Smart Parenting
Practical advice about raising children

What Changes to Expect When Growing Your Family

Having a new baby is a big decision. Whether you're becoming first-time parents or adding another little one to an already full household, you know a new child can bring many changes to your lifestyle, relationships and finances.

Though it may take time to adjust to your growing family, knowing what to expect can help you enjoy the process. After all, raising a baby is hectic enough without having to worry about unexpected developments.

Consider this your guide to navigating the unique challenges of having a new child — you can prepare for these four changes when growing your family.


1. Shifting Tensions in Your Relationship

Having a baby can serve as a milestone in any relationship. When you and your partner become parents, you may feel closer than ever, drawn together by the tiny bundle of joy who needs your attention.

However, it's also true that many couples experience increased or changing tensions after bringing home a new member of the family. For biological parents, some of these changes might be influenced by hormones. However, having a new child in the house can lead to new challenges whether that child is biological, fostered or adopted.

Common challenges couples face include increased stress caring for the new child, difficulty finding time to spend alone, and conflicts over how to raise the child. In general, after having a new baby, parents' attention may shift away from their romantic relationship as they care for the kid and settle into their new roles.

Though changes in relationships after having a new child are very normal, they may feel stressful or lead to issues if a couple ignores them. To avoid unnecessary tension, it's a good idea to prevent potential conflicts before they occur.

For example, you might designate a day of the week for date nights and establish the division of care duties before you bring your little one home. If necessary, you could also seek professional help through counseling, either before or after your family size increases.

2. Changing Sibling Dynamics

If you already have one or more children, you're likely prepared for changes in your relationship with your partner. However, you may also want to consider possible shifts in sibling dynamics when bringing home a second — or third, or fourth — child.

Though it may seem like an exaggeration, older siblings might take some time to adjust to their new roles as big brother or sister. As parents, you may also see your relationships with your other children shift somewhat.

Changes vary from family to family, since every child and parent relationship is unique. Commonly, though, mothers and first children grow apart following the birth of a new child. The older sibling may become more independent or the mother more preoccupied with the new baby, for example.

The age difference between your kids could also affect how kids react to becoming siblings. Some kids may love the opportunity to be a guardian or role model for their little sibling, while others may feel jealous or annoyed by the baby.

Though changing dynamics with older kids can be emotionally stressful for both parents and children, you can ease this stress by preparing for them. Seek help for specific challenges like sleeping issues and be sure to spend quality time with older siblings after the new arrival.

3. New Demands on Your Time

Another change to expect when growing your family involves increased demands on your time. Most new parents know that raising a kid takes a lot of time and effort, but many underestimate just how many new people and responsibilities will end up vying for their attention.

In addition to time spent feeding the new baby, changing diapers and not sleeping, parents may also find themselves stretched thin by new demands on their time. Ironically, these new demands may not always come from the baby.

Following the birth or adoption of a new child, it's natural for family members and friends to drop in for you to show off your child. Visitors can help parents with babysitting and by providing gifts and support. However, they may also tire you out, especially if you're continually receiving calls from people you don't see very often usually.

Make sure to save time for yourself as you adjust to having a new baby in the house, especially in the first few weeks and months. Remember, you're not required to entertain others during this time.

4. Developing Responsibilities

In addition to many relationship changes, you may also plan for financial challenges after having a baby. You'll want to adjust your budget and consider the number of legal and financial responsibilities that come with having a child, like if you will be considering sending your child to a home-based or center-based childcare facility or if you or your partner will be taking time off to ease the financial burden.

Before you bring your new baby home, it's a good idea to take care of the more boring tasks associated with having a kid. For example, you and your partner may want to create or edit your will, nominate a guardian for your child or even set up a college fund if you're ahead of the game.

You can always adjust to new responsibilities as they occur, but you can save yourself time and stress by managing at least a few of these developments ahead of time.

Handle Family Changes Like a Pro

Growing your family comes with a lot of changing dynamics and responsibilities. By knowing what to expect and planning ahead, you can handle these family changes like a pro, whether you've done this before or are just getting started.

How to Raise Your Child to Be a Healthy Eater

The joke with parents is trying to get your picky eater to have their broccoli before they can have their dessert. They won’t eat it, so you weather a tantrum storm and hope for something better the next night. Rinse, repeat. How do you curb these habits and teach children to eat a healthy meal instead of the sugary junk food they will undoubtedly prefer?


