When I started homeschooling I was inundated with useless advice. Use cupcakes to teach math! Use car trips to teach geography! The ideas are not helpful because parents who are able to conceive of the idea of homeschooling do not need help thinking of fun projects. The problem with fun projects is that most parents don’t think they are fun.
As a homeschooling parent I want to know what the essentials are so that I don’t have to spend my day doing fun projects in order to feel like I’m achieving my goals for homeschooling.
The picture up top is my son playing Ninja hide-and-seek with a friend after swimming. They gave each other hints with math problems and room numbers. No parent would have thought of this. I’d never think of it because it’s boring to me. But obviously kids are born knowing how to find fun.
So what I’ve realized is that I need to focus on WHY I was homeschooling, so that anytime I was worried about doing the wrong thing, I could remind myself “This is why we’re homeschooling and even if I don’t know what I’m doing, the reasons for homeschooling don’t change.”
One of the most powerful WHYS for me is resilience. It’s pretty much the determining factor as to whether adults end up are satisfied with their life. Yet there is no part of school that contributes to learning resilience except schoolyard fist-fights.
The following list comes from materials from Casey Mulqueen a psychologist who specializes in building resilience. But really, my own curriculum comes from having seen multiple therapists in order to learn these skills in my own life, and then taking my children to therapists to teach them resilient thinking. But the most important work – -in all cases has come from what we do outside the therapists’ office, in the moment. Resilient thinking takes practice.
Here is a curriculum for resilience:
1. Focus on filtering. How you frame a problem matters more than how to you solve it. When you talk to your kids, focus on framing, because more than the problem at hand, how you frame the problem is what will matter. This lesson is something that can’t be planned. It’s an in-the-moment sort of thing, so the more time you spend with your kid, there more opportunity you will have to teach framing.
- Ask: “How can you change that?” A strong sense of personal responsibility helps adults control their own destiny and focus on success by their own hand.
- Ask: “What is the most likely outcome?” Those with realistic optimism expect the future to be good, but they remain aware that challenges may arise and things won’t always go as expected.
2. Focus on your own actions. We all know that kids learn from what we do, not from what we say. So helping kids solve their own problems by talking through resilience is good, but we make more impact by a good model resilience ourselves – by how we act. Again, this lesson requires lots of time with the kids — they need to see you doing your own life, day in and day out, as opposed to you taking special time out of your every day life to do their life with them.
- Model self-assurance, which is the belief in your ability to deal with challenges. This means your kids need to see you doing difficult things so they can you that you approach challenges and shifts in demands without loss of enthusiasm.
- Self-Composure is the ability to manage stress and remain calm under pressure. So your kids would need to see you under pressure and they would need to see you making choices about how to cope.
3. Set your own goals and meet them. Not for your kids. For you. People who are resilient have the ability to decide what they want and then follow through to get it. Goal-oriented people set appropriate goals, monitor progress on those goals, and adjust behavior accordingly.
So often we get caught up in what we are doing for our kids. All our goals focus on our kids, and in the worst cases, we can’t separate our kids reaching their goals from us reaching our own goals. You know what this looks like on the baseball field: It’s a dad losing his mind over the fact that his kid struck out—screaming at the ref, the coach, the kid, everyone.
What it looks like at home is a parent who is overwhelmed with the kids and fails to set goals for herself. No goals is the opposite of resilience, actually, so your goals are more important to focus on than any other curriculum issue we have.
Fortunately, now we each of us has at least one personal goal to focus on: Improve our resilience.