Happily Homeschooling with Your Dog
Do you want to boost your children's learning? Homeschooling with your dog can work wonders.
The beauty of homeschooling is the freedom to learn anywhere, any time, and alongside your favorite pup. Kids and dogs share a strong bond. Our dog, Pip, was happiest snuggled up against one of my two children as they read, conducted an experiment, solved long division problems, or brainstormed ideas for a history project.
We lost Pip last year, but I can’t imagine how they would have felt all those years he was with us if they would have had to say goodbye to Pip every morning, complete their assignments without his warm body and occasional sighs of contentment, and miss his rather vocal running commentary on the activity at the bird feeder throughout the school day.
As you can see in the photograph above, Pip was a cherished fellow student. It may have been the fact that he didn’t balk if Emily sang along to the tunes in her head while she worked on her language arts lesson. Or maybe it was the fact that he didn’t launch a complaint if Jeremy shook the table with the strength of a gale force wind while attempting to erase a wrong answer. Maybe it was simply love.
Homeschooling + Dogs = Happiness
Homeschooling and dogs just go together like peanut butter and jelly—sticky fingers and paws, optional. Learning is enhanced when children feel comfortable, relaxed, and loved. And who better to offer comfort, encourage relaxation, and give love than a dog? Dogs love unconditionally. They love children through bouts of grumpiness, days of uncomfortable illness, or hours of frustrated attempts to find the value of x. So homeschooling with your dog just makes good sense.
According to Charlotte Mason, a beloved British educator and mentor, children need 3 simple things each day: someone or something to love, something worthwhile to think about, and something of value to do. A dog meets each of these needs. He thrives on love. He makes a great superhero in a creative non-fiction story. And he likes to perform and learn new tricks—for a tasty treat, of course.
Dogs Make Excellent Fitness Partners
Homeschooling with your dog creates new fitness options. We enjoyed a daily walk. Fresh air and a visit with Mother Nature always refreshed our bodies and renewed our interest in learning. Pip always pranced along at our sides, ever the canine celebrity of our neighborhood. Everybody knew Pip. Our neighbors loved Pip’s gentle, friendly nature. Many greeted Pip by name or by their own unique “pet name”. One neighbor lovingly referred to him as Snowball. Another called him Pipsy. I think Pip’s celebrity status put the spring in my children’s steps and motivated them to walk regularly. After all, a walk is just a walk, but a walk alongside a celebrity--a canine celebrity at that--is an extraordinary experience.
A trip to the local dog park is also a great way to stretch your legs--furry and non-furry. Or, play a friendly game of frisbee tag in your backyard. Be wary though. A frisbee zooming through the air is bait to a dog. But, hey, chasing your dog is exercise too. So everybody wins.
Dogs Can Inspire New Subjects and Hands-on Learning
Dogs can also inspire new interests and curriculum. Children can:
- Learn about animal behavior.
- Do a little digging and learn how to teach their dog basic obedience commands.
- Teach their dog a new trick, or two, or ten.
Emily dug right in. While kneeling on one knee, she taught Pip to jump over the other knee. That led to all three of us teaching Pip to jump up onto our backs. We were even able to crawl around a bit while Pip remained atop our backs, albeit looking just a bit puzzled.
Jeremy and I invented a Pip in the Middle game with a tennis ball. The game gave us a nice playful break between subjects. And Pip got to chase a ball, happily intercepting more times than Jeremy and I could count. Shhh, don't tell him I said that.
Reading to Your Dog ROCKS!
My daughter began devouring books at a young age. My son didn’t see the attraction early on. That’s fine. It’s fine because he is fully capable of reading great literature, a technical manual, or humorous story. Why? A dog listened.
Reading doesn’t always come naturally or quickly to some children. Some just stumble. Homeschool moms need to pick them up and dust them off, so to speak, and get creative. According to a study conducted by the veterinary school at the University of California, Davis campus, homeschooled students’ reading fluency soared by 30% thanks to furry, patient listeners. Wow!
Parents brought their children to the campus weekly for 10 weeks. Children simply read aloud to a rescue dog for 15 -20 minutes. Afterwards, children commented that they felt calm and comfortable because it was FUN! Paws for applause, please--the majority of parents gave the program an A+, stating that their kids were now reading more and with a new, shining self-assurance.
Even reading simple couplets or short, humorous poems aloud while Pip snuggled next to Jeremy on the couch worked wonders.
Homeschooling with Your Dog is a Win-win Activity
Yes, homeschooling alongside your lovable pup enhances and boosts learning, but it also strengthens the bond between you and your dog. Dogs crave attention, the feel of human touch, play time, exercise, and relaxing down time with their human family. Adding a furry student to your homeschool helps to meet all of your dog's basic needs.
Don't have a dog? Well, homeschooling with your cat is great fun, too. That's a whole other finicky story though.
This post is written in loving memory of our beloved Pip (July 12, 2002 - January 9, 2016).