Written by Kara Anderson of Quill and Camera.
I am so awkward with labels.
When people ask me to describe our homeschooling style, I stumble though a soliloquy of words that probably sound half made-up.
So when I say that I am homeschooling a “sensitive child,” please know that isn’t my attempt at labeling anything officially. It’s more something we’ve noticed, and lived with and worked with for years now.
And it’s something that makes me so grateful for homeschooling, and this opportunity to give my children an individualized experience.
I wanted to share a little bit about what homeschooling my sensitive kiddo looks like for us. If you too have a sensitive child who you are teaching, I hope sharing some of our experience will maybe help.
So what do you mean, sensitive?
In our home, sensitivity can mean a number of things – smells can be distracting, noises upsetting.
From an emotional standpoint, too much handwriting practice can lead to a meltdown, and not getting a math concept immediately can be a catastrophe.
Things that seem like they shouldn’t really be THAT BIG of deal … are sometimes.
But more than anything else, having a sensitive child means always keeping in mind that it’s really hard to learn together when stress is in the way.
So thank goodness for “Simplicity Parenting” by Kim John Payne.
I first heard Payne speak at a conference years ago, and I couldn’t take notes fast enough. When I discovered his book, I read it nodding all the way through.
Although not specifically a homeschooling book, it has become an invaluable guide in our home.
Payne preaches the kind of simplicity that naturally brings calm. We’ve applied so many of his ideas to our homeschool, and they have worked wonderfully for us!
A quiet space
We began with our environment, which I had originally filled with workbooks and flashcards, shelves of books and educational toys.
We got rid of most of it. We packed it in labeled bins, and I chose just a few things that I knew were favorites to keep out. (The rest we rotated.)
I will say it felt a little counterintuitive, but within days I knew we were on to something when I heard:
“Mom! Thanks for making our house so calm inside.”
After reading Simplicity Parenting, I decided to make having a strong rhythm a top priority for us. I could tell we needed it desperately – my sensitive child hated surprises and needed to know what was next.
We have pretty set daily and weekly rhythms now and spend a few minutes over breakfast every day talking about what’s to come.
Transitions are always tricky for my sensitive one, and so I give plenty of warning, and I don’t expect a sudden about-face.
We shift gears slowly around here.
That means that some days, I will let my kids stick with a subject or project instead of changing to something else just because I had a “plan.” I love that homeschooling allows us that freedom.
My sensitive child is also a social one (I know!) — who loves time with close friends and most activities. But I have found that we need to be choosy about how we spend our time.
Even now, we plan for recovery days following lots of busyness.
Homeschooling gives us wonderful flexibility there. If we have a hectic or stressful Tuesday, we might declare Wednesday a pajama day.
We can always catch up on science during the weekend, right?
Many years ago we were driving when I heard my 3-year-old ask from the backseat, “Mama, where’s Fallujah?”
I had no idea that my child was listening along to NPR or paying so much attention to our adult conversations.
Whenever I pick up Simplicity Parenting for a refresher, it reminds me that our sensitive child is like a little sponge, soaking up everything we put out.
We can’t change that the world is a loud, busy place. But we can teach our sensitive child coping skills that make it a little easier to navigate.
That’s become a part of our family curriculum – learning relaxation techniques and how to listen to what our bodies and minds are saying.
We also try to be flexible with our kids. If a class or event is overwhelming, we may leave. No expectations and no hard feelings. Because we’re all learning what works for us.
Honoring who we are
Sometimes, I know it seems a little weird to people that we try to make sure our home is filled with calming scents, and that we decline invitations to things “kids like.”
I’m going to let you in on a secret, though: my kids are being raised by a sensitive parent.
Unfortunately, it took me years to figure out that some of my quirks are a lot more easily managed if I just see them for what they are – sensitivity – and honor myself enough to not just try to go with (force) the flow all the time.
I don’t know if my child will be sensitive for life, but I suspect so.
And so, what a wonderful opportunity I’ve been given to teach my young one that it’s OK to be sensitive and especially that it’s OK to take care of yourself and your needs.
I am continually grateful that homeschooling gives us the time and space to do just that.
Are you homeschooling a sensitive child too? What tips and tricks do you use that make your days go more smoothly?