Thinking Inside the Box

homeschooling in a box

Thinking Inside The Box

A friend of mine recently posted this picture of her son, clearly engaged in his homeschooling homework while sitting in a box– thinking inside the box, if you will.

Homeschooling Gets a Second Life

Homeschooling is on the rise. Its focus on individualized attention, teaching to your child’s strengths, going at your own pace, and making learning come to life is getting a second wind. In fact, I can think of at least five friends and family members who have chosen to homeschool their children.

Whether it’s a response to the public school class size (up to 40!) or pricey private school alternatives, homeschooling provides a chance to dig into the subject matters that interest your kids the most while allowing your child to explore and think creatively without the confines of a classroom.

There is no one-size-fits-all education. There never was. Traditional, Public, Developmental, Progressive, Therapeutic and the Unschooling Movements

Traditional schools teach to the middle while developmental, progressive, therapeutic and especially the unschooling or non-schooling movement embraces the idea that teaching to the individual is the preferred route to take. Where homeschooling is not an option, I’ve guided many parents towards these alternative school choices. 

Let’s walk through these various school movements using Sara, a slow reader, as an example.

  • Public Schools set the traditional model standard. They focus on standardizing objective criteria, pulling from data to ensure that all students are learning within the normal range. So for someone like Sara, who is a slower reader and would likely fall outside of that standard deviation bell curve, her reading scores would put resource teachers on notice that Sara may need extra interventions. An SST (Student Success Team) Meeting as well a potential IEP (Individualized Education Program) may be the next steps to seek.
  • Developmental Schools focus on allowing the child to learn according to their own development. For example, just because Sara is a slower reader than Grayson is not cause for alarm (at least not yet). The developmental movement allows time for each child to learn at their own pace.
  • The Progressive School is the antithesis of the traditional public school. It agrees that Sara is a slow reader but instead of seeking remediation it will focus on Sara’s strengths, let’s say in her case — math. By playing up Sara’s awesome math skills, she will gain more overall confidence and learn to naturally compensate for her slower reading levels. Individual study and strength-based education are two hallmarks of the progressive movement.
  • Therapeutic Schools are great for kids who have learning differences, behavior challenges, and social skills needs. These schools cater to students that need extra attention outside of their studies. They usually have well-rounded academics coupled with a focus on Social-Emotional Learning (SEL). So if Sara’s slow reading turns out to be dyslexia or a processing disorder coupled with ADHD this school would be able to address all of those concerns.
  • And finally, the Un-Schooling or Non-Schooling Movement. This is a controversial form of education, whereby a child completely chooses his or her educational programming. In fact, the choice not to choose is also a choice recognized by this movement. For self-directed learners or gifted kids who are not being challenged in the classroom, this may be a good option. For Sara who struggles with reading, she would likely just choose not to engage in any reading. The outcome could go one of two ways: (a) Either Sara chooses to forgo any reading and instead focuses on her love of math and art, or (b) Sara learns to independently compensate for her low reading skills by using visuals, project-based learning, and books-on-tape.

What’s Most Important for Your Child’s Education?

The thing that gets me about traditional schools in this day in age is not the rigorous academics (I think that’s a good thing) but the superfluous stuff, like busy work, learning to line up, walking down a hallway in a quiet manner, and asking to the go to the bathroom before being able to leave your desk. There’s only so much modeling you need to understand social conventions.

Traditional school formats were once a preparation tool for learning to be a productive member of the industrialization era. But today, technology and the internet has opened up so many more entrepreneurial doors. Instead, our focus should be a strength-based, confidence-building, creative environment where each child can learn to love learning independently but can come together naturally to share their ideas and learn from one another.

Maybe it’s not a matter of thinking inside or outside of the box. Perhaps, we just need to change the box all together.

Take a listen on NPR: Parents On The Pros and Cons of Homeschooling and check out Terry Tutors: Our School Placement Consulting Services

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services.  Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

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Successful Relationships Make Successful Students

communityAmerica, unlike most of the world, suffers from isolation. Our country is isolated physically and our people are isolated emotionally. Our puritanical roots have taught us to revere independence and as a culture we believe that raising a child to be independent is the best thing we could do as a parent.

All this emphasis on breeding independence, however, has led to the inability to create interdependence, which is really the act of purposely seeking out and engaging in healthy connection with a community.

Here’s Why We Have Trouble Connecting: The United States is not a relationship-based culture and that’s why we have trouble connecting to each other. Collectively, as a society, we value doing things on our own more than asking for help. This truism is mirrored in gender bias (ie: men never ask for directions) and perpetuated by this notion of a do-it-yourself, pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps, and go-out-there-and-get-what-you-want American Dream. It’s what has made America the land of opportunity and what has made Americans the most overworked, overweight, over-medicated, and over-anxious people in the world.

