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How Can I Turn My Child's Brain Back On?

© Beverley Paine

"I am having problems with my ten year old and her lack of work at home. School she has swithched her brain off and now I cant get her to switch it back on."

Children live up the expectations of those they most admire and look up to. In school your daughter was compelled by the socialisation process to live up to the expectations of her peers to fit in and belong. At the same time she has been taught from birth to respect and pay attention to adults, including and especially teachers. As parents we still have this hangover respect for teachers from our own childhood, regardless of whether they deserve it. Teachers fall ino the habit of accepting and teaching to the lowest standard because it gives them a false, but reassuring sense of 'success'.

Her brain isn't switched off at all, she's simply doing what is expected of her.

You may be thinking that you have higher expectations of her than her peers and teachers, yet your words clearly indicate that you think her brain is 'switched off'. This is the message that you are actually sending her every day. The first thing I think that you need to do is to start affirming to yourself that your bright, intelligent, curious and fun loving child is ready and able to learn whatever she wants to in whatever way she wants to whenever she wants to.

Let her know that you expect that you are happy with whatever she's doing right now and that you expect that by the time she is eighteen she will have achieved what you need for her to have learned by then. That will take the pressure off and help her destress about education. Bit by bit share your goals and objectives with her - the things that you know she will eventually learn. I emphasise 'know' because it is important that she understands that you trust in her innate ability to learn whatever is needed. Your expectations need to real, true, and honest. If you doubt her ability she will doubt her ability.

Negotiating learning programs with children isn't leaving it entirely up to them to determine what, when, how and why they are going to learn. It's working together to meet each others' needs. In this way we are able to set more reasonable goals that have a greater chance of coming to fruition.

It's not uncommon for homeschooling parents to feel that there are times when formal academic learning needs to take a back seat so that more pressing issues can be attended to... Sometimes these issues are not related to education directly but none-the-less have educational outcomes for the child. One parent decided to suspend school-at-home during the final weeks of her father's life: her children accompanied her to the hospital and later, the hospice, every day. This experience was invaluable and the learning that took place cannot be measured, particularly by any system schools and classrooms have devised.

Often children develop passionate interests that absorb all of their waking hours. This is not unlike many adults. No harm will come from allowing them to immerse themselves for a week or two, especially if their other developmental needs - such as exercise and taking care of the chores - are met on a daily basis.

It's not uncommon for children to rebel against structure - especially when they've been at school for a few years. Their idea of homeschool might be very different from your own. Talking about expectations will help. Encouraging our children to set their own goals is the first step in them reclaiming control over their education once again. Children naturally taught themselves most of what they needed to learn before they went to school - all we have to do is help them reawaken their natural learning abilities.

Parents find that after a few weeks of not doing 'school work' during which time they play board or card games, take the children on excursions, get involved in doing art adn craft projects or spend lots of time outside, the children rediscover their interests and are more willing to explore structured lessons once again. It takes time to find the balance that's right for each child.

The more stressed a parent appears about the children not 'working' the more determined the children become about not doing any work. Which makes sense, because they know that learning isn't about pleasing mum or a teacher. Homeschooling gives them the freedom to learn for real purposes. Jumping through hoops to get a grade in a subject that we have no immediate reason for learning doesn't make sense. We need to give our children reasons for what we want them to do. I have found that most children are quite reasonable and willing, once you give them a reason that makes sense to them.

This makes us stop and ask ourselves if what we want them to do is really that important. Often it isn't. That's when we need to rethink the purpose of the particular lesson or activity and work out if there is a better way to approach it. Sometimes it's not a matter of never teaching a skill or learning content - it's a matter of when is the most appropriate time. Children develop at different rates and education works best when it's tailored to suit their individual developmental time tables, not that of the school curriculum!

For the first few months of homeschooling it may have appear that your daughter is doing and learning very litte. Meticulous recording of her activities during this phase, together with a concerted effort to translate whatever she does into educational jargon, will reassure you that she is actually learning quite a bit. It sounds tedious but once you get into the hang of it you'll find it gets easier the more you do it. And the benefits are worth it. You'll be less stressed and worried about her education. And you'll be able to share with her that learning happens differently at home.

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

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 supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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Welcome to the World of Home Education and
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since 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. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

The information on this website is of a general nature only and is not intended as personal or professional advice. This site merges and incorporates 'Homeschool Australia' and 'Unschool Australia'.

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