By Traci L. Carman
Education has been shifting quite a bit over the last few years in the United States. I have seen more and more homeschool familiesand charter school programs than ever before. As a family, we recently watched the movie Waiting for Superman. It was shocking to see how deteriorated our education system is in some parts of the country.
Personally, our family has participated in various models of education, i.e. homeschool, charter school, Montessori, and public school, with our three children. Every child is different, and every age and stage of development brings new breakthroughs and new challenges. I believe it is absolutely essential to be open to whatever is the best vehicle for each child to gain an understanding of the world and him/herself. What is the point of education, if not to expand a child’s vision of the world and their ability to function within it?
Parents are the guardians of their children. It all starts at home. We have been blessed and gifted with the stewardship of these little beings that need nurturing, love, guidance and a sense of safety, as they explore the world around them. More than simply making sure they are safe, they need to feel safe. This starts in infancy, and follows them throughout childhood, including school.
When preschoolers start their first day of school, some of them are a little hesitant. Leaving them behind, when they are afraid or nervous, creates insecurity and can lead to “separation anxiety.” They need an opportunity to transition. This is a big step in their life. Supporting them in being grounded and secure in these early years, creates high self-esteem and confidence as they grow and mature.
“People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things.
When they believe in themselves they have the first secret of success.”
~ Norman Vincent Peale
As a society, we are moving fast and furious; we are busy. Our children are growing up in this fast-paced world. Sometimes we might do well to slow down so they can catch up and breathe. In these moments of breathing together, we find out how they are doing, where their challenges are, and what we can do to support them in assimilating what they are learning and how they are growing.
In Waiting for Superman, they addressed teachers who were not teaching and the impact on the students. Another area that is tragic is when teachers have too many students, too much curriculum to teach, and not enough time. We cannot change the system overnight, but what we can do is participate in our own child’s education.
When one of my sons was in fourth grade, he failed a math test. The next day, he came home with a worksheet starting the next level of math. When I asked the teacher about filling the gap before moving on, she said she did not have the time to figure out what he was not getting, and she needed to keep moving in order to teach the required curriculum. I realized it was time for me to sit down with him and figure out where he was lost. In one hour, we found the missing link. He was so happy.
Boys and girls have different developmental timetables. And, there are at least three distinct learning styles (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic). Most schools do not have the resources to fully capitalize on these differences. As parents, we can empower our children by helping them understand their own personal learning style and how to develop effective strategies to overcome challenges.
“We all have possibilities we don’t know about.
We can do things we don’t even dream we can do.”
~ Dale Carnegie
Our children are our future. They are creating what will be. I am thrilled to see that parents are making choices to homeschool, do alternative programs, and take their child’s education and spirit into their own hands. And, a lot of families still have success with the more traditional model of schooling. It is all good. The key is to find the model that allows your children to thrive, not just survive.
Seven Tips for your Education Journey
- Treat each of your children as individuals with individual learning styles and educational needs. If one school fits all, great. If it doesn’t, be open to finding alternatives. I am not speaking of “special education.” Perhaps one of your children does better with structure, a classroom setting, and lots of children, and one of your children does better one-on-one and with more flow than structure. It would be worth exploring options, to see if each child can excel in their own way.
- It is helpful to explore what your desired outcome from school is. What do you want school to provide for your child? What kind of person do you want to launch into the world at age 18 or 20? What do they need to challenge them, and yet meet them where they are? There are many questions you can ask yourself.
- Find that “sweet spot” where you are challenging your child, but not frustrating them. Communication and connection with your child will provide this information.
- Communicate with your children (age appropriate). Talk about what is and is not working with school (and other areas of their lives). This is essential, if you are to build trust and teach them problem-solving skills. [Trust will be your saving grace when they are teens.]
- Once you start down a road for a school year, or a sports season, etc., do not “quit.” Finish out the year/season, if at all possible. There is an exception to this, however. If you see the spirit in your child dying (depression, withdrawal, sadness, anger, etc.), it is time to visit the possibility of making a change. Do not wait until their spirit is so far down that you cannot pick them up. Notice changes, ask questions, problem solve. You want to make sure you are protecting your child, but not “saving them” from growing. Sometimes it can be a little blurry.
Speaking of their spirits, my second son was struggling in second grade. He asked me to homeschool him. We had never talked about that before, so I was very surprised. I could see that the current environment was not working for him, but I was not sure why. I gave him an assignment. He was to pinpoint what was not working for him at this school, so we could make sure homeschooling (or something else) could resolve the problem. It took him two weeks to finally say, “I know what it is, mom. It’s too much, too fast.” Well, that was something we could resolve. I had him finish the semester, which was only one more week until Christmas break (a sense of completion), and I began to homeschool him. He then went to Montessori and his spirit was once again alive.
- If your child is in a program that does not seem to fit, start with asking questions and figuring out what specifically is not working. You can begin creating a support system where your child can get additional help from family, friends or a teacher, if that will help. It is not always necessary to move them. Look for ways to bridge the gap. Maybe they are not ready for a particular concept, or missed a step somewhere down the road. Perhaps there is a personality conflict with a teacher. What are the pieces you can evaluate and potentially change?
- Most of all, let your children know how much you love them and that you are on their side.
“If we are to teach real peace in this world,
and if we are to carry on a real war against war,
we shall have to begin with the children.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
Conscious parenting is the most rewarding job that exists, in my opinion. What we give (or do not give) to our children today makes all the difference, not just for tomorrow, but for their entire lifetime. This is where a little goes an extremely long way.