Tips for Parents from Homeschool Experts

By Susan McLester

Part 2 of a series on helping parents cope with distance learning.

Shawna Wingert is an educational consultant, author and speaker who has been homeschooling her two sons for 10 years. Both of her children, now ages 17 and 14, have multiple learning differences that make personal in-class instruction difficult. Her oldest son is on the autism spectrum and has multiple learning challenges and her younger is dyslexic and faces serious medical immunity issues.

Previously a strength-training consultant for the business world, Wingert was schooled in methods that focused on encouraging executives to achieve their peak performance. It’s these methods she’s applied to her overall approach to homeschooling.

Here are Wingert’s tips for other parents:

• Focus on your students’ strengths and interests. Wingert says her business training has taught her that focusing on people’s natural strengths helps them progress in other areas as well. She says that despite her children’s learning differences, and because of her positive approach, her children see themselves as capable and intelligent.

• Try not to take it personally. When you’re teaching at home and your children are not interested in a planned activity, that’s when you need to distance yourself and become a teacher before you’re a parent. “This is not easy to do because of course you have a very personal relationship with your children, but I would encourage parents to try their best to do so.”

• Feel confident in what counts as learning. When you create a learning-rich environment in your children’s lives, everything around them is a learning opportunity, so sometimes it can be confusing about what counts as actual learning and what doesn’t. For instance, if your children watch a documentary on the Russian Revolution, does that count as learning? Wingert says if you have to ask yourself that question, it probably does.

As far as curriculum is concerned, Wingert says she mixes and matches purchased programs for a curriculum. For her, the main consideration is design. If a program offers visual and audio support, that is what works best for her learning-challenged children. Her 17-year-old son, soon to be a high school graduate, has achieved academic success and as a result has a  choice of numerous colleges to attend. He is currently deciding where to apply.

__________________________________________________________________

Susan McLester is a consultant for the MindPlay online literacy solution, an education journalist and former educator.