It Starts With You

First, you need to know about healthy eating yourself. Have a prepared pantry full of healthy snacks instead of processed sugar snacks marketed towards kids. If you already have a picky eater who is used to unhealthy snacks, take the same approach as with a diet: start with a sustainable change, such as changing out one of their normally unhealthy snacks for something healthy.

Remember you are also a role model, and young children often mimic their parents, guardians, and other adults that are often in their lives. If they see you eating healthy foods, they will want to try what you are eating. Do not make a big deal out of it; you don’t have to emphatically say “Mmm! Yummy!” for the child to want it. Instead, be casual. Act like it’s completely normal to eat something that the child does not normally eat. After all, it is normal — just not for the child.

If you have a baby or toddler who is ready for solid foods, typically between 6 and 9 months, you can start early with baby-led weaning.

Baby-Led Weaning

Before explaining baby-led weaning (BLW), it’s important to note that this is not a replacement for milk or formula. Milk or formula should be the primary source of nutrition until 10 to 12 months old. If your child can sit in a high chair, move their jaw up and down, and move food from the tray to their mouth, they are probably ready for BLW.

The concept behind BLW is fairly simple: Skip the purees and frozen baby food, and jump straight to giving them food from your plate. There are caveats, of course — many foods will need to be cut up or broken down into components so that they are not choking hazards, but otherwise the child can eat what you eat. Starting with soft foods, like flaky fish, soft meats, or ripe fruits, so that they can develop the skills to eat.

Major benefits of BLW include exposure to a wider variety of foods, which can lead to a preference for varied and healthier foods later in life, lowering risk of allergies (especially to fish and peanut butter), and less likelihood of becoming overweight. This is on top of developing manual dexterity and learning how to chew.

It’s important to know that at this age, they will likely not eat everything offered. The important part, no matter if you have a toddler or a 5-year-old, is to keep offering.


If you are trying to feed your child a vegetable, it’s possible they take one bite and stop. It’s also possible that they ignore a new food 10 to 20 times before they even taste it. It could take another 10 to 20 times before they decide if they like it or not. All told, it could take offering a food 40 times before a child makes a final decision.

One way to help with this is to let your child choose a vegetable they’ve had before to add to the meal. Ask them, for example, if they want peas or corn. This gives them a sense of choice and ownership, making them more likely to eat what they chose, rather than what they see as something you arbitrarily gave them.

Also remember that while it’s your job to buy healthy food, you can’t force your child to eat it. It’s your child’s job to eat what is offered. They will get hungry eventually, and if you have consistently bought healthy foods, and that is what you have on offer, they will eat it when they are hungry.


It’s important to expose your child to many different healthy food options to find ones they like and will readily eat with no fuss. However, especially in younger children, it may be wise to space out how often you serve new foods.

Generally, you want to give at least a few days between new foods so that you can determine allergies. Be aware that allergies can build up over time, and that allergies very rarely present a major reaction the first time your child eats something. It’s typically the second time they eat something that they will have a major reaction.

You can make a food adventure out of trying new food items. For example, go down a list of herbs that are great for kids, letting them smell the herbs and use it in cooking. Have them help with the cooking, as well, and they will again have ownership over the food, making them more likely to eat it. Spend a few days with them helping you use a certain herb in a few different dishes before moving on to a new herb.

Manage Expectations

Despite all of this, you need to manage your expectations. If you are starting a journey to healthy eating with a toddler, there’s a good chance that they will show little resistance to eating broccoli and cauliflower. Starting with a 5-year-old is trickier but doable.

It takes time to unlearn bad habits, and children simply are not as consistent as adults. Offering healthy choices over the course of a week and not just one night means they will have at least something healthy, and that’s a start. Simply offering a wide variety of healthy snacks, instead of buying chocolate-covered cherries, may be all you can do to start. However, getting the ball rolling and having a child realize that they like healthy snacks, and cutting down to only the occasional unhealthy snack bar, is how you start your child down the path to a life of healthy eating.

