How to Raise A Respectful Teen

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There have been a lot of opinions published online lately regarding public shaming of children on the internet and social media, in order to teach kids a lesson and acquire good behaviour. Public shaming is emotionally damaging to children, erodes their self-esteem and shuts down communication. Good parenting involves mutual respect in a loving relationship. Mutual respect is treating another human being as no less and no more than one would like to be treated. If we don’t want to be publicly shamed, we shouldn’t do it to our children. Respect transcends age, race, religion, culture and social status in importance in starting and keeping relationships and that is also the case with child discipline. There is no room for punishment in a respectful parent-child relationship. So what to do instead?

Here are some “don’ts” and “dos” that I have learned over my 24 years of parenting that really work to gain cooperation and increase communication.

• Don’t call your child names or put down her ideas.
• Don’t talk about him disapprovingly in front of other people.
• Don’t make faces at your children, roll your eyes, and mimic them or use words dripping with sarcasm.
You are their leader and model for respectful behavior. As the adult, you must rise above immature responses.
• Don’t use your child’s possessions, break them or give them away without your child’s permission.
• Don’t go into your child’s room, computers, drawers, closets, and snoop. Don’t allow their siblings and others to snoop either.
• Don’t use sarcasm when addressing your child’s behaviour such as “I’m not your slave. Make your own lunch!”
• Don’t punish your child which includes everything from grounding, time-out, withdrawal of privileges, to hitting, fines, and confiscating treasures and electronics.
• Don’t yell, threaten, criticize, belittle shame or punish your children in public, or online, especially in front of their peers.
• Don’t tell them to “Suck it up,” or “Be a big boy,” if they display any kind of feelings that you don’t like.
• Don’t call in the forces and go in full frontal war mode when your child is disrespectful to you. Don’t engage in full power struggle and fight (punish) anyway you can until you win. You may win the argument but lose your connection, communication, sharing and collaboration in the relationship.
• Don’t turn away and let it go when your children are disrespectful. Call them on it by clearly explaining your expectations that everyone is treated with respect (and be sure you are modeling the same). Insist on restitution, apology, fixing the situation to make it better, or any steps you both think might help toward mending that relationship. Do request an expectation from your child that they will work toward change, when both of you are calmer. Set a time to talk.
• Don’t ignore other people’s children when they are disrespectful to you and others in public. It takes a village to raise a child. Confront the child, and later, their parent if there is no change, and insist on civility and politeness.
• Do stay calm as much as you are able to. You need a calm frame of mind to deal with your child. Tell your child, you are very angry, and are going to take a short break, if you need a few minutes to calm down.
• Do confront with your I-statement (“I feel unappreciated when I upgrade your computer and you don’t express thanks for my time and cost.”)
• Do listen carefully to the response, and be truly open to what your child is feeling. Listening and validating her feelings doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. (“You seem to feel upset about the amount of chores you have to do around the house?”)
• Do problem-solve the situation. (“Let’s go for a ‘walk and talk’ and see if we can find a solution that meets both our needs.”)
• Do say, “Please,” “Thank you,” or “I-appreciate…” to your child.
• Do apologize when you make a parenting blunder.
• Do look at backtalk as an opportunity to teach your child assertiveness with appropriate language skills.
• Do treat others, especially people in service roles, with politeness and kindness when your children are watching.
• Do treat your parenting partner with the same respect that you want. Don’t use name-calling, shaming, put-downs, and sarcasm in your words. Do treat their treasures and accomplishments as items that are as valuable and cherished as yours.

In other words, promote respect, be a model of kindness and politeness, and address learning situations respectfully with your children by problem-solving and that old standby, listening. Enjoy the communication that will flow when you practice respectful parenting!

Posted in Emerging Adult Children 19-25, Teenagers 13-19, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Baby Playtime: How Much is Enough?


New moms often ask, “How much should I play with baby?”  The simple answer is, “As much as you wish to.”  Babies love faces and the best time to interact with those they love is face-to-face contact times such as bath times, diaper changes, and feeding times.

During those contact times, it helps to sing, talk, tickle, read, make facial expressions and use vocal variety to baby.  Don’t forget to smile.  Babies love facial interaction and they will naturally turn their head away when they have had enough.

