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Published on December 10, 2020

How To Homeschool Your Kids (The Parent’s Guide)

How To Homeschool Your Kids (The Parent’s Guide)

Ever wondered how to homeschool your children? Like, is this idea even possible? Do you even want to?

While the thought of watching your child develop before your eyes is typically a happy, calming thought, with the current climate in consideration, many parents are left grasping for straws at what they can do to help usher in academic growth for their students. Families have happily homeschooled for years and for many reasons.

But is this the right thing for your family? And, assuming your local school district has left you no choice, how would you even start?

Thankfully, there are many online resources these days that can make your decision to homeschool your children a seamless one (or at least, not an impossible one)!

Read on to learn more about the following sections, and I should note: you’ll want to follow them in the order presented. Let’s get started!

1. Molding the Mindset for Home Learning

If you are cradling a bubbling soon-to-be kindergartener at home, perhaps the thought of homeschooling doesn’t seem like that much of a big lift. After all, you’ve probably been reading to, writing with, and building in collaboration with your little munchkin for years now.

The thought of codifying some time to craft our letters a little better, memorizing the order of the numbers, or simply getting lost in the tranquility of how the leaves in the trees move around in the backyard (look at that squirrel!) may not be a large leap. And that’s wonderful!

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You should truly adopt a mindset of incremental learning goals—not too different from the books you’ve exposed your kiddos to since they were babies. They started with books without words, then books with few words, then books with smaller pictures and more words, and on and on! That’s how your homeschool journey should start: understanding that there will be some things to focus a little more attention on (or not, as we will learn in section three), and allowing plenty of time for play!

Is your kiddo a little older? Are they somewhere in the middle of elementary school, middle school, or even high school and remember what life was like when school was outside of your four walls? (Now, of course, COVID is making this obsolete, but I’m trying to also be timeless here, people!)

Hope is not lost, and you shouldn’t worry! As we will see in the next section, crafting a schedule will be your biggest asset. First, though, you’ll want to have a conversation with your child (and now, student!) about applying their best effort with you during the times you set out to spend in an academic mode. And please, don’t think you need to be like the sequel to Stand and Deliver. You’ll be just fine!

Let’s talk about that (sanity) schedule—that should ease your mind a bit.

2. Creating a Sanity Schedule

Let’s start again with our lovely, cute little kindergartener (or sub your early-elementary student in if that’s more helpful for you). This is the best time for learning, really. If you think about it: exploring every nook and cranny, finding which outlet stings the most, and mixing every marker cap with a different colored marker—just to have a little fun, right?

Learning is beautiful and should be encouraged whether or not you have a homeschool environment or are simply playing in the afternoon. The point I’m stressing here is that school, regardless of the location, should be about discovery—about molding what is already interesting and adding some definitions to how that curiosity will be measured. Creating a daily schedule is key!

You do not want full Montessori-style happening at all times, and you never want your kiddo to eat or get their head out of the paint. Some structure is good, and some say it is necessary. This isn’t a boot camp, of course, but you will be far better off if you nail down a process to how each day will proceed.

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Perhaps your day with your kiddo starts with some breakfast and stretching, and then you spend some time coloring and building legos, have a morning snack, practice the day of the week and some numbers, have some lunch, they (heck, maybe you, too) take a nap, and then play outside for the afternoon (or do creative play inside, should weather not be appropriate).

For older students, they don’t quite need all of your handholding, and you can collaborate on making a schedule with them that is publicly posted, perhaps on a refrigerator door. Having the whole family understand and stay accountable to the schedule allows everyone to understand what’s going on.

You will want your child to have some say in how their day is scheduled with you to create buy-in, and when you have that, the rest is gold, baby! So, if you’re a digital type of marker-on-poster person, get creative with a daily schedule that works with your family structure.

Next, let’s discuss what you’ll actually be doing during your homeschool day.

3. Identifying Proper Curricular Resources (or Not!)

There are two, perhaps three, varying schools (pun intended!) of thought about the idea of homeschool being exactly like school, nothing like school, or a mix of traditional school and, something else.

If you’ve heard of unschooling, for example, you’ll know what I mean. The idea, basically, is to remove all of the formal structures that a typical academic setting would impose upon a child.[1] Simply speaking, expose your child to proper interests that they may have, and let the child progress through at their own pace with material or experiences that they find fruitful. This idea is similarly related to Montessori schools, though not completely.

For those families that want a little more stringent accountability on what their child is learning, many online programs are available at little or no cost. Identifying reading programs is probably most critical, and sites like Readworks.org or NewsELA.org allow students to easily access contents at their reading level. Khan Academy is phenomenal for math and science education at a student’s pace.

