This was something I posted on the HSC list in response to a discussion stemming from a question about how to motivate a child to do schoolwork:
1. Give your love generously and criticism sparingly. Be your
children's partner. Support them and respect them. Never belittle them
or their interests, no matter how superficial, unimportant, or even
misguided their interests may seem to you. Be a guide, not a dictator.
Shine a light ahead for them, and lend them a hand, but don't drag or
push them. You WILL sometimes despair when your vision of what your
child ought to be bangs up against the reality that they are their own
person. But that same reality can also give you great joy if you learn
not to cling to your own preconceived notions and expectations.
2. Provide a rich environment. Homeschooled children who grow up in a stimulating and enriched
environment surrounded by family and friends who are generally
interested and interesting, will learn all kinds of things and
repeatedly surprise you with what they know. If they are supported in
following their own passions, they will build strengths upon strengths
and excel in their own ways whether that is academic, artistic,
athletic, interpersonal, or whichever direction that particular child
develops. One thing leads to another. A passion for playing in the
dirt at six can become a passion for protecting the natural environment
at 16 and a career as a forest ranger as an adult. You just never ever
know where those childhood interests will eventually lead. Be careful
not to squash them; instead, nurture them.
3. Bring the world to your children and your children to the world.
Revel in what brings you together as a family. Watch tv and movies and
listen to music and the radio. Laugh together, cry together, be
shocked together. Analyze and critique and think together about what
you experience. Notice what your child loves and offer more of it, not
less. What IS it about particular shows that engage your child—build
on that. Don't operate out of fear. Think for yourself and about your
own real child. Don't be swayed by pseudostudies done on school
4. Surround your child with text of all kinds and he/she will learn to
read. Read to them, read in front of them, help them, don't push them.
Children allowed to learn on their own timetable do learn to read at
widely divergent times—there is NO right time for all children. Some
learn to read at three years old and others at 12 or even older. It
doesn't matter. Children who are not yet reading are STILL learning—support their learning in their own way. Pushing children to try to
learn to read before they are developmentally ready is probably a
major cause of long-term antipathy toward reading, at best, and
reading disabilities, at worst.
5. It doesn't matter when something is learned. It is perfectly all
right for a person to learn all about dinosaurs when they are 40 years
old, they don't have to learn it when they are nine. It is perfectly all
right to learn to do long division at 16 years old, they do not have
to learn that at nine, either. It does not get more difficult to learn
most things later; it gets easier.
6. Don't worry about how fast or slow they are learning. Don't test
them to see if they are "up to speed." If you nurture them in a
supportive environment, your children will grow and learn at their own
speed, and you can trust in that process. They are like seeds planted
in good earth, watered and fertilized. You don't keep digging up the
seeds to see if the roots are growing—that disrupts the natural
growing process. Trust your children in the same way you trust seeds
to sprout and seedlings to develop into strong and healthy plants.
7. Think about what is REALLY important and keep that always in the
forefront of your interactions with your children. What values do you
hope to pass on to them? You can't "pass on" something you don't
exemplify yourself. Treat them the way you want them to treat others.
Do you want respect? Be respectful. Do you want responsibility from
them? Be responsible. Think of how you look to them, from their
perspective. Do you order them around? Is that respectful? Do you say,
"I'll be just a minute" and then take 20 more minutes talking to a
friend while the children wait? Is that responsible? Focus more on
your own behavior than on theirs. It'll pay off bigger.
8. Let kids learn. Don't protect them or control them so much that
they don't get needed experience. But, don't use the excuse of
"natural consequences" to teach them a lesson. Instead, exemplify
kindness and consideration. If you see a toy left lying in the
driveway, don't leave it there to be run over, pick it up and set it
aside because that is the kind and considerate thing to do and because
kindness and consideration are values you want to pass on to your
kids. Natural consequences will happen, they are inevitable. But it
isn't "natural" anymore if you could have prevented it, but chose not
to do so.
9. We can't always fix everything for our kids or save them from every
hurt. It can be a delicate balancing act—when should we intervene,
when should we stay out of the way? Empathy goes a long long way and
may often be all your child needs or wants. Be available to offer
more, but let your child be your guide. Maybe your child wants
guidance, ideas, support, or intervention. Maybe not. Sometimes the
best thing you can offer is distraction.
10. Be sensitive to your child's interest level. Don't push activities
that your child isn't interested in pursuing. Don't let YOUR interests
dictate your child's opportunities. If your child wants a pet, be
realistic and don't demand promises that the child will take sole care
for it. Plan to care for it yourself when the interest wanes. Do it
cheerfully. Model the joy of caring for animals. Model kindness and
helpfulness. Help a child by organizing their toys so they are easy to
care for. Plan to care for them yourself much of the time, but invite
your child's help in ways that are appealing. If YOU act like you hate
organizing and cleaning, why would your child want to do it? Always
openly enjoy the results of caring for your possessions—take note of
the extra space to play in, the ease of finding things you want, how
nice it is to reach into a cupboard and find clean dishes. Enjoy
housework together and don't make it a battle.
11. Don't pass on your own fears and hates about learning anything. If
you hate or fear math, keep it to yourself. Act like it is the most
fun thing in the world. Cuddle up and do math in the same way you
cuddle up and read together. Play games, make it fun. If you can't
keep your own negativity at bay, at least try to do no harm by staying
out of it.
12. Don't try to "make kids think." They WILL think, you don't have to
make them. Don't use every opportunity to force them to learn
something. They WILL learn something at every opportunity, you don't
have to force it. Don't answer a question by telling them to "look it
up" or by asking them another question. If you know the answer, give
it. If you don't, then HELP them find it. Speculating about an answer
often leads to a good conversation. If your child stops seeing you as
helpful when they have questions, they'll stop coming to you with
their questions. Is that what you really want?
13. When you offer a child choices, be sure they are real choices.
Offer them choices as often as you can. Try to limit the "have to's"
as much as you can. Frequently ask yourself, "Is this really a "have
to" situation or can we find some choices here?"