Written by Kara S. Anderson
I recently spoke at the Virginia Homeschoolers Conference, and one of my talks was about why relationships matter so much in homeschooling.
During the Q and A period following my talk, a mom asked me what to do when tensions have gotten high, and everyone is melting down, and school has gone completely off the rails.
My answer: Go out for ice cream.
Now technically, this is my friend and Simple Homeschool co-contributor Shawna Wingert’s answer. (I gave her credit! ;))
She told me years ago that when things got really hard in their homeschool, she would load up everyone and get ice cream and drive around and listen to an audiobook.
I tried it once, and maintain that it’s one of the best pieces of homeschooling advice that I’ve ever gotten, and now we do it whenever we need a reset. It doesn’t just work to calm everyone down.
It’s more than that – it reconnects us, and connection is vital when you are homeschooling.
Why is connection so important?
We all desperately want to get homeschooling right. We didn’t sign up for this to do it half-way, and when we’re talking about our kids’ futures, I think it’s important to take learning seriously.
But learning takes more than a kid and some info.
We can’t shove things into their heads through force; and we can’t control what they remember or can recall.
And would we want to?
Back in the early 1900s, a man named John Dewey asked this question. He was a philosopher and psychologist, and he was worried about what was happening in schools.
He felt like children were being viewed as vessels to be filled with facts.
He started talking about “educating the whole child.” His idea was that true education should focus on not just intellectual needs; it should focus on the physical, social and emotional as well.
The emotional is a huge component, in my opinion.
And I think it’s a place where we are lucky to be able to focus as homeschooling families.
Too often, stressed kids are being asked to learn and remember.
But that’s just not how our brains work.
When our kids are stressed, say – when they hit a point in math that they just can’t get – stuff they can’t control (hormone changes and physiological response) start to happen.
Unfortunately, when we get really stressed, our bodies can’t tell the difference between long division, and spotting a tornado barreling at us.
So cortisol and adrenaline flood our systems and prepare us to face a threat.
This just isn’t a good time to try to learn anything.
It’s a good time to run around the back yard, or take some deep breaths, or get a glass of water … or maybe … just maybe … go get ice cream or donuts.
What about connection?
The donuts work because they give us a break, but also because they give us a chance to reconnect with our kids. (The donuts send a message: No one is mad at anyone – no one is disappointed – let’s start again tomorrow.)
That’s so important because when we are learning, we need to be able to make mistakes – to be vulnerable. And we can’t be vulnerable with someone we don’t trust.
And trust comes from connection.
So to me, connection is the most important thing.
And that’s not because I don’t think education is important; it’s because it doesn’t work as well the other way.
Think back to your own schooling – am I the only one who excelled in grade school, only to find learning infinitely harder in middle school with the new pressure of cliques and crushes?
The really good news is, although we can’t control what our kids learn and what sticks, there are lots of things that we can do to help reconnect with our kids starting today.
And some are really simple. We can:
- Look them in the eye.
- Listen to their stories (even the ones about video games)
- Go out to lunch or on a solo date (or at least plan one!)
- Tell them a story about when we were their age
- Play a game together
- Do a one-on-one “book club”
- Start watching a show together
- Take a walk
- Make our child a special snack or treat
- Leave them a note telling them what we love about them
- Try hard to hug them throughout the day
- And (of course) go out for ice cream and begin again tomorrow
In fact, I created a FREE brainstorming page, so that you can start thinking up ways to reconnect with your kids today.
As you think of ideas for each child, consider what they are loving at this moment, and what would make them feel most loved – The Five Love Languages of Children is a great resource to help with this!
And if you’d like to hear me speak this year, check out my Meet Kara page here for upcoming events!
What’s something that helps you reconnect with your kids?