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For more official support, you can contact your state’s academic agency to see a list of homeschool-approved curriculum in your area. Truly, you can be as “by the book” or “off the beaten path” as you’d like to be.

Your type of curricula is not nearly as important as the mindset (“we are creative beings on a quest to learn more about this world of ours”) and the daily schedule you set up with your family. A simple online search can open a door of opportunities for you and your student to explore—but mindset needs to be cultivated, and schedules cannot be built by Google.

Finally, let’s tackle the often publicized role of monitoring the learning progress of your child at home.

4. Monitoring Your Child’s Learning Progress

Once again, Pinterest is your friend here (or not). Children get excited when they realize they are growing—be it the pencil marks that delineate their different heights or stickers that show their journey towards learning how to spell their name. When you can create a compelling scoreboard of accomplishment, your child will feel pride and a sense of the important life equation hard work plus focus equals positive results.

But how exactly do you know if your student is growing in fluency at the proper rate? Or that their writing is on par with others at their grade level?

Well, that answer is not so simple—going back to where you see yourselves falling on the line of philosophies to education in your house. If you’re of the “unschool” mentality, the simple observation that your child is having a renewed interest in a variety of things is enough for you. If you’ve adopted a more bounded curriculum approach, you’ll be more interested in seeing finite proof that your child is improving. So, some helpful tips for you folks are included below.

First of all, the ability to attend to a task is perhaps the most important observable and measurable feature of homeschooling. A good general rule of thumb for how long a student can stay focused on a given task without needing a break is simple: their age multiplied by 4 (minutes). Your six year old should be able to focus intently on a task that is interesting to them for 24 minutes (6 years x 4 minutes).

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Of course, this general rule of thumb doesn’t always apply, but it’s a good start. Remember: this applies to focusing on interesting tasks. Staring at a multiplication worksheet for 24 minutes will probably just drive them mad.

Next, focus more on what you are having them do, not so much (initially) on how well they are doing the task. For example, you probably shouldn’t be so focused on the number of words your child can read if you first haven’t established a routine that every night at 6:00 pm, we read for 20 minutes. Establish the routine first, then start to see how your child is progressing.

A very simple reading check is to time your child reading for one minute, making a mental note of the words they read incorrectly during that one minute. That roughly indicates your child’s fluency (words read per minute).

As your child gets older, you will be able to monitor more things—multiplication facts, division processes, and the ability to research and write reports with little grammatical error and full quoted evidence. Have fun with the process, and realize you’re on a journey of learning that should be exciting!

A Possible Next Step

As you think about this important decision, be sure to include every member of your family. Schedule a time to chat about this decision, even if your student isn’t fully aware of what homeschooling is. Allow them to share their excitements, their worries, and be open with them as well.

Take that next step, though, to ensure this is in the best interest of your family, especially your child. Of course, you may not have that time and you may be forced into making a decision, in which case, I hope you found this guide helpful.

More Tips on How to Homeschool

Featured photo credit: Jessica Lewis via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Charlie Moynahan

Educator in Sacramento, California

How to Teach Your Kid to Read at Home How To Homeschool Your Kids (The Parent’s Guide) How to Identify And Play to Your Child’s Strengths

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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Children, just like adults, can be depressed. Sometimes seemingly normal children with no major life issues can become depressed. It is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes clinical depression to occur. There are specific signs that you should recognize in your child if they are depressed. Getting them help and treatment is crucial to their mental wellness.

In this article, we will look into the signs of depression in children and how parents can help them to overcome it.

Signs of depression in children

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder) is the widely accepted instruction guide that professionals utilize for diagnosing mental disorders. The DSM characterizes a Major Depressive Episode as depressed behaviors that consistently last for two weeks or longer. Therefore, if your child has been “down in the dumps”, feeling hopeless or having sadness for more than two weeks, it should be cause for concern and investigated.

Below are signs of depression according to the DSM manual. The individual must have at least five of these behaviors present for a period of two weeks or longer to be officially diagnosed as having MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). Below is a summary/generalization from the DSM manual:

  • Feelings of deep sadness or depressed mood that last most of the day (for two weeks or more). For children they can present as irritable rather than sad.
  • Diminished interest in activities (again majority of the day or all the time).
  • Significant weight loss (not through dieting), or a decrease in appetite. In children, they fail to make expected weight gains while growing.
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
  • Either a slowing of psychomotor abilities/actions or an apparent agitation of these psychomotor abilities. This means that they either have moments that lack purpose and seem to be done because of agitation and tension or there is a significant slowness/retardation of their speech and physical actions.
  • Fatigue and loss of energy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt every day.
  • Difficulty thinking, making decisions, or concentrating every day. This may be reflected in their grades.
  • Preoccupation with death and dying or suicidal thoughts.