Here’s What We Can Do About It:

  • First, if you’ve ever felt alone, know that you’re not alone. A lot of people feel alone and are wondering: Am I doing this whole living, working, and raising a kid thing right?
  • Second, we have to learn how to seek out the right community. We need to form relationship with people who share the same value system as us but also challenge us to learn to relate to one another in a new way.
  • Third, we need to teach our kids how to do the same. Children are great at making friends and forming their own little communities. But it’s when competition and lack of respect for a differing viewpoint creeps in that we learn to devalue a community because it’s different.

Community simply brings us together and makes us feel less alone. We can’t do everything on our own, no matter how hard we try. I am certainly a testament to this realization, ’cause darn it I’ve tried my hardest to go it alone and it just doesn’t work out as well as I had envisioned!

Children know this intuitively. Before we grew up and became the independent adults we are, we were able to make friends most anywhere. Jerry Seinfeld has great insight into this idea:

Teaching our Students to Rely on Others is a Good Thing

School is its own community, but it hasn’t traditionally been that great for teaching our students how to develop community and rely on each other for help. This is evident in our teaching models, where the emphasis is on working independently towards an expectation or developing competition by taking a test that measures where a student stands in relation to his or her peers. And when students are struggling, that’s where isolation becomes more of a factor in their success story than we may realize.

Because I work with students who are struggling in school, it is clear that much of their anxiety is perpetuated by the standards that they feel they are unable to live up to. Whether that be a grade they wanted but didn’t achieve or a part in the play they tried out for but didn’t get, they come to me with overwhelming feelings of loneliness that affects how well they do in school. They feel alone because they feel unsuccessful; they feel unsuccessful because they are not a member of the particular community they want to be in. They are taught by us, however, to squash their disappointment in favor of putting on a brave face and moving on to the next thing. We need to let our students know that it’s okay to stew a little bit. It’s okay to feel sad because we aren’t a part of the group. This is natural.

Biologically we are wired to feel empathy because the brain is a social organ. Too often we learn to suppress empathy in favor of independent achievement. When we discredit or discount our disappointment and try to “go it alone”, we are really going against our natural instincts — to reach out to others for help.

When a student is a part of a healthy community, however, they feel better about themselves because whatever struggles they may have, they know they don’t have to go it alone. They know they can always reach out for help. That’s the beauty of teaching our children, our students, that community should be valued. It’s not just a lesson for kids, but a life-long one that we adults need to revisit too.

Take a look at what Dr. Louis Cozolino, Psychologist and Author of several books on neuroscience, including “The Social Neuroscience of Education, Optimizing Attachment & Learning in the Classroom”, has to say about how our brains are wired for social connection.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student by combining Academic, Behavior, and Advocacy support. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

A Family Contract

contractA contract is a mutual agreement between two parties consisting of an offer, acceptance, and consideration, memorialized in writing and signed to signify competence and adherence to the agreed upon terms. In Human Speak, it’s a piece of paper that says you get this, if I get that.

The point of a contract is to govern each of the parties wants and needs in order to move forward with the actual service or trade. This same principle applies to families, especially those with teenagers. Parents want to keep their teenagers close, protecting them from the harm of the outside world so they can hold onto their childhood just a tiny, bit longer. Teenagers want to “spread their wings” and are excited about inching closer towards complete independence. Thus, the conflict arises.

One such conflict arose during a recent Tutoring session with a new client. See, clients often call me for Tutoring but I quickly realize there is more than just an academic concern that’s creating the conflict. In fact, 80% or more of the time there is underlying conflict between the student and the parent or the student and the teacher, which is contributing the academic problem. So, we must address those relationships first before any book learnin’ can get done! And we did exactly that just the other week. The Parent, Teenager, and myself had a Family Meeting and hammered out the details of what each party wanted. It was cathartic, productive, and most of all sustainable.

The Family Meeting session looked like this:

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Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

