Homeschooling: One more thing before you begin….

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So you’re about to embark on your homeschooling journey. You’ve made your list and checked it twice (yes, I know, now that song is stuck in my head too). Perhaps you’ve read my article “Homeschooling: Before you begin….” and you’ve got your “Whys”, “Whats” and “Hows” all in place. You’re feeling pretty prepared.  Then somewhere from the back of your head the thought emerges, “Is there something I’m forgetting?” Well, maybe not, you might be all set. However, just in case, I’d like to mention one more VERY important factor that I really feel is vital to a successful homeschooling experience.

Before you begin, make sure that the teacher (s) and student(s) have a good relationship. Since the teacher is one or both of the parents and the students, their own children, it is even more important that the relationship is sound; because they will be dealing with each other in many other arenas as well. It may seem like a no-brainer but you’d be surprised at how easily it can be overlooked. It makes sense, even in public/private school, if you were to look at which classes the kids generally do best in, it will be the classes that they get along the best with their teacher.

Now, some may argue that methodology plays a heavy role in the performance of the student. I absolutely agree. Some kids will learn better one way and others another ( see my articles on “My Philosophy on Learning”, “Why we Homeschool”, and Homeschooling: Before you begin…”) However, even if kids love the method; if they hate the teacher there is not going to be a lot of learning taking place.

I love this quote and have it up on my fridge as a reminder, “First we have a relationship, then we have an educational method.” Karen Andreola

I have found this quote to be true time and again. If I’m having an issue with one of my children it is a guarantee that our schooling experience is going to be strained as well. Often, even if one of them is struggling to grasp something in their education, if we are on good terms we can work it out with very little, to no frustration whatsoever.

Sometimes, it is the parent’s discipline method that needs to be revamped. Once again, it’s a personal family decision and personalities and other needs have to be considered. I personally feel that rules and boundaries, accompanied with responsibilities and accountability are highly important. However, even though you have rules and consequences, each child is different and you may need to tweak things at times. Maybe you’re too harsh or maybe there are not enough boundaries. Perhaps there are some differences of opinion between spouses that need to be worked out. If you’re having a hard time finding your balance in discipline, I would suggest firstly going to the Lord so that He can guide you with each child. There are also many awesome books and articles on the subject of discipline that can help you solidify a plan for your family.

It would be important to also mention that sometimes a relationship can be strained BECAUSE of school. If you are forcing a method the children struggle with, or if they have recently come from a public/private school environment where they have learned to dislike learning, then you may need to re-route a bit.

I’ve found that a highly successful way of repairing this kind of relationship damage is to just take a break. Take a vacation, go somewhere else away from everything if you can, to a place that everyone likes. If you can’t get away then have a vacation at home, special games, activities, maybe some outings, fun and favorite meals and lots of reading aloud of anything you’re child wants to read. I’ve found even older children like to be read too, even if they don’t admit it. If your child is a question asker, welcome the questions and don’t turn the answers into a “lesson”.  Look up books and videos and pictures on the subject to their hearts content. Do lots of experiments and art projects, do more of what you’re child especially has an interest in. Pay special mind to your child’s needs and desires, don’t manipulate them into learning, just do fun things that happen to be learning experiences as well. Don’t worry about chronology, how things relate to one another, or if they are reaching a certain objective. Just feed their natural curiosity so that they can remember that learning is fun.

Once you’ve “de-schooled” for as long as it takes to get your relationship back in place, then you can start slowly adding things in that follow more of curriculum.  You may even find that this free-lance approach fits your family just fine and keep going with it.

Some other ideas to repair or enhance your relationship with your child would be to make sure of three things:

1. Listen:

Listen with your eyes and your ears. Look at them when they are talking. Repeat back what you understand from them (especially important with very young children who are still working on vocabulary). Give positive input.  Even if you think an idea is ridiculous, you don’t need to tell them that. Ask questions. Have them think it out and, unless it’s dangerous or immoral, you probably don’t need to give any input at all. Once you have asked questions and they have thought through it they will most likely find the best way to go about it on their own.

2. Spend one-on-one time with them:

This can be hard when you get more than a couple children but it is VERY important. Children need to know that you love and appreciate them individually. They feel loved and important when you take time to be just with them. Don’t worry about what you’re going to do. Read a book. Take a walk. Swim together. Go look for bugs. Make a meal or snack. Make a picture or sculpture. And don’t forget, “Just listen.”

3. Know their love language:

Everyone is different. So it would make sense that not everyone is going to feel the same amount of love and affection in the same way. There are great resources and a book specifically dedicated to this subject if you want a huge explanation. For now here are some examples, my son feels most loved when we  work on one of his projects together. My first daughter loves to be hugged and cuddled while we read a book or play pretend together. My third daughter loves it when I spend time with her in any way as long as I’m giving her my genuine attention.

So, do what you have to do, take the time you need to take but make sure that you and your child, your student, have a solid relationship before you begin your schooling. Remember what is really important and that in the end you will be more effective and efficient if the teacher and the student are on good terms.

Have you ever noticed that your relationship with your child(ren) was straining your schooling? Or the other way around? What have been the best “relationship builders” in your homeschooling experience?

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