Archive for the ‘Homeschool Advice’ Category

The Next Time You Feel Overwhelmed

Overwhelm

by Stephanie Elms

When we feel off kilter and have a lot of things going on that are out of our control, our natural instinct is to double down on things that we feel that we can control. For many of us, that often winds up being our kids. Of course, the idea that we truly control our kids is simply an illusion, although it feels very real.

Our kids can sense this. Both our disappointment in them and our expectation that their behavior is needed to fill a need we have. Some kids react by becoming more compliant. Some by becoming more resistant. Both are natural defense mechanisms.

When we are overwhelmed, we become fixated on “what needs to be fixed” regardless of whether it makes sense or not. We worry about things like our kids’ “work ethic” or “lack of motivation” when the reality is that their work ethic and motivation are developed over the long term and have crucial developmental components to it.

Kids naturally live more “in the moment” and just don’t have the bigger picture vantage that comes with maturity and experience. The good thing is that maturity and experience develop naturally. It is not dependent on us to “make” it happen. We can trust and allow it to unfold with our guidance.

So the next time you feel overwhelmed, trust that your worry about your kids may be less about how they are truly doing in that moment and more about your own state of mind.

In these times, it is okay to let go of what you feel you have to do to “fix” things and simply focus on the reality of who your kids are.

Connect with them.

Have fun with them.

Enjoy them.

The rest will sort itself out. Honest.


Stephanie Elms has homeschooled her two boys for ten+ years and is a coach for Brave Writer’s The Homeschool Alliance. She blogs at Throwing Marshmallows.


The Homeschool Alliance

Take Away Insistence as a Tool

Take Away Insistence as a Tool

What if your child refuses to do any homeschool or writing projects?

A couple of things to consider:

  • What makes your child happy? Do that.
  • What helps her feel safe and heard? Do that.
  • What are his interests? Spend time with him there.
  • What are your interests? Spend time with those in front of your kids.

The subject areas can feel unrelated to real life and learning for kids at home. The more we insist they “do what they should” (even the fun stuff), the more they simply dig in their heels. But when we come to the table not with lessons, but with connection, something good happens.

I know you may wonder how the 3 R’s will emerge from that soup, but they will once you re-establish trust.

For instance, in writing—use it.

  • Write on the mirror with lipstick.
  • Send messages on the phone.
  • Toss a paper airplane into the room with a special note from you.
  • Load up your child’s door with Post-it notes and little facts and sayings.
  • Sit at the table and freewrite with your kids.
  • Brainstorm all the topics together and assign one to each other.
  • Let your child tell you what to write about.

Math: Make brownies and tea and then play with Cuisinaire rods and work out multiplication tables. Play board games. Play with dice. Bake. Quilt. Skip count with a jump rope.

Take away insistence as a tool. Pretend you are not allowed to insist.

Let go of the need to get your kids to do something and start looking for opportunities to be with them in their joy, celebrating the learning that is happening right in front of you that you didn’t orchestrate.

Shared on Braveschoolers.


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Stealth Attack Learning

Are You New to Brave Writer?

Are You New to Brave Writer?

Welcome to Brave Writer! You made it. This is where the magic happens. We’re all about:

  • exploration,
  • curiosity,
  • taking it one thing at a time,
  • not having to know what to do yet,
  • figuring it out as you go,
  • and asking for help.

There are no right answers. There are only attempts to create your own rhythm, style, and routine. We’re here to help you find what works for you!

Brave Writer is a program of interconnecting parts. You can’t mess it up.

If you’re brand new to us, though, here are some blog posts, podcasts, and resources that might help you learn more about our philosophy and practices.

Have a Paradigm Shift

Get to know our educational philosophy. It is THE most important step in implementing the Brave Writer program in your home!

Learn about the Natural Stages of Growth in Writing

Discover which stage of writing your child is in. It’s much more effective to look at how writers grow naturally than to focus on scope and sequence, grade level, ages, or the types of writing that ought to be done in some “established sequence.”

Determine Which Products You Need

Decide which Brave Writer products will work for your unique homeschooling family.

Implement the Brave Writer Lifestyle

Take Brave Writer’s natural and lifestyle-oriented approach to living language arts and incorporate it into your family life. And for a start, do our 7-Day Writing Blitz! It will give you a feel for how the Brave Writer Lifestyle might look in your home.

Practice the One Thing Principle

Start with the product or idea that piques your curiosity or inspires you or seems to meet your need. Ignore the others for now.

Join the Community

The Homeschool Alliance

The Homeschool Alliance provides coaching from Stephanie Elms and me. It’s the one-stop Internet community sandbox for home education. We’ll do it together, one month at a time, one subject or child at a time, making sure that you can see and measure your progress.

Together we will build a community that supports your risk-taking choices, that applauds your successes, and empathizes with your struggles.

Braveschoolers Facebook Group

Our Braveschoolers group offers support from fellow homeschoolers as you allow your knowledge and intuition to guide you to what you need for your particular family.

The Homeschool Alliance

Permission-Givers and Challengers

Permission-Givers and Challengers

There seem to be two ways to be in the world that inspire others: to be a permission-giver and to be a challenger.