How to Pick the Perfect Childcare for Your Little One

Having a child costs quite the pretty penny, and the hospital bills soon pale in new parent's minds compared to the daunting cost of providing daycare for their tyke. Child care easily eats up nearly a full third of the monthly expense budget for many Americans.

Child care concerns extend beyond the hefty price tag. Parents must consider factors such as caretaker qualifications, facility location and proximity to the workplace, facility amenities and of course the caretaker's or facility's safety record. Selecting the correct childcare option helps make your baby's formative years a dream, not a nightmare.

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Hire a Nanny — Or Share One

While hiring a nanny costs the most of any childcare option, for parents with multiple children or for parents of children with special needs, hiring a nanny solves many difficult childcare issues. As with any of the options, whether or not to hire a nanny depends on several factors and has benefits and pitfalls alike.

Parents of children with special needs, particularly parents of children with compromised immune systems, may select a nanny's care in order to minimize the possibility of the child contracting an infection. In addition, parents of children with behavioral issues may find hiring a nanny with education and training in dealing with emotionally delicate children preferable to risking meltdowns at the daycare center.

In addition, parents with variable work schedules appreciate the flexibility hiring a nanny has for their busy calendar. While commercial daycare and in-home daycare centers often have strict pick up times, requiring parents to interrupt a long work day to pick up their child, a simple phone call to the nanny allows parents to work late without worry.

The expense of hiring a nanny remains the biggest drawback for many parents, as quality nannies cost families up to $4,000 per month, more than many families' housing payment. If new parents have a neighborhood friend who likewise requires childcare, they may consider a nanny-share arrangement where the children spend time at each other's homes under the same nanny's care, splitting the cost in half. Sharing a nanny helps alleviate the lack of social interaction children experience when not normally exposed to a group setting such as that found in daycare centers.

Finally, parents take full responsibility for selecting which nanny to hire. Parents with safety concerns do well to listen to their intuition when selecting a care provider. If something feels off about a potential nanny, trust your gut and move on. It's far safer than taking a risk and discovering abuse on your nanny cam later.

Consider an Au Pair

Another option parents of children desirous of more one-on-one style care involves hiring an au pair. Most au pairs historically consist of young, unmarried women seeking to further their education and master a new language while residing with a host family for whom she exchanges child care services for food, lodging and a small weekly stipend for personal expenses.

Advantages of hiring an au pair extend far beyond the one-on-one care she provides to your child or children. Because au pairs reside with their host families, parents can leverage a spare bedroom sitting unused to access childcare on the cheap. As au pairs share the residence with the host families, many provide house-cleaning assistance in addition to child care.

Furthermore, hosting an au pair exposes parents and children alike to a new culture and new ideas. Most au pairs come from European countries, and as the host family is expected to help their au pair master language skills, engaging conversations build awareness of the diversity of our world.

Drawbacks to hiring an au pair include limited socialization with other children their age, which good au pairs can correct by involving children in social activities and play dates. Parents should always take care to evaluate the quality of the au pair service they select to ensure their child's safety.

Commercial Daycare

Commercial daycare centers must comply with all federal and state regulations and often offer staff specially trained in early childhood education. As such, many commercial daycare centers offer more than simply keeping kiddos safe. They also offer a wealth of educational activities that put your child on the fast track when it comes to preparing for kindergarten and grade school.

Most commercial centers do cost more than in-home or employer-based childcare services due to the fact that trained staff members demand higher salaries and maintaining licensing means conforming to all state regulations. In addition, because your child will interact with numerous other kids throughout the day, they're more likely to catch the latest bug going around. Finally, while some commercial daycares do offer extended evening hours, parents with alternative work schedules may find it tough to meet the pick-up deadline, often resulting in additional charges.

Keep It Homey

As opposed to commercial facilities, in-home daycare services take place in an individual provider's home. Some in-home daycare centers do hire trained professionals, whereas others employ family members to ensure that someone always remains available to watch the children should illness or unforeseen circumstances strike.

The biggest advantages of in-home daycare include price and familiarity. Most in-home daycare centers cost significantly less than commercial centers. In addition, many parents select in-home daycare services from neighbors they know well personally or who have helped other families they know. While this alone doesn't guarantee child safety, many parents find it eases their worries quite a bit.

