Help us get the word out! We are promoting the concept, research and implementation of SELF-DIRECTED EDUCATION (both in and out of school). I’ve had to wait until we had our third university graduate. We’ve launched a project on Kickstarter! For as little as $10, (in which you get a copy of the book), you can support the costs of launching the book titled Unschooling To University: How to impassion your disengaged learner. Just go to Kickstarter.com, register as a guest (anonymous), and search for Unschooling To University or Judy Arnall. Thanks!
This is one of my favourite videos that show the brain science behind why Dad’s matter just as much, but differently, in the parenting relationship.
This meme has been floating around my groups and I have to say that I totally disagree with it. First, I am the worst model of this. Email comes first in the morning with my cup of tea. Every person has to find a routine that works for them.
Second, it sounds so dictatorial. Real relationship parenting starts with a conversation of concerns. I wouldn’t have a list like this for my husband as it is too disrespectful and neither would I have it for my children.
Third, the list defeats the intent. I can see a kid getting through this list in a half hour and then spending all day on electronics. When the parent’s protest, the kids says, “I followed the rules!” All the things on the list should be done without an expectation of reward. Kids naturally like to help. It will come with age and maturity, not bribery.
Fourth, children naturally develop self-control as they age. They naturally decide when and how to get dressed, shower, tidy their room, help out with dishes, and clean a room.
Fifth, as an unschooler who has never put limits on screen time when my kids were older than 6 years (there are lots of research that show children under six are at risk for language development with increased use of electronics), Canadian Pediatric Society Announces a New Position Statement on Screen Time for Young Children I see no problem with hours and hours on screens with older children. The kids learn so much from the internet and playing video games. I do encourage the kid’s self-discipline to build in some exercise time, in their day. They are already very creative on screens with making memes, mods and stuff. Summer learning loss never happens when kids are allowed access to the internet – in fact, they have the time to learn what they truly want to learn, not what the government dictates what they want to learn. Here is a good article on why kids should be on screens all summer! https://www.ucalgarymag.ca/issue/spring-summer-2017/article/unlocking-skills-power-brain-games
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. firstname.lastname@example.org
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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Is It a Discipline Issue or a Development Issue?
Part 1 Young Children
Effective discipline of young children requires knowledge about the development of children. Normal toddler behaviour is often viewed as “misbehaviour” by parents who do not understand the physical, cognitive, social and emotional capabilities and limitations of toddlers. Research shows that children under age five comply (“listen”) to parent requests about 40% of the time. This is normal child behaviour for that age, and does not require “teaching”, “discipline” or “punishment”. This normal behavior will change as the child matures.
Children will develop self-control naturally with age. Until then, parents can child-proof the local environment to make it safer and enjoyable, and can redirect the child. Children need adult help to calm down, as they have yet to learn self-soothing, which is a learned skill that comes with age and practice.
Toddlers have poor understanding of rules until they reach about age three. Even the word “no” is counterproductive, in that directing the child NOT to do something tends to inspire the child to actually do it!
Toddlers also have poor impulse control. This is a factor of executive function. Even though they understand the rule, they don’t have the self-control to hold back until about age five. They are going through a necessary developmental stage to explore their surroundings with all their senses, and want to taste, touch, and smell everything. Toddlers may seem to be ignoring or deliberately disobeying you, but in reality they are just doing their normal job of exploring, which stimulates development of their brains.
In summary, normal characteristics include:
Toddlers do not possess abstract thinking skills.
- Rules are abstract, and a “don’t” rule is a double abstract which draws a toddler’s attention to the very action that you are attempting to forbid.
- Toddlers are in the here-and-now.
- Memories of rules known yesterday have been displaced.
- Toddlers cannot multitask.
- They can only hold a few thoughts in their heads at once.
- Toddlers are driven to explore.
- Everything in their being says “touch, taste, smell, look, hear!”
- Toddlers have almost no impulse control.
- Their immature brains do not allow them to restrain themselves.
- Toddlers do not understand cause and effect.
- They can’t relate their action to Mom’s anger. Reflection skills do not develop until age seven.
The best discipline tool for young children is understanding development and redirecting their behaviour. Child-proofing helps too because when a desired item is out of sight for a young child, it is also out of mind.
Temper tantrums occur when your child is overwhelmed and over-stimulated. The child feels frustrated and angry, and expresses those feelings through body language instead of words. Tantrums are part of normal behavior for a child between age 10 months to age 4 years, decreasing in frequency with age.
Prevent tantrums: Provide rest, sleep, food or stimulation as needed. Don’t go shopping with a tired, cranky, hungry child. Watch for and prevent triggers. Change the activity. If your child is getting tired, hungry, or cranky, offer a juice-box (to raise blood sugar) and a protein snack. Try cuddling on your lap with a good book – a great way to calm down, gain literacy skills and enjoy some connecting quiet time together. Try to meet needs as soon as possible. Sometimes, boredom can’t be alleviated. Get creative and invent ways for children to pass the time.
