Home schooling is so easy, I’m definitely considering changing my career and I will be home schooling my child...said no parent ever!! Honestly, the last few weeks have been hard. My husband is working from home yet we've never seen less of him. As Zoom calls are monopolising the household, I seem to have picked up a few substantially time-consuming job's: official child entertainer, personal fitness coach, nutritional dietician and chef (with 4 dietary requirements), general maintenance 'Handy Andy' as well as cleaner and the pinnacle that is being a teacher to my two little boys; aged 2 and 4...forget any of my own actual work! My initial method of copious supply of coffee for me, constant grazing for all and too much shouting at them [all 3 of my boys] wasn’t working, so I took my own advice to take a breathe, sit on our reflection step and think about the situation in hand, to find a way to make this better for all. In this clarity I realised that the home schooling I was focusing on was all wrong, I was wrapped up on completing tasks instead of focusing on the actual fundamentals of their learning.
Home schooling is hard! It can be mentally challenging and frustrating for all, regardless of your child’s age. Knowing what the best thing to do is so difficult. As a parent and not their teacher, I feel I have no gauge, as to what I should or could be doing, at what rate to progress, or how long I should work on a task before moving on, or what is the right amount of pressure without being overbearing.
So while discussing this with friends, my children’s school teachers and nursery key workers, there’s one thing that I’ve come to understand - all children progress individually, at all stages of their education and are all super resilient to change. In my opinion the best thing I can do is build my children’s confidence, self-motivation and their self-esteem. You should feel free to encourage your child to work through the homeschooling resources if this is what you feel is right for you both however be mindful that all great teachers can bring their pupils up to speed academically relatively easily and quickly when the time comes and they return to school. What they cannot work on as easily is your child’s confidence, self motivation and esteem. These skills run deep and are part of our children's core beliefs about themselves that can shape the rest of their lives.
Here are 5 ways to help build your child’s motivation towards their school work that will also build their confidence and personal esteem:
Be optimistic. Children imitate behaviour they see. Show your child the emotions, behaviour and even language they need to motivate themselves. Encourage them to be optimistic, encourage positive thoughts and to give all challenges a try; be it a challenging school task, running the fastest they’ve ever ran, jumping the highest or learning to ride their bike. There is no failure, just learning. So some examples of language could be “wow, after such a brilliant day yesterday, I feel this will be super easy today,” or “I found this tricky last time I tried to do it but I think I will give it a try again and do my best.” It’s good to show them you are human too and give your daily tasks a go.
There is no failure. The ethos of giving something a try must go hand in hand with not fearing failure. Failing is not something negative or something to fear. Share this knowledge with your child and help them understand that in life there will be many tasks that will be trial and error, they will not always know the answer. There is nothing wrong in failing and it doesn’t have to be associated with a negative outlook. However, what is important is managing feelings around failure and learning from your own perception to achieving something. Try to reflect on what happened to lead to an outcome and then to have the confidence to stand up and try again, with the knowledge of what has been learnt so you [and your children] can adapt.
Be persistent. The feeling of winning or success is great, it’s an amazing high and something we all strive for; many even crave. However, it’s not the be all and end all, and this is an integral learning. To support this learning, as parents we need to consistently reward our children’s effort. Every time they do give something a try, whether it be as part of a challenge, their school work or something you have observed them doing on their own, applaud their efforts even more than you would applaud their success. This will build their confidence around ‘giving it a go’ and in the future make them more likely to throw themselves into a challenge instead of fearing it.
Celebrate success and understand self fulfilment. Celebrating success is in theory the easiest of the 5 to do, however just as you would help your child understand their feelings around failure, it’s is important for them to understand their feelings around success and what it means to them. Through your own behaviour and by leading the way, try encourage that they do not measure themselves or their self-worth through achievements but instead through fulfilment. It’s not about ticking off tasks from a list (achievements) while not looking back as the true skills and experiences you’ve learnt along the way, it’s about living each stage of the journey and appreciating the complete environment surrounding the success.
Build on current interests. Harnessing your child’s current interests and passions to promote other parts of their learning makes the experience an interesting and engaging event for them. If they love trains, use this to help them do their maths work by counting them. If they love astronomy, help them understand the science within the planets. My son is currently obsessed with skeletons so we have started learning about human anatomy. Whatever their interests, no matter how timely they are or your child’s age, there is a learning opportunity that will help grow their minds, their interests and their passion. Give them a reason to be excited about learning by leveraging play and existing motivations.
You will already be doing many things instinctively with your children to help them along their own personal development journey. The key takeaway is to give them your time, your love and a secure base to build on. If they feel confident, happy and safe, they will be resilient enough to take on all of life’s challenges as they will feel they have a solid foundation built on your love and security.
Please do note that my opinions are just that. My own learning is based on interacting with my own little boys, from reading many sources, learning from other parents and their experiences, and fundamentally adapting and doing my best as I go. I am writing these blogs to share my evolving knowledge and hope it is helpful to other parents and caregivers. This process also gives me something to look back on as my boys grow older. I always welcome constructive feedback, more information and opinions on any topic I write about to help me and others reading these blogs learn more. I strongly welcome your thoughts and own experience on this topic in the comments below.