When people ask why I didn’t send my son to school till the sixth grade, I say something like this:
“I believe that children are born with a passion for learning. I believe that a love of learning is an essential quality that helps them pursue their interests and gifts throughout their lives. Because of what I had seen in my work as an educational therapist and family therapist, I was afraid my son might lose his love for learning if he went to school, so I schooled him at home.”
Before you jump to the conclusion that I’m against formal education, let me clarify. I became a credentialed teacher to fulfill a lifelong dream. I taught for many years and loved my career. I believe educating children to be the noblest of professions. When schools are able to address a child’s social and emotional development while accommodating a range of learning styles, they become hallowed institutions worthy of our devoted support.
But as I considered whether to send my son to school, I couldn’t help but think about the many children I had worked with who had a negative association learning because of frustrating experiences in a traditional school. I was committed to launching him into his adult life with his love for learning intact and couldn’t ignore the possibility that this same fate might befall my son.
Although there are things I might do differently, for the most part his homeschooling was a resounding success. When he finally started a traditional education at our local public school, my youngster was a confident, independent, enthusiastic student.
Most importantly, as he approaches his 30th birthday, he still keeps a stack of books beside his bed and continues to pursue learning about a staggering array of topics through books, videos, news outlets, podcasts, and conversation.
Is this a guaranteed outcome for all homeschoolers? Not at all. Is it possible that a traditionally educated youngster will grow up to be a dedicated learner? Of course!
But as parents begin to oversee their children’s education from home during the pandemic—either taking charge of every aspect of their curriculum as I did or simply supervising their online class work—there are ways to stack the odds in favor of success.
To that end, I’ll be offering an in-depth three part series on Homeschooling Without Power Struggles which you can find out about here. I’ll be joined by two wonderful, seasoned colleagues to share practical tips and strategies for optimizing your learning from home adventure.
In the meantime, there are a few things I learned that you may find helpful:
• Live a love of learning. Let your kids see you reading, painting, or taking an online class. Make sure they see you pursuing a interest or exploring a topic you’d like to know more about. Share with them some of the things you’re learning. Children won’t be open to lectures on the importance of education if your actions suggest you don’t really value learning.
• Invite your children to teach you what they’re studying in class. Much of what kids learn goes in one ear and out the other. But when we’re curious about what they’re studying and we ask them to share something—not to “quiz” them or make them prove they’ve done the assignment, but because we genuinely want to know—their interest will be magnified.
• Be on their side. Don’t threaten your kids if they’re reluctant to sign on for one of their online classes. Don’t go to war over every missed assignment. Kids are wired to push back when they feel backed into a corner. (Actually, adults have the same response!) If they’re losing momentum or struggling with motivation, invite them to offload their frustrations or upsets.
Remember, transitioning to online learning during the pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint. Some days will go better than others. Sometimes you’ll throw your hands up in despair, while other days things will unfold smoothly. Maintain perspective, get support, and stay the course. If you could use more help as you shift into home education, check out Homeschooling Without Power Struggles by visiting this page.