Tag Archives: child

10 Stress-Free Homeschool Tips

Are you new to homeschooling and feeling overwhelmed? Here are ten tips to help you find more peace and less stress during your homeschool days.

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Accept that homeschool is sometimes challenging.

Take breaks when you or your child feel the need.

Homeschool often takes less time during each day than other school models. Use that time to rest, have family fun, etc.

Don’t use all your cash on curriculum. With so many options available for free or second hand, you can find resources that are in your budget.

With all the saved cash from wise curriculum choices, your child can join a club, co-op, or class.

Join local groups and park day events. The support is helpful for nearly any topic.

Embrace multi-age, siblings learning together as a possibility. Sometimes children need different coursework, but sometimes you can learn as a family, regardless of age.

Take skip days. Use the time to get out and about. Visit a park, museum, science center, or go paint at the park.

Ask your children what they want to learn. You may be surprised at how quickly they pick up information when they choose the topic.

Document as you go. Take pictures of field trips and science experiments, list books read and curriculum used, and save work samples as the year goes. Keep this information in a binder. Once the year ends, you have a memory book/portfolio which will work for most state portfolio requirements and will remind you of the fun you and your child had during the year.

What On Earth Do Unschoolers Do All Day?

I am often asked what exactly unschooled students do all day long. After all, they are not forced to comply with a particular curriculum or program. State standards and Common Core are not chosen by the parents. So what do unschoolers do all day?

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Unschooling is the practice of student-chosen, student-led learning. The unschool educational model encourages lifelong learning rather than a race to a finish line or a race to a test score. A parent who allows unschooling encourages a child’s interests even if that means the child is not doing book work and tests.

So what does a day in an unschooled child’s life look like?

Some unschool students like to be outdoors playing, climbing, and exploring. Other students ask for worksheets and classes. Sometimes children choose to use a computer game to learn coding skills all day. However, most children choose a mixture of activities. The idea is that parents support a child’s choices rather than the parents choosing for the child. This not only gives the student power to follow his interests, but also enables the pursuit of learning without the constraints of testing or a one size fits all curriculum. Read on to see a few examples of unschool life.

Example 1

Joey likes to play Minecraft. He joined a club so he can learn to code. He wants to create his own mod for the game. He also joined a club where he works on pixel art. He wants to design graphic t-shirts and create his own website. Joey recently went to the library to check out books about coding. His mom cannot understand coding, yet Joey has already mastered Java utilizing books, his classes, and YouTube.

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Example 2

Elise wants to be a chef. She thinks about foods, recipes, and dish presentation all day long. She chose to take a class about making sushi recently. She then began a website with a blog. She now reviews restaurants, writes about new recipes she creates, and uses her blog to explain fractions to younger children. Elise found reading difficult when she was five years old, but by age eight she had renewed interest and read through several chapter books each day. Her mother chalks this up to waiting until she was developmentally ready and interested in reading. After all, everyone develops at their own pace.

Example 3

Trevor loves to be outdoors. He paints, sketches, takes photographs, and more. He also enjoys hosting small meetups with other students to discuss plants and animals native to his area. He often brings examples of leaves for others to try to name. He recently used his birthday money to buy a microscope and guidebook. Trevor now enjoys gathering soil and water samples, then deciphering what is in each sample. He hopes to be an environmental scientist one day. Trevor will begin dual enrollment courses at the local college once he is old enough.

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As you can see, there is not one way to unschool. Unschooling does not mean doing nothing. Parents may be involved in supporting the child any number of ways. Paying for classes, having discussions, driving a child to the library, and other similar actions are supportive of an unschool education. Students choose. Parents support. That is unschooling. Unschooling is not a lack of education, but a lack of forced education where a student cannot choose topics and activities.

 Feel free to contact me to schedule a speaking event, an unschool consultation, or

a Florida unschool evaluation.

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Parents, You Don’t Have To Give In To Children’s Demands!

