5 Tips for Homeschooling When Kids Don't Want to Learn- Five Days of Homeschooling Tips

Here’s what I would like to say happens in our house every day. Four smiling children rise with the sun, ready to hit the books and study and learn all day. The truth is that that isn’t the case. Ever. Most of the time, once we get going, the kids dive in pretty consistently. And sometimes they are even excited about what we’re reading or writing or learning about that day. Sometimes they even love a curriculum so much that they ask to do that subject again and again.

But every once in a while, we hit a roadblock- a child who just really, really doesn’t want to learn. He or she- no names mentioned- is recalcitrant and reluctant. Then begins the complaining and mumbling and stomping and occasionally tears.

What do you when you have a homeschooled child who just doesn’t want to learn. Whether it’s a bad day or a general state of affairs, it’s often difficult to know just what to do. And one child’s bad attitude tends to upset the mood of the family in general. Here are a few tips I’ve learned over our homeschooling years that may help when dealing with a child who just doesn’t want to learn.

Homeschooling when kids don't want to learn

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Tip #1 Ask lots of questions.

It’s very important to determine why the child is reluctant to do schoolwork. Is this a long term thing? Has it only come up recently? Does it happen with all subjects or is there one particular subject he or she doesn’t enjoy? Ask questions instead of just assuming this is a bad behavior issue. Sometimes there are underlying reasons that a child is struggling to learn.
I’ve taken time to listen to a protesting child and realized that our curriculum just wasn’t working. I’ve also listened and realized that a child was complaining and resisting because she was struggling with how to do something and was just frustrated. It’s important to ask these questions to determine whether or not there is a root problem that needs to be addressed.

Tip #2 Change things up.

Sometimes it’s just time for a change. Do you need to try a different curriculum? Maybe the curriculum is okay, but the child needs to use it in a different way. Maybe a formal textbook isn’t working and you need to change things up and pick out some good living books to read instead.
I have a child who really struggles with sitting and doing work. When he was younger he would complain and resist when I wanted a more formal “school time.” But letting this same child have freedom to climb around, work under a table, and move frequently while he’s working helped him to enjoy what we were doing much more. Sometimes everybody just needs a change. This post has lots of ideas for kids who struggle with schoolwork because they can’t sit still.

Tip #3 Take a break.

If a child is resisting schoolwork because he or she has hit a wall, maybe it’s just time to take a break. The beauty of homeschooling is that we can be flexible. We can take days off when we want to- not when it’s required. We can also just drop what we’re doing for the day and head off for a break.
There have been some mornings when we just got off to a bad start. Children were complaining and weren’t in a good frame of mind to accomplish anything. I evaluated the situation and declared the day to be a vacation day. Taking time off to just do something fun together- go picnic at the park, head out to our local museum, go out for ice cream- can break the bad mood and give everyone a chance to take a breath and have fun together. Then when we go back to our schoolwork that afternoon or the next day, there might be a totally different frame of mind.

Tip #4 Stop working on academics and start working on behavior.

Sometimes resistance to schoolwork is part of a bigger problem behavior that really needs to be addressed. When a child is having a continually rebellious spirit and negative attitude, there may be a bigger problem than just a dislike of school. When this happens, I think that focus on the child’s heart issues is far more important than checking off the lesson plan.
Yes, it’s important that we’re faithfully teaching our children academics. But, for our family, the hearts of our children and their relationship with God is more important. So if we need to spend a day- or even more- talking and working out a heart issue, that takes priority over schoolwork. Just scrap the schoolwork for the day. Have other children work on things they can accomplish independently. And take time to deal with the problem.

Tip #5 Ignore the complaining and proceed as usual.

And sometimes…you just have a complainer. Sometimes one particular child will just habitually complain. And- while it’s certainly a behavior that needs work- there’s nothing really serious that needs to put all schoolwork on hold. In fact, continually stopping schoolwork to deal with this complaining child can inadvertently encourage the behavior. When you have a habitual complainer, sometimes the best thing is just to ignore and continue. This sends the message that whining and complaining is not going to change anything that is required as far as schoolwork goes.
I’ve had to go the route of ignoring with all of my children at times. My canned response is: “Oh, I’m sorry you don’t enjoy doing your_________. But now you need to go get to work.” Any continued complaining is met with the same answer, said in as calm a voice as I can manage. Sometimes just this refusal to engage and humor a complaint is enough to squelch a chronic complainer.
Homeschooling when kids don't want to learn
It’s hard to deal with kids who don’t want to do their schoolwork. I love homeschooling, and I don’t like it when they don’t share my enthusiasm for what we have planned for the day. But knowing how to handle the resistance has helped our homeschool days to go more smoothly- even when everyone isn’t happily on board.
So I’m curious. Have any of your children balked at schoolwork? What did you try?
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