The following is a post by contributing writer Michelle of Raising Cajuns.
When our family dog passed away this past spring, I didn’t think I’d be ready for a new dog for a very long time. But as summer came along and we took a break from lessons, we started to think more about what advantages a lively young pup might bring to our lives.
Before I get to the list, I want to be clear that I’m not recommending that anyone with a new baby or toddler run out to find a new puppy. An older family dog might adapt to that sort of situation, but when you adopt a new dog, you are essentially bringing a toddler into the house. Puppies require potty training, they explore constantly, and they put everything in their mouths! Homeschooling parents with little ones have plenty on their plates, and a new dog needs lots of attention and training.
But for those of you with older children, especially with children old enough to take on a bit of the responsibility, a new dog can be a wonderful addition to your homeschool! Consider these benefits and learning opportunities when you are deciding whether or not to add a new furry member to your homeschooling family.
1. Health – Dogs provide many health benefits for their owners, including lowering blood pressure, lessening anxiety, and boosting immunity. A well-trained and well-behaved dog can also lower stress and relieve tension, and dogs are frequently recommended as pets for people with depression. Adding Lightning to our family has provided preventive medicine in the form of warm, furry snuggles.
2. P.E. – No matter the size, all dogs require some sort of daily activity. You can choose to walk, bike, hike, or run with your dog, and the more active the breed, the more movement they require. No matter which dog you choose, you will spend lots of time outdoors and become more active all around. Older children can take over some of these activities, you can divide them up among family members, or you can simply enjoy your daily family walks together. Either way, you’ll all get up and get moving.
3. Biology – Dogs have a different physiology from humans and from other household pets you might already have. If you have a dog, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll hear, “He/She ate my Lego!” at some point. This can be a great opportunity to explain why the Lego won’t really hurt your pooch and why dogs can and do eat so many things they shouldn’t, usually without any lingering problems. You can also talk about pack behavior, their canine ancestry, and even discuss their medical care with your children.
4. Training – An untrained dog can add to your stress level and workload, so training is essential in an already busy homeschooling household. Consider signing up all family members for a training course when you adopt, so you can all get off on to a good start. Depending on the type of dog and your kids’ interest levels, they might even continue training and have years of fun ahead of them as they train for agility courses, flyball, frisbee, herding, tracking, or numerous other activities. Becoming a good dog trainer requires empathy, dedication, and patience, so these can be excellent activities for older children.
5. Responsibility & Rhythms – Initially, my girls fought over who would feed and care for Lightning. The thrill has worn off a bit, but they still take turns feeding him and putting him in his kennel. It has simply become part of our daily rhythm, along with our twice daily one-mile walk/run.
These responsibilities are less of a burden and more of an anchor to our days. They have simply become something we do. Sometimes I steal that quiet evening walk for my alone time, sometimes I take my oldest for some mom-daughter bonding, and other times we all walk together. Overall, adding Lightning to our family has provided a new healthy framework for our daily rhythm, and he made us an even more active, nature-loving family.
Michelle is a wife, mother, writer, and Cajun who prefers everything extra spicy. She writes about their homeschool adventures at Raising Cajuns.