Disadvantages of in-home daycare include the hours available at the facility. As in-home providers live where they work, pick-up hours tend to be stricter so that the provider can spend time with their own families. In addition, many in-home providers have strict illness policies, meaning parents must still miss work when their child gets sick.

It Takes a Village

Finally, new parents with family members nearby may find the best care begins with grandma and grandpa. The advantages of hiring a family member include minimal child safety concerns and low to no cost care. The only disadvantages include lack of socialization opportunities, which caretakers can address by forming play dates, and the need for parents to stay home should their family member fall ill.

Your child forms many of their impressions of the world in their earliest years, and as such, selecting the correct care provider helps your child build positive relationships later in life. Selecting the right daycare provider helps set a foundation for your child's future success. Choose wisely.

Helping Your Child Learn Social Skills Without Being Overbearing

Many new parents erroneously believe that social skills develop naturally in children without any guidance. However, social skills, like any other skill, develop with practice. Fostering healthy social skills in children requires the intervention of parents and caretakers.

While some children exhibit what seem like fixed personality traits such as a tendency toward shyness or gregariousness, all children can and must learn how to clearly communicate with others and navigate their way through difficult interactions. Aiding children in skills such as showing empathy toward others and assertively stating their desires prepares children for adult interactions and can, in some cases, keep children safer, as articulate, empowered children know how to explain to parents if someone else's behavior becomes inappropriate.

While parents should guide children, helicopter parenting prevents children from learning how to assert themselves. Following these tips will help you in teaching social skills to your children without diminishing their own unique spark.

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Photo by Anna Samoylova on Unsplash

Show More Than Tell

How many of us grew up with parents who told us to do as they said, not as they did? While this sounds great in theory, in reality, children learn far more from imitating their parents' behavior than they do from all the lectures in the world.

Therefore, modeling appropriate social skills in a variety of situations teaches children how to behave when faced with similar scenarios on their own. Parents should take care to avoid reacting in negative ways such as shouting whenever possible. Parents do well to model disagreements not as friendship-ending crises but rather a natural part of interactions between people with different ways of seeing the world.

Parents can also rehearse how to behave in certain situations before the actual interaction occurs. For example, parents can role-play with children to help them develop skills such as how to properly greet an adult, how to introduce themselves to other kids their age and how to keep a conversation going by asking open-ended questions.

Start Young

Ideally, introducing children to new people and social situations begins early when the child's natural curiosity helps to overcome any potential fears of social interaction. Children of parents who limit their child's social exposure often become timid and develop anxiety when in unfamiliar situations.

From the time children begin talking, parents should begin inviting more and more people into their youngster's life. Whenever appropriate, children should be included, not excluded, from adult conversation. In addition, enrolling a child in preschool, vacation Bible school or summer camps helps kids learn how to interact with people their own age.

Include children in as many activities with people of different age groups as possible. Parents in diverse urban areas should also seize opportunities to have their kids interact with people from different cultural heritages. Doing so teaches acceptance of others even when they seem different.

Emphasize Empathy

What the world needs now may not be love, sweet love in the romantic sense, but fostering empathy in our youth will make tomorrow's society a happier, healthier place to live. Young children see the world through a narrow lens and base everything around their sense of self. Teaching kids about the importance of honoring other people's feelings allows them to realize that what hurts them, hurts others, too, and what makes them feel good will likely do the same for another.

Avoid shaming children into sharing or otherwise cooperating, however. Embarrassing children leaves them resentful and sullen as well as more hesitant about approaching similar future interactions. Instead of condemning a child's behavior publicly, take them aside in private to explain why their actions can cause other people around them to feel bad.

Communicate Needs And Wants Effectively

Raising socially confident youngsters includes teaching them how to ask for what they want in positive ways. Children as young as four or five can begin learning the difference between behaving aggressively and behaving assertively.

Teaching kids to communicate their needs assertively helps keep them safer as well. For example, children with skill in communicating their needs assertively have a far easier time expressing to peers that a given activity, like climbing to the very top of the monkey bars at the park, frightens them. Because 70 percent of all playground injuries result from falling from equipment, kids who can vocalize an assertive, "No thank you," to activities they feel unready for suffer fewer bumps, bruises and even broken bones.

