Ask Parent Coaching: “I Homeschool — and My House is a Battle Zone!”


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 parent coaching. 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 parent coaches 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. She is a writer and parent coach for the Total Transformation Program.


Megan Devine is a licensed clinical therapist, former Empowering Parents Parent Coach, speaker and writer. She is also the bonus-parent to a successfully launched young man. You can find more of her work at, where she advocates for new ways to live with grief.

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