational Commandments of One-Room Education

Below you will find the reasoning behind each one of the 10 Educational Commandments listed on the previous page. If you would like a further explanation of any of these, please make sure to let me know in the comments below.

1. You do NOT Need to be a Professional Educator to be a Good Teacher.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. As someone who has walked in both educational worlds, homeschool and public school, I know this to be a 100% fact. I was homeschooled for K-8th grades and was privileged enough to find myself in the presence of some of the best teacher I have ever come across. No, my parents couldn’t afford a private tutor for me, but we did attend several living history events every year that were run, not so much by leading scholars, but by enthusiasts who would share the stories of people, places and events. This would also extend to story times at the local libraries, working with craftspeople, farmers and more.

All of these people simply wanted to impart their knowledge to young people while they still could. They enjoyed what they were doing and it was evident in the way they presented information about their trade or subject and how they answered questions from the people in attendance of the events. Unfortunately, I cannot always say the same for teachers within the professional field of education.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing teachers and educators out there in the public and private school systems, but they are often hard to find. Most of the teacher you will come across are looking for the students to regurgitate the information given to them during lecture and/or reading and then move on. This isn’t the point of education. The point of education that seems to have been lost is to teach students how to gather information and then interpret that information to create their own, unique world view that can, and will be ever evolving throughout their lives.

2. The primary responsibility of a student’s education falls on the parents or guardians of that student.

This one can be hard for some parents to hear because we have been told that we should give our children to people that we may or may not know and entrust them with the duty of educating our children in the same way we were. Now I’m not going to say that this is easy, but it is the responsibility of the primary caregiver to keep track of what their children are and are not learning and then work to fill in any gaps.

Teachers only have so much time with each student per day and rely on the parents or other guardians and caregivers to help by going over homework and other assignments that the teacher has assigned.

I, as a private tutor with almost 15 year experience, have seen parents struggling to figure out what it is that their children need help with and the best way to help them. I always stress to the parents of the students I work with how important their role is in the education process, because I’m only there with their child for an hour or so per week, but they are with them for days and it is their responsibility to help enforce the strategies that I teach in our lessons; otherwise it won’t matter how long I work with them, it may not help. This information sometimes comes as a shock to the parents who are all too often shut out of the education process by the public school systems and told not to ask questions, where as I encourage an open dialog with parents, guardians and students.

3. The majority of education happens outside of the classroom.

As I stated above, the classroom teacher only has so much time with their students each day, which means that the majority of education takes place outside of the classroom. If you take your child to the store with you and you have some coupons and calculate how to best use them, this is teaching your child both math and budgeting skills. The same is true if you take your small child to a story time at the local library where they not only learn the importance of reading and books, but they also learn important social and communication skills they will build on throughout their lives.

My point here is that education is so much more than sitting in a seat while a teacher lectures to you about the subject matter. It is about the experiences and memories that are created around those facts that are often missed in public schools today. Often to no fault of the teachers themselves, but the modern educational system in America, and the Western world in general, simply doesn’t emphasize experiential learning.

4. Anywhere can be a “classroom”, whether you are going to the store, the park or working at the kitchen table.

I mentioned above that you can help your child learn math and budgeting by taking them with you to the store, or reading, language and social skills by going to story time at the local library. You can carry this all the way home as well by having your kids help you make a meal where they will practice reading, math, coordination and working with others. You can even teach them about physics through the process of cooking the foods.

My point is that learning can take place anywhere you are, not just in a traditional classroom. Turn everyday tasks into educational experiences that are fun and practical for your young learners and help them explore the world at an age appropriate level.

5. Each student is an individual and has a unique way of looking at things that needs to be taken into consideration when creating either a curriculum or an individual lesson plan.

This is one that not every teacher is able to do. Some are unable to take the individual into account simply because it is nearly impossible with 20+ students crammed into a room at once with the expectation of real learning to take place. This is simply unachievable. This fact alone is one of the primary reasons for the increase in Special Education programs over the past 30 years. The education system understands that they are leaving kids behind, but they are totally unequipped to deal with the issue. This is where the parents and private tutors come in.

I often find in my private tutoring practice that there are a handful of real problems that my students face, most stemming from a deficit caused by the modern public education system simply not being able to handle different learning styles and their lack of emphasis on HOW to study and research, as opposed to WHAT they want you to study and research.

Once a student and their support system, whether a parent or guardian, are shown the HOW, the WHAT tends to fall into place naturally. This is what I end up spending most of my time on during my tutoring sessions. Once the student is able to identify the HOW that works for them, then they tend to see their grades increase across the board, not just in the subject they are seeing me for.

6. Every student is able to achieve the standards we set for them, so make sure to hold them to the highest achievable standard for that student.

There is an idea called the “bigotry of low expectations”. This is the idea that we must hold students, and people in general, to a lower standard of performance due to some immutable trait, such as sex, race or religion. This is false and is inherently prejudice in its premise.

I’m not saying to hold students to a standard that they will never be able to achieve, because that can be just as harmful as setting lower standards for them because of where they come from or their race.