Try to give baby some “tummy time” for several minute periods each day.  It helps baby to develop neck and upper arm muscles and it relieves pressure on the head so that the risk of plagiocephally (flat head) is reduced.  Many babies don’t like tummy time, on a hard floor, so it can be helpful to put baby on parent’s chest while parent is lying down on the sofa.  This counts as tummy time.  Also, keep in mind that tummy time can be several minutes, several times a day, instead of a twenty-minute marathon every day.

Baby carriers are a wonderful way for babies to be stimulated and entertained through the day.  Baby watching you make dinner from the elevated view of a backpack is fascinating for him and is just as stimulating for his brain development as watching “educational” videos.

In spite of our society’s intensive push to give early learning to young children, try to avoid worrying about how much stimulation and playtime she is supposed to be getting.  If you enjoy spending time with baby, interacting with your natural enthusiasm, rest assured she is getting enough stimulation! (403) 714-6766

Posted in Babies 0-1, General Parenting, Toddlers 1-2 | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Handle a Bad Report Card


The exam results are in!

Your child brings home a bad report card. Your first instinct may be to punish him in order to make him raise his marks. However, will that really solve the problem? We know from research in the workplace, that punishment never solves motivation or performance problems, so why would it work for children?  What can do you do to encourage him instead?  It’s good to keep in mind that a report card is only one “view” of your child. It’s a picture to report to parents what the child is like in school. However, he is a multifaceted learner with strengths and room for improvement in all areas of his life, just as anybody is.  Think of your child’s performance like a three legged stool.  All three legs are required for the stool to function and all perspectives can give an accurate assessment of the child as a learner.

One leg of the stool is from the teacher who is gives an academic skills report. This report should include information on how the child is doing learning subject matter in the four cores of math, language arts, science, social studies, and options. Schools like to report on character and other things that are not academic, but they only see the child participating in an institutional setting with many peers. The teacher does not see the child at home, or “outside of school” social situations.

The other leg is the parent who also gives a report card on two of the most important learning’s: life skills and people skills. The parent can present the report card to the child at any given time. Life skills include chores, money management, organization skills, problem-solving, initiative, responsibilities, health and wellbeing maintenance, and volunteer commitment.  In other words – all the skills that parents witness at home. People skills include sharing, sibling conflict resolution, attitude, listening, assertiveness, and politeness, emotional intelligence at home and out in social situations. Most people with academic and technical brilliance lose their jobs not because of inefficiency in that area, but because of lack of people and life skills.  These are the some of the most important skills to develop.  These skills can be learned and practiced by all children.  Not all children can get an “A” in math, but all children can learn to be polite and organized.

The final leg of the three legged stool is the child. He can self-evaluate and give himself a report card on all three components – Academic skills, life skills and people skills.  This is the most important evaluation and parents and teachers can ask how they can support growth and success for the child in all these areas.

Finally, the parent, teacher and child should discuss where the strengths are and room-for-improvement and come to an agreement on how to go about setting improvement in place.

Education is a journey, and is not a race. The letter or number grade does not indicate learning or self- awareness.  In fact, when children only chase a grade, they can be more prone to cheating and learn nothing.  We learn the best when we fail or make mistakes which over insight and reflection, give us ideas for change. When children make mistakes, ask them “what did you learn from this?”  The ability to self-evaluate, and find motivation to start again is the real learning and the upmost key to success. The Winklevoss twins learned more about life and resilience in their court battle with Facebook, than all those academic years at Harvard.

Parents, de-emphasize the numbers. As a society, we tend to treasure what we measure, but learning can’t be denigrated to a number.  Most of what we do in life that really counts; love, help, volunteering, life learning, and kindness can’t be evaluated by a number, but can be observed, noticed and appreciated.

No one is perfect and we all have room for improvement. Your job as parents is to figure out with your child, how can you pick him up, dust him off and support him moving forward?

Judy Arnall is a non-punitive parenting and education expert.


Posted in Democratic Education, School-Aged 6-12, Teenagers 13-19 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Education Options for Preschool Children Ages 3-5



By the time a child reaches the preschool age of three to five, they have changed in so many ways. Many children are ready to expand their world outside of home and interact more with peers, teachers and other parents.


Physically, preschoolers are capable of many tasks. Emotionally, many can control their anger and uncomfortable emotions much better. Socially, they are curious about other children. The element of other people to play with adds fun, creativity, and learning (and sometimes needed conflict resolution) with other children.


