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By Crystal Ladwig

How to use rules in your homeschool

Most families have rules. In fact, most of us have far too many rules. And those rules seem to change with the wind at times. But there are some guidelines for using rules both at home and in your homeschool time that can help you and your children.

Many families create rules and only remind children of them when they are broken. "You know you're not allowed to…" But research shows that reminding children of rules and praising them for using those rules can go a long way toward helping children to follow those rules.

A tool to help throughout the day

Rules can be so useful to us and to our children. In early childhood classrooms, teachers spend a few minutes of each day reminding children of the rules. In classrooms for older children, teachers often establish rules with students at the beginning of the year, and those rules remain quietly posted on a wall for the remainder of the year.

If you have a visual learner, it is helpful to create this kind of visual representation of your family's rules with gestures or pictures. Using rules not just as occasional reminders of when children misbehave or as you are starting up your homeschool year can be a tremendous tool for you as well. Some guidelines are provided below to help you set up rules for your family for this new school year.

Rules in action

Establish rules as a family, and make sure that they work for everyone. Using an acronym to help everyone remember them can be a useful strategy. One family has used the acronym ROAR (Respect, Obedience, Attitude, Responsibility) for several years now, and it works well for them. In fact, the parents often remind their children to ROAR as a reminder of what is expected of them.

After the family established the base words for ROAR, they defined those as a family to make sure that everyone understood what was expected. Sometimes they need to revisit those in different settings to establish what is and is not expected in certain situations. They even visualize those with funny animal pictures like a dog waiting patiently while a cat walks in front of him to symbolize obedience.

Just like homeschooling, rules can be individualized. Make them fit your family. Try using the ROAR acronym – or another of your creation – for yourself, and define each word in a way that fits your family.

Rules that work for your family

  1. Keep the number of rules limited to three to five. Too few rules will fail to cover what you need, and too many will be tough for both kids and parents to keep up with.
  2. State rules positively. Tell children what you want them to do rather than what you do not want them to do.
  3. Remind your children of the family's rules several times throughout the day, including before an activity that is often tough for children, as praise after they have obeyed the rules and when teaching appropriate behavior after children have misbehaved.
  4. Have one set of rules for your family that cover what you expect both in school and family times.
  5. Be flexible. Revisit your family's rules from time to time. The appropriateness of rules may change as children grow up.

Rules can be tedious and honestly are not fun to think about. But the use of rules in your family and in your homeschool is a vital tool to developing the character of the children you love.

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