You are happily shopping in the mall when you hear it. That awful screech interrupts your happy thoughts about candles and sales. You turn just in time to see a small child fling herself onto the ground and begin to cry. Well, not just cry, but scream as if she is going to die. The mom first tries to talk with the little one. Then mom becomes agitated and says sternly, “Good girls get treats, yelling and crying babies don’t!”

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Maybe you think the mom is right. After all, she tried to reason with the child. The child refused to listen. “Of course the mom became stern and told the little girl what’s what”, you think to yourself. Or maybe you think that the mom should do whatever she can to hush the child even if that means giving in to demands. Why not buy the cheap toy? If they are at a mall, surely the mother has a few dollars to spare!

But wait, there is another way! Ok, I know I sound silly, but it is true. I have personally, and repeatedly, tried this method and it works!

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What if mom knelt to the child’s area and asked how she can help? What if mom sat beside or cuddled the child having a meltdown? Neither of these behaviors is giving in to a child’s demands for toys, candy, or whatever else may be a trigger. However, both of these options allow the child time to feel big emotions, calm down when as the emotions pass with help from the adult, and find a resolution even if that resolution is a firm “no, but your feelings and opinions are noted”.

Notice that this method does not equate to giving in to demands. A child can cry because they cannot have something and still not get that item. It is okay to validate the feeling of disappointment over being told “no”.

Who wouldn’t appreciate letting out my frustrations without being judged, punished, or made to feel as if my concerns were less valid than those of others. Why not afford the same respect and compassion to our children so they, in turn, can learn how to give respect and compassion to others?

I know it may feel strange at first, but if you consistently validate emotions, your children will not use or manipulate you. They will respect you and feel heard.

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A child in full meltdown mode can be frustrating, nerve-wracking, and downright annoying. Remember that you can choose to take a breath, sit or kneel near the child’s level, and validate the big emotions while still being firm in your decisions. By not punishing or shaming a child for a meltdown, you are validating feelings, teaching how to accept “no” for an answer, and you model how to behave in a healthy way though you may feel frustrated.

Contact me if you would like to schedule a consultation to help you find peaceful ways to work with your children on behavior issues. I would love to work with you!

Photograph by Alexandra Islas

Melissa Walley Packwood, M.S. Ed. Photograph by Alexandra Islas

The Park Incident: Honor the Child’s Concerns

Earlier this week my family went to a local park for some fresh air and play time. As my children happily played, many other families arrived, too. The children ran happily from one area to the next. The adults followed and chatted.

After a few minutes, a little one came to the swing set where my children were swinging. I was pushing my youngest and reminding him how to swing on his own at the time. The little one needed help so one of her adults, a grandma, helped. Unfortunately, the grandma’s nail scratched the child. It was an accident and I could see that no harm was intended. As the child grabbed her arm and tears welled in her eyes, the mother said not to worry because “she is fine” and she should be a “big girl”. The mother also tsked away the grandma’s attempts to comfort the child whose eyes were now filling with tears.

holding child hand

Eventually the child got back on the swing and calmed down, but this incident led me to examine a few concerning thoughts. First, is it okay for an adult to tell another adult that harm done, even due to an accident, is okay when a child clearly does not agree? Second, would the mother have the same reaction if a stranger had accidentally scratched the child? Third, is it healthy to ignore the obvious emotional and physical pain of a child in order to avoid our bad feelings about the incident?

I realize the adults in the situation meant no harm. However, children need to be validated so they become confident as well as be empathetic toward others. Adults may think something is a small issue, but a child sees the world differently. It’s extremely important to honor, validate, and work through big emotions in order to help our children become emotionally healthy.

I don’t think one small event like this one is going to upset the balance in the child’s life, however, this is part of an overall pattern in mainstream parenting culture. To be honest, most of us are guilty of brushing off our children’s emotions and concerns at one time or another. This story reminds us, me included, to be more present in my decision making.

For more information about peaceful parenting or a personalized parent coaching session, contact me here.

The Secret to Getting Kids to Clean Up

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“I have to take away their toys!”

