How To Respond When Your Homeschooling Child Won’t “Do School”

Today we are talking all about what to do if your child just won’t do their schoolwork. We are going to cover so many things, but I want to start with this: kids have bad days, too.

You may come across days where your kids just aren’t into it. They aren’t feeling it. They’re having a really bad day, and they are struggling.  When that is happening, it’s totally okay to let your kid just take the day off.

This happened with my teen earlier this week. For whatever reason  the hormones just get ugly every now and then when kids hit puberty and this child that day just wasn’t functioning well — that day this child was in tears. It is totally not like this child to be like that.

So I said, “You know what? Take a day off. I know today, you just can’t even. We’ll pick it up again tomorrow.”

The next day this child picked up and started again with no sign of what had been going on the previous day. Everything was ok.

Little kids are slightly different. Many times they don’t have the words to tell you when they don’t feel well. So if they’re feeling sick, if their head is hurting, if they’re out of sorts, if they didn’t sleep well the night before,they don’t have the insight that an adult does to say, “Hey, I’m just not feeling good today” or “I think I might be coming down with something.”

Instead how this manifests is them digging their feet in and misbehaving. So always take that into consideration.

When Your Child Resists Learning In Your Homeschool

if you’re faced with a child who consistently won’t do work and you’ve ruled out the physical, mental, having a bad day thing, then you’ve got another problem on your hands.

The first thing you have to ask yourself to solve this problem is have you really set the expectation that you expect school work to be done in your house?

This is just the way it is. Nothing else happens until the schoolwork is finished. No having fun, no playing with friends, no going places, no video games or watching TV, no riding your bike down to the creek. No playing with the dog. Nothing. It doesn’t happen until the schoolwork is finished.

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It’s okay for you to have that expectation. It’s okay for you to put down that rule and stick with it.

You may say to me, well, gosh, Pam, I just don’t have the time. I just don’t have the time to deal with this.

You know what? That is the job. My good friend, Sarah Mackenzie talks about all the hard things of homeschooling actually being the job of homeschooling. Setting the expectation is the job until your kid learns that.

It may take a week of being consistent with that expectation. It may take two months of being consistent with that expectation, but until your kids have that expectation then that is the job right there.

Your life will not get easier until they learn that.

The Most Important Thing You Can Do When Your Child Is Uncooperative

Then perhaps the biggest thing, the biggest thing that you can do when it comes to getting your kids to do their work is establishing consistency in your homeschool. School (almost) every week day. Don’t miss days for no good reason.

If you are inconsistent — some days we do school, some days we don’t do school — if you are not establishing a pattern of every day we get up and this is what we do. No matter what, you can’t talk me out of it, you can’t wheedle your way out of it. You can’t drag your feet and get me to put it off. This is what we’re doing.

Boy reading with dogs

Until you establish that pattern of consistency, then there’s always this doubt in your kids’ minds. There’s always this uncertainty in your kids’ minds.

They wake up, and they just don’t know what’s going to be happening that day. Are they doing school or are they not doing school?

Establishing those patterns of consistency is the thing that’s going to get your kids to do their schoolwork with much fewer complaints — not no complaints — but fewer complaints. I guarantee it.

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5 Keys to Consistency In Your Homeschool

How can we build consistency in our homeschool? There are a few different tips that I have for you.

Start small and build slow.

If you haven’t been consistently doing homeschool in your house, you don’t want to just like wake up tomorrow morning and try to do seven or eight subjects. Instead, pick maybe three things and do three things for a couple of days and then start doing more things every few days.

Build into this; don’t shock everybody’s system. If you haven’t been really consistent with your school days, you get into this a burnout and bust cycle. You do a bunch of stuff and you just completely wear everybody out physically and emotionally and mentally and then the next day you don’t feel like doing anything.

Schooling well takes energy. It is exhausting when you first get started. So slowly build into the habit.

Make “Never miss twice” your motto

Look, we’re human. We all fail. There are times where I’ll wake up and I just want to blow off a school day, or not much gets done because there’s other things going on in life.

If I do, what I have to do is make sure the day after that I don’t miss it again. The motto becomes “never miss twice” in order to keep your homeschool days consistent. If you miss one day, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going.

mom teaching kids

Establish a “Minimum Viable Day”

The idea of a Minimum Viable Day (an MVD) is “what is the least amount of school that we can do today and still feel like we have successfully done school?”

In our house, it would probably be Morning Time and math. If we do that we all feel like we’ve done a school day and we’ve been consistent (it’s not a skipped day). You choose the most important subjects not to miss in your house — but remember only a few. This is your emergency plan.

So when there are those crazy days that life goes off the rails, but I don’t want to let my consistency go, and I don’t want my kids to feel like we’re not getting school done, we do at least our MVD. It keeps up that pattern of consistency that we’re trying to establish.

Celebrate your success

You need to track your school days and celebrate your successes. So write it down. Make a little X on your calendar every single day that you do school and do it successfully and celebrate that win with some kind of little reward for yourself. Maybe it’s an extra cup of tea or a trip to a bookstore by yourself.

Celebrate it with your kids. Say, “We’re going for 10 great school days in a row. And when that happens, we’re going to get donuts.”

Celebrate those things and track them, so you can see that you are or are not being consistent.

Just get started

There is never going to be a perfect time. Life is never going to be smooth and easy sailing. You will never be perfectly ready.

You have to start messy or you won’t get started at all.

Pick out those two or three subjects and get started with them tomorrow.

Decide on your MVD, make “never miss twice” your motto, and start being consistent with your homeschool days.

When you do, when you set the expectation and you start building up a pattern of consistency — of we’re doing homeschooling, and the only thing that’s going to stop us is an act of God.

Then you start having fewer problems with kids who refuse to do homeschool.

That is the answer right there. It’s not easy. I’m sorry. I wish I had a magic bullet for you, but I don’t. But I do know the answer — you just have to do the work.

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  • Christine says:

    Thank you so much for this practical down-to-earth advice!
    I am going to give it a try

    • Dawn says:

      So glad you were encouraged!

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