By Dinah Whitton

Although we’ve just begun our third year of homeschooling, I still have a lot to learn. It’s hard to believe not that long ago I wrote about my family’s incredible transition. With tumultuous tween and teen girls, a 6 year old self-proclaimed “genius” boy and a rambunctious toddler, my life is nothing short of a roller coaster.

Fortunately, I have an understanding husband that encourages me to take time off and attend conferences as my “professional development.” I look forward to the homeschool conference season in the spring; but, I was happy to hear about a Children’s Ministry Conference during the fall in Toronto. After taking a glance at the workshop titles, my interest quickly piqued and my homeschool mama senses were fully engaged. Although this conference was geared toward church volunteers working with children, they also encouraged parents and grandparents to attend.

It was refreshing to hear each speaker, from beginning to end, emphasize the importance of parents being the most influential in the lives of their children. While I’m used to hearing these sentiments at homeschool conferences, it was encouraging to hear it within this unique setting. And, since I’m accustomed to attending conferences I applied the tried and true “buffet principle”. There’s always plenty to offer, but there’s no need to stuff myself. So, I mapped out the sessions that seemed the most appropriate for my family and made notes accordingly. Some of the workshops affirmed a few things I’m already doing at home, while others gave me new insights that reignited my passion for parenting and home education.

The following are just a few highlights from the workshops I attended that seemed most poignant for homeschoolers:

Progressive Disciple

Promoting positive behaviour through appropriate consequences that take into consideration the child’s circumstances to improve negative behaviour.

Both school boards and employers have adopted this method so there isn’t a blanket approach to responding to behavioural challenges.

Make an effort to celebrate the good and not just calling a child out when they don’t meet expectations (catch them being good!).

Understanding your child’s learning style can help you choose consequences that will encourage the expected behaviour and promote better future choices.

Model expectations and good habits. Let your children see you complete your tasks with a good attitude or reading during your personal time.

Understanding Your Child

Avoid putting adult expectations on children (they are not miniature adults).

Consider your child’s age and ability when planning activities.

Rule of thumb: a child’s attention span is their age plus two years (e.g., a 3 year old might be able to sit for 5 minutes).

Even when using curriculum, be creative according to your child’s needs and abilities.

Be intentional about connecting with your children (not everything has to be a teachable moment).

Get Organized

Transitioning from one activity to the next can be challenging for children and your attempts to maintain organization. Consider playing simple independent transitional games (e.g., the counting game: start counting at 1, but say “spark!” when you get to any number that contains 4)

Be consistent with a routine to maintain organization. Children can become fidgety when their days are consistently hectic and lack focus.

Organizing your week creates a flow within your family so children will eventually learn by your example.

Whether you’re a veteran home educator or just starting out like me, there’s always room to build upon your skills and knowledge. We have a wonderful opportunity to spend the time needed to learn more about our children and provide the environment they need to flourish. Even though there are days this roller coaster life of mine seems overwhelming, I know that it’s all a part of this incredible adventure. And, I wouldn’t trade it for anything!


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