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Tips for Leaders with Preschoolers or Homeschooled Children

Melissa Noble
Yokosuka, Japan
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 34 No. 5, October-November 1998, p. 106

Homeschooling can be a natural extension of LLLI philosophy for in both, parents are the experts on their children. After enjoying the companionship, growth and learning of a child up to school age, some Leaders choose to teach their children at home. That does not, however; make homeschooling part of LLLI philosophy. Leader Alumna Leslie Moyer in Skiatook, Oklahoma, USA says, "Having your older homeschooled children along (at meetings) is very visible. Leaders need to be careful about not representing this as part of LLL philosophy."

Homeschooling is not something to hide, nor is it something to promote at meetings. If questioned about it, one can simply say, "We homeschool," and strongly state our LLLI purpose noting that homeschooling is not included in it.

Then proceed with the meeting focused on mothering through breastfeeding as always.

How can homeschooling be combined with leading? The following ideas work for mothers of preschoolers as well.

First, look at the basic responsibilities of a Leader.

Phone helping

Some LLL Chapters use an answering machine to tell mothers which Leader is on- call that day. Schooling can be planned around "phone day." An answering machine can also be used to screen calls at home. Leader Neysa Jensen in Boise, Idaho, USA, says, "If I am busy with nursing, reading, calming or otherwise attending to my children, I do not answer the phone. But I always return the call that same day."

Leader Karen Maxwell in Brussels, Belgium, offers, "We reached an agreement that my children could interrupt me for one minute when I was on the telephone. I would say 'Could you wait just a moment please?' to my caller, and give full attention to the child. This never seemed to take a full minute and relieved the child's need to know that he could get my attention."

During phone calls some Leaders find a treat drawer helpful. Puzzles and supplies for stringing necklaces work well too.

An alternative way to help mothers is by volunteering to answer LLLI email help forms. You answer mothers' questions by computer at a pace predetermined by you, such as two questions per week.

Leading meetings

Leader Cammy Dye in Charlotte, Michigan, USA, shares, "For going to meetings, I have these little tote bags that I made for each child. I'll pack them up with interesting things for them to do so that they'll have activities to keep themselves busy." During meetings children might enjoy workbooks, weaving activities, modeling clay (away from the toddlers!), small felt board with felt cutouts, building toys, puppets, pipe cleaners and card games.

Leader Lulu Huber in West Chester, Pennsylvania, USA, notes, "Before we head out to the meeting, I try to focus some attention on the kids. I also try to set up a specific activity for them to do. For my eight-year-old it could be reading a book. I've created rituals around the meeting day. We always go pick up blueberry muffins that they can eat as a snack, for example. I also limit the length of the meeting. We can pretty much cover everything that we need to in 1 to 1 1/2 hours. By being 'down to business' about the meeting, mothers tend not to straggle in."

If there are several Leaders in the Group, they can share responsibilities so that no single Leader has to be there every time.

I have found that mornings are the most productive time for my homeschooled child. I prefer to finish the majority of the schooling before the meeting begins. Some Leaders arrange for a babysitter so the older children can continue with their school assignments; some hold evening meetings when the father can attend to the children.

Group Management

Don't volunteer for extra LLL work if you and your co-Leader(s) can't get the basic jobs done. Streamline if you have to. Maybe your Group doesn't need a newsletter every month; why not once a series? Consolidate paperwork to once or twice a month. Lulu Huber suggests, "Combine forces with other Groups to pool resources. Work together with other Groups on publicity, LLLI ordering, World Walk and fundraisers."

Staying Abreast of Current Information

This may be the easiest Leader responsibility to incorporate into your life. After all, what better way to pass on a love for learning to your child than for her to see you devouring LEAVEN, NEW BEGINNINGS, BREASTFEEDING ABSTRACTS, BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK or the LEADER'S HANDBOOK?

Helping Mothers Become Leaders

Planning ahead for Leader responsibilities helps you fulfill them with a fresh, relaxed face, which is compelling to Group members. Step back before you burn out. If your co-Leader is willing to meet regularly and work with Applicants, don't require yourself to attend each one (as much fun as that could be).

Preschooling/homeschooling and LLL work can be very constructive, significant, time-intensive pursuits. Leslie Moyer says, "If you are a homeschooling LLL Leader, seek out other homeschooling Leaders for support so that the two focuses support each other."

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