To all the parents who find themselves involuntarily homeschooling their kids, hang in there. Yes, it can be daunting, but I found that when I lived by these 12 principles while homeschooling my own three children, the panic attacks stopped, and I was able to let go and enjoy the process. Take what you want from the list and leave the rest. I do not profess to know everything, but I do know that today my kids are grown, well-adjusted, happy and successful contributing members of society.
Principle 1: Spend Time Together. Play games, read books, watch a movie, go for a walk, bake, color, paint, cuddle, make music, watch a virtual concert or take a virtual tour of a museum. Explore something you or they have always been interested in learning but never had the time or energy to pursue. Have some fun! Children learn through play. They learn about math by baking cookies or building shelves for their room. They learn about botany, the seasons, and the environment when planting flowers in the garden. They learn multitasking and the ability to quickly switch strategies playing video games. It may not look like the learning you are used to—textbooks, worksheets, and grades—but I assure you they are learning each and every day with or without school.
Principle 2: Let Kids be a Part of the Planning. Empower your kids to be a part of the decision process. Create a culture in your home where your children feel free to share their ideas without worrying about being criticized or judged. Ask them what they would like to learn about. Have them make a list, and then provide them with the time, materials, and resources that they need. This helps them to not only feel important, they will know that their opinions matter. Providing an opportunity for your children to make decisions is essential in developing critical thinking skills, self-agency, autonomy and a feeling of belonging.
Principle 3: Be a Good Role Model. Like it or not, our children are watching. Long gone is the old adage, “do as I say, not as I do.” It simply doesn’t work. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. When a parent is able to regulate their emotions, be mindful of their own feelings as well as the feelings of others, while also adopting positive life habits such as exercise, getting lots of sleep, and eating healthy, a child will too. That is your role. To show them how to “be” especially during times like these.
Principle 4: Do Not be Afraid to Show your Vulnerability. Bring your whole heart and your whole self to the world, your family and your projects each and every day. Show up fully, let go of your defenses, dare to be seen, get into the arena and allow your children to do the same. These are essential elements to helping your children learn to participate and fully engage, get into flow, enjoy life, and feel like what they do as a citizen of this world matters.
Principle 5: Encourage Your Children to do What they Love. If your child wants to learn to play drums instead of the piano, so be it. You may not agree with your child’s choice of instruments or worry she is disturbing the neighbors, but when work becomes pleasure, it is not work at all. Doing what your child loves brings great joy and a sense of deep purpose and meaning. Being forced to do something that they don’t love, and they will quit the minute it gets too difficult or when they turn eighteen. Allowing your child to follow their dreams not only compels them to take on challenges and learn new things, it inspires them to keep on going when things get tough. It is your job as parents to encourage them. If you can’t, then the least you can do is stay out of their way.
Principle 6: Allow Your Children to Fail. As Albert Einstein once said, “anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Let your children play, explore, take risks, make a mess, and mess up. Yes, life can be scary, especially right now. But a life driven by fear is no life. Let go of the fear and say “yes” to your children, so that they can learn to say “yes” to themselves.
Principle 7: Let Go of Expectations. Do not expect your child to live up to all of your expectations. This is a heavy burden to place on them. They either become ridden with a feeling of failure or guilt because they did not live up to your expectation, or they create a false-self attempting to live up to your expectation. Either way, it is a no-win situation. Instead, it is imperative that your child feel in control of their own destiny so that they can learn self agency (the opposite of what happens when you micromanage). Self agency is one of the most important elements of overall happiness and well-being.
Principle 8: Live by Principles not Rules. Abraham Lincoln so beautifully expressed, “I never had a policy; I have just tried to do my very best each and every day.” Many of our lives, especially our children’s lives are full of rules; many of them arbitrary. This can result in compliance for sure, but at a high cost. Our kids end up living their lives trying to please others instead of pleasing themselves. A better alternative is 1) to adopt a more gentle approach, one that is responsive to your child’s needs while still keeping them safe and 2) teach them basic fundamental beliefs and values that are good and desirable which in turn will result in good and desirable actions.
Principle 9: Be Patient. The human being takes longer to develop than any other mammal on earth. Your child needs time to grow and learn. Growth occurs when they have the opportunity to play, explore, dream, imagine, and follow their interests. This requires not only an enormous amount of time, but patience. Accept this natural process and hang in there. There is no point in trying to rush or control their development and learning. I promise, if they haven’t done a math problem in weeks, they are not going to be failures in the future. Please do not lose sleep over this like I once did. Not only will your stress and nagging interfere with your child’s natural learning process, you will interfere with your relationship with your child, and cause unnecessary anxiety; pressure that will only add to the already stressful times.
Principle 10: Love Them Unconditionally. To love your children unconditionally and to affirm that love gives them the ability to love themselves. Let your children know that they are precious to you no matter what. Support them, accept them for who they are and encourage them to always stay true to themselves. They need to know without a doubt, that you will not judge them especially in times when they fall or fail. This requires respect, treating them like individuals, and not expecting them to please you.
Principle 11: Stay Optimistic. Your child’s beliefs about their abilities is directly correlated to your beliefs about their abilities. If you think they can, then they will. If you think they can’t, they wont. To add, people who are hopeful and have confidence in the future and in each other (optimists) tend to be more successful than those who lack confidence in the future and see the worst in people (pessimists). During these strange and uncertain times, adopting a glass is half full attitude is far more helpful than freaking out and losing hope. We are all in this together. There may be a silver lining in all of this yet.
Principle 12: Get comfortable with being Uncomfortable. We can’t control external forces or change our circumstances, but we can change our attitudes and reactions to these events in our lives. As Holocaust survivor and psychologist Victor Frankl once said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Although Frankl’s experience was more than most of us will ever have to endure in a lifetime, Frankl understood that attitude and love were first and foremost to survival. When one lives life from this perspective, one is able to be more open to the uncertainty that is certain in life.
I hope that you find this helpful. Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I would love to hear from you.