In addition, teaching children that saying, "No," to activities which make them uncomfortable, even when that means saying, "No," to an adult, can help kids more successfully avoid child predators.

Foster Healthy Friendships

Parents of teenage children focus more on who their child associates with out of fear of things such as drug and alcohol abuse. But good parents spend the time to get to know their child's friends from an early age.

Asking school-age children about whom they most enjoy spending time with and why assists children in choosing appropriate friendships. In addition, making children feel safe about addressing bullying behavior reduces the likelihood of them developing social anxiety.

Provide Varied Experiences

Children exposed to vastly different activities learn how to interact with the people they meet there. This empowers children to remain open to new experiences. Many adults become fearful in unfamiliar situations, and learning early how to imitate appropriate behavior lessens anxiety when children grow up and face tough social situations such as the first day on a new job.

Socially Savvy Kids Make for Well-Adjusted Adults

Exposing children to a variety of different situations with individuals of different ages and cultural backgrounds provides a firm foundation for a healthy, active social life when they reach adulthood. Instilling children with social confidence ensures they'll adapt well and behave appropriately in any situation they encounter in life. Giving children the ability to handle even difficult social situations makes the best gift of all.

How You Can Encourage Your Children to Help Our World

You want to leave the world a better place for your family, and to keep that cycle going, you want your kids to have a passion for preserving the earth when they've grown up. But it's hard to get your kids to listen even when you tell them to be nice to their sibling. How much harder is it to get them to be kind to the world?

It turns out it's much easier than you think — at least once your toddler has had a nap. Check out these ideas to get your children on board with helping the world and creating a better future.

1. Volunteer as a Family

Don't leave volunteer opportunities up to your kid's class projects. Step in and tell your children what problems the world and your region are facing and how your family can help. Volunteering can be a fun and vital activity for parents to do with their children. In 2015, each American volunteer spent around 52 hours volunteering over the span of a year. That's only one hour a week over the course of the year — which is pretty doable.

When you hear about a need in your area, do more than remark how sad the situation is. If a shelter doesn't have enough servers to dish out their hot meals, bring your son or daughter along — but don't forget a step stool for them.

It may be easier to contact your babysitter and leave your rambunctious kids at home while you extend a helping hand, but think of these opportunities as teaching moments. Get your children in on volunteer work now so that they continue to serve their communities when they're older.

2. Explore Nature


In a culture filled with screens, there's a growing disconnect between kids and the outdoors. Parents of 8- to 12-year-olds report that their kids play on screens three times more than they play outside during the week. So how do you get your kid unglued from their smartphone and out in nature? Go exploring with them in green spaces, parks or just in your front yard.

As children explore the outdoors, they can better connect with the earth that you're teaching them to protect. Especially if you live in a city with more concrete than trees, your kids may not know how ecosystems work or how enjoyable spending time in nature can be. Show them around places you loved adventuring through when you were a kid or take a trip to a national forest. You can also plant a garden, go on a hike or do a wildlife scavenger hunt to get the ball rolling.

3. Show Respect and Responsibility for the Environment

Demonstrate the importance of caring for the earth by adopting eco-friendly practices in your home. Recycling, repurposing items and picking up litter are all ways you and your family can take responsibility for the upkeep of the environment. Explain to your children that leaving garbage on the ground is disrespectful and show them what to do instead. Go out of your way to leave streets, sidewalks and lawns free of trash for a memorable and ongoing lesson.

Since the 1950s, the human race has generated 18.2 trillion pounds of plastic — but you can tell your kids that's about the size of a billion elephants. To reduce your impact on the environment and conserve resources, set up recycling bins in your household. You can take recycling a step further by pushing for public recycling bins in your city if you don't already have them. Work with your children to make a difference.

4. Get Involved Locally and Globally

Find out what your area is doing to maintain nature and live responsibly. Whether your city has community gardens or educational events, participate with your children so they can see they are not alone. Let your kids see that they are a part of an inspiring community that wants to take action.

While local involvement is crucial, your kids can also contribute to global needs. Explain the bigger picture to your children, so they know that their small contributions can help the earth for future generations. Days like World Humanitarian Day can help children learn about others' needs and reveal how they can help the world as a whole. This event covers everything from current conflicts to how you can take action and change troubling situations around the world.

