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Do you homeschool your kids? Recently, a reader wrote in with this question about her 13-year-old daughter, who thinks being homeschooled means she can do work whenever she wants to:

I know James has written about how to get kids to do their homework, but we have a unique situation. We homeschool our two children, and while my son does his work just fine, my 13 year old daughter refuses to do any work at all! She won't even get up in the morning. She says that because she is home-schooled, she can work whenever and wherever she wants! I've tried to give her the freedom to structure her day, but she still doesn't get her work done. She's falling behind, and when I try to get her interested in something, she just blows up at me. I can't just let her fail, but I am working so much harder than she is. My house is a battle zone all day long, and I'm afraid my son will start to pick up her habits. What can I do?

Homework and school behavior are often on the top of the list of concerns when parents call us on the support line. Poor grades, spotty attendance, and aggressive behavior seem to come along with the start of the school year. In the Total Transformation program, James Lehman talks about the importance of structure and enlisting the aid of teachers and other school officials to help your child improve her behavior. But what happens when you are the teacher, the principal — and the school nurse

Many of our Support Line callers homeschool their children. Their reasons are diverse – some choose to home-school for personal or religious reasons, some to have more control over what or how their children are taught, and still others choose to homeschool when their child has been removed from the public school system due to behavioral or bullying issues. No matter what the reason, homeschooling parents face unique challenges. If you've chosen to homeschool, and find your child's behavior even harder to control because there is no external structure, many of James Lehman's suggestions still apply to you. Here are two tips that might help:

Break it down
Sit down with your kids and let them know what you expect of them during their school day. You might even tell them what you've seen them do well. Then, choose one or two behaviors you'd like them to improve or change. Help them figure out what they will do, specifically, to help them meet your expectations. Aim for specific, measurable improvements, not vague suggestions. For example, telling your child you need to get better at following directions? is a vague request, and you may not get the results you'd like. However, telling your child, I need to see that you are out of bed, dressed, and ready for your English assignment by 8:30 every morning. When you are at the table and ready on time, you'll earn half an hour of movie time that night. If you're late, or you argue, you won't earn that time. So let's talk about what you can do differently to help yourself reach that goal. If your child fails to meet your expectations, you can remind them that they already know what to do differently in order to earn their privileges, and it is up to them to make those changes.

Use their currency
As parents, we know the importance of education. We often try to get our kids to understand this importance, and to take their schoolwork seriously. The truth is, kids don't care about schoolwork the way that grown-ups do. As much as we might want to, we can't make them care about math or science or literature. Homeschooling parents don't have report cards or in-school suspensions to help them to force kids to take their work or their behavior seriously, either. In order to more effectively convince your child to take their school day? seriously, you need to use something that they value in order to get them to do what you value.

In the Total Transformation, James encourages parents to sit down with their kids and come up with a menu of rewards and consequences. Find out from your child what they would like to earn every day. It doesn't have to be anything too large or extravagant it could be daily computer time, more unstructured free time, or even a later bedtime. Focus on short-term, daily privileges, not long term or big ticket items. Those far off rewards are not enough of a motivation to create change in daily performance.

What are your most difficult issues as a homeschool family?

Stay tuned for more on this subject next week from Megan Devine, Parental Support LIne Advisor for the Total Transformation Program.


If you find any comments that are rude or inappropriate, please contact us immediately.

  • Lisa Says:

    I home school my 11 year old boy. Recently I have begun taking the computer keyboard and mouse away and hiding it in the morning. He knows he can have it “after school”, at 2:30 pm but not until all lessons have been satisfactorily completed. The computer has to be shut down early enough at night now (I shut mine down too) to get to bed in time (reading is okay) so he’s able to get up at a reasonable time in the morning to get started.

    This has been much more successful than I thought it would be. I don’t nag him, but sometimes give him a reminder so he can meet his goals. He’s actually been getting it done! It has been a lot less stressful for me, too. And this is a kid who’s had a lot of resistance to things in the past. I mean A LOT! Small steps have gotten us to this point. It has paid off. This maneuver has been the most successful so far, everybody wins.

    I think this approach is working because I give him some leeway in how and when he achieves his goals. He has no one to blame but himself if it’s not done and he actually is getting the payoff of being in control (somewhat) and building confidence that he can accomplish things more successfully than he previously ever thought he would be able to.

  • Lisa Russell Says:

    I think that one problem homeschoolers have is trying to duplicate a classroom environment at home. homes aren’t supposed to function like schools. Schools are an institution, with a military-like social structure whereby orders are given by a supreme leader and supposed to be fulfilled without question. For a peaceful homescooling life, embrace love and learning without the silly workbooks, busywork and “list of things to learn.”

  • Brooke Says:

    Hi there. I am a new homeschooling mom this year to a 6th grader boy. We are doing unit study in ancient history. The first 6 months of school went by easily and we really enjoyed learning together and the materials. Then my son’s attitude towards the work changed. He didn’t like doing the same kind of work everyday. He felt burnt out on the same “way” we schooled. I tried to add more hands on things to do, field trips, lessening of subjects. This really did not help and he began the downward spiral with a terrible attitude unwilling to do his work at all. As soon as he sees it, he melts. He doesn’t want to have a good attitude to do the work at all. We have tried everything!
    We are at our wits end. I feel like a failure in teaching him, though he reassures me that I’m not. He knows alot of it is his own doing. We use consequences for disobedience, but it still doesn’t help. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  • Sara A. Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor Says:

    Dear Brooke: It is so hard to be a mom and a teacher at the same time. James Lehman felt that consequences alone are not enough to change behavior. He also felt it was not helpful to focus on attitude or feelings; it’s most effective to focus on skill-building. The first thing I would recommend is to talk to your son about what’s going on—what is his reason for not wanting to do the work? Let him know his reason doesn’t make it okay to refuse; it’s his responsibility to get the work done no matter what. Talk about what he can do differently in the future to meet your expectations. You might have this conversation once a week or so until things start to improve. You could also set up an incentive system for your son to get his work done by a certain time. For example, each day if he gets his work done by 3:00pm, he gets extra time to play video games that night. Using consequences and incentives can motivate him to do the work despite how he feels about it. If you are using a structure like the one suggested in these homeschooling blogs, and experimenting with new techniques to get him re-engaged and excited about the subject matter, than you are doing your job very, very well. Hang in there.

  • Dolores Mom Says:

    I’ve tied everything with my 7 yr old daughter…I have done everything that has been suggested…I am thinking about letting her go back to public school..I am so tired of the bad attitude…not getting her work least I can have some peace for a few hours..