Unconventional mum who never punishes her kids makes emergency homeschooling kit to help parents on coronavirus lockdown

A MUM who has never sent her kids to school is providing free emergency homeschooling kits to parents struggling with the coronavirus lockdown.

Dayna Martin, 46, from Miami, Florida, lets kids Devin, 20, Tiffany, 18, Ivy, 15 and Orion, 12, schedule their own days and plan their own bedtimes.

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Now with mass school closures, the exception being key workers here in the UK, Dayna's offering a step-by-step guide for anyone struggling to cope.

The mum-of-four said: “Homeschooling is an unknown world to lots of people, with lots of misconceptions, so I am excited to help empower parents and give them the confidence to know they can do it.

“Children are natural learners, but mainstream education makes us believe the only way they’ll succeed is in an institution with trained teachers.

“Now that a lot of parents don’t have a choice, and schools are closing, I think they will surprise themselves with how much they love home-education.

“We all, as humans, have a primitive craving for connection, but there is a lot of separateness in our societies. With all that’s going on in the world, we’re going to be forced together with our families, and the outside world will feel much further away.

“Our children will look back at this time of history in the same way adults remember the 9/11 terror attacks – knowing exactly where they were and how they felt – so we need to try and manage that fear and make it as positive as possible.”

Learning can happen every day – not just in a classroom

Though Dayna’s lifestyle has drawn its fair share of critics, her unusual skill set is proving a lifeline to worried parents across the globe, who are now facing home-educating their children indefinitely, as schools close to combat the spread of Covid-19.

Last week, she began putting together ‘emergency home-schooling kits,’ which will teach parents to “take charge of their children’s education and find peace of mind during these uncertain times.”

Usually the materials – which are all available online and include a copy of Dayna’s book, Radical Unschooling, access to digital courses and support groups – would cost worth around $300 (£252).

But, aware that the virus outbreak may cause financial uncertainty for many, she is waiving all costs and making them free.

She said: “In the first hour, I’d had 50 downloaded. By the end of the day, it was 200, and now that figure doubles again every few hours.

“I’ve helped people in every corner of the globe and it feels awesome.

"Every child learns differently, and I want to help parents tap into their instinct and overcome this misconception that it has to be a power-struggle, full of punishments and discipline.

“Learning can happen every day – not just in a classroom.”

People are afraid of the unknown, but this can be a real turning point

With the future currently looking so uncertain, as millions of people struggle to adjust to the impact coronavirus is having on their normal lives, Dayna believes that the pandemic may trigger a shift in attitudes around homeschooling.

She explained: “Life will change for everyone. I believe there will be a kind of life before and life after coronavirus.

“But, self-isolating can have some positives. Those with complicated or difficult family relationships will have no choice but to open up discussions and, hopefully, find a place of peace.

“We will find out how to work as a team and discover that parenting isn’t all about rules and authority.

"While we cannot physically all be together, we will get through this as a global community and rebuild from that foundation of togetherness.”

And Dayna is convinced that the world will benefit from homeschooling.

She said: “Let go of that fear and do what feels good. Allow your children to lead the way with their learning.

“It isn’t all about tests and exams. Watch documentaries, movies and TV. Get outside into the garden, have a discussion. These are all ways of learning too.

“People are afraid of the unknown, but this can be a real turning point.”

Unlike her kids, Dayna attended mainstream school. She did well academically but struggled with the rules – which she found restrictive. 

She said: “I felt as if teachers always assumed negative intent with my classmates and I, like we were bound to be up to no good.”

So, when she had her eldest child, Devin, in 1999, she considered the benefits to be had from an alternative education and decided to let the kids choose if they went to school or not.

None of her kids have ever step foot in a classroom and they all decide what they want to learn and when. Their mum argues her unusual methods make them more, not less, engaged.

Dayna said: “It’s all based around what they are interested in. They have taught themselves so many skills.

“Devin is a self-taught blacksmith. He really loves science, too, whereas Tiffany is very into music.

"Ivy runs a small animal rescue centre and is hugely into animal rights. Not going to school means she has the time to get involved in causes like that.

“Orion loves hiking, as well as computers and gaming. I see their interests as an extension of their learning.

"While school places much more emphasis on learning certain topics, I wouldn’t want to tell them any of their hobbies are less important than what's on the school curriculum."

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Dayna added: “The way children learn to read and write naturally looks very different to how they do it in school.

“School is all about set targets, and having to be at a certain level by a set age – when actually, I believe there is a huge window when you can learn.

“Home schooled children can learn to read anywhere from the age of three to 12.

“My kids learned by immersing themselves in the written word. I see their interests as the nucleus to their learning and get all the educational resources I can around that.

“For example, if they say they’re interested in astronomy, I’ll get books and other resources to encourage them.

“Humans want to learn – and basing it all around something they are actively interested in helps incentivise them.”

You can download Dayna's kit for free here.

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