7 Things We Know For Sure About Homeschooling
The following content is part of a multi-platform collaboration between Journaling.com, Homeschool.com and Project Happiness. Written by the founders of Homeschool.com and Laurel Springs School, this positive and encouraging article and podcast was created to help parents homeschool their children during Covid-19.
7 Things We Know For Sure About Homeschooling
Advice from the Founders of Homeschool.com & Laurel Springs School
1: Your Priority Now and Forever is… Bonding, Joy, Growth
You may naturally be thinking that the priority is lesson plans and scheduling. BUT, we believe that the priority right now and forever is… family bonding, joy, and growth. Bonding is incredibly important. It is foundational to our children. Research has shown that deepening the bond with your child enhances well-being, self esteem, the ability to learn, and compassion for others (human and animals). Bonding teaches children to trust, empathize and communicate. This time you have together homeschooling is precious because it allows you to do more bonding.
Joy reduces stress and offers the ability to learn in new and wonderful ways. What happens when your child’s brain is stressed? Stress hormones end up swamping their bodies and increasing adrenaline and cortisol, which affects long term focus and fortitude.
When families first start homeschooling, sometimes parents can feel a lot of pressure to do it “perfectly.” But of course there is no perfect. Perfect is an illusion. We suggest that the priority right now is not “perfect”, it‘s “growth.”And in order for a child to grow, they need to feel safe. So it may take time for some children to rebalance and get used to this new learning culture. It’s perfectly fine to give them that time.
Here are 3 questions for you to ask yourself to make this experience even richer.
Q: How are you feeling about your homeschooling?
Q: Is there anything you want to do to make it more joyful?
Q: What are some ways you will know that your children are growing from this experience?
2: “We’re mediocre today, hurray!” The Importance of Positivity & Gratitude
Some days, mediocre is really good. You show up and you do the best you can. And you celebrate that. Mindset is how we feel about a situation. And the powerful thing is, most of the time, we can decide ahead of time how we are going to feel. For example, you may not have had the choice whether or not to homeschool your children, but you DO have the choice about how you are going to feel about it. In the midst of so much uncertainty, we can enjoy this unexpected gift of time with our children. Some days you feel like a rockstar and other days you will feel like a total failure. Some days your children will be on fire and will get so much done. Other days you may need to take a break and just play. You can’t do it wrong. Children are biologically built to learn. So have fun with this, play with this, relax into this. This time with your children may become one of the highlights, one of the best memories, of your life.
Q: Imagine your family five years from now, looking back on this time, what do YOU want to remember most?
Q: What would you like your children to remember?
Q: What are some things you enjoy doing with your children?
3: Teach to THEIR Learning Style
The next big idea we want to share with you is that each of your children has their own unique learning style. This is a revolutionary idea because when the teaching style matches your child’s learning style, learning just takes off and their special talents and interests are revealed. You have probably heard of these – auditory, visual and kinesthetic. Auditory learners learn best when they can hear the information, visual learners learn best when they can see the information, and kinesthetic or hand-on learners learn best when they get to touch or build things. Rebecca has three children and they each have a different learning style. Her son is an auditory learner. He loves audiobooks and learns best when he can hear a lesson and talk about it. Her youngest child is a visual learner. She likes reading things and using workbooks. Her middle child is a kinesthetic learner. She is moving all the time and likes to build and create things with her hands. She is also the athlete of the family.
Here’s the tricky part. Rebecca is an auditory learner so her son and she are in sync. She teaches by talking and he learns by hearing. So that works out really well. But what about her visual learner and her kinesthetic learner? It’s normal for us to teach in the way that WE learn best. But that may not be how THEY learn best. So what can we do? At its core, learning styles are about caring for others. It’s about having compassion for how your child learns.
Let’s also talk about a child’s learning environment. During this unique time you can support them to discover not only HOW they learn best, but WHERE they learn best. Some children enjoy sitting at a table or desk, others like sitting on the floor or working on their bed with their dog by their side. Your child may enjoy a quiet room, or having background noise or music. Some children are morning learners and others need time to wake and orient themselves to the day. Some children do better when they have pens, pencils and a notebook that reflects their favorite color.
