Homeschool Essentials

Whether unschooled or highly structured, religious or secular, all homeschools encounter the same challenges. All successful homeschools exhibit the same essential qualities. This weblog will help you understand and apply those qualities, minimize frustration, and enjoy more success sooner.

Monday, December 20, 2004

A Wholistic Approach

Far too many involved in homeschooling act as though a child's academic performance can be isolated from everything else happening in their life. Think that's an extreme statement?

A school principal called me one day, concerned about a teenage girl who had been withdrawn from school for homeschooling. “I’m very concerned about Robin,” (not her real name) the man said. “She was skipping classes and not completing her assignments last year. You need to make sure she buckles down.” I made grunting noises and put down the phone. Based on his account, you’d conclude that Robin exhibited a stereotypical teenage irresponsibility, that if you could overcome her laziness, deal with her attitude problem, she’d be fine. He broadly hinted that Robin had deceived her mother into pulling her out of school so she could shirk even more.

However, the conscientious Robin and her worried mother had already talked with me. Yes, Robin had missed classes during the previous semester. Her parents were concluding a bitter and messy divorce at that time, and understandably this upset the thirteen year old. Either the school didn’t know or didn’t care about this domestic turmoil. They expected this thirteen year old to keep her emotional balance and continue to perform in school while her home disintegrated around her.

Real life doesn’t work that way. Adults’ work performance suffers during times of stress. Illness in the family, birth of a baby, loss or change of job–all of these things cause stress in the family, and affect learning. Sometimes homeschool families express anxiety that children have “fallen behind” because of family trials. But there’s no way to avoid that. Stress affects children, including their development and learning readiness, every bit as much as it affects adults. Expecting learning to go on as though nothing is happening is unrealistic and unfair. Homeschools can take this into account, can be people friendly.

The wise, and ultimatelyl successful homeschooler understands the need to address learning problems within the whole context of the child's life. Fail to do that only results in frustration and breakdown of that most precious commodity-- trust.


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