Handle the tantrum: It often helps to just ignore the tantrum, and carry on with your activity as if nothing is happening. If you have denied the child some item, this not the time to hand it over! Other methods are to just hold the child, and move to a safe, quiet place. Encourage feelings and expression of feelings. Say: “You’re angry. I’ll stay with you while you calm down. It’s okay to be angry. I know you are feeling frustrated.” Use a gentle but firm voice. Encourage deep breaths.
After the tantrum: Label your child’s emotions and provide words to develop a vocabulary of feelings. Ask: “Were you angry when you couldn’t have that cookie? How can we express our anger? Here is something to do.” The toddler usually understands the intent of the question and feels understood, and will later learn to use the words of feelings instead of the body language of a tantrum.
In any situation that involves discipline of a child, remember three steps:
Step 1. Calm yourself – Take deep breaths, drop everything, dress your child, take the stroller and go for a walk, or put on a video, to distract you or your child;
Step 2. Calm the child – Redirect to another activity, or sit and breathe deeply together, or hold the child;
Step 3. Solve the problem: childproof, redirect, substitute, distract, comfort, talk, prevent, and model.
You will make much better parenting decisions when you and your children are calm.
Next week: Stay tuned for Part 2 – Problem Solving
For more information on Judy Arnall’s suggestions for effective discipline, click Webinars at http://www.professionalparenting.ca to register.
by Judy Arnall
Your ten-year old daughter is wasting another beautiful summer day inside the house, playing Minecraft. You fear that her brain is becoming atrophied for lack of academic stimulation. You worry about education company warnings that children can lose a month of their school year learning during the summer. Will summer fun and a “break from formal learning” cause kids to fall behind academically in the Fall? Is there another way to keep up with academic learning other than by text books and lectures? Could video games support education? Hey, isn’t Minecraft educational? Yes, of course it is! Any type of toy or game is educational, in that it teaches children knowledge, life skills and the competencies outlined by Alberta Education in the new curriculum redesign.
Often, parents are critically conscious of the time spent on computer games, and assume that video games and toys are a frivolous waste of time. They think that if the game doesn’t directly teach math or language skills, time is wasted. However, indirect teaching of communication and math skills may be the best feature of gaming, along with enjoyment of plot, graphics, music and gameplay. A game can develop academic learning and competencies, even though not marketed as an “educational game”.
As a parent of five gamers (both genders), I learned early that my children hated the “educational games” that have primitive graphics, poor logic, clumsy interface, are non-multiplayer and just plain lame. “Educational games” seem to be marketed to parents that aim for functional use of time, rather than fun. When my kids immersed themselves in games like World of Warcraft, Nox, Spore, Gizmos and Gadgets, Age of Empires, Graal, Runescape and League of Legends, they learned not only reading, writing and math skills, but also knowledge of social studies, mythology, history and science. They learned valuable social skills such as cooperation and conflict resolution with other players in the same game, and with buddies outside the game playing with them in the same room. They learned personal skills, such as resilience during adversity, perseverance and commitment to continue and finish for the team despite discouragement. They learned how to deal with problems, team members and competitors under time pressure. They learned how to win gracefully, and how to face losing with dignity and without throwing a keyboard across the room.
Indirectly, games and toys teach some academic concepts in a way that is compelling to children, aided by the focus that is essential for game success. Parents who don’t play the game may not realise how their children have learned these competencies. Here is a brief overview of how toys and games teach children within the framework of the new curriculum redesign by Alberta Education.
Of course, children still need exercise, fresh air, and breaks from screens, which are also great life skills, but if your daughter chooses to spend her quiet time playing Minecraft, relax! She is counteracting summer learning loss in a fun, educational and engaging way.
*Competencies retrieved from Ministerial Order on Student Learning (#001/2013), Alberta Education and adapted for this article. Retrieved from http://education.alberta.ca/department/policy/standards/goals.aspx on April 29, 2014
Judy Arnall, BA, DTM, CCFE is a professional certified parenting and teacher conference speaker, and trainer, mom of five children, and author of the best-selling book, Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery and the new DVD, Plugged-In Parenting: Connecting with the digital generation for health, safety and love as well as the new book, To University from Unschooling, to be published Fall 2014 http://www.professionalparenting.ca, email@example.com, 403-714-6766 Sign up for notifications of free monthly parenting webinars. Copyright permission granted for “reproduction without permission” of this article in whole or part, if the above credit is included in its entirety. Sections may be deleted for space constraints.