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You Can Help Your Child Learn: The Learning Coach Approach

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You Can Help Your Child Learn: The Learning Coach Approach

By Linda Dobson

The learning coach approach is for every parent who has watched a child she loves face a situation similar to the one the eldest of my three children was in. As he grew from infancy to school-age, my son was the most easy-going, laid back child I’d ever known. Accompanied by the typical oohs and aahs of reaching a cultural landmark, in 1984 he began attending half-day kindergarten. After six months of his beginning his day by stepping on to a yellow bus, I could no longer deny that he was changing for the worse. Despite my concerns his teacher repeatedly reassured me he was doing fine academically. Despite my questions the little six year-old couldn’t articulate what might be causing the happy-go-lucky boy to slide into unhappiness, stomachaches, and disrespectful treatment of the baby sister he once adored. As it turned out, both in the classroom and with the bully on the bus ride home, my son was overburdened, agitated, and anxious, succumbing to physical and emotional stress increasingly affecting his health and well-being. Something had to change.

SchoolBus Learning Coach Approach

After six months of his beginning his day by stepping on to a yellow bus, I could no longer deny that he was changing for the worse.

I checked into the only alternatives available – a couple of local private schools – but realized that such was merely a costly way of rearranging the deck chairs; it might help the situation appear different, but it would do nothing to fundamentally change the situation and so wouldn’t stop the ship from sinking. When I was at my wit’s end, I happened to turn on the TV at an unusual time. There was Phil Donahue, promising to be right back so that his lone guest, a veteran school teacher by the name of John Holt, could answer more questions about his newsletter, “Growing Without Schooling.” Does that mean what I think it does? I wondered.

Discovering the Learning Coach Approach

Indeed, John, a man I soon came to know and admire as the granddaddy of homeschooling, was talking about the small but growing number of parents who were choosing, for a wide variety of reasons, to teach their children at home themselves. It sounded like the answer – the only answer – to the problems my son was experiencing.

That day my family became “homeschoolers,” foregoing my son’s school attendance to rid his growing nervous system of stress. Yet because it was the only model I knew, I began our homeschooling journey by recreating school at home. Thus began a long and sometimes painful process to get to a pivotal truth that first transformed learning for our family, then ultimately for readers of my books. By eventually eliminating school and its methods from our lives, by taking responsibility for the education of the few children I loved dearly right along with the responsibility for their care and feeding, learning was no longer segregated from life, but an integral part of it.

This allowed me to stop thinking in terms of teaching, and something wonderful happened. By focusing on learning, I created the time to do something more important than teaching, more important to achieve the elusive goal of fun, easy, and effective learning – this was simply to observe the children for the vast majority of information I needed to guide them. I applied this knowledge daily to keep individual curiosity stoked, to connect today’s lessons to the promise of independent life tomorrow.

This knowledge was the starting seed of what almost twenty years later I call “the learning coach approach.” After many years of reading, researching, writing, observing, studying, thinking, and interviewing countless homeschooling parents and children, I’ve boiled down this by-product of the homeschooling boom into one guiding sentence.

Curiosity creates interest, interest increases attention to the task at hand, and attention gives rise to learning.

My Kids Showed Me the Learning Coach Approach

I feel very fortunate that my experience with my children showed me there is a fundamental difference between teaching and coaching learning. My dictionary defines “to teach” as “to impart knowledge or skill to; give instruction to.” By virtue of this definition, the learner is merely a passive recipient of actions by the teacher.

On the other hand, a parent who makes education a household priority can use a learning coach approach and instead “facilitate” learning, which means “to free from difficulties or obstacles; make easier; aid; assist.” By virtue of this definition, the learner moves front and center. No longer a mere passive recipient, your child becomes an active creator of his education. Passive recipients of information burn out; active creators of education get fired up.

Education Learning Coach Approach

When it comes to learning, less is more. Less pressure, more fun. Less scheduling, more free time.

When I began exploring the phenomenon of coaching sweeping the country, I saw many similarities between what I know homeschooling parents routinely do and the advice coaches give to business professionals. Both work to inspire students/employees toward greater potential, increased productivity, and deeper commitment. Both accentuate the personal values and habits necessary to achieve the happiness, peace, balance, and prosperity we all wish for in great abundance in our children’s lives. Yet despite all the similarities between coaching (facilitating) and learning at home, no one has applied the principles of the coaching formula to learning, let alone made them accessible to the millions of parents who perhaps like you want to help their children succeed in school yet don’t feel they possess the tools to do so. You can use the learning coach approach.

As a homeschooling “veteran” the last twenty years of my life’s work have been devoted to helping parents incorporate the above-mentioned benefits into just as many children’s lives as possible. However, I wasn’t reaching the vast majority of parents – those whose children attend school. That’s why I was so excited to gather together the simple and fun secrets that homeschooling parents have discovered about helping children learn at home and put them between the covers of What the Rest of Us Can Learn from Homeschooling. Today I’m even more enthusiastic about sharing the simplified way any parent can help guide her child to increased academic success by becoming a “learning coach” utilizing the learning coach approach.

Don’t bother yourself with ideas of needing to become yet another teacher in your child’s life. Start thinking in terms of freeing your child from learning difficulties and obstacles. The perspective will be a lot more fun – and successful – for both of you.

The Learning Coach Approach Isn’t about Being a Teacher

As it turns out, the vast majority of learning isn’t about teaching at all. It happens morning, noon, and night every single day one is alive and conscious. It’s as natural – and imperceptible – as breathing. When it comes to learning, less is more. Less pressure, more fun. Less scheduling, more free time. Success, in its many forms, results not by pushing children into activities but by creating an environment that encourages exploration and discovery, and supporting their curiosity. As one of the people who most loves your child, you can and will make all the difference in the world by integrating learning into your daily lives together. Welcome to the world of the learning coach approach.

LindaSig Learning Coach Approach

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