Simply Be There For Your Children and Be Reassured That's It's Enough...
© Beverley Paine
My guess is that all home educating parents battle with this. We might have the odd day when we believe and feel that we're on target, everything is going okay, we know what we're doing, but most of the time we spend too much time worrying if we are doing the best we can for our children. It is what makes us qualified to educate our children at home.
Instead of seeing this constant worry as a problem to be resolved celebrate it. Count it among your many daily blessings! Know that it's not only a worry, but a reassurance too - you care deeply and love your child, and that makes him truly blessed.
Simply being in the same space as our children, especially in the pre-teen years, gives them the security to be independant and confident. We don't need to be interacting with them all day, or even for large chunks of the day. Most of the time, if all is working well, we don't even notice our interactions. We don't consider them important enough to notice, although they are - they form the backbone of a smoothly running household.
We communicate with family members in many ways - with a look, a smile, by a word or a question, or a quick answer, by anticipating a need, or by simply being ourselves. Nothing reassures children that they are okay to get on with the job of simply living than having parents that are relaxed, busy and happy with what they are doing.
The atmosphere of our homes is as important to the education of our children as it is to the content of their activities. I write about this in my Getting Started with Homeschooling Practical Considerations book, giving it prominence over how to write learning prorams, what to teach, or how to record, by placing it in an early chapter. Creating a environment that is naturally conducive to learning involves careful thought as well as a deep understanding of our children's learning styles, abilities and needs. We know we've done that well when our children are happily busy and active.
This isn't to say that from time to time we can't introduce new elements into the learning environment. Interesting things happen every day and many of them would go unnoticed by our children without our intervention. For example, we heard about a whale and her calf swimming off the local beach. Instandly interrupting the children's activity, piling in the car, spending an hour at a blustery beach and then the whole afternoon talking about whales and all things nautical, was definitely called for!
As is interrupting their play and telling them it's time to help me prepare dinner, or inviting them to bake a cake, or help me with gardening or other chores. Or suggesting that we all bounce on the trampoline in time with the music blaring from the living room! There are things that our children need to know that we will deliberately place in their learning environment and that's okay. They expect that. In fact, they are reassured by that. They know it's our job to help them learn and grow.
One of the most important things I made time for with my children was for simply talking. It took me many years to realise how important it was - being an adult I naturally prefer to talk with other adults. It can be hard to talk to children - takes a lot of patience. Being fully there and attentive is hard when there are lots of things on my mind and I'm not at all interested in the latest version of Need for Speed, or endless chatter about My Little Ponies!
Talking with each other (as opposed to 'at' each other, which makes up the bulk of communication with others) is part of the 'being' of life. Our society places a great deal of emphasis on the 'doing' side of life, and also on the 'talking at' side of communication, otherwise known as 'information'. Sharing food has traditionally been a time for conversing - sharing our thoughts and reflections on our experiences with others. Evening meals that last beyond the eating of food are a sign of a vibrant and healthy family, where life-long learning and growing is valued.
Elsewhere I've written about how my teenage sons and I would eat lunch on our veranda and then spend the whole afternoon chatting. It was sometimes hard for me to leave my list of tasks undone and simply be there. Most of the issues discussed were ones that I had long ago resolved in my own mind. It was hard not to talk at them, tell them what I thouht, and listen carefully and patiently, letting them fully explore their own thoughts. These chats didn't happen every day (thank goodness!) or even every week, but when they did I knew that it was sign that we were on the right track with the educational path we had chosen for them.
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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Beverley Paine, The Educating Parent
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