Reluctant Learners

Whether it's the kid that abhors sitting down to a paper in front of her to one that can-at will-throw up when they 'don't wanna', reluctant learners are everywhere, even in the delight-filled world of homeschooling. I am not talking about the kids that groan a bit when you cheerfully announce, "Time for math!" but the kids that seem to break out into hives, who struggle and fight and take ten times longer complaining about a worksheet than it would have taken to just DO the worksheet.
 
You have taken away video games, cancelled play dates, even withheld regular meals until 'you get that done'. The harder you push, the more they back up.
 
"WHAT can I do with my kid? He WON'T learn!" I could hear the frustration in her voice.
For some reason, new homeschooling parents and almost the entire outside population seem to think all homeschooled kids clamor to get to the kitchen table and for fun, compete with their siblings for the most poetry memorized and hold spelling bees with their stuffed toys, giving the tattered old bear words like 'fluff' while the scratchy tiger Aunt Lois sent from Oregon gets 'discombobulated' right away. Their free time is spent re-enacting scenes from Shakespeare and humming some Beethoven. They sing solos in front of huge audiences and paint museum-quality artwork, play two instruments, dance in a company and do karate, they help old people across the street, tend to injured wildlife and can do calculus problems all by the third grade.
 
The fact is, almost all homeschooled kids are just regular kids. Some are so bolstered and encouraged by their parents that they actually have the confidence to dress differently, some have enormous talent and devote their lives at an early age to mastering their gift. Some learn quickly and through the freedom of homeschooling, can zip through the ranks and study well beyond their 'grade levels'. This would be true in public schools if 'average' was not such a goal. But most homeschoolers just do the work, they excel in one or two subjects, dislike a couple and basically get along day to day.
 
How to get your child to 'do the work'?
 
Don't do the work. If some aspect of math is proving to be something you are both butting your head against the wall over, take a couple months off from it. Back up and work on easier stuff for practice. Chances are, he just needs a little more time for his brain to be ready.
 
What if it is not just one math concept, but all of school that has your child balking?
 
Back up and back off. Put away the workbooks and curriculum. Get to the library and check out a bunch of books and just read. Go places, tackle a craft project or repaint the house, plan a road trip, rent a bunch of old movies. Spend your days with your children, engage them as much as you can but allow them time to daydream and 'do nothing'. Pay attention to what they like and don't like. If they can read and write, have them keep a journal. If reading and writing is the problem and you are convinced they will be living with you at thirty and still asking what this word says and misspelling their street name, back up. Don't project society pressure on your child. Don't let yourself be pressured and feel guilty because they are not at 'grade level'.
 
That is a public school unit of measurement. Just like you don't feel a jot of worry that you don't measure distance in kilometers, let the grade level worry slide right off your back. Kilometers are for people in other countries to tinker with, grade levels are just as far removed from your daily life, just as foreign. Sure, you have some idea of what they both are, but that's not how you measure progress.
 
Children will learn. They are incapable, in fact, of NOT learning. They are curious and nosy, they ask questions and handle things. So your kid knows 453 different Pokemon, all their different forms, their attacks and can identify them by their outlines. But he does not know 5 former presidents, or who your mayor is. That's because presidents and mayors hold no interest for him. Does he NEED to know, or do you think he needs to know? Did you read on a list somewhere that by x age, he SHOULD know? Let it go. He'll pick up on politics soon enough.  If you are really freaked out about their disinterest, volunteer with your party in the next election.  Being part of something makes it more interesting.
 
What you can do is provide materials for your kids. Get them to the library every week and keep a fresh supply of audiobooks around via the library. Join Netflix and keep your queue stocked with classics and new movies and Discovery Channel shows. Read a book and then watch the movie. Kids have an amazing eye and ear for detail, even if they can walk around all day with jelly on their cheek from breakfast. Kids love movies with other kids doing kid things-Little House on the Prairie, Christy, Anne of Green Gables are all excellent long-running series that enthrall children of all ages. You can supplement by cooking or even growing some of the foods mentioned in the stories, learn more about the times they lived, even go to the places the stories were set.

Pokemon is delightful because it is so far removed from daily life. It has kids on adventures, they have the coolest pets imaginable, they get to battle and travel and get out of messes. So do Laura, and Anne and Christy, so make that fascination work for you and move their focus toward the 'real world'.
 
Remember, children will learn, they do learn, they are learning. Don't make this time forced or frustrating, don't make it a battle. The answer I gave the mom above, who's son just 'refused to learn' was this, "Trust him and trust yourself."
 
Read these books:
The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn
Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Kids a Real Education by Grace Llewellyn and Amy Silver
The Unprocessed Child: Living Without School by Valerie Fitzenreiter
Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto
The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto


anything written by John Holt

About Me

Unschooling mama from the start with 2014, 2016 and 2018 graduation dates. I enjoy camping, reading, swimming, hiking and photography.