Social distancing restrictions highlight the importance of relationships for children

BY CATHERINE YANG December 8, 2020 Updated: December 8, 2020

Silliness encourages curiosity, developing learners instead of grade-fixated students, and that changes the entire student-teacher relationship. (Ashton Bingham/Unsplash)

Brains and Bodies

Leigh Bortins, a North Carolina-based homeschooler and founder of Classical Conversations, was also quick to note the importance of movement.

“Our brain’s attached to our bodies and some us learn while we are moving,” she said. “So that’s why you’ll see a girl sucking on her lip, pacing her bedroom while she’s trying to figure out what to write, or you’ll see a boy who has to go out and shoot some hoops before he can solve a math problem.

“Motions can very often help when we’re struggling. One of the things we’re very good at doing with our little kids is giving them crayons and pencils and big pieces of paper—this is why we need to do the same with the adolescents who struggle with that issue—let them go to the board, or let them do it in chalk on the driveway, let them be big in their thinking,” Bortins said.

Behavior and a sense of discipline also have a lot to do with movement. In effect, it’s just a continuation of all the very good things you started doing as a new parent with a young child, Bortins said. “And, of course, one of the things you first do with your very young infant is teach them how to control their bodies.

“They reach out to grab things, eventually potty training, getting the food in their mouths, making their beds, all of those things.

painting girl
According to Leigh Bortins, a good preparation for academic learning involve activities that promote hand-eye coordination, an aspect of teaching children to control themselves. (Madalyn Cox/Unsplash)

“What’s natural to teach a child is how to control themselves, because you don’t want them wiggling like a worm in every situation that they’re in. So what a lot of people forget is that one of the best preparations for academic training is, of course, full body control. You have to have hand-eye coordination to hold your crayon, your paintbrushes, your pencil,” she said.

It’s much like practicing a skill; an acquaintance of hers had three young children, one of whom was especially rowdy, but several moms came together to help walk the child around the building to work off his extra energy while giving her time to work with her two other children. It taught the young boy that rules wouldn’t be dropped just because they were inconvenient, and that they wouldn’t give up on him just because he didn’t learn how to do something right away.

“You also have the idea of controlling yourself to get along with one another,” Bortins said. One of the things she’s told her own children is how you need to esteem your brother more than your legos, you need to esteem your sister more than your dolls.

“The sibling relationship is the first place, even before you go to school, that children learn to control their appetites and passions and desires, and expect to share.”

Family is the first place we learn about relationships, behavior, and how to interact with the world. Bortins remembers that growing up, when she or her siblings left the house their parents would say, “Remember, you’re a Bryant!”

“All four of us grew up knowing that we represented our mother and our father, and our siblings and our grandparents, and our cousins, aunts, uncles, the whole family,” she said. “That it reflects on all of us, that we’re a family. It’s just having this attitude of, ‘You’re not alone in this, we’re going to help you, and this also means you’re going to hurt us,’ and that’s what love is, is the ability to be hurt.”

Learning to appreciate your siblings goes hand in hand with being obedient to your parents, Bortins said, adding that maybe not everyone likes the word obedience, but that’s really what it is. You teach or train your children to behave in a certain way. It’s possible, and it makes the family experience one that is pleasant.

“And character lessons aren’t always for the kids—sometimes they’re for the parents,” Bortins said. Character forming is a lifelong process, she said, and “We’re all practicing for the next day.”

School sometimes has people thinking in terms of weeks or periods or semesters, but life isn’t like that.

“As homeschoolers, we don’t really think in small segments, we think in the life of our child, the life of our family, and even now with my grandchildren,” she said.