5. Teach as You Go and Learn Together

As you volunteer alongside your child or adventure through the woods, explain how your actions affect others. These teaching opportunities turn activities into meaningful and sustainable practices. When your kids know why they do an act of kindness, they are more likely to willingly do helpful things. As your child recognizes on their own that someone is hurting due to poverty or from the loss of a loved one, you'll know they are learning.

While you teach your kids about improving the world, you can learn new things, too. Tell your kids when you learn a new lesson or realize something you've never thought before. Your example shows them that learning about the world continues to happen through adulthood, which can make them lifelong learners.

6. Lead by Example With Curiosity and Kindness

As a parent, you know that little eyes and ears watch and listen to you, eventually reflecting your example. Make sure you're leading them to be kind, helpful people by living that way. Do your best to better the world and care for those living in it so your kids follow in the right footsteps.

9 Ways to Help Your Child Relieve School Stress

Every parent wants their child to come from school chatting happily and feeling excited about the day they had. Still, this is not something that happens too often. School-related stress is a normal thing and can affect the overall performance of a pupil. Moreover, too much stress can be overwhelming and have negative consequences for cognitive development, health, and sleep. Thus, the issue is critical enough to be addressed timely. Since many parents do not know how to relieve school stress, here are ten effective ways that they can make use of.

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1. Reduce the chaos.

The stress of attending school begins right in the morning. When your kid has a hectic one, it will be hard for them to calm down, as this time of the day sets the pace for the rest of it. To reduce the amount of stress your child may get before school, make sure that everything is ready the night before. Teach your kid to pack the bag in the evening, so they have several extra minutes in the morning. You can also indicate the importance of finishing their home tasks in time for the same reason.

2. Let them get enough sleep.

It goes without saying that everyone needs to have enough sleep. More so, children usually require an hour more than adults. With enough sleep, our brains function much better. Being well-rested means that the kid will have an easier time at comprehending new material at classes, thus being less vulnerable to pressure. Moreover, with enough sleep each night, your child will be less irritable and will be at a much better position to cope with stress.

3. Talk to them.

Communication is key. You must teach your child to talk to you about any problems they might have. If they seem frustrated, irritated, distant or stressed, you should find out what’s going on. Is it a particular subject or are they being bullied by their peers? Do they have an upcoming test or are they worried that they are not doing as well as they want? Remember that you don’t have to advise them anything, sometimes the feeling of being loved and cared is enough. If need be, you can start working towards finding a solution together.

4. Do not over-schedule.

A schedule helps your kids remain focused. However, when they are overwhelmed with classes and household duties, they might feel anxiety, which can turn into stress. Your child should always have time to rest. Breaks will help them rework themselves and gather enough strength and courage to deal with any challenges they may face.

5. Practice relaxation techniques.

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Relaxation techniques like yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing have been proven to reduce stress for both adults and children. Before you check literature essay samples, you may want to rest a little. These techniques will ensure that the youngster is calmed down and ready to learn. These are good exercises to do, as they improve air and blood circulation.

6. Prioritize.

Sometimes your child will have too much to do including home chores, extracurricular activities, and school. Let your child complete the most important tasks first to teach them to set the right priorities. However, if this happens too often, you should consider that the extracurricular may be taking too much of their time. You may also teach them some time management techniques, for them to avoid an overbooked schedule.

7. Teach them to deal with negative thoughts.

Negative thoughts can have a great impact on your kid’s life. If they keep thinking that something is too difficult and they will never achieve it, they are probably right. Teach them that the pessimistic mindset will never let them fulfill their ambitions. Let them know that the importance of getting rid of such thoughts is a predetermining factor of their future success.

8. Let their goals be realistic.

Let your child set realistic goals, but don’t discourage them from dreaming, too. You can never expect a D student to get an A in just two months. Let them learn to improve gradually, so that they can enjoy each win. No matter how small, each victory is meaningful to their overall goal.

9. Talk to their teacher.

If your child is in constant stress, try talking to their teacher. It will help you get the right information on how they behave in class. With this knowledge, it will be easier for you to find ways to reduce stress and help your child perform better eventually.

Alyssa Johnson is a professional who can help you find out what could be stressing your child. She is trained to assist parents whose kids have specific stress-related issues. A timely intervention will help improve a child’s health, academics, and general well-being.