Please note that if your child is suffering from the loss of a loved one and is processing through the stages of grief, it is normal to have these signs of depression. If they seem to be stuck in the depression stage, then it is time to pursue grief counseling to help them along in the grieving process.

However, if they are not suffering from a bereavement or a medical condition that would cause the above symptoms, then they should be taken to a professional for possible diagnosis and treatment of MDD (Major Depressive Disorder).

How to help your child with depression

Depression is not to be taken lightly. Especially if suicidal thoughts are present. The child’s feelings and emotions are real and must be taken seriously. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide is the number two cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.[1]

Professional help is recommended if you believe your child fits the criterion for MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). You can take your child to their paediatrician for an evaluation and referral. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, they may benefit from medication such as anti-depressants.

Most professionals do not dispense medication as the first remedy for depression. Instead therapy is the first line of defense against depression, with medication being paired with therapy if the therapy is not enough or the symptoms are severe enough.

Testing

There are assessment tools that professionals can utilize to help in properly determining whether your child is depressed. The three tools used in assessing depression in children are:

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  • The Children’s Depression Rating Scale (CDRS)
  • Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI)
  • Clinical Global Impression (CGI)

Taking your child to a professional mental health counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist can help ensure proper testing and assessment occurs.

Therapy

There are many types of therapy available today. It is important to find a professional that specializes in childhood depression and the treatment of such.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the leading therapy methods in treating childhood depression. For younger children, play therapy is useful in treating childhood depression as children are often able to better communicate through play than conversation alone.

What parents can do at home to help their depressed child

Besides seeking for professional help, there are a couple of things that parents can do at home to help their depressed child:

1. Talk with your child about their feelings in a compassionate and empathetic manner.

It can feel high pressure to sit face to face and ask your child about their feelings. However, going on a walk, playing a board game or playing alongside your child (chose whichever is age appropriate for your child) can allow them to relax and open up about their feelings.

Ask your child open ended questions that require more than a simple yes or no to engage in more meaningful conversations. Never judge while they are being open and honest with you because it will inevitably cause them to shut down and move away from being open with you.

It is okay to allow for periods of silence during the conversations because sometimes the child is processing their thoughts and emotions during your time together. You don’t have to fill the space and entire time with talking as silence at times is helpful.

2. Provide activities that help them relax and de-stress.

For smaller children, there are simple ways to help them relax.

Provide play opportunities that they find relaxing such as coloring, painting, working with Play-do or clay, or playing with sand and sand toys. Again, find activities that interest your child and are age appropriate are helpful in making them relaxed.

3. Limit screen time.

Technology is not helpful in making your child less depressed. It can often be an escape that keeps them from further opening up about their feelings and emotions.

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Limit time in front of the TV, laptop, smart phone, video games and tablets, etc. Any electronics that seem to prevent your child from face to face interactions should be limited. Ask Dr. Sears cites that researchers have found kids who have higher levels of screen time are at greater risk for anxiety and depression.[2]

Provide alternate activities to replace the screen time such as hiking, crafting, drawing, constructing, biking and playing outside, etc. Some children may be so dependent on their screen time as their source for entertainment that they may need you to participate in alternate activities alongside them in order to get engaged in the activities.

You can’t simply tell your child to go outside to play if they are suffering from depression, lack friends and are used to sitting down and playing video games each day after school. Go outside with your child and do a nature hike or take your child to a playground and have fun together to get them engaged in these alternate activities.

4. Promote outdoor time and physical activities.

Encourage your children to take part in activities that especially involve nature such as nature hikes. Do these activities with them to help them engage in the activities. Again this is an opportunity for open conversations to occur and quality time to take place.

5. Help your child when problems and difficult tasks arise.

Assist them by helping them break down the task into smaller and more manageable parts. Children with depression often have difficulty taking on large problems and tasks and find them overwhelming. Helping them by breaking down the task into smaller and more manageable tasks will assist in helping raise their confidence when the small tasks are mastered.

Small tasks mastered lead to bigger tasks being mastered over time. It is a process over time, patience and a willingness to work alongside your child. This does not mean doing the task or taking on the problem solely yourself. Many times all the child needs is for you to break down the larger task into smaller more manageable tasks and for you to patiently talk your child through the completion of these smaller tasks.

