Archive for the ‘Husbands (homeschooling partners)’ Category

Homeschool is not five days a week

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

Sunday ExperimentImage by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Remember that homeschool is not five days a week, confined to 8 hours of the day. Home education is a lifestyle that expands past “school” hours and fills up your family’s shared daily experiences.

Pay attention this weekend to the ways in which your children continue their learning journeys without encouragement from you. Seize opportunities to augment interests through field trips or conversations or a new tool or toy.

Pat yourself on the back for what you observe and remind yourself that lots of learning is happening all the time, all around you so that on those days where nothing goes right, you can remember that there are other days (even on the weekend) that do!

Also, this is your chance to involve the FT working parent who is more likely to be home on the weekends. If you are married to a math-whiz, see if that mathematically competent adult can find practical ways to use the math processes you worked on all week in a workbook.

If your partner is great with science experiments, save those for weekends.

If you have a partner who sews or gardens or bakes, why not spend Saturday doing fall (or spring!) projects together?

Enjoy the learning journey and share in the comments the ways learning shows up in your family on the weekends.

Cross-posted on facebook.

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Lighten up a bit

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Lighten UpImage © Nagy-bagoly Ilona | Dreamstime.com

I talk to so many parents every day. The other day a delightful dad shared about his truly brilliant daughter who is taking the ACT and SAT tests right now. He wants her score to improve on the essay portion. (She’s already got a good score, actually.) So that’s when I know. I know there’s pressure in that family for this kid to do exceptionally well, not just really well.

We had a wonderful conversation and I gave him all kinds of advice about how to help her in her specific case. (She sounds like such a smartie!)

Right at the end, though, a thought occurred to me. Here’s what I told him:

“As you work with your daughter on these ideas, do them at Barnes and Noble or over ice cream. Get a latte, bring your laptop, sit close to your daughter and enjoy the time you have together. Begin by telling her how amazing she is, how proud of her you already are, and let her know that if her score doesn’t go up even a point, or if she draws a blank or regresses, you are perfectly okay with that—that she’s already proven herself to you and her mom and you are thrilled with who she is becoming. Make sure she knows that the pressure is off—that she’s already done enough, and that this additional test is just one more try. No one can write well when they feel pressure to perform. They need to be relaxed.”

I hadn’t expected the reply that came through the phone. This dad suddenly became animated:

“Have you been a fly on the wall of our house?” He chuckled but with a wince of pain behind it.

“Our daughter is having GI issues; has had to go to the doctor to have treatments all this year. She has had to leave the SAT test twice to throw up. I hadn’t considered that I might be part of the problem, pushing her too hard. But I think you must be right that I am putting pressure on her. And you are right, too, that she has already done a good job. I will take what you said to heart. I don’t want to make things worse for her.”

We continued to talk for a bit about the role of pressure, the colleges he hopes she’ll attend (she’ll have no trouble getting in the ones he shared with me based on the scores she’s already got!), and his dreams for her. I know that some families put a lot of weight on scores, independent of what they achieve.

It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to put this out there to all of you: a score is just a measure on that day of your child’s work in that context. It’s not a verdict on whether or not your child is smart, worthy, or even educated. It can point to a few things (it is an indicator). But it isn’t a measure of who your child is or whether or not you should be overly proud or ashamed.

So lighten up. This child of yours is an independent being from you. This is his or her life. You get to cheerlead, support, and guide, but you can’t make your child perform. That’s up to the individual.

Go get Cokes, take the pressure off, provide support and help, see what happens. You might be surprised.

Cross-posted on facebook.

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When my kids are unhappy

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Over the course of your 10-20 year homeschool odyssey, your kids are going to be unhappy at times. Some of the unhappiness will last months (maybe a year!). Sometimes you’re unhappy and it bleeds into the family culture. Let’s look today at how to address some of the boredom and crankiness that visits the various ages and stages of children in your house.