The cognitive development of preschoolers puts them squarely in the magical/fantasy element of brain development. Their whole world is constructed of “make-believe” which further enhances play with others. They also have enough brain power and self control to understand a few safety limits and to listen to adults a wee bit more than toddlers.


Many parents wonder what type of education is best for this age. The answer really depends on the child. Factors that affect this are: gender, temperament, personality, and learning style more than age alone.


Gender Differences


In terms of gender, preschool boys are still quite active and find it hard to sit, concentrate and participate in circle time. They tend to fidget more when compelled to listen to music, storybook reading or teachers talking. Programs to look for should be active and fun with a high physical component. Preschools with lots of circle time and quiet play should not be the first choice. Girls, tend to love role-playing with toys and make believe play and often can sit longer to listen to stories.


Temperament and Personality


Temperament is another consideration. For spirited children a small group is less sensory stimulating than a large group. An unstructured type of play environment such as Waldorf, Montessori, or PACT play program would be more suitable. Children decide where and when they would like to explore in these programs, instead of having definite centre times. An easygoing child would adapt more to structured settings such as conventional preschools that have set times for snack, music, and creative play.


Introverted children who prefer the company of a parent, home and his own toys may not benefit from structured learning environments. Research shows that some types of preschool help disadvantaged children catch up to what they need to know for grade one. However, for children with a stimulating home environment (homes that have books and toys), early schooling doesn’t make any difference in grade three test scores. If your child is an extravert and his boisterousness is wearing you thin, the excitement of preschool may be what your child is craving.



Learning Styles


Learning styles also play a key factor. Your child’s learning style emerges by the preschool years. A good preschool should mix up their program delivery to accommodate learning styles.  If your child is auditory, then circle time, oral instruction and story listening are their preferred ways to take in information.  If your child is visual, then videos, picture books, and painting/ art should be high on their list. If your child is kinesthetic, then again, a high physical game content is needed with lots of building materials, art supplies, board games etc. as well as a good chunk of playground time.


It’s important for parents to keep in mind the developmental tasks of preschoolers. Their job is to explore with all their senses.  Touch, hear, see, taste, smell and move!  Worksheets have no place in preschool or Kindergarten.  Those are the times for learning how to play, get along and have fun.


What to Consider


New options include all day preschool. If you child tolerates daycare well, then they should be happy to ease into all day preschool. There is not much difference in the level of activities offered to children, but to be funded as a preschool, there may be pressure to add more “academic” looking activities. Parents should be warned though that grade one entrance has no expectations that children should know more than to write their name and use the bathroom independently.


Kindergarten is still optional and voluntary in Alberta. It is assumed that in grade one, children are coming with no academic advantage. The grade one curriculum starts at knowledge level zero. Many children who have spent three years in an “academic” preschool may be bored in grade one if they already have covered colours, letters and numbers and have attended all the typical field trips already. In addition, children that have not attended preschool or Kindergarten catch up pretty quickly on the social rules of learning to take turns, line-up and raise their hand to speak.


Look for preschools with lots of unstructured toys that are open-ended play value. Sand tables, paint, playdough, blocks, people, houses, cars, trains, building toys, dress-up, puppets, art supplies, are very good toys in addition to a playground. So many families have computers, video consoles and hand held gaming systems at home, that children have ample opportunity to use them at home. Preschools away from home should have more physically interactive toys. At this age, it’s better to paint on paper and build with Lego than to do it on a computer screen. Children need the tactile experience.


As always, parents who try out a preschool program should watch their child for signs of discontent. Anxiety, sleeplessness, increased temper tantrums and sibling fighting, moodiness, and eating jags are signs of stress. Give a program two weeks and if signs do not subside, it may not be the right time for a formal play environment for your child. That’s okay, because they have plenty of time for outside the home experiences when they are older.



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Liberals favour appealing Section 43 – the spanking law

It’s about time!

Liberals in favour of repealing section 43

Posted in General Parenting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is It A Discipline Issue or Development Issue? Part 2 Problem-solving with Young Children


Part 2 – Problem-solving with young children

In the last issue, we talked about toddler behaviour and the importance of child-proofing and distraction. For older children’s behaviour, problem-solving is now the first go-to discipline tool. But don’t forget, problem-solving still works for toddlers and preschoolers. Problem-solving is effective for maintaining open communication, and understanding development as well as formulating creative solutions for solving everyday problems of living together as a family. Mostly, problem-solving with young children is comprised of the parent doing most of the “solving” but when children reach ages 3-4, they can help brainstorm ideas too!

