Why honouring our children’s mental wellbeing is essential for learning and growth

Guest post by Julia Black of “Lights On Learning”

My daughter was 9 years old when one morning she curled up with our dog, Zola and said ‘Mum, you might as well send me to prison every day that is what it feels like.

Over the previous 5 years I had flexed the education system every way possible to keep her and my son happy, engaged, curious and hungry to learn. I was a Parent Governor and Chair of the Parent/Teacher Association. I was passionate about bringing enrichment opportunities into the school to honour the right for all children in the school to learn through their passions, talents and strengths. I even won the NCPTA Gold Star Award for Changing the Life of the School. I was that parent! I wanted to be highly involved because I was passionate about collaborating on school improvement.

So when I began to see my daughter’s mental wellbeing deteriorate, as a result of being so bored by the SATs driven curriculum in Year 4, I knew I had to honour what she felt inside. The light behind her eyes had gone out and this was no longer a question about education but rather about safeguarding her mental wellbeing. At that point I phoned the school and told them she would not be coming back in. I immediately deregistered her and elected to home educate. My son who was happy in Year 2 stayed in school until I opened up my own Creative Learning Centre in September 2013. 

To me, honouring ourselves as parents, and our children, is essential for us to thrive as learners. Learning is as natural to us as breathing and I believe we are all born with a natural gift or superpower that we have come here to explore and fully express. To learn to live in alignment with our true purpose, tap into self-compassion and make a positive contribution to the world around us is what education is about when we design it with mental wellbeing at the heart of it.  

When we honour our truth of who we are born to be we live in harmony, coherence and experience freedom. Freedom to be all that we can be within this lifetime. With that comes a sense of peace of being safe to explore our heart’s desire. 

Working with thousands of families over the past 15 years, I’ve come to realise that the biggest mistake we often make is to focus on tinkering around in the external learning landscape. We try out different curriculums, we unschool, worldschool or tune into a particular philosophy that resonates. All of this makes us feel good that we are trying the best path possible for our families – and of course we are. However, when we focus on the outside-in like this we fall into the trap of ignoring what really matters – our internal learning landscape. After all when we home educate, the responsibility of our children’s growth and success as learners is all down to us. That requires a real commitment to honouring your true vision and sticking to it unwaveringly, even when it seems that nothing you try is working. Stepping off the old school pathway takes courage and sometimes we find ourselves here, not through philosophical choice, but by necessity, like I did. 

To ensure you enjoy your home education adventure and transform as a whole family there are three essential keys I believe you can use to honour your family’s authentic selves. These are Heartset, Mindset and Skillset and they will help you align your actions, and educational strategy with your values and core beliefs. 

Heartset is the emotional aspect of your being. When you engage your hearts in your learning adventure you tune into your exponential potential. You believe in yourself and reach for the stars because you learn what you love and follow your heart’s desire which leads you to love what you learn. In this state of being we create an energetic charge that I refer to as being ‘Lights On’. We are in creation mode, honouring our truth and we enter into a learning landscape where anything is possible. In a ‘Lights On’ state you tune into the emotions that have a higher resonance, such as gratitude, love, joy. 

Mindset is the mental aspect of your being where what you believe to be true about yourself affects the decisions you make and therefore the results that you get. The real work here is to learn how to harness the power of your ‘Lights Off’ state, when you feel frustrated, anxious or sad. This is where your real growth opportunity for your family exists and whilst most of us think we might want to avoid this state, it is here where we truly get to honour our truth. If we listen to the limiting beliefs that have been hardwired in throughout our childhood we will most likely play it small all our lives. We will pass this glass ceiling on to our children and cap our truest potential if we are unaware of the neural networks holding us back as leaders of our families. 

Skillset is the practical and physical aspect of our being that we develop through hands on experiences which in turn shape who we can become. This includes technical skills, knowledge and competencies that all contribute to our growth and performance as learners. When you lead with Heartset and design learning around what you are naturally good at, you become intentional about what skills you want to develop to become great over time. 

Honouring your truth when it comes to learning can be challenging at times. So having these three keys in play and aligning them to light up your neurocircuitry will allow you to use your thoughts, emotions and actions to positively support your learning ambitions. 

Learning in this way requires us to immerse ourselves fully, heart, head and body, and that can be challenging at times. For me though it has become the only way to fully explore my true potential. I’m locked on to a quest that leads me through the full range of emotions that passion-led, purpose-driven learning requires of us. This is my way of fully honouring all that I can become during my lifetime and in turn free my own children to do the same.

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