Why You Should Use A Holistic Approach in Your Homeschooling

Homeschool parents all have one thing in common—they want the best education possible for their children. Figuring out which approach isn't an easy task, but holistic homeschooling has a number of advantages.

There are approximately 3.5 million homeschooled children in the United States, surpassing charter schools at 2.5 million. Homeschooling parents today have more resources and connectivity than generations past of homeschoolers.

What Is a Holistic Homeschooling Approach?

When you use a holistic approach to education, you look at the entire person as a whole and not just specific learning goals. While academics and basic skills are an important component, holistic education also seeks to develop emotional skills, social behaviors, spiritual beliefs and community connectedness.

Looking at your child as the whole person and what their purpose in life might be is a big advantage over public learning. The sheer number of students in a traditional classroom doesn't allow for much individualization. On top of that, educators must meet specific standards for testing, which requires a focused approach that applies across the board rather than an individual approach for each student.

Philosophies that Match Holistic Approach

There are a variety of educational philosophies and curriculum available for parents to use in approaching education. The one that works best for your child depends upon what type of learner your child is.

  • Charlotte Mason: A philosophy from the 19th century. This form of learning hones in on paying attention to detail, keeping lapbooks and exploring the world at large.
  • Waldorf Schools: The focus of Waldorf schools is on experiential play and artistic expression. It could be called an unschooling approach in the lower grades with a shift to more critical thinking by high school.
  • Montessori: You've likely heard of this educational movement as many charter schools run on a Montessori model. With this approach, the child guides their own learning, but the teacher points them in the right direction.

A focus on interest-based learning has always been popular in homeschooling circles. Because you only have to prepare a curriculum for your own children, you can create a curriculum around space or race cars or horses.

What a Week of Holistic Learning Looks Like


Imagine that your child loves horses. Anything that involves horses is going to pique their interest, so you create an equine-based lesson plan for your child. A week of holistic learning based on your child's interests and developing the whole person looks something like this:

  • Reading great literature about horses (Black Beauty, etc.).
  • A field trip to a local horse stable and field trip with other homeschoolers riding horses (social).
  • Learning how horses are measured and how high a "hand" is (math).
  • Studying the anatomy of a horse and drawing pictures of horses based on anatomy (science and art).
  • Volunteering at a local equine therapy center (connectedness to community).

Of course, there are many other things you can add to this curriculum, including history and studying famous racehorses or how horses were used in the 1800s on a daily basis. The key is to find something your child loves and center learning around that interest while still driving the basic academic skills your child needs to succeed as an adult.

Developing Confidence in Your Child

One of the key advantages of homeschooling with a holistic approach is that your child's self-confidence grows. The child focuses on something that already has a positive association, such as horses and then completes tasks in their own time. With homeschool, if your child doesn't understand a concept, it's okay to take a step back and slow down until they understand the fundamentals of that concept.

Allowing more time is another way that holistic homeschooling takes into account the needs of the child as the whole person. One child may pick up a math concept on the first try, while another may need to review it or even go back to some fundamentals to truly understand that concept. When you only have your own children rather than a full classroom, you can devote the time needed to understand each point better.

Character Is Everything

Building character isn't an easy task. Every child has some flaws, whether it is being too hard on themselves or not wanting to put in the hard work. As the parent, you know your child better than anyone else. If you're able to take a step back and think of those flaws as areas that need work, then you can find tasks that help your child develop critical character skills that allow them to succeed as an adult.

For example, if your child gets angry when they lose a board game, sign them up for a sports team and encourage them to look at the effort rather than the reward. If your child does their part for the team, the team may not always win, but they should feel satisfied that they tried their best. Build the character traits your child lacks one skill and one activity at a time. Holistic education allows you to focus on those elements that are both strengths and to work on the weaknesses.

Beyond the Confines of the Classroom

With holistic education, you're not confined to the four walls of a classroom. The focus is on the person as a whole and that means someone who lives in the real world, participates in activities, volunteers and works with others. Holistic education is very much about balancing all the different activities of homeschooling while still learning the academic skills your child will need in the upper grades and for higher education pursuits. Step back, take a look at the big picture and come up with a plan that allows your child to thrive in their own skin.

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