Punishment is “me against you.” Problem-solving is “you and me working together against the problem.” Problem-solving teaches creativity, empathy, communication and accountability.


Your child is about to run into the road.

  • Grab and carry the child to safety.
  • Keep enclosed in the yard or house.
  • Discuss car safety and road safety rules.
  • Supervise constantly around vehicles and roads.

 Development Tip: Children do not develop the visual acuity to judge distance and timing of vehicles on a road until aged 9. Children younger than age 9 cannot be trusted to control the impulse to run into a road to retrieve an item of interest.

 Your child is about to touch a hot stove.

  • Remove the child from the stove.
  • Supervise closely in the kitchen and keep the child occupied.
  • Explain in simple words that stoves are dangerous.

 Development Tip: Children must be supervised around cooking appliances until age 12, when they can comprehend the cause and effect of safety rules.

  1. Your child runs away in the supermarket.
  • This could be a fun game for the child, but not for you. Corner and grasp the child, explain that this is not a game, and that you will not play chase in a store. If necessary, head home.
  • Distract with a toy or snack.
  • A shopping cart is harder to escape from than a stroller.
  • Re-think grocery shopping. Could someone mind your child while you shop?       Could you shop at night while your partner is home?

Development Tip: This is a temporary phase. Your child will stop running away from you by about age 5.

  1. Your child is in a whining stage.
  • Ignore the whining.
  • Request their “normal” voice.
  • Model the “normal voice.”
  • Give the desired item instantly when the normal voice is used.
  • When in a peaceful moment, ask for “inside, outside, whining, church, and
  • normal” voices so they can tell the difference in voice tone, pitch, and variety.
  • Pat your head and pretend you can’t “receive” when the tone is whiny. Pretend that the reception improves when the request is less whiny.

Developmental Tip: Most children stop whining around age 8.

  1. Your child draws on the wall.
  • Provide paper, and explain that drawings happen on paper, not walls.
  • Get two cloths and a bucket of soapy water.       Wash the wall together.
  • Collect pens and crayons until you have time to supervise drawing.

Development Tip: Childproofing is necessary until about age 4 when children understand the “why” reason behind the behaviour they are not allowed to do.

  1. It’s time to go, and your child is unwilling to leave.
  • Catch and carry them out.
  • Acknowledge feelings of unhappiness. Say “Are you sad to leave because you are having fun?”

Developmental Tip: Children learn to accept leaving a place of fun by around age 7.

  1. Two children are fighting over a toy.
  • Offer a substitute.
  • Redirect to snacks.
  • Encourage sharing, or taking turns, or flipping a coin, or picking names from a jar, or playing Rock, Paper, Scissors.       Warn that there will be a winner and a loser, and confirm that they understand and accept that.
  • Offer the first player a shorter time, and the second player a longer time.
  • Hold the toy until an agreement is worked out that both children are okay with.

Developmental Tip: Siblings will have conflicts over many issues. Teach siblings to resolve conflicts respectfully, to help them to resolve conflicts in their future family and employment relationships.

  1. Your child throws food onto the floor.
  • Say “NO! We don’t throw!”
  • Stay calm. Breathe deeply.
  • Calmly, get a bucket of soapy water and cloth, and clean up the mess together.
  • If your child is too upset to clean up the mess, postpone the cleanup until the child has calmed down.

Developmental Tip: Children are better able to manage their frustration around age 4.

  1. Your toddler has toilet accidents.
  • Keep up encouragement. Praise any tiny success.
  • Show the child how to help you clean it up.
  • Don’t punish.

Development Tip: Toilet training involves lots of misses. Most children train by age 4.

  1. Your child denies eating cookies – but his lips are smeared with crumbs.
  • Don’t ask, “Did you eat the cookies?”       Ask, “I see that some cookies are missing. Do you know what happened?” In the event of denial, say “I don’t like it when people don’t tell the truth. It breaks my trust.”
  • Reward your child for the truth.
  • Promise that you will never punish if your child tells the truth.

Developmental Tip: Denial at the toddler age is not serious, since toddlers are in the developmental stage of “wishful” and “magical” thinking. Most children understand the abstract concept of lying by the age of 6.