Permission-givers help people know that where they find themselves right now is okay: that their intuition, their needs, their return to self (awareness, care, regard), their pain—all of these are valid and valuable.

Permission-givers offer rest from striving.

Challengers call people out of habit and complacency into a new sense of self. Challengers inspire people to aspire to goals that previously seemed impossible or too big.

Challengers offer energy for striving.

The best companions on life’s journey offer both. They know that sometimes it is better to wait and give comfort than to challenge, and other times it is better to support the despair and doubt while sticking with a practice or a change or an effort to make it to the end goal.

The biggest experiences in life benefit from permission and challenge, balanced back and forth.

The danger is to assume that when pain is present, there is only one way to address it. The trick is knowing when to give permission, and when to offer support to meet a challenge.

I’ve found that sometimes the only way to know which to offer is to test one or the other and see what happens.

Challenge can be greeted by complaint—that doesn’t mean it’s the wrong choice.

Permission can be greeted by relief—that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice.

I like to take a bird’s eye view of the situation and consider a bigger picture. Some of the aspects of that picture might be:

  • Rest and nutrition
  • The size of the goal
  • The pace of getting to the goal
  • Space for recovery and pleasure
  • The number of goals
  • Whose goal is it?
  • Changing the circumstances/environment

For instance, if you have a child who is struggling to read, a permission-giver may say,

“It will come in time. We’ll revisit this again in 6 months. Let’s listen to audio books.”

That may be perfect for your 6, 7 year old.

For your 8, 9 year old, the goal to read has become more important. The longer the child goes without reading, the more chances there are that the child feels like she’s failing or missing out on a universal experience.

A challenger might say,

“I see your struggle. I’m here to support you each day as we break this task into manageable increments. Let’s only work on reading after you’ve had a good breakfast, alone with me, for ten minutes per day. We’ll check it off on the calendar. We’ll get more help if we need it.”

The goal (reading) matters, and should not be abandoned. Permission to recover, to take time off, to feel frustrated—super important. Challenge to keep going, to have a companion on the journey, to adopt a practical strategy: also super important.

We want to toggle between these in home education and listen to our kids’ feedback, and always take it seriously.


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And yet we are inclusive readers…

And yet we are inclusive readers

In the land of homeschool, there are many divisions. Groups form for all sorts of reasons. Some are benign: we all play cello; we are putting on a play. Some are ideological: we like classical education, we are unschoolers. Some are religious: we follow this ancient book, we follow this other ancient book. Some are not any of the above, simply: we are local to this city or town.

Over and over again, homeschoolers (already a smallish group in the community of educational options) further subdivide into even pickier criteria for forming group relationships. It’s as if it’s not enough to keep our children home where we have control over what they watch, read, and do every day. The tendency is to form tightly controlled communities for our participation as well—including the like-minded or like-behaviored, and excluding those who can’t toe our line. A policy statement—the criteria for joining—is narrowly crafted and in some cases, even designed to exclude the “dangerous other.”

I know that part of the attractive charm of home education is the notion that we can distill our values and convey them to our kids unhindered by the “big bad government” (so the feeling goes).

Yet a strange thing happens on the way to this carefully crafted community of like-mindednesss.

We read books.

We homeschoolers read LOADS of books. In fact, we pride ourselves on the variety, scope, span, and diversity of the books we read to our children. We seek books that expand our children’s experiences and enrich their imaginations.

We introduce them to monsters, thieves, people from thousands of years ago, and people living in our time. Our children meet in those pages rich people with money and poor people without, people with moral scruples and the unpleasant unscrupulous.

Heck, we introduce our kids to members of other religious faiths, scientists who have rejected religion, and characters who possess magical powers.

Many homeschoolers have a commitment to global awareness. They want their children to be “world citizens” and so they make sure that their kids read books that introduce them to faraway lands, people, and cultures from various times in history.

And yet… the co-op they attend is made up of a homogeneous group of the same type of person, carefully screened, to ensure that no dangerous difference crops up to interfere with a uniform belief system.

Does that seem contradictory to you?

It did to me. Homeschooling is a small community (in terms of numbers in general society). Yet we share these common values:

  • being with our children
  • enabling self-directed passionate learning
  • creating powerful family memories
  • flexibility to teach to a child’s strengths and challenges
  • reading!
  • passing on our family values and beliefs (whatever they are!)
  • making a difference

…and many more.

Why would we make it so difficult for communities to welcome a diversity of home educators? The fear that someone will teach our kids something we don’t want them to teach is easily overcome. Simply don’t put your child in a class that isn’t one you want them to be in. Yet interacting with the children from a wide variety of backgrounds is as wonderful as reading about them (more so).

Do we need the art teacher and the math teacher in a co-op to be of the same religious background? Can a religious child learn ASL from a co-op teacher who is secular?

Why can’t we have the same eagerness to learn from real living families that are not like our own that we do when we read about them in books? If the belief system we hold dear is so easily undone by sharing square footage with people who are not like us, what does that say about that belief system?

I thought I’d offer these thoughts to provoke your own reflections! Your mileage may vary.

The Homeschool Alliance