Thursday, August 15, 2013

Home Schooling: The Perks

One thing I liked about homeschool was that I could carry out my beliefs as far as my skills could take me. For example, I wasn't only interested in teaching the p's and q's. I wanted to use this chance to teach them self-regulation, which is arguably the best tool we can put in a kindergartener's little pocket. I'd read about the Tools of the Mind kindergarten program in a secrets-of-life-telling book called Nurture Shock. I wrote to get more information from the University of Denver, but never heard back. At the time, nothing was available online, but I'm thrilled to see they now have a beautiful, user-friendly website. I will be perusing it for ideas...

This was the first day and also the ONLY day I
attempted to look like my 
fantasy of a teacher
Another thing I wanted to emphasize (inspired by the same book) was the truth that our brain function increases when we exert ourselves. Before this I'd believed our IQ was a static number and you were limited to what you were born with. But IQ scores can change significantly during the school years based on how much a kid is challenged! So when a task was difficult or phonics threw us a curve ball, I'd get a sparkle in my eyes and say, "Aww - now this is a tricky one!" 

Now one day my enthusiasm for creative explanations got me into trouble. I was racking my brain for a way to describe sight words, like "the." These are words kids are expected to memorize because simply sounding them out, doesn't work. So I told the kids, "We're going to talk about some new words today, and guess what? They don't even follow the rules! So they're kind of naughty..." When Brian got home from work, the kids rushed to tell him, "Today we learned naughty words in school!" 

But by far the best thing I learned from our home school time was that dedicating time to them, without distractions, was well-nigh a revival in my connection to them. We were banking all these positive experiences together that made us stronger when we came up against conflict. My new rapport with them was so marked, I decided I never wanted to let it go. Come hell or high water, I was going to make a sacred space in my schedule that they knew they had my full attention. Phones off, laptop closed. I do believe kids need to learn they can't always have our attention the instant they want it, and we shouldn't feel guilty if they have to wait a sometimes. But if we tell them they're the most important thing to us, but they hardly ever see us choosing them over something else, they are likely to wonder.

So here we are, beginning a school year at a school and I've established an hour after they get home that's called quiet time. I spend half of it with one of them while the other plays in their room and then we switch. I'm okay if they want to just be side by side, doing separate things, but if they request me, my stuff goes away. I'm somewhat available most of the time, but this is a time when it's easy to get my attention. If there's something they need to talk about that's hard, I want to do everything I can on my end to make it happen. I want them to practice confiding in me and when something frightening or upsetting happens at school, I want them to think, "It's okay. I can talk to Mom about it when I get home." 

If this were all I got from it, home school would've been worth it. It doesn't have the drama of the final scene in a rom com, where the guy or girl throws caution to the wind and dashes after their love who's leaving. But maybe the daily evidence that, "I will drop anything to be with you," is even better.  

P.S. The second half of my Disneyland vaca guest post is up! See it here, at Little Platypus

P.S.S. Just so you know, I get a small commission if you follow this link and buy a book.

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