  1. Your toddler rips pages from a valued book.
  • Substitute a magazine that you don’t value.       Get the child’s attention on the substitute and then gently pry away the valued book.
  • Childproof – don’t leave books lying around.
  • Work with your toddler to repair the book together.

Developmental Tip: Children are more respectful to items around age 4.

  1. Your toddler hits, pushes or bites a sibling or another child.
  • Provide attention, cuddles and comfort to the other child.
  • When the other child has calmed, say to the toddler: “No! We don’t hit people!”
  • When the toddler has calmed, take the toddler to the child, and demonstrate how to make up – give a kiss, hug, say “Sorry”, or offer a toy.
  • Acknowledge toddler’s feelings and say “You seem to be angry. We love you both, and you will always be with us.”
  • Give the toddler a teething ring and say, “We don’t bite our friends. Here, bite this.”
  • Give the toddler extra attention every day, though not right after the “hit”. Take her out on “dates” and lavish special attention on her so she can acquire attention in positive ways.
  • Notice and praise when you see the toddler doing something nice for the other child.
  • Don’t leave siblings together unsupervised until the youngest child is 6.

Developmental Tip: Biting, pushing and hitting are typical impulses up to about age 4. As children grow up, they become less inclined to use violence upon each other. By age 7, hitting becomes rare, and by age 12 should end, as verbal skills improve.

  1. Your toddler runs away when you try to change diapers.
  • Catch and scoop up your child.
  • Provide an entrancing toy.
  • Don’t waste time – be fast!
  • Change with a movie.
  • Talk, sing, tickle and make diaper-changing a fun time.
  • Keep a box of interesting toys by the change station, to keep his hands busy.

Developmental Tip: Some toddlers are patient, and some are not. Children become more cooperative around age 4.

 Your child smashes another child’s sand castle.

  • Say “No! We don’t break other people’s things!”
  • Ask your child to apologize to the other child. If your child refuses, say to the other child or parent: “I’m very sorry, but my child doesn’t have the words right now to say sorry”. Model an apology that you give to the parent.
  • Take your toddler away to calm down.
  • When your toddler is calm, offer to re-build the castle together. Encourage an apology, but don’t force it.

Developmental Tip: Children handle anger more effectively around age 4, especially if encouraged with positive alternatives for expressing frustration and anger.

  1. Your preschooler ignores your requests to pick up toys.
  • Make pick-up a game in which you both participate.
  • Assign one task instead of the entire clean-up: “You collect the blocks, and I’ll collect the crayons.”

Developmental Tip: Until about age 12, most children require some direction, instruction, encouragement and help for most tasks.

  1. You are trying to work, and your toddler pesters you to play.
  • Play with your toddler for 15 minutes of your full attention.
  • Interest the toddler in a toy, movie or activity, and get back to work.
  • Join or build a network of parents of similar-aged children. Arrange play-dates.
  • Rotate and pack away toys. Bring out a “new” toy box for each day.
  • Postpone your work until naptime.

Developmental Tip: By age 3, children can play well with other children on play-dates, which can free up your time.

  1. Your toddler says “NO!” to your requests.
  • Offer choices between two or three acceptable options.
  • Reduce your use of the word “No”. Alternatives include “later”, “not now, but you can have…”, “Let me think about it”.
  • Acknowledge feelings. “You seem angry and don’t want to try this?”
  • Don’t expect a child under age 3e to share possessions.
  • Childproof your surroundings for safe exploration and discovery.

Development Tip: The “no” stage lasts from about age 1.5 to 4 years. This is a normal developmental stage for healthy children. Children naturally become more cooperative during the preschool stage.

  1. Your toddler is upset that you are leaving.
  • Acknowledge feelings: “You are sad that Mommy is leaving?”
  • Leave a special item for your child to take care of while you are away.
  • Develop a leaving routine: a special hug, wave.
  • Kiss goodbye, and leave your child in the arms of the caregiver. Don’t sneak out! If you sneak out, your child will feel insecure, and will become clingy.
  • See if your caregiver can come to your house.
  • Try to establish a routine: the same time, same place, same caregiver.
  • Choose childcare arrangements with consistent caregivers, for development of attachment (and don’t worry, you will never be replaced!).

 Developmental Tip: Separation anxiety begins around age 1, peaks at age 2 and fades by age 4.