Calm with an Om

down-dog-mom-tot I have just returned from a calming, zen-like hour of restorative yoga at my go-to yoga studio, Core Power, where I painstakingly held onto the finite number of seconds left in Shavasana before my mind reupped and quickly realized that I’ve still got seven things to do before the day has truly ended. How to hold onto those teeny, tiny moments of peace in a world run rampant with cell phones chiming, horns honking, and the constant jibber jabber of people around every corner? That elusive calm that we all so desperately seek can be regularly found– not in a store or a spa or even a yoga studio, but rather, within ourselves. That’s right, inner calm is the all important nugget of wisdom that can save us from ourselves. Calm begets clarity and confidence. Without it, we are forced to trudge through the day, perhaps counting the hours, until we can physically go to our peaceful place. The problem with having a place, however, is just that– we can’t always get there, and in the meantime, we’re stuck (metaphorically or literally). When we decide to first help ourselves create mental calmness, however, we can then help others, like our children, spouse, partner, or friend. Have you ever noticed that when you’re faced with a screaming two-year-old on the floor of Target, overtired and starving for apple juice and attention, it is that quiet voice inside of you that says, “Hang on…this too shall pass”. If not, know that your voice is there, it’s just hidden under a list of must-do’s, have-to’s, and don’t-want-to’s. When your inner calm becomes an outer calm, those around you are calmer too– they just may need a sippy cup of apple juice and a long nap. Think of it like this: Federal Air Safety Regulations require you to first put your air mask on before helping your children. Even the government stipulates that we must help ourselves before helping others. All in all, when you find your inner peace, your calmness, others respond to it positively. There is a “breath of fresh air” moment or a quiet resilience forming when a tantrum ensues. Your inner calm becomes your outer peace and those around you slowly recognize there is something different–something great– about you.

SUBSCRIBE for new posts every Family Friday!

Christine Terry, B.A., J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

Talkin’ It Out

TherapyTalk Therapy has gotten a bad rep ever since its Freudian days, but I’m a huge proponent of Therapy in all of its forms (ie: art, dance, music, play, group, home-based, and original couch-sitting). I’ve even undergone it myself because– let’s be honest–where else can you talk about yourself for an hour, right?!

As I work with more and more families, I’m finding this interesting trend: parents will openly allow their kids to go to therapy but they won’t see a counselor themselves.  I’ve wondered if this is reflective of our old school versus new school way of thinking about “talking about your problems to a stranger” but then it was pointed out to me by my sister– the Speech Pathologist–that what may really be going on is that parents are hesitant to start sessions for themselves because they believe that every thing their child does (whether appropriate, inappropriate, negative, or positive) is a personal reflection on them. Okay, perhaps mainstream society agrees with that hypothesis but the other side of the coin says that a child’s personality is determined at birth. So although environmental stimuli, norms, and cues will contribute to an increase or decrease in certain characteristics, a person’s underlying personality– that unique x factor that makes us, us–is already ingrained.

Albeit fascinating from a research perspective, on an everyday level parents don’t always have the support they need from one another, their community, or sometimes even their own family members to assess that prospect. Instead, parents oftentimes feel that everything they do is not good enough, especially when a child is having some real struggles. In that case, it’s good to have a neutral third-party, an objective point of view, to talk about the parent’s own concerns and receive guidance and reassurance. When I help parents navigate the IEP process, for example, I always let them know that this process will not only help them learn how to advocate for their child but for themselves. It’s a lengthy process but as the months go by I begin to see Moms and Dads take charge, become more assertive, and willingly stand up for their own rights as a parent of child in need. When those skills are realized, the denial goes away. It’s an amazing transformation.

I love helping families navigate a problem and figure out a viable, self-sustaining solution. This is what therapy, coaching, and talking to a trusted member in your community can do too. A skilled counselor, psychologist,  therapist, or trusted advisor can guide you through a difficult life moment and help you reveal solutions that perhaps you were unable to see due to that murky inhibition. It has to be your choice, but I can promise you it can be a good, eye-opening, positive (and not too scary) experience.

Check out our Family Meeting service, creative outlets that build a child’s self-esteem and confidence, and vetted child, family, and individual therapists and psychologists:

FAMILY COACHING

Terry Tutors: Helping You Open the Lines of Family Communication. Communication is the Foundation of a Strong Family Bond. Our In-Home Family Meeting Service is designed to allow each member of the family to be heard in a positive, productive manner.  With the help of a Family Coach, we teach you how to actively listen to each other and incorporate family rules, family schedules, and age-appropriate communication tools, such as The Feelings Wheel and The Thought Box, to jump start conversation on a daily basis.

CREATIVE OUTLETS

  • 1STAGE Repertory: Nonprofit theatre company whose mission is to immerse children in the arts while building their self-esteem and having fun!
  • Center Stage Dance LA: Dance Studio dedicated to helping children develop success, confidence, and self-esteem
  • Malibu Art Barn: Open art studio,  aiding in the emotional and cognitive development of children. Owned by Peter Tulaney, MFT
  • Ovation Group Productions: Children’s Musical Theatre Company, where differences are celebrated and everyone gets a real part!

FAMILY, CHILD, COUPLE & INDIVIDUAL THERAPY SERVICES

PARENT CLASSES & TRAINING

ASSESSMENTS

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Christine Terry, B.A., J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com