Guess what! HOUSE ON A HILL is one year old this week! It’s gone by so fast and I’m loving every minute of it. So, today I thought it would be perfect to focus on what my mission has become over the past year – helping Moms build a whole, healthy homeschool.
When we talk about being healthy, we have to take our whole being into consideration. God created us with three parts – physical, mental (including emotional and social) and spiritual. Each one is a piece of the puzzle. We are healthy when our puzzle is complete.
Taking care of our bodies, diet and exercise.
Taking care of our brain as well as our emotional and social needs.
Taking time to grow in our personal relationship with Jesus and trusting him daily.
Defining Homeschool Success
As homeschool moms, our ultimate goal is to raise our children to be successful adults. But have we identified exactly what we mean by “successful”? The world tells us it’s having the highest grades and getting into the best colleges so that they can make top dollar salaries. If that were true, then buying a great, expensive curriculum and hammering down on our kids each day sounds like enough.
But we both know that some of the highest paid people are the most miserable. Why? Because they’re depressed, anxious, hopeless, lonely or in and out of the doctor because the stress eats them from the inside out. They may be intelligent, but they’re not mentally, physically AND spiritually healthy.
For me, building a successful homeschool means cultivating our family’s physical, mental and spiritual health. It means building a whole, healthy homeschool.
Whole, Healthy Homeschool Tips
Based on my research over the past year, here are several powerful ways to build a whole, healthy homeschool. All of these positively impact your family’s physical, mental, spiritual health.
1. Make relationships your priority.
This is the foundation for a healthy homeschool. If the check-off list is more important to Mom than the relationship with the child, then our homeschool has been built on sand. It will come crumbling down when the waves hit. Our children need unconditional love from us. If they don’t get it, they will search for it somewhere else.
2. Power up the brain.
The health of our brain dictates how our bodies accept, process and respond to newly learned information. Buying a top notch curriculum, but failing to make brain health a priority in our homeschools is like buying a grand piano for the 6 month old. All you get is a blank stare, failed attempts and then a massive headache. We can power up their brains by incorporating these foods and doing exercises that cross the midline. Check out my blog post, 6 Brain Boosters that Increase Intelligence in Your Child, for powerful and specific brain boosting tips. Here’s a Brain Booster Cheat Sheet for the fridge.
3. Get outside, daily.
This is vital. Our bodies were not created to be indoors all hours of the day. Our children’s nervous systems are naturally calmed and rebooted when they are surrounded by fresh air, hues of green, sounds of water and the wind blowing in the trees. Experts say twenty minutes is the minimum that a child needs, but I recommend at least one hour a day. We get outside every morning before school and again in the afternoon. If the weather is beautiful or one of the kids is irritable, we take school outside. Check out my post, Outdoor Time: Creating a Healthy Homeschool, for research-based evidence. Want to keep kids outside longer? Grab your free Outdoor Activities List here for 50+ ideas.
4. Incorporate free play time.
Free play is when a child is given time for self-directed play without direction or interference from adults. They use their imagination and make the rules. Even teens enjoy and benefit from free play time. Studies show that free play teaches kids to be self-educators and use self-control. It improves executive functioning skills and helps create lifelong learners. For a detailed explanation of what free play looks like and to get a list of tools to keep on hand, check out my blog post, Free Play Time: Why Your Child Needs More.
5. Eat super foods.
Super foods contain micronutrients that help boost the immune system. Look for creative ways to incorporate these foods into their meals and snacks throughout the school day: cabbage, broccoli, spinach, onions, mushrooms, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and all kinds of berries. Check out Building a Superhero Immune System for recipe ideas.
6. Encourage time with friends.
Look for opportunities to schedule playdates for your younger kids and hang out time for teens. Plan field trips with other homeschool families. It’s important for children to connect with other kids and it sharpens their social skills. They learn how to communicate, share, problem-solve and participate in teamwork. Older kids gain a sense of belonging and support.
7. Study God’s Word as a family.
We are all created with a spirit and if we forget to nourish it, our whole being suffers. Home should be the primary place our children learn about God – His love, grace, forgiveness and power. Read the Bible, pray and worship God together. When children see that the people they trust most trust God daily, they will learn to trust Him. If leaning on God in difficult times was a part of their childhood, they will naturally do the same when they leave our homes. Check out Stories Worth Sharing to learn about the power of sharing our stories of faith with the next generation.
8. Recognize and get a plan for struggling learners.
If your child is bright, but refusing to accomplish school tasks or struggles below grade level in reading, writing or math, get to the bottom of it. Educate yourself on learning disabilities, research testing resources and make a plan to help them succeed. A healthy homeschool is one where all children feel confident and successful, even when they learn differently. Equipping them with the right skills will help them take responsibility for their success in school and life.
9. Minimize stress.
When a child is stressed, their brain locks all gates to incoming information. Studies show the best learning takes place when children are happy and having fun. When you sense frustration, move to plan B. Study your child and get creative with teaching information in new ways. For example, if meltdowns are synonymous with learning math facts for your soccer-loving son, have him recite them while dribbling the ball between cones in the backyard. Or have him take a goal shot every time he gets one right.
10. Create family fun time, regularly.
This gives children a sense of belonging and connection. It’s their anchor when life gets tough. There will be disagreements and hard times, but building relationships through regular, fun, family time resets our relationships and strengthens our connections with each other. Take note of what your family loves doing, and create traditions. This is where they make memories they can look back on. They belong to a team, always.
11. Get moving.
If you’re doing your outdoor time each day, then you’re probably getting your exercise in as well. But what about the cold, rainy days? Make sure your family is moving, even if you have to stay indoors. Forcing a child to sit and concentrate for hours at a time without the opportunity to get their energy out is a recipe for disaster. Use a P.E. curriculum, watch an exercise YouTube video for kids, dance to your favorite songs or incorporate some fun games like these. Any movement that gets the heart rate up increases blood flow to the brain and helps with concentration and problem-solving.
A great education isn’t enough if we are hoping to raise up children that are capable of:
- working hard,
- being independent,
- motivating themselves,
- connecting with others,
- setting and achieving goals,
- sharing their knowledge with others,
- taking charge of their life
- and enjoying it.
Choose one idea from the list to work into your homeschool this week. Let me know which ones you’re already doing or which ones you’re interested in trying out. What are some other ways to boost your child’s mental, physical and spiritual health this week!