Any parent who has been homeschooling for any length of time has experienced a child (or children) who don’t seem to want to cooperate. Everything you ask them to do is a battle. They whine, complain, refuse to do work, and generally make life miserable. It seems like my kids go through this in stages.
Sometimes it’s a phase that you just have to work through, and sometimes you’re just having an off day…or they are. No matter what may be causing your homeschool woes, here are five things that have worked for me. Maybe they will work for you, too!
1. Change YOUR attitude
Maybe you didn’t get enough sleep. Maybe you haven’t had your coffee yet. Maybe you’re stressed about money or other problems. Whatever might be bothering you, let it go, because starting the day on a positive note is the most important thing you can do. If you seem happy and excited to get started for the day, your kids will most likely embrace the same attitude. I find my days go much better if I start with quiet time, my Bible, and a little prayer. Some moms like to meditate. Others like to enjoy coffee in silence before the kids wake up. Maybe you like an early morning walk or run. Yoga? Whatever will start your day on the right foot…do that!
Alternately, the problem could be that your kids woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Remember that we all have off days and give them a little grace, too.
2. Change the routine
Do you have a set schedule for every day, with each subject in its own time block? Does one day blur into another? Even in public school there is some variety to the days. If you seem to be stuck in a rut, change things up a bit. I have had a lot of success with giving my kids a list of things that need to be accomplished for the day and letting them choose what order they will be done in. It helps to do something really academic (like math) and then follow it up with something more fun (like art or music). Being in a rut is no fun for anyone, but especially the kids. Try to remember that we often choose homeschooling for flexibility. Are you night owls? Are you early risers? Work with your raw material and come up with a solution that benefits the entire family.
One of my kids usually wakes up before everyone else. There are many mornings when I do work with her alone while the other two sleep. Every day has a certain rhythm, but I am not afraid to let each day unfold in its own way.
3. Reinforce the idea of rights vs. privileges
My kids often get the idea of rights and privileges mixed up. They have the right to food, clothing, and shelter. I believe they have the right to a quality education, love & affection, and respect as human beings. However (in our home), it is not a right to watch TV, play video games, ride a bike, or have a cell phone (etc) – those things are privileges. Privileges are earned by doing the things we must: chores and school work. Refusing privileges is hard work for parents because it requires a lot of consistency. But, there are very few kids who don’t respond to the loss of those privileges. Use it!
4. Change your method
This may not apply to your situation, but if getting school done every day is always miserable, maybe you need to rethink your approach. I read a lot of emails from homeschoolers that make my heart ache. Trying to recreate a school environment at home is usually a HUGE stress factor for many families. If the traditional school approach was such a great idea for your family, then why are you homeschooling? We all have different stories, but why toss out the freedom to do things completely differently? I get that it can be scary…I really do! But if a certain curriculum or learning method is not working, you have the power to change it! Talk to some happy homeschoolers and found out what they are doing.
The most important thing you can do is sit down and write out a list of educational goals you have for each child. It’s hard to decide on a plan of action when you don’t really know where you want to go. What things are the most important for your child to learn before leaving home?
5. Give the kids a reality check
For really stubborn cases, you may have to give them a reality check. Ask your kids if they will be comfortable being 25 with the education of a third grader? Run down a list of jobs that people without a high school diploma typically have. Kirby vacuum salesman, anyone? Telemarketer? Fry cook?
Ask your kids what they want to be when they are grown up, and then give them a list of steps they will have to take to achieve that dream, including education. Look up job postings for the career they want, and have them read the list of requirements they will need to meet.
Think about creating a mock day of public school – complete with an early wake up, no talking in class, food only at a prearranged lunch time, and having to ask permission to use the bathroom. I know of one mom who got old textbooks, made traditional exams, and made all subjects last 45-55 minutes…even ringing a bell and making the kids walk around to change classes. It was pretty effective for her. Homeschooled kids often lose sight of what a blessed life they lead, and how many perks they take advantage of. Not that public school is a house of horrors, but when you have gotten used to doing “school” in pj’s and having a lot of freedom, the typical school day can seem a little like torture.
Above all, remember this: we all go through dealing with bad attitudes. It come with being a parent and choosing to educate at home is no exception, it just gives the kids more things to cop an attitude about. You can do this! Be patient, be positive, be in charge.