Kids express unhappiness the way kids do:

  • boredom
  • anger
  • fidget-i-ness
  • being silly
  • procrastinating
  • pretending not to listen
  • picking on a sibling or the family dog
  • tears
  • staring blankly out a window
  • arguing
  • campaigning for what they think will make them happy
  • calling someone else a bad name
  • doing poorly executed work
  • not caring
  • not investing
  • giving up
  • pretending to be happy when they really aren’t
  • showing signs of stress and anxiety (sleeplessness, restlessness, not interested in eating)
  • comparing your home to someone else’s
  • rejecting your values
  • siding with the other parent who momentarily seems more fun

A 4-5 year old who is bored is much easier to rescue than a teenager who feels suffocated and has decided to challenge the values of the family. Yet the underlying feeling is similar—it’s unhappiness—and we can facilitate a huge turn around in how our kids experience our homes and “schools” if we help them become peaceful, cooperative, empowered-from-within, happy kids again.

Tuning into your child
Any child who is unhappy needs a parent to tune in and take notice! You’re the adult: you get to set aside your agenda to find out what your child needs.

The toddler needs physical touch and expression of energy (hugs, tickles, eye contact, being flipped upside down, wrestling, chasing, jumping up and down on a bed) to get the adrenaline flowing, to feel reconnected, to up-end a mood. Sometimes food, sometimes a nap, sometimes a cuddle on the couch is enough.

The young child benefits from focused attention on his or her specific interests. Too much time spent on your agenda will lead to tedium and crankiness. Bend low to make eye contact first. Then: A board game, running around the back yard, sitting in your lap for a picture book, helping you set the table for a snack, playing on the floor, singing to a CD… these help pull the young child out of the helpless, resentful mood of too many days in a row of someone else’s agenda.

The middler needs a dedicated time regularly (every day? every other day?) where there is no limit (reading as long as he or she likes without having to do anything else or without being required to sleep, playing a computer game without a timer ending the turn, watching TV and lying on the couch without having to get up, being allowed to finish the entire math book because he’s on a roll, digging a hole in the backyard as deep and wide as she likes, taking a scandalous amount of time to organize a bookshelf or rearrange the bedroom furniture, going to the zoo or the museum or the park or the nature preserve to indulge whatever interest is currently on fire, practicing a musical instrument for an entire day). Middlers are curious. They benefit from indulgence in their curiosity and they especially appreciate it when you “get it.” If you notice that a particular child is obsessed with a hobby right now, take advantage of that white heat of passion and let them go! Buy a book, or rent a DVD, or take a field trip, or purchase new equipment, that adds meaning and energy to the passion. (And yes, I include the Wii, XBox 360, online gaming, and Play Station in this list of “passions” just like I include an absurdly long time of pining for American Girl Doll accessories while paging through a catalog. I’ve seen good stuff come from these sources in kids.)

The young teen is often the most moody and the hardest to cajole out of the mood. We’ve got hormones raging and they are old enough to feel the “been there, done that” of homeschool. They’re looking for adventure, yet they are not quite old enough to take charge and make it happen. Try a conversation about BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). Ask them if there were no monetary limits and no time limits and no travel limits, what might they like to do? You might find out that your teen wants to take piano lessons for the first time, or wants to join a sports team, or a theater troupe, or learn Klingon, or go to Space Camp, or become expert at fashion. You may not cure the moodiness, but you can facilitate a brand new, grown-up adventure to buffer the sense of tedium that encroaches at ages 13-14. Talk to the teen! Find out what’s missing. Do the best you can to help it happen (you might need that teen to earn money or find someone to drive them or to start small and build—but put that goal somewhere visible and all of you work toward it).

The older teen is nearly at adulthood and feeling the tug between wanting a “mommy” and wanting to be respected as a “fledgling adult.” Risk and adventure. That’s what they need. Let them lead you into conversations about their interests, their viewpoints that aren’t yours, their anxieties. These conversations happen best one-on-one, with yummy food or drinks. Make time for the older teen and remember: they are gone A LOT! So if one comes home at midnight ready to talk, you get the toothpicks out to prop your eyelids open and you sit on the bed and talk. The older teen sometimes needs to challenge how he or she was raised and you need to go soft inside and let those words slide over you. They aren’t the final verdict. They are the words of a “near adult” trying to find his or her way this week. Be interested, be quiet, be curious, be gentle, be willing to take it.