One story I will never forget is when I was student teaching in the inner city. I was teaching a senior class on budgeting and had a few students in the class that were, well…gang members and spoke almost exclusive Ebonics. I gave a writing assignment and there was one student who told me that he wasn’t able to do it because he never learned how to “write that way”. I had him come in during lunch and explained to him that he was going to turn in the same assignment as everyone else because he was more than capable. Then I showed him how I wanted the short essay formatted and told him to get to work. He came in the day the assignment was due with a big smile on his face and handed it to me. When I was grading the essay, which I’ll admit was a bit hard for me to read due to the fact it was written entirely in Ebonics, I realized that he had completed the assignment in a very profound way. He got the ideas across and showed he had a full understanding of the topic being discussed, which he demonstrated by giving an in-depth analysis at the end. I was able to grade him on a curve and he ended up getting a solid B. He came in the morning I was going to hand the assignment back and said that he wanted to stop in and let me know that he was dropping out because he couldn’t deal with it anymore, “it” being the school and teachers. He then proceeded to give me a hug and tell me thank you for believing in him. He said I was the first teacher he had had in 11 years that said he could do it and didn’t just give him bad grades and make him feel stupid.

I often think of this student and wonder where he ended up in life and wonder if there was anything that could have been done to help him along the way.

In this example, I set expectations for my student and made sure that they were able to be met, even if that meant keeping my own expectations for what I wanted out of a writing assignment in check. He may not have been able to complete the assignment with perfect punctuation or sentence structure, but he did his best and was able to impress me with his deep insights into life and his place in it.

So set expectations for your students and hold fast to them. They WILL surprise you by rising to the challenge.

7. Always set realistic goals for your students and yourself.

This goes hand in hand with number 6. Go into the lessons with expectations and goals, but make sure to be flexible so that you don’t drive yourself, and your students, insane if daily and weekly goals need to change.

In addition to setting realistic and achievable goals for your students, you also need to set them for yourself. This means if you can read, proof and grade a 5 page research paper in 30 minutes, and you have a class of 30 students, don’t tell them that you will get the papers back to them in a couple of days, because that is simply unrealistic and will cause excessive stress and frustration for everyone involved.

If you are homeschooling, don’t look at Pinterest homeschoolers and think that is what real life is like, because it simply isn’t. No one I have ever known was able to teach their children all of the essentials and do an art project and music class and anything else all in the same day. Just keep that in mind when you are setting up your curriculum for the year and planning your weekly lessons.

Make sure that you take your own limitations into account when assigning work for your students. If you are unable to read a book in one week with all of the other things going on in life, then why would you expect your students to be able to do that? Again, I’m not saying to lower your expectations for their final work, but keep the timing and pace for the goals realistic so everyone has a chance to participate in, and enjoy, the learning process.

8. Always ensure that every assignment has a purpose. Don’t just assign busy work for students.

Think back to when you were a student and ask yourself what your least favorite part of school was. It was often the teacher that gave you as much work as possible without any real purpose to it other than to cause you to have to take time out of your evenings with your friends and family, right? Yeah, I hated that too.

As an educator, and a private tutor, I have never once assigned busy work for my students. If we have covered everything that needed addressed that day, I would give them the rest of the class to work on extra credit or homework from other classes. There is absolutely no need to ever give busy work. It is a waste of your time to prep it and your student’s time in doing it.

9. No subject is stand-alone. All subjects overlap in some way and it is important to keep this in mind when teaching any of them.

This one is a big one for me. I teach several different subjects in my private tutoring practice and have found that they all overlap in one way or another constantly. As you progress in your education, we are told that each subject is a specialization and that they cannot be taught together because they all have too much information to cover that way. While I agree that each subject CAN have specializations within it, we cannot simply separate them out and hope that students understand. This often leads to confusion and frustration on the student’s part.

For instance, if you are studying a book set during the American Civil War and assigning a paper on one of the characters in the book and how that character might be reflected in society today; then you would have to expect your students to go into the history of the causes of the American Civil War, the specific battles, the strategies of the different generals, maybe the geography of the city or town where the book is set, as well as the social implications of all of these things during that time period. Then you have to look at modern events, economics, sociology and whether we are working our way into a second American Civil War.

You might not think of all of these subjects separated like this for a simply English assignment, but this is the only way I have found in my experience to help the students not only understand the content topics you want them to, but also to understand that nothing in life is truly separated from anything else and that we have to learn how to think about these topics critically in the larger scope of the world and our place in it. This is the way our students truly learn how to think for themselves and navigate their world successfully after they are no longer under our care.

10. Paper is always better. I know…”but the trees!”, but trust me, this one is backed up by a lot of science.

Now this one has gotten me into some heated debates with my students over the years, more and more so as time goes on and society moves farther and farther way from tangible things in education, such as physical text books, paper tests and notecards/flashcards. The idea is that the physical act of moving a writing utensil across the paper as you take notes or make flashcards to study from, helps to further solidify the facts in your brain and makes them easier to recall than if you simply quickly jot something down on your computer, almost on auto pilot. Feeling the drag of the pen on the paper and thinking about what you are writing makes you more mindful of the process of information gathering and allows for easier recall for tests or papers.

The research shows that students who took notes on their laptop did take more notes. But, they retained much less. This is because students who use a laptop simply type a record of the lecture. They don’t use their brain to process what is being taught. Therefore, students are merely transcribing, not processing.


The above quote is from an article called Note-Taking: Writing vs. Typing Notes which was written this year and helps to illustrate the exact thing that I have found through my own teaching and private tutoring experiences. The main idea of notetaking is to help the students better understand the material being presented in the textbooks, or other sources, and for them to frame it in a way that they are able to remember when it comes to test day, or when they need that info in real life.

I may right an article specific to this subject in the future. Let me know in the comments if that is something you would like to see and I will link it here if/when it is posted.

For more information on this topic, please follow the links below.

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