“I yell until they do it.”

“I don’t know what to do anymore. I have tried everything!”

I have heard these, and many other, statements from clients and friends. When I mention that I rarely have to say a word to my kids about messes, I am usually met with either rude comments about me being pious or comments that basically call me a liar. People rarely believe that there is a peaceful solution to the cleaning up issue. So here it is. I am going to tell you my secret for instilling a positive “clean up and take pride in your space” attitude.

When my first child was a toddler, she loved to help clean up. She loved it not because it was fun per se, but rather because I did it and she wanted to copy me. Instead of brushing her off or telling her to do something else while I did all the work, I let her help in her own way. Her way was not always my way and it certainly wasn’t “perfect” in the eyes of most people, but she was happy to be like me and to be helpful. I thanked her for the thoughtfulness and effort she put forth. After all, some adults wouldn’t offer to clean, so this was a fabulous choice on her part. Now that my oldest is almost a teenager, she often asks if I would like help. If she sees a mess, she cleans it. Her younger siblings often follow suit, though they are less likely to notice a mess. She and I often walk the other two children through noticing messes and cleaning them up. After all, our family is a team. Plus, no one can read my mind. If a mess is unsafe or bothering me, I may need to let others know. Their thresholds for annoyance may be different.

doll houseOur house is not always pristine. We often have stacks of books, because we love to read, or a mess the dog made because she ripped the stuffing out of a toy. The expectation is not being flawless. The expectation is to be responsible, help out, and make sure the house is safe. We certainly do not leave Lego Bricks on the floor or spill water and leave it to cause someone to slip and fall.

No, we are not perfect. Yes, my children do clean without being asked most of the time. If they ask me for help, I help. If I ask them for help, they help. We are a team.

kid messSo, my message is this…

Model cleaning up.

Perfection is not the goal.

Thank those who help.

Ask because no one can read your mind.

Discuss when and why things are too messy for your liking.

Listen when others express annoyance over a mess.

Stress safety issues as needed.

Make it a fun game or race if drudgery sets in.

Be a team.

Adults should help clean up, too.

 

 

Parenting Tool: Try It Again

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A couple of years ago I began using a picture routine list with my son in order to help him transition from one part of our day to another. It helped with his meltdowns for a short time and then the schedule went to the trash can after a couple months of less than stellar results. As he grew older, he had less transition related meltdowns and I slowly forgot that we once created a schedule for him.

Fast forward to last week. Due to some changes in our lives, my son began having difficulty during our morning and evening routines. He knows the steps of getting ready for his day and getting ready to sleep, but was melting down quite often yet again. I decided to go back through the strategies we tried before in order to find one that helped.

I asked my son if he would like to help me create a new picture schedule for both our morning and evening routines. He agreed. There we sat at 9 PM looking through free photos we could download for our charts. Not only did he feel important, he also felt in charge of his routines. They are the routines I prefer, too. It was a matter of putting the routines on paper again so he could easily refer to them when needed.

Images courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, winnond, SOMMAI, Serge Bertasius Photography , Sira Anamwong, and foto76 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Images courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, winnond, SOMMAI, Serge Bertasius Photography , Sira Anamwong, and foto76 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Since creating the new and improved routine lists, he has had less meltdowns, enjoys trying to read the words we chose to include with the pictures, and reminds me what he has not yet completed. We worked as a team, which means we both won.

The moral of the story is that sometimes a strategy will work for a time, not work, and then work again. Sometimes a strategy won’t work at all, then you try it again years later and it works. Never say never to a peaceful, respectful strategy.

 

What to do Instead of Punishment: He Called a Runner Fat @ss

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I recently noticed the following screenshot in my Facebook newsfeed.

(Take it with a grain of salt since anything online could be real or a lie.)

I would feel angry, vengeful, and embarrassed if my child did this.

I would feel angry, vengeful, and embarrassed if my child did this.

Many people congratulated the mother for punishing the child. I can understand this opinion. Many said it was a good strategy to make the child run with the person he bullied because he will be in the runner’s shoes. Many said it was good not to hit the child, but that he needed punishment.

