What’s the BEST Part about Homeschooling?

In an interview I conducted with homeschool students, the kids mentioned having time to do what they are interested in and having time with their family, as the best part of homeschooling.
In school and often after school, a student’s time is filled with curriculum and homework.  A child rarely has the opportunity to explore an interest in any kind of depth. The bells and buzzers that ring and interrupt them make sure of that. 

I know when my oldest son went to school, he was continually frustrated by the lack of time.  He’d start working on a subject and just as he was really getting into it – the teacher would tell the class to put it away and do something else.

Because kids don’t have any control over their own time in a school setting, those who are continually frustrated by timed tasks will often shut down completely.  The joy of learning subsides or disappears.

It’s striking that so many homeschooled children identified having time with their families as a huge plus of homeschooling. This revelation supports my belief that the most cherished gift that passes between child and parent is time and attention freely given to one another.
When my youngest son was about 6, I was cuddling him in my lap and I told him I had to speak to a group of homeschool parents. I asked him what was the one thing he thought I should tell them was the best part of homeschooling. He said, “It’s having plenty of time for hugs and kisses.” 
Time is such a simple thing to give to your child – and it takes them such a long way. The best part of homeschooling is that it gives parents and children the opportunity to be together in meaningful measures of time.

Planning Your Vision for Homeschooling (and The Life You Really Want)

Did you set some New Year’s resolutions for homeschooling?  Most of us set educational goals at the beginning of the traditional school year in September.  Unfortunately, those goals often aren’t achieved.  Life interrupts our plans and as the kids grow, their needs, skills, and interests change – even in the course of just a few months!

Some parents keep trying to do what doesn’t work, resulting in tears and tantrums. Or, they may throw up their hands and just hope for the best. By the time the New Year comes, they’re ready for a fresh start.

Making a resolution to get back on track with curriculum can be a mistake.  As Einstein is credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again – and expecting different results.

A failure to plan a strategy for creating the homeschool life you really want – one that truly develops your children’s potential, helps your family thrive, and makes everyone really happy – is a plan to fail.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve often made resolutions that don’t really motivate me.  In fact, by mid-January they started to feel more like “chores” or “shoulds” rather than heartfelt wants or desires. When you don’t keep your resolutions, it can make you feel guilty. You may engage in negative self-talk – as if that could ever motivate anyone.

In my experience, the “shoulds” really pile up fast in homeschooling, usually based on the school model for education and not on the true needs and desires of the individuals in the family.

If your New Year’s resolutions don’t invigorate you and your children to want to take action to accomplish something purposeful and meaningful, then why not do something different?

Instead of making a list of academic goals, why not create a vision of what you want in your life?  Instead of segregating schoolwork as a task to finish apart from living your lives, imagine an all-encompassing view of what you truly want in your life that includes education, play and relaxation, relationships, work, spirituality, and mental, emotional, and physical health.

All of these things flow together in a homeschool household. If we only address a small part of the whole, for example academics, we’re missing the bigger picture. Every aspect of life is inextricably entwined in homeschooling and/or unschooling.  All of the parts of the puzzle fit together to create our lifestyle. 

So, instead of limiting yourself to a resolution to complete the curriculum, think about where you would like to be in all of these areas a year from now and create a BIG, BROAD VISION. What qualities, characteristics, and skills would each family member like to possess or achieve? What would you truly like to do with your time and ability?

Think in terms of creating the homeschool life you want, and you can begin to create the environment that supports its development. You don’t have to confine your homeschool life to school grade levels each year.  You can liberate your family from conventional schooling to create the life you want. Doesn’t the idea of that make your heart beat a little faster?

It may be a bit scary, but use the excitement the fear produces to get going and achieve your heart’s desire. Let THAT propel you into motion in a way an annual resolution to complete a spelling workbook cannot. Ready to get started? 

Here’s a little exercise that will help:

Imagine it’s a year from now – January, 2011.  In the past tense, write a letter about all of the things that you and your kids did and what happened in 2010. 

Be very specific and include lots of detail.  Describe realistic activities but make sure they cause you to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone and get your heart and mind racing at the thought of the possibilities.  If it doesn’t feel a little risky, then dream bigger.

In your past tense letter, be sure to explain the things each of you learned, new skills you developed, and the activities you did.  Talk about the improvement in your relationships and family finances. Tell the highlights of a family vacation and the fun and really enjoyable things you did together. Mention what you did to ensure your physical health and sense of well-being.

Writing about it in detail, as if it has already happened, is empowering.  Every time you read it back to yourself, now and throughout 2010, it will enable you to see yourself really living the life you want. The more clearly you see yourself in that place, the more it will motivate you to take the action needed to get there.

Focus on what you genuinely want for your homeschooling life, not the agenda or “shoulds” of social engineers or some supposed authority that doesn’t have your best interests at heart.  When you know in the core of your being what you want for your life, when you can sense what it feels like to have it, it’s more likely to become a reality.  Here’s to living the most extraordinary homeschooling life you can imagine in 2010!