This is also a wonderful time to understand and support your child’s innate talents; such as music, math, movement, interpersonal communication, mechanics, humor, and animals. We all have talents that are unique and this is a perfect time to include those talents into their learning experience. Taking apart a computer, having a meaningful conversation, dancing, making jokes, doing art projects, cooking, caring for animals, and journaling are fantastic ways of incorporating talents into your child’s daily life. This is learning, and might end up being some of the most important learning they will do.
Here are four questions to help you make the most of this information.
Q: Are you an auditory, visual or kinesthetic learner?
Q: What learning styles are your children?
Q: What learning personality are your children drawn to? How do they like to show their learning: by building something or performing, by thinking deeply and telling you all about it, by talking, inventing, drawing, or completing workbook, textbook or online assignments?
Q: How can you adapt your teaching to match their learning style?
4: Children Support What They Help Create
The idea that “people support what they help create” is based in the understanding that if I am part of a situation or project then I’m going to do my best to make it successful. It’s human nature. You see, there is a part of us that wants to help. Studies show that when presented with another person’s problem, it is natural to try and solve it. No matter what the outcome is, just being part of the process feels powerful.
Start by sharing an observation. “I notice that you two seem to be arguing and fightIng more than normal. Have you noticed that too? Why do you think that is?”
As parents, our natural tendency may be to jump in and tell our children what to do (and sometimes we need to). Unfortunately, that doesn’t always solve the problem and puts us on opposite teams. The fighting may stop for a moment, but it comes back later. By compassionately sharing your observation, you have stepped out of the problem and shined a light on a challenge that THEY seem to be having. By stepping back a bit, you can help facilitate creative solutions.
Listening and working as a team is good for solving problems AND for creating dreams. We used to ask each of our children, “What is your #1 goal?” Then we made ourselves really listen to their answers. We weren’t allowed to downsize their goal or protect them by telling them that their goal might not be realistic. When Rebecca’s son said that his #1 goal was to learn how to drive every kind of boat, that became the #1 priority, as important as reading, math or science. You take your child’s goal seriously and you figure it out. Usually it’s not the goal that is important. Its you listening to them that really matters. And it’s who they become as a person as he or she works on that goal. They are building grit by discovering new ways to accomplish their goals.
Q: What is your child’s #1 goal right now? (Try to ask each of your children.)
Q: How can you help them achieve their goals?
Q: What is your #1 goal and what can you do to make progress on it?
5: It’s Time to Journal
When people try a new thing, like homeschooling, emotions come up. Journaling helps you release those feelings in a healthy way so that you and your family can move forward with less friction, more ease, and more joy. One of the most exciting methods of journaling is called “expressive writing.” Did you know that if you journal before a surgery or medical procedure, you will heal faster than people who don’t journal? This is powerful. Expressive Writing is also scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety, and it improves relationships and even children’s test scores. The best news is that it’s fast and easy to do.
All you have to do is: pick a topic (like homeschooling or something that is challenging you), and write down what you are feeling about it. Let it all out. By slowing down and shining a light on your feelings, you release them. Otherwise, fears, judgments and doubts burrow in behind-the-scenes and without you knowing it, they can negatively affect how you see and experience the world around you. Expressive Writing is a game changer. If you are having any stresses, fears, or worries about your homeschooling, get it out of your system by writing it down. This helps you to feel better and also gives you clarity and a fresh perspective. As time goes by and new “stuff” comes up, you can do expressive writing on those topics too.
Journaling is worth your time. Especially during busy and stressful times, the pay off is big. It puts you in a flow state and when you are in a flow state you get more done because you are experiencing less “friction.” You’re happier and you feel lighter about life. And because YOU are happier, the people around you become happier too.
Here are three questions to ask yourself.
Q: If you were to create a Bullet Journal, what types of things would you keep track of? Would it help you to have a daily to-do list?
Q: If you made a family Nature Journal, what would you put in it?
Q: If you were to do some Expressive Writing, what would you write about?
6: They Will Not Fall Behind
We recently participated in a webinar for Project Happiness that focused on “homeschooling during Covid-19.” There were about 300 participants in the live webinar and they came from around the world, all schooling their children at home. These parents live in different countries but had one thing in common: they were all afraid that their children were going to fall behind and they worried that it might be their fault and that they “were not doing enough.”