  1. Your toddler won’t try new foods
  • Provide healthy foods from the four groups.       Offer three meals and three snacks per day, about two hours apart. Leave the food out for twenty minutes and then clean up.       Do not punish for not eating.
  • Offer water \between meals and snacks. Serve milk at meals.
  • Allow toddlers to explore food with their fingers. If your toddler starts throwing food, meal time is over.
  • Food jags are normal, in which the child eats only peanut butter and jam sandwiches for three weeks. That’s okay. As long as it’s a healthy food, don’t worry about nutritional intake.
  • It takes 15 tries to accept a new food. Have a one-bite routine. If the child spits it out, don’t worry, and don’t make it a power struggle. Children have sensitive taste buds, and their preferences will change as they develop.
  1. Your toddler won’t stay in bed.
  • Develop a routine – snack, bath, pyjamas, teeth, book, prayers, bedtime snuggle.
  • If your child keeps getting up, consider two “bedtime excuse” tickets. Two tickets can be used for requests such as a drink, extra kiss, a cuddly toy.
  • Each time, lead the toddler back to bed without talking, and close the door.
  • Spend extra time to talk, read, cuddle and listen as part of the bedtime routine.
  • When you find a routine that works, keep it up.

Developmental Tip: Most children under age 12 try to put off bedtime, because they don’t want to separate from their parents, or to end their day. Parents find that a regular bedtime routine develops cooperation. Some families choose co-sleeping – however the safety of children under the age of one might be a concern.


For more ideas on non-punitive discipline for all stages of childhood, check-out Discipline Without Distress.

Purchase Discipline Without Distress on Amazon

For more information on Judy Arnall’s suggestions for effective discipline, click Webinars at to register.

Next Free Webinar on Discipline is Thursday January 21, 2016   8 pm Register Here for the Discipline Webinar


Posted in Preschoolers 3-5, Toddlers 1-2 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

10 Common Worries of Prospective Homeschoolers and Unschoolers

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When considering homeschooling a child who has reached school age or when the decision is made for children to leave a school they attended last year, parents who are homeschooling their children for the first time have a lot of questions, worries and fears. These concerns are very common and as a home educator for the past 17 years, I would like to address them.

1. Can I balance home and school? I am worried that my mother duties would suffer when I would be spending a lot of my time teaching.

More and more you will blend parenting and teaching so that there is not much distinction between the two. You have been a teacher since your child was born and that loving style won’t change. Let your passions loose and share them with your child. Let your children share their passions with you. Many parents find the roles of teacher and student reverse because the parents learn too. Think of teaching your child not as a person with a brain that you have to fill with facts, but as a journey in which you and your child will travel and learn together.

2. I’m worried that his education will not be recognized later down the road in order to be accepted into a good post secondary institution, so he can have all the same opportunities as traditionally schooled kids.

First, there are many studies that show that home-schooled children meet grade level achievement and often exceed it. Secondly, in Alberta, all children write the grade 12 diploma exams in the core subjects if they want to go on to post-secondary education. By high school age, many kids actively seek out courses to pass the exams and move forward with their goals. Many kids don’t even start formal coursework until grade 10 and do just fine on the exams – so don’t worry – you can’t possibly mess them up.

3. My kids didn’t listen to me when I nagged them about homework last year.  How will it be when their whole education is in my hands?
Homeschooling takes much less time than school. In many cases, it is even less time than children spend on homework! In elementary studies, home schooling might take less than 30 minutes a day not including reading and field trips. In junior high, it might be two hours a day and high school would be 2-3 hours per day. That’s it. And no homework to fight over. Children will have a lot of time to pursue their passions.

Kids are born to learn and will continue to seek out knowledge. It’s natural that humans, from infants to seniors, want to know about their world and how it works. However, they just might at times have a different learning agenda than you. If you have a bad day (and you will) just give up on teaching, go with the flow and go have some fun- build your relationship and try your agenda again in a few days or weeks.

4. I’m worried that I will burn out trying to entertain my kids all day.

Don’t even try to occupy your kids all day. I’m not sure where the notion came that parents must be constant entertainers, but it’s a habit you don’t want to start. Leave things out like a board game today, craft supplies tomorrow and a costume trunk the next day – they will learn to occupy themselves. You will be amazed at their creativity if you are not directing everything. If you don’t get into the habit of occupying them, they will not get into the habit of looking to you to fill their day and you will have free time to yourself. Many homeschoolers use this time to run a home-business, write, or work part-time. The bonus is that children will develop their creativity, decision-making, and problem-solving skills. Be sure to insist that they clean up messes though.