Review: STEP Workshop

Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (STEP) Workshop

Reviewed by Homefires’ Review Team
Written by Fran Wisniewski and Diane Flynn Keith

STEP WorkshopImagine for a minute what it would be like to go without nagging your kids or yelling at them when they fail to do their chores or school work? How would you feel if your kids started to argue with each other, but soon worked it out for themselves? How would you like to go one day without a “Time Out”? Hard to imagine? Impossible you say? Maybe not…

As homeschooling parents we are with our children 24/7 and sometimes we find ourselves exasperated by the people we love the most – perhaps more often then we care to admit. No parent is perfect, but if you find yourself yelling at your kids or involved in power plays with them, or if you just wish your family relationships weren’t filled with so much drama and frustration, then the Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (STEP) Workshop by Aviva Schwab, may be just what you need to bring harmony to your home.

After all, the most important part of homeschooling is the relationship you have with your children. A relationship of trust and goodwill is the foundation of a successful homeschool environment. Parents who utilize effective parenting techniques to establish and reinforce positive relationships with their children, and instill self-directed, internal motivations for learning – empower their kids to achieve success not only in academics, but every facet of their lives. The STEP program can help you do just that.

Aviva Schwab, M.Ed., is a STEP instructor and coach who created “The Workshop” on CD so parents can learn how to parent effectively and conveniently in the comfort of their home or car. “The Workshop” includes thirteen CDs of entertaining, interactive classes, handouts and a program booklet. Some of the topics covered include:

Effective Parenting

According to Ms. Schwab, children usually misbehave because they are looking for attention. What would happen if you stopped paying attention to your child’s bad behavior? What if you could learn to deliver messages to your kids in a way that they’d hear you without feeling criticized? What would happen if you let your kids determine whether or not they practice piano or spelling? What would happen if your kids set their own bedtimes? What if every chore and responsibility came with relevant and logically related consequences that would train and motivate your child to make better decisions?

Aviva explains that many parents have a hard time allowing their children to make decisions and mistakes. She suggests our cultural idea of a “good” parent is misguided. We cripple our children by over-protecting them and/or doing things for them that they are fully capable of doing for themselves. That habit can reinforce the notion in children that they are incompetent or can’t trust themselves to make the right decisions.

In the STEP program, you’ll learn how to stop being a “good” parent and start parenting responsibly and effectively. As a result, your children will learn how to make better decisions as they are given the opportunity to make their own choices.

Equality Parenting

Some parents are permissive and some are authoritarian. STEP will show you how “equality” and “democratic” parenting gives children the opportunity to become independent, responsible, confident, and happy individuals.

From the first CD to the last, Aviva’s heartfelt concern guides you through everyday challenges and demonstrates how to deal with different situations effectively. You’ll look forward to each audio session and walk away feeling empowered and confident to make changes for the better.

Results You Can Expect from STEP

You’ll learn to stop nagging and set reasonable limits, and help your children become independent, capable, responsible, and mature people.

  • You’ll learn how and when to let your kids solve their own problems.
  • You’ll learn that by changing your behavior, your kids will follow your actions. STEP is a proactive course that teaches you how to act, not react.
  • You’ll discover that criticism is never constructive, and learn how to let your kids know that they did something inappropriate without attacking or criticizing them, and in a way that leads to self-correction.
  • You’ll learn to encourage your children rather than discourage them and turn misbehavior into cooperation.

The beauty of STEP is that you don’t have to implement it all at once. Aviva recommends you pick one thing you think needs work and try that first. This is a step-by-step approach to better family dynamics.

And, STEP doesn’t make false promises. Aviva reminds us that it will never be 100% perfect. It is more likely that if you currently scream 70% of the day and are patient 30% of the day, STEP will help you turn those numbers around so you’re patient 70% of the time and reduce screaming to 30% of the time. STEP is an innovative, practical, and unusual approach to parenting that gets results.

Even if you don’t completely agree with all of the parenting advice in STEP, or your personal philosophy, beliefs, or homeschooling lifestyle creates conditions and behavior that STEP doesn’t consider or address, you can still take what works, and leave the rest.

For example, one of our reviewers bristled a bit at STEP’s seeming contrary view to her own attachment parenting techniques and the idea of family beds. Even so, the reviewer kept an open mind and listened to the entire STEP workshop series before rendering an opinion. She was surprised to discover some helpful strategies that were in synch with her parenting style that she was able to implement successfully.

Overall, our reviewers think STEP is well worth the investment to gain additional tools that lead to effective parenting and happy, healthy family relationships that can improve the homeschool experience.

If you visit Aviva Schwab’s website TiredOfYelling.com you can watch video clips of Aviva conducting STEP classes, hear testimonials by parents who use STEP, try some step exercises, and purchase “The Workshop” (a 13-CD series) which is affordably priced at just $95.00.