Highly Sensitive and Anxious: managing stress and home educating
By Beverley Paine, 26th Sept 2013
As a highly sensitive person (once was a highly sensitive child!) my path to home education was, I think, inevitable. I used to think I was simply a control freak, then an over-protective paranoid parent (and proudly so) but now I see (in hindsight, the best kind of sight!) that all roads led to growing and living as naturally as possible. School increases stress. I never realised as a child how stressful school was for me - I actually enjoyed school. As an adult and parent I came to realise that just because something is enjoyable or fun doesn't mean it ain't adding a bucket load of a stress to a life that can't cope or manage with that much stress.
So for me, I'm not focusing on anxiety, or depression, or any other signs of dis-ease, I'm focusing on stress loads and factors which increase stress and whatever it takes to balance stress in our lives. I've accepted that being highly sensitive is okay and normal, not weird and freakish. That it isn't something to be hidden or got rid of as quickly as possible or even grow out of...
I tend not to write about highly sensitive people as a home educator because my approach is one of meeting individual needs. Not treating everyone like they are the same, abandoning the one-size-fits-all, or one-expectation-fits-all, or one-standard-fits-all attitudes helps. If we work to identify and then help to meet the needs of individuals, we'll naturally work with whatever sensitivities, etc that individual has. I've seen how labeling conditions, etc, have been helpful to other parents, but it's not the way I think or operate and when I've done it I've tended to end up missing important information (about the individual) because I'm not focusing on the evidence (needs), but on what others have said or written about the condition. My focus on identifying and meeting needs is my shortcut.
When I was writing my booklet on Motivation in the Homeschool ( http://alwayslearningbooks.com.au ) I was thinking about all the things that worked for me and my children - and in particular what removes the stress that gets in the way of functioning and learning because it causes confusion and disease. Hard to feel motivated when completely stressed!
I am acutely aware of how different levels of stress effect me - heading off major episodes is important for me.
Anxiety and excitement go hand in hand. Both my son and me end up unwell if we get too excited. That was a hard lesson to learn as children. I trained myself to not get excited by the age of 13. As an adult I learned to do the same when getting anxious. I'm a spontaneous emotional kind of person so most of the time I feel a tad suppressed. But it's a management technique that works for me (and my son). I felt very sad helping my son deal with his body's physical response to excitement and anxiety.
Because we're wired this way, and because I spend a lot of time thinking and reflecting on why I do things and think things the way I do, it simply made sense that I'd base our home education experiences around the principle of what works, what doesn't work, identify and meeting individual needs. I write about what I think and discover and share that because so many parents have responded positively, affirming that this approach helps to make their lives make sense too. Have a wander though the Maintaining Confidence, Managing Homeschool Life, and Motivation categories on this site.
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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.
Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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