Bottom Line:
You can’t keep everyone happy all the time and be happy yourself. Not possible! What you can do is pay attention, remind yourself that these years are fleeting (no matter how today feels), and that the needs of your children are reasonable and real. Just like yours. You may not fix any of it in a day, but you can do One Thing today to help alleviate some of the building pressure in the home. If you have Many Children (like so many homeschoolers), you’ll need help! Tag team with the co-parent or a friend. Get the community involved (youth workers, coaches, aunts and uncles, grandparents).

Take Care of You:
You need to be happy too: vitamins, exercise, therapy (it helps if you need it!), time alone, a passion or hobby, a good relationship with your significant other, and a source of joy each day (tea, flipping through a magazine, bubble bath, chocolate, gardening, your favorite rerun on TBS, your spiritual practice).

You can do it!

Would love you to share what’s working in your family in the comments section.


The Non-Homeschooling Parent

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Aka: How do I get my husband to accept my style of homeschooling?**

I went to a homeschool support group back in 2000 when I first moved to Ohio. Each of the parents introduced themselves. Most of the attendees were mothers, but occasionally a dad would be along for the meeting as well. To a parent, the mother would introduce herself as the homeschooler and the husband as the “principal” of their school. Then everyone would chuckle. They chuckled because they knew that in just about every case, the “principal” had a fulltime job and did very little in the way of home education! Yet here he was with the big title!

When they got to me, my husband was not present. I introduced myself as the home educator, curriculum developer and the  principal. Then I added, “My husband isn’t here, but he’s the janitor. His contribution to our homeschool is making sure everyone does their chores on Saturdays.”

Laughter. But it was true. I saw no reason to give him the supreme title just because he had facial hair.

You home educators take the lion’s share of the responsibility to homeschool your kids. You do it after hours of research and oodles of conversations, you do it because you’ve become convinced it’s the best thing for your family, and you do it the way you do it because of the philosophy of education you’ve evolved through all those hours of research and conversation.

Unless you have a spouse with similar dedication, the truth is: you’re the homeschooling expert in your family.

Being an expert doesn’t mean that you are without flaw or that you will get it right every time. Lord knows we all reinvent homeschool every single year. Still, even with the nuances changing year to year, you have a pretty good idea of what you mean by homeschooling and you want the freedom to do it according to your lights.

When a mom asks me how to “get her husband” to share her philosophy, what I think she’s really asking is: “What do I do about my husband’s worries that I’m not doing a good enough job?”

At one workshop, when asked that question, I answered: “This is a marriage issue, not a homeschooling one. I don’t know if your husband is crazy or a reasonable guy. I don’t know if he is hard on you in every area of your life or if he has legitimate concerns about your dedication to the homeschooling task. The question to ask yourself is: ‘Does my husband generally support me, trust me and help me? If I give him the information he wants, does he accept it?’

The foundation of a happy homeschool has to be that both parents are equally supportive of this style of education. They don’t both have to be equally knowledgeable, they don’t both have to do the work of homeschool and I absolutely don’t see the need for a wife to “submit her lesson plans” to a husband each week for his approval.

What needs to happen is this. Raising the kids is a responsibility both parents share. When discussing home education, where the husband has little experience and spends almost no time researching, the conversation needs to shift from explaining home education to him and instead focus on two things:

  • Trust
  • Freedom

Just like you don’t constantly check to see if your husband is performing at his career in a way that makes you feel comfortable, your husband needs to trust you (that you are capable of home education, that he is confident in your skill set, that he knows you are reliable to do what you say you’ll do). Then he needs to allow you the freedom to live into that role, knowing that it will include set backs, mistakes, course changes and all the things that happen in any career.

Of course he’ll have questions and he should feel free to ask them. However, asking a sincere question is not the same as scrutinizing or judging or belittling or haranguing. You know if you have a husband who does the latter because those behaviors won’t be limited to homeschooling. If that is your husband, just know that you have a marriage issue (not a homeschooling one) and be sure to get help in addressing it. Any family that has the marital dynamic where the wife is repeatedly up against hostility and judgment is in crisis. Home education is the least of your concerns.

