Archive for the ‘Homeschool Advice’ Category

Get Outside Your Comfort Zone

Get Outside Your Comfort Zone

I wanted my kids to be passionate learners. I bet you do too. What’s crazy? Our kids ARE passionate learners. Even the bored ones. Even the wandering nomads in your house telling you they can’t think of anything to do despite having just opened 32 presents designed for them!

Human beings are wired to learn. And we’re really really good at it. The trouble is: not all of what we see our kids learning seems important to us. For example:

  • A child who wants to dig a hole in the side yard? “Stop. You’ll tear up the lawn.”
  • A teen who wants to tie-dye her t-shirts? “Won’t it stain the table? Where will the shirt drip dry?”
  • Some kids want to roll on the floor and see if their spines will crack.
  • Others want to torment the dog to see how he’ll react.
  • Or they nag you to see what you’ll do—they are learning to pull your levers as surely as they complain or whine.

Kids find things to do, things to care about, ideas to consider regardless of what we do for them. And the trouble is: we don’t often appreciate what it is that they really really really really want to do!

To learn is to grow and explore. To grow and explore, kids will be fascinated by stuff you find tedious, messy, expensive, and inconvenient. Even a “noble” interest like learning Chinese can seem more a bother than inspired. Have you ever rolled your eyes (internally of course) when your child says some version of, “I want to learn about the combustion engine”?

How? Why? Is this going to be a passing interest? What if I go all in and two days later she’s moved on to cooking Indonesian food?

We tend to push aside the curiosities that are not interesting to us and then insist on suggestions for activities that make us comfortable, that feel reasonable or convenient.

  • Is it okay with you if a child simply cuts paper to shreds for hours? No meaningful outcome?
  • Would you consider exploring how to own a pair of ferrets?
  • Do you have space for oil paints and an easel?
  • What do you do for a child who just wants to burn stuff?
  • How about a five year old who wants to use your iPhone for a video? Would you trust him?

Passionate learning means getting outside of our adult comfort zone and into the child mind where possibilities lurk. These possibilities are bound to be difficult to do, expensive, time-consuming, messy, and tedious to you. They may require your research, your car, and your money, your risk.

You will gear up to put up with all the attendant mess only to find out that your child moved on far more quickly than you wanted her to. You’ll wonder why you indulged this learning experiment if she was only going to abandon it ten minutes later!

Yet all of it is learning—every bit!

The key to fostering passionate learning is giving up the need
to control the outcome—to measure and monitor a result.

Passion-driven learning is curiosity in action. Curiosity satisfied means the passion-driven moment is over! Some passions last years (decades). Others last moments.

Being willing to roll with the varieties of ways kids discover their world and find their place in it is what leads to passion in learning. Our job is to give up our need to be safe and comfortable and follow where they go.


Value Exploration AKA Risk

Homeschoolers Cry

Homeschoolers Cry

Can we have a little heart-to-heart? I feel moved to talk about a topic that keeps popping up in email, phone calls, and messages. It’s this:

Homeschoolers cry.

They sometimes call in tears. Or they email to tell me they thought they were the only ones.

Nope. I cried too.

I cried when I was overwhelmed—so much to do for so many.

Maybe you cried when the middle child (7) read before the oldest (9).

We cry when all our best efforts—the field trip planned weeks in advance—turns into a toddler meltdown and is ruined for everyone.

Some of us dissolve into a hot mess because the partner we trust to encourage us questions our strategy, judges the not-yet-proven results, sows doubt.

The tears slide off our cheeks in the shower, out of view. But they’re real.

I remember taking time each week when my kids were small to book a room in the library for myself. My husband took care of the children at home while I spent 2-3 hours in a sound proof closed space, alone, ostensibly to work on freelance writing.

Many weeks, however, I wound up on the floor—sobbing, and then sleeping the deep sleep of emotional exhaustion. More than once, a kind librarian had to gently knock on the door to wake me so the next user could enter.

