Veteran homeschoolers have all been there: Our child is refusing to do work or is struggling to do something we believe they should be able to do. We don’t know what else to try. Children refuse to do tasks, or “get stuck” for a number of reasons. It can be challenging to figure out how to proceed; especially if you are beyond frustrated with the situation. When this happens there are a number of steps you can take to move forward. Here are the steps I have found helpful in such situations:
1. Step Back and Breathe
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Things take time. Even if the struggle has been going on for several days, or weeks, it doesn’t mean it will take that much longer to move past it. Sometimes one day away from the situation is enough time for you to recharge your emotional battery and get the break you need to figure out a new approach which leads to a breakthrough.
2. Reflect and Get Curious
Have your child watch a documentary or play with toys while you think about the situation. Here are some things to consider:
- Can you think of a similar situation in the past? Was an approach taken then that worked, which you may not be doing now?
- Are you attempting to force a specific way of doing something when another way might work just as well?
- Have you tried showing multiple ways of how to do something?
- Has the topic been demonstrated verbally, visually, and in a hands-on or multi-sensory way?
- Is there a way to tie the topic into real-world scenarios so the child can make connections that are more meaningful to them?
- Would a change of scenery or environment help?
Basically, you want to take a minimum of 30 minutes to simply think about the problem and see what other ideas come to your mind.
3. Change Your Approach
I don’t know who originally said it but the saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing more than once and expecting a different result” applies here. This is something I think about when things just aren’t working the way I have been doing them. So, I get creative. I also consider ways to incorporate movement and play into learning. Learning should be fun! When things are fun, you naturally remember them more readily too.
Spelling can be demonstrated by jumping onto letters written on the ground in chalk or moving magnetic tiles around on a cookie sheet. All sorts of objects can be used to demonstrate math concepts; especially when counting, grouping or patterns are involved. Role-play and virtual field-trips can be helpful with history. There are all sorts of demonstration videos for science when you don’t have the materials to conduct experiments. Songs to remember rules for math or language arts can help with remembering things too.
4. Recognize Timing and Pacing Issues
This is especially important with children who have special needs. I would say the majority of curricula out there requires modification for children with special needs in this regard. Everyone learns at a different pace. Just because a curriculum says lessons 1, 2, and 3 should be done over 3 days, with a test done on day 4 does not mean that works for your child. Your child may need 2 weeks, or more, to learn the same material.
Don’t worry too much about how long something takes your child to learn. The important part is that they learn, and let’s face it, some topics are more important than others. You may find you need, to spend a lot more time on some topics and a lot less time on others. You may also want to skip some activities altogether. That is OK! (Teachers make such adjustments in schools all the time.)
You Got This!
One of the benefits of homeschooling is that we tend to have more latitude (with timing and order of topics taught), as well as creative freedom, than teachers in regular schools. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of that. Don’t forget it either. No matter what path led us to homeschool, we all make the decision on the basis that we believe it is best for our child(ren). So, when our children are struggling, it is best for our children and our own sanity, to reassess the situation. Then, change things up as needed to lighten the mood and make learning fun again.
This is also a good opportunity to model problem-solving and creative thinking skills, which are both so important to our children’s success in the future. Now, take a break, tell yourself, “You’ve got this!” and take steps to determine a new approach going forward. Also, recognize you may need to repeat the steps more than once to find what does work. Above all, don’t be too hard on yourself or your children. We are always a work in progress.