If you have the garden variety husband who simply shows some nerves about this unfamiliar style of education, start by talking to your husband about trust and freedom—that you value his trust and you need freedom to explore this version of education.

You can allay his fears in these three ways:

  1. First, suggest to him that he do some reading. Point him in the right directions (give him a book or send him some links to websites via email). Don’t nag him, don’t follow up. Just let him know that he can read what you’ve read and if he wants to discuss it, you’d be happy to! Don’t educate him. Let him educate himself. Don’t nag. If he chooses not to read, then you can gently let him know (after a month) that you’ll continue without his input (though you’d love his support!) since he doesn’t have the foundation to talk to you about home education.
  2. Second, introduce him to another homeschooling family. You might even plan a themed home education party where the dads are participants. A medieval feast or a picnic at a site where fossils can be found are possibilities. Get them involved in a weekend kind of way.
  3. Third, share what you do during the day with your husband in a free, enthusiastic way. Don’t report to him like he’s your boss. Simply make an effort to remember what happened that was exciting: Johnny identified a cardinal at the feeder today! Mary figured out how to dye cloth with a beet!

Once you have tried one or all three of these practices, see how your husband does. If he continues to express anxiety about home education, you have two options:

  1. Make it an issue in your marriage. If this is one of those hills you want to die on, then so be it. You may need a therapist to help you. Get to the bottom of his anxiety and your need to home educate so that you are honest about how important this issue is to you. Make sure you have a safe space to explore all the concerns you both have. If you ignore them or pretend them away, I promise they will come back in a big way down the line and your kids will know that their education is a source of tension in your marriage.

    That is not healthy!
    Better to put the kids in school than that.

  2. Give up homeschooling. It is utterly critical that your family have a peaceful home to live in. That is more important than Charlotte Mason, tea parties, read alouds, field trips to art museums and Saxon math. If you and your husband can’t come to a place where you feel supported and trusted in your home education leadership, then homeschooling can’t work for your family.

I find it helpful if I think in terms of the bigger picture. To be happy at home means that all the members of the family feel they have an authentic say in their own happiness (how they discover what makes them happy, how they express that happiness, how they create it for themselves). That happiness is contingent on several core values:

  1. Trust
  2. Responsibility
  3. Freedom
  4. Participation

When any of these is missing in any of the relationships in the family (parent to child, child to parent, sibling to sibling, wife to husband, husband to wife), the entire family has a diminished sense of identity and contentment. Cultivating relationships that nurture an experience of happiness has to be a primary goal, even above education because there are lots of forms of education, but only one original family.

So when we talk about homeschooling, we have to be honest: it’s not possible to do it if both parents don’t support it. Wives can’t make husbands support homeschooling any more than a husband can require a wife to homeschool if she doesn’t want to invest the time and energy it takes to do it. Education of the children is a responsibility that both parents share, but how that responsibility is executed can be resolved in a variety of ways.

The bottom line is this: If your husband is not participating actively in the education of your children (and doesn’t invest the time to think about homeschooling or to develop his own philosophy of education), he should be willing to trust you to do that job and he ought to support you in doing it through encouragement, cooking dinner once in awhile, and bragging about how awesome you are for taking on this heroic of tasks.

If he is deeply uncomfortable with home education after doing his own research and is a genuinely decent guy in the other areas of your marriage, you may have to accept that for right now, home education is off the table. Ask to revisit it with him at a later date.

In all cases, get help if these issues between you and a spouse become significant enough that you are tense, stressed, and anxious. If you are fighting about homeschooling regularly, then you are creating a toxic home environment for your kids. That’s no way to live and kids spending 24/7 at home will pick it up (and it will be bad for them).

**I’m sorry to use the gender normative roles throughout. I realize there are homeschooling dads where the moms work outside the home and that there are domestic partnerships, not just husbands and wives. Thanks for letting me off the hook by focusing on the 99% that ask me these questions. Philosophically, these answers can be applied to any pairing raising kids!