Unfortunately, this type of parenting behavior often comes from shame, anger, and embarrassment rather than from evidence-based information. Punishment is either what we think we ought to do or is our way of seeking revenge against those who upset us.

My question is this. What if you prevented this type of behavior? How can you do that? How can we avoid punishments, but foster a respectful environment?

By creating a peaceful, respectful environment from birth, you get a head start in fostering positive behaviors in children. They may stray from time to time due to influences like friends, bullies, and others. However, it is easier to lead them back to kind, safe, wise decision-making if the groundwork is paved at an early age. Use strategies like discussion, modeling wise choices, talking through your choices in the child’s presence, acting out concerning situations, and practicing decision-making skills in safe environments before heading out into environments with more variables.

What if my child does what this child did? I am a peaceful parent, but that deserves punishment!

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I agree that this behavior is not appropriate. If punishment is not an option, what could a parent do? First, forced apologies really do not foster a true feeling of remorse. Instead, stop the vehicle and have a chat with the runner if at all possible. If willing to wait for a few minutes, you can get the runner’s information in case your child chooses to apologize or, perhaps, be a workout buddy later. Feel free to ask the runner to explain how it feels to be called such a thing and make sure your child is present to hear the entire exchange even if refusing to speak or address the situation.

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Then, take the time to address the social and emotional issue at hand. Why did the child yell this insult? Perhaps your child feels low self-esteem, heard a bully do this, or saw a television show that put down those who work out. If you find out why, then you are halfway to a solution.

Once the why is known, you can work as a team to come up with other ways to filter such thoughts so they are not expressed in a way which others find insulting and harmful. Sure, you can think anything, but acting on your thoughts is the issue at hand. Though I prefer that my children do not think of others in an insulting way, there are going to be times when they DO think this way. Feelings are okay. Thoughts are okay. Actions may or may not be okay.

I realize that many people think preteens and teens should behave as adults do. However, they often learn their negative behaviors from us. They also do not have fully developed brains, in most cases, which means they are more impulsive.

Remember, peaceful parenting is not permissive parenting. The issue absolutely needs to be addressed and follow up is necessary. Part of going out and experiencing the world is knowing society’s basic rules for behavior. I am not a huge conformist, but insults are not okay in any situation even for those of us who are non-conformists.

Be kind. Be safe. Be responsible.

15 Ways to Learn with Your Child

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One fabulous thing about summer is that many families have more time to learn together.

Here is a short list of ideas to help you spend quality time together while learning as a team.

Have fun!

  1. Go on a field trip

  2. Read about a new topic

  3. Watch a documentary

  4. Create an art project

  5. Create a book, magazine, or newspaper

  6. Bake using a new recipe

  7. Design a dance or exercise routine

  8. Build a woodworking project

  9. Take a class together

  10. Take a guidebook on a nature walk

  11. Visit a local beach

  12. Visit an animal sanctuary

  13. Try a new sport

  14. Visit the library

  15. Produce a short video about a new topic

 

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Parenting Tool: Wait

This blog post is an excerpt from the new ebook Expand Your Parenting Toolbox: Create a More Peaceful Home which can be purchased on Amazon.com.

 FINAL Cover

I know, this seems strange, but I’m serious.

Wait.

If no one is in immediate danger…

….wait.

Wait for your child to think, then respond.

Wake up a few minutes earlier and wait while your child dresses herself or toilets himself.

Wait.

When calling your children inside for dinner, wait. They may be wrapping up a game or saying good bye to friends.

Wait.

They wait on us quite often at the store, at appointments, while we are at work.

It’s our turn to wait.

Leave long pauses so your child can think and respond.

Leave the pauses so your children can bring up difficult topics they want to discuss.

Wait.

Sometimes we are so busy talking, rushing, or yelling that we forget that patience can help de-escalate difficult situations and help us to better understand our children.

Take a moment.

Take a few breathes.

