Monday, September 14, 2009

Taking the word "no" out of your homeschool day

Hi all,

I am going a little off topic with this post, so I hope you will all bear with me. I belong to a few different homeschool email groups and a poster recently asked a very good question about how to have a productive homeschool day, when your strong-willed child says "no". The poster was telling the story of a typical day of her homeschool day with her 5 children. Following the Charlotte Mason philosophy, she wisely scheduled all the lessons to be about 20 minutes long, however she was finding that her children would whine and complain, drag out the lessons or just plain refuse to do them unless she was sitting right next to them and they would spend hours working on the assignments.

Now we all know how hard it is to focus on the lessons of one child, when the other child or children are also vying for your attention, so what do you do? I can tell you, when we began our journey, it WAS difficult getting the children to "cooperate", especially because they were transitioning from a school environment to a home environment. The idea of mom being their teacher was a new concept, so my heart went out to the poster.

Here are some suggestions if you are facing the same type of situation:

1. Learn what their learning style is and tailor their subjects to that style.

2. Stop making it just like school if it's not working for them. Who says your homeschool journey has to be set up like school (nothing wrong with that if it works for your child). If they don't thrive in a school environment, switch it up a bit.

3. Give them daily and weekly incentives. For example, in the beginning you want to get them doing their daily work, so I would put the assignments on the board for that day (remember, don't make the assignments over-whelming) ), for every assignment completed, I would give them a punch on their reward card. If they had all of the assignments completed, they could get to watch a movie, or play a video game, if they had only 4 out of 5 assignments done, they couldn't have the first reward, but they could earn a lessor award like a dollar store toy or something to that effect. The point is to give them something to motivate them to want to complete their assignment, and reward them for their efforts. Even if they only get 2 assignments done, find a way to reward them for their efforts and encourage them to "earn" the higher prize. That way the pressure is taken off of you, and you're not getting frustrated and neither are they.

4. Give them wiggle time. If they are high energy children, they will need to release that energy. Let them have some free time to run around (use a timer and set to 15 minutes, so they know when it goes off it's time to get back to work. If they refuse to come back to the studies, let them know they will not earn another free time for the day)

5. Keep lessons to about 20 minutes or so. Even if they haven't finished it, let them work for 20 minutes and then give them a break and move on to something else. They will improve their abilities over time once they are used to being able to work within a time constraint, but it won't be right away, so give them a break.

6. If your kids like to read, unit studies are the best way to transition your child from public school to homeschool. It is much less threatening and the children learn a lot while reading.

7. Make a schedule for yourself and stick to it. When you are organized, it helps them to stay organized. You can plan activities for the younger one's to do (like online computer time or watching an educational video) that doesn't require you to be with them while you help the older children and vice versa.

I hope these suggestions help. It won't get better overnight, but it will get better if you are consistent with it.

If you have any suggestions or tips that have worked for your family, please take a moment to post it here. Thank you and God Bless!


  1. Another thing I think worth mentioning for those with older students:

    Make them the "Teacher/Principal" for the day or week. Let them do the planning for that day: What subjects to be taught, how long to teach them, etc.,. There are some subjects we do every day, like Math, and there are other subjects we do every other day or once a week or every other week. When I give them the power to decide which days/weeks to do those subjects, they focus more because it was THEIR idea to do it.

    That seems to help my boys focus better, even on the days they're not the Teacher/Principal.

  2. This was a great post and I also read your response to this woman in the email. You did a wonderful job sharing with her. Homeschool can be structered and not so structered at the same time. Have a great week!

  3. This is fabulous. We've been homeschooling for 5 years now. It took me a few years to tailor the lessons to their needs, give them "energy time," as we call it, and set up a reward system.

    The timer is so loved in our home. We set it for everything, and the kids keep an eye on it and know what to expect & when.

    Another suggestion: have a set time in the evening when they go over their work with Daddy. The kids work so hard and get so excited, knowing that they can show it all off later.

    We also use lapbooks now (started this year.) It's a great way to organize material, plus it gives them a great sense of accomplishment to revisit the books.

  4. This was a great post - really good...Especially about the learning style and teaching accordingly...Thank you