6. Help your child reduce life stress.

When children are depressed, they have greater difficulty handling life activities in general. Cut back on activities that cause stress to increase and look for ways to help reduce stress in your child’s life.

7. Foster a positive home atmosphere.

Reduce or eliminate negative attitudes, language and conversations. Also avoid raised voices, passive aggressive behaviors and any form of physical violence in the home.

Make your home a safe haven for your child instead of an atmosphere that is ever volatile (in words, emotions or physically). Make it a calm environment that makes your child feel safe and secure mentally, emotionally and physically.

8. Help your child see the positive in life situations.

Point out the positives in a situation rather than the negatives. Help them see the bright side of any situation.

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Be a model of seeing the positive in life by speaking words that are uplifting, encouraging and positive. Resist the temptation to voice negative thoughts that come to mind as your child can feed off your emotions and words.

9. Believe your child when they talk about how they are feeling.

Listen to them patiently and take their words seriously. Do not discount or minimize their feelings. Express empathy and compassion when they do open up about their feelings. Help them utilize “I feel” statements in expressing their emotions.

10. Keep watch for suicidal behaviors.

Such behaviors include your child/teen researching this topic online, them giving away their possessions and a preoccupation with death.

Seek professional help immediately with the presentation of suicidal behaviors or thoughts. Keep this number on hand and use it when in doubt: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number 1-800-273-8255.

11. Keep all prescriptions, alcohol, drugs and weapons locked and away from children and teens.

This is a given for all children, but even more imperative for children who are depressed as they have an increased likelihood to abuse drugs and alcohol. They also have an increased likelihood to attempt suicide. So keep weapons and tools such as ropes and knives that can used for suicide out of the child’s ability to use.

12. Spend quality one-on-one time with your child.

Make the time during your day, every day, to spend quality time with your child. You may have limited time and cannot provide an hour or more a day to dedicate to one-on-one time with your child, but you should provide a minimum of 20 minutes a day with your child spending quality one-on-one time together. Try the suggested activities listed in point #3.

13. Be an encouragement and supporter of your child.

Show love and not frustration or anger because of the situation and your child’s condition. Help keep your attitude positive so your child can also see the positive.

Provide daily words of affirmation that are not based on end results (such as a grade or a win) but instead praise the effort they put forth. If you praise the outcome, they will be disappointed when their efforts don’t pan out. If they are praised for their efforts regardless of the outcome, their confidence is built based upon something that they can control (the effort they put into things).

14. Help your child to live a healthy lifestyle.

Sleep is a very important factor in your child’s mood. Not getting enough sleep can cause an entire day to be upset. According to Sleep Aid Resource, children between the ages of 3 and 18 need between 8 and 12 hours of sleep each night:[3]

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    Ensure your child is eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting physical activity/exercise daily and plenty of sleep time.

    15. Help your child foster positive relationships and friendships with their peers.

    Set up play dates for your younger child and encourage older children to invite friends over to your home.

    16. Talk about bullying.

    It can be one of the causes of your child’s depression, so discuss their life outside of home and their interactions with their peers. Help them recognize bullying and discuss how to handle bullying properly.

    17. Help your child follow the treatment plan outlined by their doctor, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

    Make sure you know the treatment plan that your child’s health care professional has outlined for child. This may include counseling session recommendations, medications and recommendations to follow through with in the home. Completing the plan will help provide optimal results for your child in the long run. A plan doesn’t work unless it is followed.

    18. Recognize that professional treatment takes time to show results.

    Don’t expect results for the first few weeks. It may take a month or longer, so be patient and understanding with your child.

    Depression in children is curable

    Depression in children can happen for a variety of reasons. It is quite treatable.

    Professional help is recommended if your child can possibly be diagnosed with a depressive episode. There are interventions that can be implemented in a professional setting, at home and at school. The key is having a plan of action to help your child.

    Ignoring the problem or hoping the depression will just go away is not a good plan. Treatment is imperative to curing depression in children.

    The first step is talking to your child’s paediatrician to get the ball rolling. He or she will refer you to specialists in your area that can help your child overcome and conquer their depression one day at a time. With you by their side, each step of the way you will get through it together and it is quite possible for your relationship with your child to be strengthened in the process as well. That can be your silver lining or positive outlook on the situation at hand.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide
    [2] Ask Dr. Sears: It’s a Virtual World: Setting Practical Screen Time Limits
    [3] Sleep Aid Resource: Sleep Chart

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