Wait.

It’s their turn.

Wait.

Listen and wait.

Protecting My Child: We Met an Ignorant Bully

Yes, my title is strong. Here is why.

Today we had an unfortunate incident. My significant other has been ill and needed yet another test under sedation. Sometimes we can find a sitter or family member to help out, but today we could not so the children went with us. We packed food, books, games, phones with games, some of our homeschool supplies, and more. I took the children to lunch during the procedure so we would not have to be in the waiting area for an extended amount of time. We even sat in the car and spent time outside before going back in because I am no fool. It gets BORING waiting inside that waiting room. If I get bored, imagine how the kids feel!

After lunch, we went back into the waiting room and sat for perhaps 10-15 minutes. My son, who has sensory processing disorder, anxiety, and other concerns, was out of his seat so I directed him to sit back down so he would be safe. After all, which I explained to him, there is a walkway and if we are up moving around we will get hurt when people walk through. He was headed back to his seat the long way so he could hug a sister first when an employee, who I think was headed to lunch because she had her purse, offered crayons and a coloring page. I thanked her, but explained that he isn’t into that. (Trust me, we try, but he is not a fan of fine motor skills practice so we find other ways to develop his muscle tone. He even has special scissors because cutting is extremely frustrating for him.) So far so good, right? It was kind of her to offer an activity to my child. I appreciated that. This is where the situation gets troublesome. She looked at my four year old child, the kid who used to run away because he was afraid of new people and even family members he knew for years, and she said…

“You wanna come with me? You better behave or I am gonna take you!”

All three children gave her “the eye”, then turned to me. Oh, they knew this was NOT a good choice of words. They were right. I said, nicely actually, “We do not threaten, punish, or shame. Thank you for trying to help, but that is not something we need you to do.” Well, apparently that was a blow to her ego because she said she was not doing any of those things. I explained that we don’t operate our family that way and she was welcome to go on to her lunch break. I thanked her again for the offer to color and for trying to help, then turned back to my kids. She raised her voice and refused to leave us alone. She was in full bully mode! I repeatedly told her to go away. (Yes, I was blunt and stern at this point because she was being irrational and after saying she would take my son, I hope that was only a threat but who knows, I was concerned.) She repeatedly yelled at me, I asked for the supervisor and got the employee’s name. The supervisor hid “on the phone” in the office beside my chair the entire time and never did address the issue before we left to take my ill spouse home.

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On one hand, some people have no clue how to behave. On the other hand, how are we supposed to protect our children, especially our children living with special needs, when folks like this pop up in our lives? I have a few suggestions, though I am sure some of you out there have even more ideas. Feel free to email or message me with your ideas. I am happy to credit you if you want them published in this blog post.

First, keep an eye out for your kids or use the buddy system. I know this puts a dark cloud over free ranging it, but sometimes you need eyes on the kids if in a new situation. Second, if someone approaches your child, know when to step in. If your child can handle walking away or saying leave me alone, great. If not, then you or the buddy can do this. Also, you can prepare your children by role playing and discussing what to do if this occurs. Third, educate. If I had a chance today, I would have explained my child’s special needs (even though he was behaving quite well) and asked if the employee had any questions. I know I know. It isn’t your job to educate. Unfortunately, sometimes it may be necessary even when you have no time or energy. I might have explained my experience with children, teaching, special needs, and child development then offered a discount on a service of her choice through my business. Fourth, if you are truly being harassed you may need to get a supervisor, security, or even the police involved. That shouldn’t be a first option, but there are times when we need a helpful hand from a perceived authority figure.

It really sucks when people are rude, mean, or ignorant. It sucks more when the person they are being rude to is your child. No one likes a bully. After the issue today, my child became hyperactive and ran laps around the house which he does not usually do. Climb, yes, run laps, no. My child and I were left with the after effects of the employee’s poor choices.

How you treat people matters. It really does. I guess some people didn’t learn that lesson in childhood. All we can do is prepare our children, do our best in the moment, and protect our children.