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Home Schooling Headaches - Suggestions and Ideas for Getting More Cooperation and Fewer Power Struggles

Give choices in subject matter, time or place of study. For example, would the child like to do Math or English today? When is their best, most alert time of day? Would they like to study in their rooms, outside or on the couch?

Alternate bookwork days with outing days. Consider helping the child learn in a different way with an outing or field trip instead of researching books.

Consider giving tests first and if the concepts are mastered, eliminate the text material. Cuts down on boredom and busywork.

Present the material in a fun way and geared to your child’s learning style. Use learning aids such as movies, cookie fractions, and board and action games such as multiplication tag. Children in elementary school love to learn through play.

Follow interests as much as possible, if not in format, then in content. For example, if the child has to write an essay or book report, perhaps he could choose the topic or book.

Use rewards if they work for your child. Stickers, Passes for fun outings and computer time are some choices from parents. Have a jar of 200 dimes (one for each school day). Any day the child doesn’t whine about doing schoolwork, put in one dime. The child can keep the money at the end of the year.

Avoid power struggles.

Put your relationship-building first.

Try and approach learning another way. Listen to why your child doesn’t want to do the work.

For those hesitant writers, try being the scribe while the child dictates ideas. Or try letting them write on the computer, which is easier on little hands. Remember that in school, children are taught to read and write early because most curriculums are delivered that way for mass distribution. At home, you have the time and resources to deliver the knowledge in other formats, so you can wait until the child is developmentally ready to use their fine motor skills.

For those hesitant readers, try picking up an enticing children’s book and reading out loud. Your child might come join you if it’s not forced. Model reading yourself. Cuddle on the couch with your child and make reading a fun, cozy, exciting time. Use vocal variety and stop when the child is no longer interested.

Keep a routine going when you figure out the best time of day for bookwork. This has to work for you and your child. Not all children are “morning people.” Be kind but firm in sticking to a routine. Children need some structure.

Have a written contract each week, month or year that is signed and agreed to by the parent and child, about what work must be completed for that time period.

Work with the child that is most interested in the topic (such as History or Science). Other siblings will join willingly if they are interested. If they are not, wait a while. If the topic is forced, the retention of knowledge will be minimal. They may be more interested in a few months or years. Children often learn better by discovery than by being told.

Some months are better than others. Children go through spurts and plateaus and most do not learn in tidy sequential steps. During a plateau, trust that the desire and motivation will come back.

Assimilation of material takes time. Plan for playtime, downtime and many breaks (minutes, days, weeks and even months).

Create a learning environment of fun, curiosity and good feelings. Make sure everyone is fed, rested, comfortable
and non-stressed!

Never punish for not doing the work. You want to create a climate for lifelong learning and enjoyment of the pursuit of knowledge. Remember, your job is to facilitate learning. Nudge, but don’t force.

Judy is a professional, international, award-winning Parenting Speaker and Trainer, mom of five children and author of the best-selling book, Discipline Without Distress: 135 tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery and the new DVD, Plugged-In Parenting: Connecting with the Digital Generation for Health, