A Little Nanny McPhee Before the Year Starts
If you've seen the 2005 movie starring Emma Thompson, then will may remember Nanny McPhee's criteria when she first arrives at the home of Colin Firth's character, Mr. Brown. His children are out of control and she is there to help. She asks him if his children go to bed when they are told, do they say please and thank you, and very simple things like that. Looking at those seven out-of-control children, the viewer is left wondering why she would begin with such simple things when so much is needed!
Well, I am here to tell you that there is much wisdom in Nanny McPhee's methods and it just might help you in homeschooling. If you and your children do not have these basics down, it will make teaching them that much harder. So I must ask you: Do your children do as they are told? Do they come when called? Do they reply respectfully to adults? These seemingly simple things are going to be a game changer in how your year goes.
Before beginning homeschool, or at least for the first few weeks, it will help to practice obedience. If your children are just coming home from public school for the first time, it might be helpful to have a little family meeting. It's OK to explain to your children that how they have been behaving up until now may have to change. It's a little bit different having Mom or Dad as your teacher and you understand that. Discuss what kind of rules they had to follow at school and how that might look at home. Explain that obeying their parents is just as important (if not more so!) as obeying their teachers at school. Joyfully, some rules can be kicked to the curb such as raising your hand for permission to go to the bathroom and keeping your shoes on. Other rules will be something they were used to at school but not necessarily at home.
When we are in "home mode" sometimes we get into the habit of arguing back and forth with our children. We aren't the ones in charge of them all day and we figure they are tired and cranky at the end of the day just like we are. But if you will now be spending much more time with your children AND trying to get schoolwork done with them, some rules about simple obedience and respect will make your home and homeschool a much happier place.
With younger children, this can be made into a game. Tell them that morning that three times before lunch you are going to ask them to do something strange and you expect them to do it cheerfully without any questions. I liked to let my girls get involved in a TV show and then pop in and say, "Girls. Turn off the TV and go to your rooms." Of course the first few times were met with much protesting. I simply dropped my jaw, threw my hands up and said, "Oh man! I thought you guys were going to remember to obey right away! I'll try again in a few minutes." Of course there was much giggling until they heard me call out the instructions a second time and then a race to turn off the TV and a slamming of doors. I praised them and allowed them go to back to their show. Sometimes I would call one of them to me and give them a series of tasks. "Please take this book, put it on Dad's pillow, and then bring me one of my blue shoes." Of course I really didn't need any of those things done but they got much praise for coming when called, and executing the tasks correctly. You better believe little sister was chomping at the bit for me to call her with a series of strange requests, and the sillier the better! This translates very easily to the homeschool space where you can play this game during the first week of school. "Get out your math book, sharpen a pencil, and stand on your chair." Fun makes it a game and practice makes it automatic.
With older children it will be different. You know your children best, but several family meetings about teamwork and how everyone (both parents AND children) will need to change their roles and behavior for this new situation will be needed. Talking over the day together, about what worked and what didn't, will be important. I may go so far as to say THIS will be the first and most important subject you teach your children this year. Remember to not make the whole day "drill sergeant/soldier" type interactions with your children. There will be plenty of opportunities to watch movies together, snuggle up and read with them, and get messy with science experiments. It's your relationship with your child that will make all of these activities more enjoyable and a healthy respectful relationship is key to that.
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