Keeping the Big Picture in Mind: Part 1

People home educate for different reasons. Some parents know before they even have children that they want to educate their children themselves, whereas others find themselves home educating because a school environment is simply not working for their child, or they believe they can provide their child with a more personalised, supportive approach. Regardless of what gets you started on the journey of home education, many parents find themselves uncertain of the best approach to use – should they try and retain the structure of school? Should they buy workbooks? Should they have a curriculum, and hold their child to government-imposed standards? Our reasons for home educating are often what defines our ideas about what that education should look like. If you’ve had time to prepare yourself and do a lot of research on home education, you may have a very clear idea of what approach to take, but very often we come to home education with preconceived ideas and stereotypes ourselves.

Understanding our ‘WHY?’ Here are some questions you can ask yourself:

  1. Why have you chosen home education?
  2. Why do you follow the approach that you do?
  3. Why do you use the methods you use?

And the ‘WHAT?’

  1. What motivates us to home educate, or motivates us to home educate in the way we do?
  2. What drives us?
  3. What frightens us? What fears are shaping how we educate/raise our family?

When you spend some time exploring your WHY and your WHAT, you might find that there are some NEGATIVE MOTIVATIONS behind the approach you have chosen. Here are some examples:

  1. Pressure from friends and family – Do you find yourself making sure your child does certain types of work to ‘prove’ to others that they have “done schoolwork”?
  2. Fear of failure – Are you concerned that your child will ‘get behind’ and that others may criticise you if your child does not appear to be performing according to a school-defined standard?
  3. Comparison – Are there others around you that you compare yourself to whose children may be in school or home educated? Are you being drawn into unspoken ‘competition’ with others?
  4. Emotional “baggage” – Consider your own experiences, fears and regrets and whether they affect your educational approach
  5. Fear of authorities – Are you concerned about needing to prove yourself to your Local Authority, doctors, etc? Is this informing your educational choices?
  6. Feelings of inadequacy – Some parents are told they are ‘too thick’ to educate their own children successfully or have experienced educational failure themselves. This need not impact your ability to educate your own child.
  7. Desire to please others – This links to some of the other points above, but could result in you making certain choices because you are trying to make others happy.

It is really important for you and your family to ‘clean up’ your WHY so that you can make positive educational choices, uncorrupted by these negative motivations. It can be beneficial to examine these negative motivations and baggage we carry around with us, and work through some of our own issues. How we process these depends very much on personal beliefs, philosophies and upbringing, and sometimes we might even need someone we trust to help us. It can liberate us for the journey.

In this blog I hope to share with you some ways you can flip to POSITIVE MOTIVATIONS which will lead to a more positive approach that will be in the interests of your child and your family.

We are going to ask ourselves the questions:

  1. Where do you want to go?
  2. What is really important?
  3. What does success mean to you?
  4. What outcomes do you want for your children?

Some of you may have heard of this powerful demonstration:

A speaker stood behind a table on which were a large jar and a container of rocks. He filled the jar with rocks and asked if the audience thought the jar was full. When they replied “yes”, he took a box of pebbles from under the table, and managed to shake them into the jar, filling the spaces between the large rocks. Was the jar full? The audience replied “yes”. But the speaker produced a canister of sand, and was able to pour it between the gaps between the large rocks and pebbles. Finally, he showed that the full jar could hold even more by adding water to it. The moral of this demonstration is that you must put the big rocks in first! If you started out by putting pebbles, sand or water in the jar, the big rocks won’t fit! The ‘big rocks’ of life must be dealt with first or smaller things will crowd them out.

As a family you need to decide what your big rocks, pebbles and sand (and water) are, so that you can consign them to the correct place in the order of priorities. Here are some examples, although, of course they will differ for every family.

There are so many activities, interests, opportunities and problems vying for our attention that we can easily get sidetracked if we don’t focus on what we regard as most important. If you make sure you fit your ‘big rocks’ into your day you can ensure that they don’t get lost in all the busyness of life. They will form the foundation and help support the vision you grow for your family’s home education journey.

In Part 2, I will look at other factors that might shape your approach to educating your children.

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