5 Ways to Encourage Your Reluctant Learner

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When your child is a reluctant learner, it can make homeschooling very stressful very quickly. Maybe your child gets frustrated about a particular subject. Maybe they get embarrassed when they don’t know an answer. Whatever the reason for your child’s frustration with homeschooling, there are some easy things you can do to try and get them back to enjoying school.

Why is School Frustrating?

Try to determine why or why your child is reluctant about homeschool. It might be something as simple as they are hungry. This happens to my oldest daughter frequently. If we start school as I’m making breakfast or we try to do it at lunch time, then she almost always has a meltdown. If I make sure her tummy is full before we start, school generally go much more smoothly.

Another possible reason that your child might be a reluctant learner is that your child struggles with the subject. A lot of firstborns are perfectionists and they can put extra pressure on themselves to do well in school, even in the younger grades. If your child is getting frustrated when he or she learns a new skill because they are making mistakes, it could be from pressure they are feeling from themselves.

Nearby distractions can also be a cause of frustration in homeschool children. If a student is trying to concentrate and their siblings are playing loudly nearby, this can cause frustration for them. They may be frustrated because they want to play, too. Or, it might just be hard to think with all the surrounding noise.

Another reason a lot of homeschool students (or just students in general, really) get frustrated is because the material isn’t being presented in their strongest learning style. This doesn’t mean that everything has to be made into a game, but I think you’ll agree that some students do well with worksheets and others do better with activities. Just like personalities vary from person to person, so, too, do learning styles.

What You Can Do as a Homeschool Parent

Before I talk about ways to help alleviate the homeschool frustration for your child, let’s talk about some things you can do as a parent and teacher.

First and foremost, don’t make it into a power struggle. I’m not perfect, and I will be the first one to admit that sometimes when my daughter starts to shutdown, I just say something like “Ok, well, you have to finish this.” Or, I might break out the “do you want to get up early and go to school everyday” 🙂 It never works. Try to relax. When you get angry and yell, it will most likely have the same effect on your child.

Know that this is not the last chance they are going to have to master this particular skill. If they don’t memorize their times tables for another month or they don’t finish their book about the Civil War until next Friday, the world will not come to an end. Most families, ours included, chose to homeschool in part because it offered them some flexibility in their schedule. So, remember that when your child might not be on the schedule you intended for them. All is not lost.

Try to keep it a positive experience. As homeschool parents, we want to foster a love of learning in my children. I want them to grow up thirsty for knowledge and be inspired to seek it out on their own as they get older. I’m sure you want the same for your children. So, yelling at your children or making them do schoolwork that they dread is definitely not creating a positive experience for them.

As a parent-teacher, it is your responsibility to present the material in a way that allows your child to learn it. This is the same responsibility that traditional classroom teachers have. So, if your child is having a hard time in a particular area or isn’t excited about learning, then do a little research into ways you can change that.

Pinterest is a great tool for homeschool resources and ideas. You can find games, worksheets, websites, the list is really endless. Your local library can also have some great books that have activities, projects, whatever about different subjects. And it’s free!

Easy Ways to Lower the Frustration Level

Here are some easy ideas that I have tried when my was frustrated with a particular homeschool subject.

  • Use verbal practice. My daughter is in first grade. She needs to practice her math facts, but she gets tired of writing very quickly. So, some days we just go over the math facts out loud. It took me a little while to be OK with the fact that the math worksheet wasn’t “complete”. I just write “done verbally” next to it on days we do this.

  • Add homeschool to a rewards chart. I’ll be honest, we are hot and cold with reward charts around our house. They work for a while, then the children lose interest. But, I know a lot of families who use them with great success. If you are one of those families, then you might try adding “complete schoolwork” to your child’s chart and see if their motivation improves.

  • Use Hands-on Activities. This can make a HUGE difference, especially in younger children. Sitting still is HARD. So, if they are sitting still and just doing a worksheet, that is even HARDER. Try to do activities where they can sort or move objects, match things that would go together, etc. Letting them have a little movement can really help lower the frustration level and improve retention, also.

  • Let your child choose. I talked in a previous post about giving your young child opportunities to make choices. Homeschooling is definitely an area where they can have a chance to choose. You could let them choose which subject they work on first. They could choose an activity for a particular subject. The options are nearly endless. Sometimes, just letting them choose what to write with can make a huge difference.

  • Play a game. Yes, I know we’ve all heard this before. But, there are some really great games out there, especially for elementary school! We’ve played Bingo , math games, and card games to practice our skills before.

Looking for more ideas to help your reluctant homeschooler? You can find 5 more ideas in this post.

Homeschooling can be hard. Every homeschool parent I have ever talked to agrees that not every day is sunshine and rainbows. It’s the same for our children. Some days they will wake up ready to learn and other days they might have a tough time. I hope you found these tips helpful for those harder days or when you find yourself with a reluctant learner.

Have you tried any of these ideas? How did they work for your family? If you have more tips and advice on ways to alleviate frustration for homeschool children, leave them in the comments below.

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3 Responses

  1. Amanda says:

    You mentioned first norms and their perfectionist tendencies, but not really a way to help cope with that. Any specific suggestions? I’m thinking about doing some growth mindset work, but I really have no idea how to help my daughter overcome her lack of “buy in” regarding homeschool. She’s 5th grade and I’m just looking for any help in this area, thank you!

    • Amanda says:

      First BORNS….not norms. 🤷‍♀️

      • Surya says:

        My daughter is definitely this way and some of the things I have found that help her cope with it are:

        1) Take the difficulty level down a notch. If we are learning a new skill and she is getting frustrated, I’ll go back to a skill she is more comfortable with. That lets her gain some confidence and have a positive experience to build on. She may be more likely to “buy-in” if it’s a little easier, too. Then, once you have a routine down you can start to ratchet up the difficulty.

        2) Change your approach. My daughter didn’t like to try to spell or write things for just about all of last year. So, if something called for writing and she didn’t want to do it or was about to get frustrated and shutdown, I would often suggest we do it verbally. For example, if we were working on telling time and she was supposed to write down the time on the clock, then I would just have her tell me the time. I really just care that she can read the clock; I’m not really worried about her writing her numbers.

        3) Learn through games. If you can find a game that lets her practice the skill she is getting frustrated with, then that’s awesome. Games are great for practicing reading if there are cards or directions. There are tons of games to practice math skills, geography, etc. This can be a great way to get some “buy in” because most kids think games are fun. When she realizes that homeschool can be fun, she might come around.

        4) Let them choose. Sometimes my daughter is much more willing to try something if she chose it. So, I might let her choose between a few activities for math. Or choose which book we’ll read. Does she want to do science or history today? That kind of thing. Kids love to be in control, so letting them choose can often make them a much more willing participant.

        5) Put the skill aside and revisit it in a few months. I did this again for spelling and sounding out words. She did not want to sound out new words at all. She did not want to do spelling lists. Nothing. So, I just decided we wouldn’t work on it for a few months. By the end of first grade she was much more willing to try spelling a word or sound out a new word. I think often the frustration comes in children if we push a new skill before they are ready because that is when they are “supposed” to learn a new skill. But, if we can wait a few months until they are more developmentally ready to handle the skill, then it generally goes much better for them and for us.

        Did she start in public school and is missing her friends? If that’s the case, field trips and co-ops are great for keeping that social feeling of a regular school experience.

        I hope this helps, Amanda!

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