Dealing with trauma is as individual as the number of people in this world. Couple that with every single homeschool being slightly or even drastically different, and its easy to see how dealing with trauma within the homeschool is deeply personal. However, after a dive into OT literature, a 6 hour CEU course, and even a timely sermon series on the Church home podcast, I’m more convinced than ever that homeschooling through trauma is possible and even ideal. Here are 5 strategies topics to think about when your family is homeschooling through trauma.
1) Care for Yourself
I know you’ve heard the saying,” you can’t pour from an empty cup”. There is definitely truth to it. However, as moms, we often feel guilty for taking time to ourselves. A unique quality of homeschooling through trauma is that what happens to our children impacts us. What happens to us, impacts our children. In order to intentionally teach our children, we have to care for ourselves.
I used to feel like I always had to be strong in front of my children, I’m their rock, right.? I realized that me showing emotion allowed them to be more willing to share theirs. Me telling them that I need a few minutes will make it more likely that they have healthy coping skills in the future.
Some ideas are:
1. Having quiet toys or crafts set out while I do my morning reading
2. Exercising together as a family
3. Crafting together with music- busy ears and hands allow us to be together yet I can still focus on myself.
4. Walking/ hiking outside with a walkie talkie so the kids can be safe yet not right next to me.
2) Plan Predictable Points of the Day
But what if my kids fall behind?” I can’t tell you how many times I either get asked this question or see it on other social media platforms. When experiencing trauma, the cognitive brain literally can not process new learning. This fight or flight response can linger depending on a persons coping skills. So, focusing on coping and connection is education. It is preventing from “falling behind” because it will allow a person to feel safe and begin to use their cognitive brain.
This culture of predictable comfort and safety looks different for every homeschool. For us, having a few predictable points throughout our rhythm prevents my kids from always processing new information. They know we have morning time of read alouds and music together. We also have lunch with audible books and a lit candle. The other things through the day vary greatly and are subject to change depending on everyone’s needs. However, during those times we are connecting, conversing, and consistent.
3) Promote healthy coping skills-
These ways of coping are different for every person but, fortunately, we have the freedom to really explore what works best for our children and help them to implement throughout the day. Some of the strategies we have tried to implement into our homeschool are
1. Going outside- No matter where our kids end up after they leave our home, there will be nature. Instilling a respect for it as well as a desire to learn from it is the basis of our Friday and Sunday hikes.
2. Handicrafts- busy hands and quiet mouths can let the brain slow down and process. I did a series on handicrafts in the homeschool several months ago, scroll down and see how we incorporate them.
3. Music- Most people have emotional reactions to music depending on the type. Exploring this by listening to music as well as learning to play music can provide very healthy coping skills.
4) Allow movement-
The ability to move for self regulation is an advantage of homeschooling in times of trauma healing and any other time! Heavy work and joint compression is one of the most calming ways we can help ourselves and our kids. We incorporate movement breaks, have active lessons, encourage learning in whatever position- Need to stand to read, ride on a scooter for a lesson, jump on a trampoline while you spell, stand on your head during math... Make it happen!
5) Choose connection before curriculum-
When we begin homeschooling, we take on the role of not only raising good humans, but making sure they are educated as well. We are also going against the norm which often leads to questions from family, friends, and even professionals that are trying to be helpful. Though this can be daunting, we also get to model coping skills, build connection, help our kids to understand themselves and how they learn. I will never talk against the public school system, I am a product of it and I come from a very long line of educators. But, I do know that no matter how invested the teachers are, they are less invested in my child’s success than me. So, when hard days come, focusing on that connection, safety, coping skills is enough. You are preparing them for the future and preparing them to learn more efficiently.
I hope these tips on homeschooling through trauma have been helpful. For specific input application to your homeschool please, reach out with other questions or comments. I’m here to support you through consultations using my OT and fellow homeschool mom background.
Barthel, K. "Trauma Sensitive School Based Practices in Turbulent Times." Lecture, Integrative Education. 2020
Fette, C., Lambdin-Pattavina, C., & Weaver, L., (2019). Understanding and Applying Trauma-Informed Approaches Across Occupational Therapy Settings. AOTA CE. https://www.aota.org/-/media/Corporate/Files/Publications/CE-Articles/CE-Article-May-2019-Trauma.pdf
Snedden, D. (2012). "Trauma Informed Practice, an Emerging Role in Occupational Therapy." OT Now. 14 (6). https://www.caot.ca/document/6064/OTNow_Nov_12.pdf#page=26
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Sarah is an OT and home school mama whose zone of genius is bridging the gap between OT's and homeschool parents with resources to help them both thrive.