3 ways Pet Care Merges Occupational Therapy and Homeschooling

homeschool boys learning pet care with dog

Occupational Therapy and homeschool go hand in hand. Occupational therapists look at anything and everything that a person wants to do and help make incremental improvements to be successful in those desires . Homeschooling looks at anything and everything that a person wants to do as an educational opportunity. See the similarities there? As a result, adding everyday activities to part of the homeschool is both therapeutic for kids of all abilities and academically beneficial. Here are 3 examples of how even simple pet care can affect academics.  

1. Pets can patiently inspire confidence in motor skills and process skills- This picture simply looks like 2 boys, their dad, and a dog pleasantly sitting on a dock. It is so much more than that! Recently, I watched as our trip to the creek with our dog motivated one of our little guys to show his independence, bravery, and test his motor skills all at one time. Our dog is 8 months old and spends most of his time scaring geese away from my husband's golf course. However, on Sunday’s we hike. Since it’s blazing hot in July, we typically have been hiking through creeks. Janner, our dog, has barely put his feet in the water for weeks. We’ve carried him in, pulled him in ... nothing. This trip, he just decided to do it. He was everywhere. He inspired one of our 4 year olds to try and make it across the water by himself. This little guy is always asking for my hand for security as he steps on slippery uneven rocks. This time, he wanted to be just like Janner.  He had such a glow of satisfaction and success. I know they all have a long way to go before they are making brave, confident life decisions, but he is a little further along because of a dog in a creek. This is education as an atmosphere... this is homeschooling + occupational therapy all rolled into one.

2. Pets require habits that build responsibility- As we know, pets don't just require care for a little bit of time, its a long commitment.  As a result, these habits built into everyday schedules build the executive functioning skill of goal directed persistance.  For example, my 12 year old daughter has had a three year relationship with her cat and has been fully responsible the entire time. It all started from my husband's most quoted saying in our house, “Stating problems without thinking about solutions is just complaining”. She, then age 8, called my husband and listed every problem he ever stated about a cat along with her solutions. (I believe he still has the message on his phone). We were really impressed with her the first year when she made an in home bakery to raise the $400 for her first vet bill and signed a contract on cat care formulated after the constitution.  But, I think the longevity of caring for another living thing is more important. She has to pay someone every time we leave; she has to get up with her in the mornings because we have the most finicky cat ever. She also gets to enjoy when she comes and sits on our laps during read a louds and somehow knew to sleep next to our 11 year old after Pappy passed away. This is the OT performance skills of processing, social interaction, and even motor skills. It's also education in math, history, and science. Again, this is OT and homeschooling coinciding.

3. Pets can provide opportunities to influence sensory regulation-  Animals often require heavy work.  Sometimes heavy work is lifting a 25 pound dog food bag.  Sometimes this input comes from walking a dog that is pulling on a dog leash.  Another part of our homeschool is taking care of the chicken coop, and collecting eggs every day. My middle son primarily completes these chores after our morning time and before his more strenuous academic time of math and writing. He uses this productive heavy work to get his much needed sensory input that will then allow him to sit and attend to his next lesson. He is self aware that he needs this activity which will also influence his own self advocacy in the future. This self awareness is one of the primary focuses in pediatric OT and we get the privilege of adding it into his education!

 

Since OT and homeschooling coincide naturally, being coached by an OT can positively influence your homeschool day. Contact Collins Academy Therapy Services to book your consultation!

 

References

  • American Occupational Therapy Association. (2020). Occupational therapy practice framework (4th ed.). American Occupational Therapy. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2020.74S2001

  • Varvara, Dl, Feinstein, J. (2016).  Unleashing the Animal in Occupatioanl Therapy: Resources for Practice, Training, and Research.  Eyes on Eye Care.   https://eyesoneyecare.com/resources/occupational-therapy-and-animals/

Sarah Collins

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.

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