5. I’m only homeschooling one sibling. How will the children get along?

Kids readily accept that their siblings have different education situations. That’s okay. They may want to homeschool too or they might not. If you give each child the choice each year, it takes the power struggles out of the inevitable complaints resulting from their choice.

You might want to consider drawing up a contract with two of your non-negotiable stipulations of what you want done this year and get their input of their non-negotiables as well. Each of you sign your name and post it on the wall. That helps when the whining starts. You can point to what the children signed and agreed to.

You will have bad days when the kids are fighting non-stop and you wonder if they won’t be better off in school. But, they would have those days even if they were in school. Most homeschoolers report that their older kids have much better relations because of learning to get along with each other in the early years. For example, my university kids love to still play board games with their 12 year-old brother.

6. How can I teach them things that I don’t know very much about, such as fractions?

Your kids are going to learn fractions whether you teach them or not. You can’t force a child to learn and you can’t stop them from learning. Math concepts are learned from life – baking, money, shopping etc. Language is learned from avid reading. When they get to later grades, they have to start learning fractions on paper rather than in their heads. As kids get into junior and senior high school, there are online teachers that can teach your kids what you don’t know or want to. And developmentally, they are mature enough to listen more to an outside teacher than you!

7. What if I  made the wrong choices this year?  Programs?  Curriculum? Classes?

It’s only a year! Nothing is written in stone. Your education plan (the worksheet you submit to your facilitator of your year’s plan) is a work-in-progress document and you can change anything you wish at any time. Dump curriculum if it doesn’t work for you, or change programs or the timing of topics. Most homeschoolers don’t finish their goals for the year (we are human and humans procrastinate, or life just gets in the way of our best intentions)and the kids move on to the next grade and do just fine! Enjoy the time you have with your children.

8. I worry about what my kids will miss out from not attending school; School portraits, holiday parties, riding the school bus, Christmas pageants, field trips, etc.

The homeschooling community will provide all those experiences too. In school, the logistics of organizing field trips for a large group only allow for one or two field trips per year. With a family, you can go anywhere, anytime! Join a support group or facebook group (search for “city name” and “homeschool” and lots of groups will pop up) that organizes a lot of outings and you could be on a field trip every day. The artists, writers, presenters and special guests that do programs in schools will also provide them to a group of homeschoolers. It just requires someone to organize it. In our earlier years, the homeschooling community provided school photos, year-end talent concerts (that anyone can perform in, regardless of talent) field trips every week, parent organized holiday parties, music lessons and group discounts on plays, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Some parents love to organize and if you are one of them, pick something your child wants to do, pick a date and advertise it and you will have a group to go with you in no time. It’s not homeschooling as much as community schooling!

The only thing missing is the school bus experience and perhaps children will get that in high school!

9. When I tell relatives what we are going to do, I am met with skepticism, silence and negative comments. How do I handle being judged? It is undermining my confidence.

Unfortunately, until homeschooling becomes more widely understood, you will be judged! Most people hold stereotypes of the “social” and “academic” aspect, and are misinformed by homeschooling portrayals in the media. Many homeschoolers just smile and say, “It’s the best choice for our family.” Grow a thick skin and let comments bounce off of you.

10. My child is so social. How will I provide friends for her?

Friends are everywhere, not just at school. Some kids love being with other kids. Some kids love being home without a lot of people around. You can provide both in homeschooling where you set the pace for social activities. There is enough going on in your city for homeschooling clubs, events, classes and outings that there is something organized for everyone – the outdoor enthusiasts, the sports crowd, writing groups and even the Friday afternoon Minecraft club at my house! Not to mention the usual community organizations such as Boy Scouts, church groups, community classes, and more.

Relax, seek out a mentor for the bad days, and most of all, enjoy your children and learning. It really is a great ride you and your children won’t regret!

Be sure to visit APCA’s website for homeschooling articles, a sample education plan and a sample parent-child contract.

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Posted in Democratic Education, Preschoolers 3-5, School-Aged 6-12, Teenagers 13-19 | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment