Homeschool parents aren’t just teachers—they’re encouragers, motivators, soothers, supporters, look-things-up-ers, and more. Your job, whether you want it or not, is to set the tone for your homeschool. We all want our homeschools to produce curious, creative kids, but it’s easy to forget that our children copy what they see us doing. In other words, your kids are going to follow your lead, not your words when it comes to their learning behavior. If that thought scares you, take some time this summer to develop your learning leadership skills.
Find your own passion. Whether it’s learning to crochet or studying Latin, becoming a Master Naturalist or running every day, one of the most effective ways to encourage your kids to follow their passions is to follow your own.
“Moms especially have a tendency to prioritize other people’s needs and wants over our own,” says Julia Hermann, PhD, a family therapist in Sarasota, Fla. “It’s important to show children that their parents have interests and priorities of their own. Not only does it help children develop empathy, by understanding someone else’s position, it also encourages them to treat their own hobbies and interests with the same respect and commitment.”
Of course, making time to identify, much less pursue, your own interests can be easier said than done for homeschool parents. Hermann suggests adding one thing at a time to your schedule, just the way you’d add one of your child’s interests: look for a class and dedicate a little time each day to practicing your passion. Taking a class can seem impossible when you look at your schedule, but even if you can’t manage a real-life class right now, you can find online classes on almost every subject. And reach out to your community: That mom at park day with the ever-present knitting projects might be happy to teach you the basics, or your homeschool group might be interested in pooling resources to hire a yoga teacher for parents during the kids’ classes.
Go further up and further in. One of the ways I stay excited and motivated about homeschooling is by digging into the subjects that we’re studying on my own terms. I keep my library hold list full of books on American literature, nature journaling, anime studies—you name it, if it’s on my kids’ to-learn list, it’s on my list, too.
Good for me, says Marla Koutoujian, a career coach in New York City, who helps professions who feel stuck in a career rut. “Once you stop learning, you stop being inspired, and once you stop being inspired, it’s impossible to be inspiring,” Koutoujian. It may not make sense to immerse yourself in every subject, but take note of the areas where your kids’ motivation seems to lag. What’s your interest level in those subjects like? If it’s just as low, this summer is the time to find out why math — or handwriting or French or whatever’s not clicking in your homeschool—is awesome. Read books. Watch TED talks. Listen to podcasts. Find something about that subject that interests you, and then find out more. Your excitement will come through, and there’s a good chance your kids will pick up on your excitement and want to be a part of it, too.
What if you can’t find a viable point of interest for a particular subject? I’d argue that there’s an interesting angle to almost everything, but if you’re hitting a brick wall with finding the inspiration in a particular subject, it might be time to rethink why it’s on your list at all. If it’s not interesting to you or your kids, why are you spending time on it? Maybe you have a perfectly valid answer — “My son has to pass a test in this subject to get into his favorite summer camp.” If that’s the case, consider tracking down an outside or online class to cover the material with him so you can focus on the things you do like. Just try to avoid leading subjects that you really don’t want to follow. On the other hand, maybe there’s no good reason to stick with the not-working-for-us subject, and you can just let it go for now and focus on the things that do light your fire.
This is excerpted from the summer 2016 issue of HSL.