This is a common fear. So let’s talk for a moment about what parents really fear when they think about their children falling ”behind.” Usually this means “behind their peers“ or ”behind grade level”. The first words of comfort we want to give you is that most people in the world are in the same situation as you. Schools are already planning on how they are going to adjust the curriculum to make up for this time. They know that when the students return there are going to be gaps that need to be filled.
And what if your children aren’t “behind” because of this experience? What if they end up “advanced” because of it? For example:
* Since they have been spending more time with adults, their vocabulary has probably improved a great deal.
* They may have uncovered a special talent like art, music, cooking, a foreign language, or nature.
* Perhaps, because of homeschooling, you have discovered that you have a child with a learning challenge in reading or math or in a particular subject area. This will advance your child because now that you know about it, you can find someone to help you with it.
Remember to be good to yourself, focus on the positive, and take time to celebrate all the ways your children and you are learning and growing.
Q: If you were going to put together a learning portfolio for your child, what subjects would you put in it?
Q: Can you think of a couple of goals, that if accomplished, would be a huge comfort to you?
Q: Do you think your child may have a learning challenge? What have you noticed? Who do you think can help you with this?
Q: Can you think of some fun ways you can keep the learning going this summer?
7: “Life is a Marathon…”
In the beginning, the quarantine and the homeschooling that came with it, required a lot of “sprints”. We had to quickly reorganize our schedules and quickly learn new technologies. The level of adapting that we have done is impressive.
But now that the quarantine has gone from a sprint to a marathon, you may be noticing some areas in your life where you need to make some adjustments. Normally, when we think of balance we think of three areas of self-care: physical, mental, and emotional or spiritual. If we get out of balance in any of these areas the enjoyment of life is diminished.
Do you need to get better at asking for help? The best way to do this is to use “I” statements, rather than blaming or complaining. You will get a better response if you start with, “I have something I would like to talk about. I have been noticing that I am doing most of the house work. I really need some help. That would help me a lot.”
This idea of rebalancing and recognizing that life is a marathon applies to homeschooling too. Rebecca’s oldest daughter feels that she is watching too much TV and she has decided to do more exercise, more learning, and more gratitude. She has made a monthly calendar for herself and every day she writes a G if she took time that day to list out what she is grateful for, an E if she exercised, and an L if she did something that counts as learning, like watching a TedTalk or reading a non-fiction book.
Living mindfully and knowing when we are in balance (and out of balance) makes all the difference and is one of the wisest things we can do.
Thank you for letting us share our thoughts with you. Homeschooling was one of the highlights of our life and we want so much for you to enjoy it too.
Be good to yourself and remember these seven things:
#1. Yes, the academics are important, but equally important is family bonding, personal growth, and daily joy.
#2. The mindset you bring to your homeschooling makes a big difference. So try to “catch them being good” whenever possible.
#3. If you can, try to match your teaching style to their learning style – visual, auditory, or hands-on (kinesthetic).
#4. When you need to make a change or set boundaries, remember that kids support what they help create.
#5. This is a good time to do photo journaling, therapeutic journaling, art journaling and bullet journaling.
#6. You may worry that you are not doing enough and that your children are going to fall behind. Try to relax as much as you can. Children are natural learners.
#7. After you have been homeschooling for awhile, check to make sure you are in balance. Take good care of yourself.
Here are two questions to think about.
Q: Are there any areas where you feel you need to rebalance?
Q: What are some things you can do to take good care of yourself?
About the Authors
MARILYN MOSLEY GORDANIER is the Founder of Laurel Springs School, the first online K-12 school in the United States. She has worked with thousands of home-learning families and is considered to be one of the foremost experts in distance learning. Marilyn is an advocate for education worldwide and co-founded Educate Girls Now (educategirlsnow.org) to raise awareness of the dire conditions of Afghanistan girls and to ensure they receive an education and are not forced into early marriage
Marilyn can be reached at [email protected]
REBECCA KOCHENDERFER is co-founder of Homeschool.com, the #1 homeschooling site on the Internet. She is the author of several books including: Homeschooling for Success, Joyful Homeschooling, The Summertime Survival Guide for Parents, Homeschooling & Loving It, Joy Journal, and 30 Days of Joy. Rebecca currently serves as Founder and Host of Journaling.com.
Rebecca can be reached at [email protected]