Our version of Homeschooling, which is probably better described as Unschooling, is about more than just teaching our kids reading, writing, and arithmetic. Unschooling is a life journey we are taking because we care about the education our children receive and we know we can do a better job than any traditional school. Unschool parents take a more direct and involved approach to shaping their kids education. One of the most effective ways parents can directly contribute to shaping their kids’ lives is by modeling habits, behaviors, and outward expressions that you would want them to adopt. Here are 7 ways that we can make changes in our own lives to give our kids great habits to follow.
1) Eat More Veggies: With the obesity rate so high in the United States, it’s important to get our kids used to a healthy diet while they’re young. Eating more vegetables, eliminating processed foods, and avoiding sugar are three easy ways to start living a healthy lifestyle immediately. Get used to reading food labels and stay away from foods that have long lists of ingredients that are hard to pronounce. Learn to recognize all the forms of sugar used in foods: sugar, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, dehydrated cane juice, sorghum syrup, maltose, and lactose, to name just a few. And just so you don’t completely roll your eyes at this suggestion, it’s okay to cheat on occasion, even once or twice a week if it means you’ll stay with the lifestyle (diet).
2) Be Positive: It’s sometimes easier said than done. But thinking positively or negatively can be habitual. Often people adopt a negative and self-limiting way of thinking without even noticing or intending it. Negative thinking and self limiting beliefs can be passed on to our kids unintentionally. It may take considerable effort to make positive thinking and optimism your standard way of thinking, or you may just need a reminder now and then. Either way, the effect that it will have on you and your children will be immeasurable and invaluable.
3) Exercise: Childhood obesity is an epidemic in the United States. Frankly, so is adult obesity. You don’t need to become a marathon runner or champion bodybuilder, it’s just important to make exercise a regular activity in your daily routine. It will encourage your kids to be active on a regular basis. It’s even better if you can actually include your kids in your workout, but most importantly you just want to model physical activity as a life habit. There are a ton of ways you can be active, regardless of the resources you have at your disposal. You could go for a run, play basketball with friends, do yoga, take a spin class at a gym, do P90X, lift weights at home or in a gym, swim laps, play racquetball or tennis, take a hike, go kayaking, or come up with your own idea!
4) Side hustle (start a side business): On average, Americans watch nearly 3 hours of television per day and will watch a total of 9 years worth of tv by age 65. There’s nothing wrong with watching tv, but being productive with your free time will show your kids that there is more to life than entertaining yourself outside of work. Who knows, maybe you’ll even make a little money while you’re at it. It’s also something you can involve your kids in as they get older and could be a step toward introducing them to entrepreneurship.
5) Live to learn: Learn something new every day. Learning is a life-long journey, not something that is abandoned come graduation day. Take the time to learn something new every day. Reading books, blogs, journals, and newsletters are all good sources of learning material. Discuss what you learn with your kids at the dinner table and as they get older, involve them in your learning process. The objective here is to show them that you never stop learning and that learning can be fun!
6) Play with your kids: In order to be an effective role model for your kids, you need to connect with them. Playing with your kids on their level, preferably outside when you can, creates that bond necessary to be the dominant influence in their lives. It also models for them that we spend quality time with those people that are most important to us. This doesn’t have to require 3 or 4 hours each and every time. Depending on the demands of your schedule, this could be just 20-30 minutes a day sometimes. It is the quality of the time spent, not necessarily the quantity, that is most important.
7) Love your spouse: Kids learn how to act by watching their parents. The relationship you have with your spouse serves as a model for your child and can have significant influence on their future relationships. It will shape their perception of what love looks and feels like. It is also comforting to children when their parents are [appropriately] affectionate and loving toward one another. It makes them feel safe and more secure.