I didn’t always know how weepy I was until I had space to be alone, to feel it. In the quiet, my worries bubbled to the surface.

  • What if I’ve made a mistake with X child?
  • How can I know that my choices are not causing permanent set backs?
  • When is the time to worry and involve professionals?
  • Is there some way to know I’m on the right path for my family?
  • What if I’m missing key academic markers?
  • If we don’t use tests or grades, how can I measure my children’s progress?

And the worst one of all:

Who do I trust: me? my spouse? my friends? the school system? other home educators? authors of books? curriculum designers?

A different kind of tears.

And then… and then!

One of my kids would hand me a page filled with writing, happen-stance. On that page: a poem, a story transcribed for a non-writing sister, a diary entry, a letter, a list of birds watched at the feeder entered in a little notebook!

The bundled nerves unwound, grew slack.

Different tears—the good kind, the “I’m so glad I keep at it” kind.

My kids’ eager need to share their inspired work moved me, touched me.

A dawning awareness grew over a decade.

I could trust my children. I could trust their voices. In writing. In sharing. Certainly they didn’t know everything about how they were preparing for the future. The need to prepare them was still on me.

But in the midst of the doubts, one unfailing truth became clear:

I knew I was on the right track
when my children moved me to happy tears.

Nothing reassured me the way my children’s own growth did. When I could recognize the spark of learning, the personality of my children popping through their writing, the happy confidence of accomplishment in whatever task, I knew I was on the right track.

You can know it too. Look to your children.

The best home education moves YOU to tears, not your kids.

Stay the course!

We like to say in Brave Writer: When the tears come, the writing’s done.

Let’s flip it around:

When your happy tears come, the learning’s begun!

Regret: what to do with it

Regret: What to do with it
It’s not possible to homeschool without regret.

One of my favorite homeschooling moms wrote to me a while ago. She’s been with Brave Writer since early 2000. Her kids have taken a slew of online classes, she owns our products, and she has graduated several of her kids. They are awesome, by the way. Quite a family!

Her email, then, came a bit as a surprise. “What do I do with regret?” she asked me. She said that although she is happy with many of her choices in home education, at this other end where most of her kids are adults, she is wiser and more aware of resources now. There are experiences her kids didn’t get when homeschooled. There are ideas that seem so bright, shiny, and fun now that she didn’t know to pursue then.

As much as she wants to just “let it go,” her imagination lingers on the feeling that she simply didn’t do enough for her kids when she had the chance. So what now?

I talked about this topic in the live broadcast below. We looked at regret—what to do about it while you are still homeschooling, and then what to do with the post-homeschool regrets that are sure to come to you too.

Popular Blog Posts in 2016

Top 10 Brave Writer Blog Posts of 2016

Here are the ten most popular Brave Writer Life in Brief blog posts published in 2016.

Enjoy!

1. Ten 30-Second Writing Exercises

2. Working on Tone of Voice

3. 10 Things to Have Done by the End of High School

4. 5 Tips for Your Morning Routine

5. What an Enchanted Education is NOT

6. Table Top Gaming and Homeschooling

7. Resistance in Writing: Drop the Rope

8. When Your Teen has a Bad Attitude

9. The Natural Stages of Growth as a Home Educator

10. 2016 Brave Writer Retreat Recap

Brave Writer Blog Roundup

Flip the Energy in Your Homeschool

Flip the Energy in Your Homeschool: 3 Tips

Has the initial high of the start of the school year faded? The math books are worn. You can’t find any pencils. The kids are bored.

What do you do when homeschool goes all wrong? We look at this big topic in the recorded broadcast below. We cover these 3 ways in depth:

  1. Introduce surprise.
  2. Chase life.
  3. Trust that home education is a marathon not a sprint.

Bonus Tip: Repair the damage.

Watch the video below to learn more.

Hacks for a Homeschool Day Gone Wrong