Learning is intertwined with the personality and inner life of the individual, and children need to know that their emotions and behaviours, both the desirable and undesirable, are welcome in their learning environment.
By Ashley May
The idea for this article came to me while on an early morning stroll - just a stolen moment to ground myself and find some calm in anticipation of a full day on my horizon. As a work at home mother, with a toddler and a preschooler, these stolen moments stand strong and protected. They are all a part of the delicate dance of in-breaths and 'out breaths' that keep our hearts and bodies sound when we could otherwise lose touch and succumb to the often strong undercurrents of our day.
Sharing my thoughts on home based education and social-emotional development grows from my awareness of the power of 'in breaths' and 'out breaths' in helping little ones find their centre. I do a lot of work in the area of emotion, cognition and self-regulation, so, I'm pretty sold on the science behind it. It wasn't until I started intentionally weaving these ideas into the days spent with my children, that I could see the magic.
Holding the Space
It is a tremendous burden to have to hold onto strong feelings--can you imagine doing that? Most often, this burden manifests in undesirable behaviours or a lack of interest in learning. Children need to know that their emotions and behaviours, both the desirable and undesirable, are welcome in their learning environment. They need to know that it is safe for them to feel and to work out the emotions they may be experiencing with the support of a parent.
When children are educated in the warmth and security of their own home, led by a parent with whom they have formed a secure attachment, they can express themselves freely.
When we hold a safe space for children's emotions, good and bad, we open up the world to them, and as educators, we can view learning from a different perspective. Learning that involves the whole child.
I guess you could consider my home Waldorf inspired. While you don't have to be doing Waldorf to support social-emotional development, there is wisdom in this philosophy when it comes to the rhythms of the day.
Children need opportunities to connect with their self and with the world around them. Each day balances expansive, outward activities with those that draw awareness inward.
My children wake needing to expand; after breakfast, we are thrust into an imaginary world among the trees. We often create while outside because I know how much their little bodies need to be in nature. I can't bring them in just for the sake of art. In fact, they won't let me!
You will most often find my children drawing, moulding dirt, or climbing trees outside. One of their favourite late afternoon activities is to paint while I prepare dinner. During the golden time of day, with the late afternoon sun peeking through the window, my children sit almost in a trance watching the watercolours blend.
My heart knows they are working through their feelings. So, I have learned that my children are most balanced when their day begins with the freedom to explore outdoors and ends with quiet reflection via some form of artwork.
A young child's ability to manage emotions, cognition, attention and social behaviours emerges from the daily interactions between parent and child. Home based education provides the foundation for validating emotions and guiding children to find ways to manage their feelings and behaviours.
The truth is, it takes a lot of work to guide a child through his emotions on a bad day - what may present as big, strong feelings and disruptive behaviour are much more below the surface.
It takes meaningful, individualised interactions to give children the skills to effectively manage these situations and to get to the root of the problem. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of naming emotions and validating our children's feelings. We have the unique ability to work together with our child to give that child the tools to be mindful of his or her emotions and behaviours.
Avoid dismissing emotions or seeking assistance from others, which often leaves children unsettled and insecure. Our kids receive consistent guidance and support from a parent who is invested in his or her well-being.
The Legacy of Our Moments with our Children
A home-based education rich with opportunities to connect with the self, others, and the world around us, imbues children with a strong emotional foundation - one that they will carry with them for a lifetime. As home-based educators, we have this incredible opportunity to provide our children with the wisdom to navigate the world, and the legacy of our interactions will live through them as they walk through life.
Ashley lives in Southern California with her husband and two small boys. After working for many years in educational research and evaluation, Ashley made the decision to stay home with her children. She currently spends her days immersed in play with her two little boys and her evenings working from home as an educational consultant specialising in early childhood education and teacher development. She's on Instagram @chasingwildones