Over the last several months, as Duct Tape Parenting continues to make its way into the homes of parents across the country I’ve started to hear from moms and dads who are homeschooling their kids and wondering if there are different strategies that might apply to their unique situation.
The most common concern these parents have is this:
Because our children don’t attend a traditional school, the lessons they could learn from leaving a lunch, a coat or a homework assignment behind or sleeping through an alarm clock because there is no bus to catch are lost. Are there other ways to address these issues that would lead to more organized and responsible kids.
And, from almost every homeschooling parent I heard from they shared this concern – since we are both teacher and parent, the homework issue can be tricky. Any thoughts on how to motivate kids to get it done without fracturing the relationship?
It’s true that homeschooling can present a unique set of challenges, but considering them in a different light is the key to finding the just right strategy for you and your family.
There are enough studies that suggest that homework may not be as useful to students as we first thought. Educating yourself on the newest evidence based research will make it easier for most homeschooling parents to address this issue in new and liberating ways. If the goal is to help your children develop a love of learning, an excitement to jump into a new topic or area of study, to commit a certain number of hours each day to developing their intellect, it may be that homework has no place in that equation.
Design your day with both independent study (which would directly replace the homework for more traditionally educated kids) and one-on-one teaching. It’s hard for most kids to stay on task for very long and remaining flexible in your thinking will be the difference between success and increased power struggles. Some kids do best walking around, writing a few sentences or answering a few math problems and then walking around again. What might look like a lack of focus could actually be their brain recovering from a difficult problem solving session of 3, 4 or 5 minutes. They need time to reboot. Nagging the child to sit down and focus is defeating the purpose, which is, for the child to learn how to best work with the brain they were born with and develop it in a natural and healthy way. Talk to the kids on a regular basis about your intention for supporting independent work.
They won’t immediately understand the long term benefits, but an ongoing conversation will lay the foundation for strong study skills when it really matters. And of course, there is always the “As soon as” option which works nicely to help the kids learn to stay on task, and complete those tasks before they move on to “free time” or “choice time”. No, you can’t force them to learn, or force them to care or for that matter force them to pick up the pencil and do the work, so decide before you begin, what your ultimate goal is so you can avoid unnecessary power struggles and maintain both the relationship with your child and cultivate their love of learning.
There are other opportunities for kids to learn life lessons that come from leaving a coat, homework or lunch on the counter as they run off to school even if they don’t attend a traditional school In fact, one could argue that there are even more opportunities.
Allowing kids to help create morning routines before “school” will give them some ownership of their morning. For instance, deciding as a family that the kitchen is closed at 8:00 am would encourage kids to organize their morning in order to fill their tummies. Many families include “non-negotiables” in their routines including – everyone is dressed before they arrive at the table for breakfast, etc. In talking with Homeschooling Parents I have found that their is a lack of consistency in their routines. Because they don’t have to get kids to school at a given hour, they allow kids to stay in pj’s, or succumb to whining because the kids are hungry shortly after the kitchen has been cleaned. So it’s the parents responsibility to help create routines that can be supported no matter how upset the child might be that they missed the breakfast timeline.
Many parents admit that they spend a good deal of time reminding their kids to bring coats as they had out to the library, reminding them to bring their snack, a snack by the way, that the kids could be packing for themselves, when they go out for a field trip, etc. So in some cases, it’s as much the parents who are interfering with the child’s ability to become independent, responsible and organized as it is that the kids are resistant to the idea.
1. Design a healthy routine that you, the parent can both live with and enforce, no matter how much push back you get from the kids.
2. Sit down with the kids and allow them to create a routine that will work for them.
3. Without disclosing your design, combine the two to create a routine that supports everyone.
4. Practice for 7 to 14 days and ask the kids to assess. What worked, what didn’t, what made life easier in the morning, what made it more stressful.
5. Commit to the kids that YOU will not be nagging, reminding, etc, but instead you will focus on supporting the routine that you all agreed to.
6. Allow the kids to miss the meal, forget the coat or cancel the field trip if they dilly dally too long.
Life with kids, whether they attend traditional school or not, is an exercise in creativity, trial and error and what often helps parents find that sweet spot of parenting is deciding first hand what they are willing to do and what they aren’t and creating a clear, attainable goal to work towards.