A Healthy Learning Environment is Created in your Heart First
The first aspect to consider is your heart – the parent. If you are striving to copy a school classroom, if you are comparing yourself to your homeschool friend, if you set your standards by what you see on Instagram, if you are anxious or fearful about homeschooling – then these heart issues will reflect in your homeschooling. For your children to learn well you need to deal with your heart first.
When my heart was heavy with either big question stuff, or even the stuff that gets thrown at you daily – there were times when I knew my heart was affecting the family. When this happened I knew I had to carve some time to look at these issues, look at my heart. I did this by putting aside our study plans and doing activities that allowed me to breath. I still had to ensure the well being of my kids so most of what I did in these times had to include them.
- I would visit my friend – and my kids would play at her place
- I would go to the pool – and my kids would have water play
- I would go to the library – and my kids would read
- I would turn a DVD on – and my kids loved that!
If your heart is not focused on your children and their learning (and I don’t mean just book learning) then this is the place to start. Parents need to be present and positive, they need to be focused and actively engaged for homeschooling to go well.
5 Things you can do to build a Learning Environment in your Homeschool
Once your heart is sorted these five things will do more for your children’s learning than any fancy posters, resources or projects you display:
- Clear expectations
- Order and Calm
- Positive attitudes
Our children need to know, from the bottom of their heart, that they are more important to us than a programme, than a goal we’ve set, than resources we’ve bought – they are our primary focus. This means we may have to let go of some things if they are not working – we may need to let go of a curriculum, of a commitment, of an ideal or dream. Where is our commitment – to our children and family unit or to something else?
It is so easy to say that our priority is our family but it has been said – show me your diary and I’ll show you where your heart is. What does your diary reflect? Who do you spend your time with? Consider – we can be physically with our children but emotionally or mentally somewhere else – When you are with your children do you give them 100% of your time/focus? Do you have enough times in your day where you do give of yourself?
Two relational concepts needs to dictate the environment of our home: first the priorities and values of the family, secondly the uniqueness of each individual child. We need to ensure our daily activities reflect and enhance both of these aspects. It is easy though to let the values and goals of others dictate to us. By being aware of your own goals, you can then protect your family from the intrusions and distractions of goals that are important to other people.
2–Express Clear Expectations
We need to be able to communicate well to our children. Remember that we use our words, our tone and our body language to communicate. Good communication requires time – we cannot shoot instructions off the hip as we walk away from our children. We need to pause in what we are doing, make eye contact, give the instruction clearly and allow for questions or clarification.
Our children need to know that we aim for excellence but understand failure. I think we often focus on the excellence which then puts pressure on us and our kids when things don’t go well. We need to have a culture of learning from mistakes in our family. Do you help your kids pick up, dust off and move on? Or are you so disappointed in the ‘failure’ you can’t think of anything else let alone help them move on? And as a side thought – which of these attitudes do you think your children hear?
Our goals need to be realistic. Have we considered our family situation and overall goals, have we considered each of the children and their strengths and weaknesses before we set out with a goal to achieve? Have we given due time and resources to this goal? We need to have a realistic timeframe to any goal that we set – so often a fast-tracked time frame will put so much pressure to perform that we crumble under reality. We can avoid that by being realistic from the beginning.
A routine also helps communicate our expectations by giving time and space to the things that are truly important. A routine also allows for these important things to happen over and over again in our day, or in our week, which communicates to our children that this is important – this (whether it is a chore, a study or a attitude of the heart) is important to mummy and daddy, it is a regular part of my life.
3–Create Order and Calm
There are two kinds of clutter that can over-stimulate and therefore slow down the brain: visual clutter and audible clutter.
Visual clutter is the stuff we have around us – our belongings. We need to have our stuff organised – on bookshelves, in cupboards, or stacked in boxes. When things are in order we not only create a peaceful environment we create peace in our brains and emotions because we can find things, and we have space to use things.
The second aspect of clutter is audible clutter – that is the noise around us. It also clutters up our emotions and brain and it can be organised (well, brought into control may be a better word!) We can determine to speak with quiet and gentle words (this means getting up and going to where our children are, or calling them to come to us, and not yelling instructions or corrections throughout the house). We can make sure our children are speaking words that encourage and not pull down. We can also control the background noises going on in our house – is the T.V. on all the time or possibly the radio? This is noise clutter – no one is really listening it is just there. We like music in our family but we have learnt the effects of different music on our brain and emotions – some entertain and give us energy and this is best for chore time or free time, some is calm and reflective and we occasionally put this on during study or creative times. Sometimes though we just need quiet. Quiet is an unfamiliar experience in many households but it is in the peace and quiet moments that we are able to think, reflect, and dream. It is in the peace and quiet that we will hear God’s voice. It is worth setting up a time of quiet in our homes.
4–Give Real Praise
Praise can be a powerful tool to motivate someone but praise can also be empty. Words of praise that address the ego are indeed empty and will return to you nothing of value – whereas words that build up the heart (the heart that is others focused) will return to you profit of deeper and richer character.
Real praise comes from knowing what the standard is that you are aiming for and commending people when they reach that standard. We want to praise for diligence when the child truly finishes the job, for tolerance when the child makes room for the weaknesses of others, boldness when the child stands up for what is right, and creativity when the child finds an unexpected solution. Just saying ‘good job’ or ‘I’m proud of you’ is limited. We have an opportunity to build more into our children when we give them praise with meaning.
Giving praise also takes time. Praise needs to be individualised and it needs to be connected, not only to the family standard but to the individual acts. If we don’t take the time to really consider each person, and what they personally deserve praise for our praise will be quick and cheap. It won’t really be praise – it will be more like empty words of vanity.
5–Have a Positive Attitude
When we have a positive attitude towards learning – the learning that happens grows exponentially. The homeschool parent’s attitude happens first when we deal with what is stirring in our heart – and secondly by choosing to want to learn. It might sound like a chicken and egg situation – but if we believe learning is a good and worthwhile thing, then we can throw our heart and mind into it – we can have a good attitude.
Our attitude towards learning will affect our kids’ attitude towards learning.
This is why it is so important that we become flexible with our understanding of what is learning, and how learning happens. I found understanding learning styles really helped me create learning situations for each of my unique kids in a way that wasn’t stressful to the family, but enabled them to enjoy learning.
What is the learning environment like at your place?
If we think about a party that we have been to and you walk in the door and there is atmosphere – a coffee shop has atmosphere, a church has atmosphere – what are we sensing when we say ‘atmosphere’.
- There is a sense of anticipation; we know something is going to happen.
- There is a sense of enthusiasm; people are excited and happy to be there.
- There is a sense of purpose; people have come for a reason.
These are the things that create an atmosphere – anticipation, enthusiasm, purpose.
Does that describe your homeschool?
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