Although we are a couple weeks into the school year, it’s not too late to spend time with your child(ren) drafting homeschooling rules - or as I prefer to call them, “essential agreements”. Classroom rules and guidelines are a standard starting point for establishing a successful classroom management strategy. How else are students to know what the teacher and their classmates expect of them, what’s appropriate behavior and how the day’s transitions and activities are to be conducted?
Sounds serious huh? Well, in many ways, it is. When created together, essential agreements are an awesome and necessary opportunity for both teacher/parent and student/child to express their ideas of how the teaching and learning will ebb and flow. Take your time. Build the agreement over a period of a few days if needed, to ensure understanding and ownership. Follow these steps below and you’ll understand the reasons why essential agreements are, well, essential.
1. You create the agreements together.
Home/unschooling/Tiger Mom support is about relationship as much as it is about education. Therefore, all stakeholders need to be contributors to the shared agreement. Yes, I said, “shared” - this is because the agreements apply to everyone involved. If an agreement is to “be respectful and open-minded”, the parent or tutor must model this to the child in the same fashion that they’d want the child to do. This may mean, not shutting down a request to go off-plan without allowing the child to explain the reasoning behind their request. When the agreements are created collaboratively, they are owned collectively and individually.
2. The agreements are written as positives not negatives.
Have you ever told your child don’t run and watch them pick up speed? Our minds don’t compute the words “don’t”. Instead, use phrases like “walk”, “speak respectfully” or “use indoor voices”. Keep the directives simple and sweet and clear. Use words that are age-appropriate and are achievable. The agreements set the child up for success not obstacles to trip them up.
3. The agreements are made to be seen and followed.
The essential agreements are reminders that keep you, a tutor and your child on track. What’s not in front of us, we tend to forget and conversely, what we focus on expands - another reason why the messages should be positive and reinforcing. Depending on the child’s age, creating a poster or series of visual prompts can be an activity in itself. For younger students, have them draw pictures or cut out photos from recycled magazines to illustrate the agreements. Older students might want to get creative and create an infographic (check out canva.com) or a word art poster that resonates. As a final step, have everyone sign off on the agreement. Now you are all bound, and partners in the homeschooling journey.