By Dinah Whitton
From the moment our precious little ones are born we do our best to give them what they need and protect them from harm. While it may be tempting to shield our children from the challenges of life, allowing them to fail can lead to success.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “resilient” as the ability to “recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” Despite the stereotypes, the freedom and flexibility of homeschooling provides an ideal opportunity to develop resilience in children. Homeschooling families have the freedom to explore and the flexibility to learn according to their needs. This type of open environment enables children to interact with a variety of people within different social settings. Children who are not sheltered in a rigid schedule and location develop the tools needed to successfully handle challenges.
According to child Psychologists Dr. Robert Brooks and Dr. Sam Goldstein in their book Raising Resilient Children, “for a child to understand that mistakes are part of learning, parents have to respond to the child’s mistakes in ways that teach rather than humiliate, that rely on problem solving rather than blame.” In addition, “children with a resilient mindset perceive mistakes as experiences from which to learn rather than defeats.”
Real World Resilience in Homeschoolers
So what happens in the ‘real world’? Once our children leave the comfort and security of home education their resiliency continues to be tested. In fact, home educators have been training their children in the real world all along. Studies continue to show that homeschool graduates are achieving great success in university. According to a 2009 study by Dr. Michael Cogan, homeschooled students had higher retention and graduation rates in addition to higher grade point averages in their first year.
Liberti Todd has personally seen the challenges homeschooled students face in post secondary education. After being homeschooled through her elementary years, she has seen various students excel while others are overwhelmed by the natural pressures of university. Currently in her senior year at Liberty University, she attributes her resiliency to her family’s culture, “I was raised to do well under pressure and ask for help when I needed it,” said Liberti, “weak social skills will result in a lack of resiliency for some kids, so a healthy balance of interaction for homeschoolers is important.”
Parents like Dione and Daniel Rogers are currently witnessing their homeschool graduates thrive in their adult years. With four grown children in their twenties succeeding, the Rogers are grateful for the benefits of home education. “Homeschooling provided an opportunity to move at our own pace” Dione said, “making a mistake wasn’t a big deal because they knew they could take their time.” They didn’t do anything specific to teach their children to be resilient, but it was naturally built into their parenting style. “Even if they didn’t know how to do something, we gave them the tools to figure it out,” said Dione, “We told them that no one can be amazing at everything, but work hard on what you’re good at.”
Colleen and Dave Servos are also excited about their homeschool graduates that are excelling as adults. Their two adult children are serving as positive examples for their two teenaged siblings currently being homeschooled. Recently married, both older children are successfully building their families and careers. Colleen says they did the same thing any parent would do to prepare their children for adulthood, “the family is the unit of strength and we provided a safe environment to build on the fabric of our family.” In addition, they intentionally did not give their children everything despite the potential of peer pressure. “They have always been very proactive and worked to make things happen,” said Colleen, “and today they continue to have strong work ethics and persevere through challenges.”
Since mistakes and challenges are inevitable aspects of life, parents have a tremendous opportunity to maximize on these teachable moments. Consider these tips to actively support your children in developing resilience.
Your undivided attention also requires listening to children intentionally. Children who know and feel they are loved become more confident.
Provide age appropriate opportunities for decision making and allow your children to experience the consequences of their choices.
Help your children understand the importance accepting the things that cannot change and remaining focussed on self improvement.
Find creative ways to help your child discover how special they are while teaching them to remain humble.
Brooks, Robert, and Goldstein, Sam. “Raising Resilient Children: Fostering Strength, Hope, and Optimism in Your Child”. Contemporary Books, 2001.
Cognan, Michael. “Exploring Academic Outcomes of Homeschooled Students”. University of St. Thomas. 2009.