Healthy Homeschool Habits
by Kristi Crosson
This year is a strange one. I told my friends the other day that we should just call this one a Mulligan. I was talking about weight loss, but I think it could apply to so many more aspects of life. If it’s been a tough one for the adults in the world, let’s just imagine how the kids are feeling. Scared, lonely, and confused are just a few of the emotions that come to mind.
In the midst of being a crazy pandemic year, I see a huge trend for parents to homeschool their children. Parents who may never have tried it under normal circumstances. I look at this as a good thing. Who better to take care of the emotional health of children than their parents? Who better to teach them than their parents? I know there are many schools of thought on this, but parents are the best suited to educate because they’ve always been teaching their kids since the day they were born. Homeschool is just an extension of that.
I know the natural tendency of parents will be to try and recreate a classroom experience at home because it’s familiar. It’s what we know (if we’ve been through formal schooling in a private or public school setting) and it’s what the child knows. It’s understandable to think this is the best method of education. But in my experience and the experience of most homeschooling parents, this is a recipe for disaster.
It puts stress on the parent and child to interact as if the parent is their “school teacher”. What I mean is that it creates confusion about your role in their life. Are you going to expect them to sit down and be quiet for hours at a time? Are you going to withhold recess if the class is “bad”? Are you going to take away their pencil if they are fidgeting? Do they need to be quiet while they eat their lunch?
These are just some of the things that children experience in a school setting. You are their parent first. As their parent you are their first authority. They love you, you love them. It’s a much different relationship than kids have with their school teachers.
What does a healthy homeschool look like?
I’ve talked to many successful homeschool parents and here’s a list of the common themes I see in successful homeschools.
1. Open Communication – Kids are free to ask questions whenever they need. This can be during a lesson if they are curious about something, or anytime during the day. My kids will learn something and then later in the day suddenly ask a random question about what they learned. Why are butterflies colorful? How far away is the moon? What’s 8 + 8?
2. Child Input – Where your child can have choices, let them choose. Do you want to start with Math or Art today? Would you like to learn about Rocks or Space this year? Do you want to take a field trip to the Art Museum or the Zoo? Letting them play an active role in their education helps them be more engaged and excited about learning.
3. Take Breaks – My oldest is a wiggly child. He always has been. If I try to teach him for more than 30 minutes straight he loses focus and needs to get the wiggles out. The beauty of homeschool is that you can take a break whenever you need it. If he’s getting frustrated because he doesn’t understand a concept, we take a break and move on to something else for a while. If you’re getting frustrated, take breaks. Breaks are perfect to diffuse almost any situation that might arise in homeschool. This moves me to my next point.
4. Reasonable Expectations – It’s easy to feel like an utter failure if your child doesn’t want to listen to you as the “teacher”. Set reasonable expectations for them and for you. Don’t plan 7 hours straight of content. Unless your child has special educational needs, homeschool doesn’t take as long to complete as public or private classroom education. Think about it. The teacher has to transition 30 kids at a time from one topic to the next. Teachers have to take care of discipline issues for multiple kids.
5. Learning is organic – Children are natural learners. They learn by seeing, doing, and experiencing the world. Want to teach about fractions? Bake something. Want to teach economics? Teach your child about running a business. The cool thing about homeschool that you’ll discover is that your children will learn more than you even put in.
Creating a healthy homeschool environment is first about creating a healthy relationship with your child. When you foster an environment where their voice and opinions can be heard, you build a deeper sense of trust. Use your intuition as a parent and give yourself and your child grace. This is a new frontier, so step in and embrace and enjoy it.
About the Author
Kristi Crosson is a writer and photographer and homeschools her three children, ages 8, 4, and 2. She is in the process of writing her first book, a personal story about God’s goodness in the midst of heartache and impossible situations.
Her background includes work in communications for a large Christian non-profit and freelance writing for hundreds of businesses on social media and blogs.
She has more than 15 years of ministry experience serving in the church and learned valuable leadership skills that she applies to her life and businesses. Kristi has a huge heart to fight human trafficking and see women experience God’s love in powerful ways.
When she is not busy with her businesses or her family, she enjoys creating art, playing music, singing, and hiking. And somehow manages to "do it all". Don't be fooled. In getting real, she'll share about how she manages her day to day work in business and homeschool.
You can read Kristi’s column, Getting Real with Kristi on the 3rd Tuesday each month here at Mustard Seed Sentinel.