SEL (social-emotional learning) helps kids build the cognitive, physical, and social skills needed to be successful with relationships, academic learning, and healthy decision-making. And digital programs present a compelling solution for SEL within homeschool environments.
They not only remove the burden on parents to develop this curriculum, but they can provide a virtual community for social support and serve as a stepping stone for students who are facing mental health challenges but are not ready to talk to an adult.
Most people look to the five competencies as put forth by CASEL as the guidepost to building SEL skills with their students:
The skills encompassed in these five competencies are learned behaviors, meaning students aren’t born with the capacity to engage in them. Yet all students need to learn them in order to thrive in school, at home, and beyond. Introducing these concepts in early childhood sets the tone that emotional awareness and mental health are priorities.
It’s important to build these competencies through a developmental lens. For example, when working with a five-year-old, you might set a goal that by the end of kindergarten, they will be able to share feelings in various contexts (speaking, writing, drawing). For a teen, you might focus on developing healthy boundaries in relationships with peers, parents, and significant others.
How can parents who homeschool overcome the challenges of teaching SEL?
Developing an SEL curriculum can be challenging if you’re not a mental health or emotional intelligence specialist. For parents teaching their children through a homeschool model, there’s the additional challenge that children (especially teens) may be unwilling to discuss emotions and mental health with their parents. However, with the introduction of a guided digital solution, it’s easy for parents to connect students to age-based SEL curriculums that can assess their immediate needs and long-term goals.
By providing a private, self-guided digital tool, parents enable their children to access the support they need right from their phone or computer. Students can receive a digital SEL curriculum tailored to their needs, and parents don’t need to worry about creating lesson plans from scratch. Programs like Neolth allow progress tracking and share students’ progress with parents or teachers.
For homeschooled students who lack peer exposure, there are programs that offer a virtual peer community to build SEL skills further and learn about mental health in the context of social learning. These programs address various mental wellness topics, including grief and loss, anxiety, depression, career development, financial wellness, and more.
Resources offered through such programs can include video series from clinicians that educate students about mental health, vlogs and blogs from students discussing their mental health to break down stigma and live streamed community events that connect students from across the country. Through technology, these programs aid students in building SEL skills and facilitate a sense of connection and belonging, reducing mental health stigmas for homeschooled students.
Researchers from One Mind PsyberGuide recently published a comprehensive review of digital solutions focused on teens: https://onemindpsyberguide.org/resources/teen-app-guide/