Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Life's Little Annoyances

Have you ever wanted to throw your hands up and simply give up?  Well, in the life of anyone dealing with children - of any age - there's a lot of mental hands being thrown.  Being the mature adult, however, includes sticking with the job, no matter the frustration.  My example today is the innate dislike of school that most children possess.  One cannot reason with a child the same way as with an adult.  A child does not understand the higher things to be gained by intent study and striving for further knowledge.  All the child knows is that they dislike handwriting and spending time poring over math problems instead of listening to storybooks or playing computer games.  I honestly don't know how a teacher can deal with more than one or two students at a time.  I suppose the children who are sent to school have a bit more respect for their teacher than for someone who lives in their house.  Regardless, when homeschooling children, especially those not your own, numerous battles will inevitably occur.  Nine times out of ten, a child will fuss, complain or absolutely refuse to do their schoolwork.  Every instructor needs a plan of attack, even though no one plan is guaranteed to work for every child.  There are a few tricks, however, that can be useful.

1.  Be firm.  You are the teacher, not the child.  It is your obligation to ensure that the schoolwork is done, regardless of the child's feelings about completing the work.

2.  Be calm.  While the child will inevitably fly off the handle numerous times, you must be sure not to respond in kind.  Being the adult means reining in your temper and patiently sitting out the temper tantrums.  Oftentimes, a time-out of one form or other is necessary.  While some people may cry out against such "cruel and unusual punishment," a time-out which separates the child from the rest of the family and lengthens the time before the work is completed can increase a child's obedience.

3.  Be understanding.  Several children act up during their lessons because they have pent-up energy.  I do not advocate calling off school for the day because the child needs to run around.  I do, however, recommend breaks and exercise of some form or other.  Oftentimes, a few laps around the house or jumping jacks will calm a child down so that they can focus on their lessons once more.

4.  Be patient.  Teaching anyone anything can be difficult.  Finding the best way of explaining a new math concept or grammatical rule can be a trying task.  And more than likely, no two children will learn the concepts in the same way.  Through trial and error, you can discover how the child best learns - through explanation, hands-on activities, repetition, etc.

5.  Be creative.  We all remember the boring text books of yesteryear.  No child likes to spend extended periods of time poring over bland handwriting or rows of math problems.  Integrating hands-on activities or fun stories can help keep school exciting.  Flash cards are a great tool for friendly competition, or even self-competition.  See how many the child can get right in a certain number of minutes.  Look up pictures or videos of what is being studied in history or science.  Add hand motions and rhythm to memorization. Remember, your student is just a child.  They want to learn, but they prefer to learn in a fun environment.

6.  Be ready.  Each new day holds potential curve balls.  These can be quite surprising and upsetting at times, but if you are diligent and observant, most often the curve balls won't be too shocking.  Sometimes the child had a late night or ate too much sugar, which can often account for disrespectful or complaining behavior.  Keep a few tricks in the back of your mind to help get the child out of their funk.  Sometimes a healthy threat is required.  For example, if the child refuses to shape up, take away a toy or game for the rest of the day.  Sometimes a reward of some type is useful.  Give the child an extra few minutes on the computer.  Present them with a surprise sweet.

7.  Be open.  Home-schooling is inevitably an embarkment into uncharted waters.  No two children learn the same way.  No two children advance at the same rate.  No two children have the same temperament. Find what works for your family and stick to it, but always be open to improvements.  For the kids I'm currently teaching, we have a Star Reward system.  Every subject completed to my satisfaction gains them a sticker.  If they have enough stickers at the end of the week, they receive a small prize.  This chart serves a two-fold purpose: a) it provides an incentive for completing work; b) the stickers can be taken away as punishment for shabby work or disrespectful behavior.

In conclusion, home-schooling is a grand endeavor.  It is not for everyone, but if you try it, make sure to give it a solid effort before giving up.  Don't let a few bumps in the road deter you from giving it your all.  In my experience, while there are numerous trials that come part and parcel with home-schooling, the joy of having your children about you and the chance to watch them grow and mature day by day more than make up for the little annoyances.

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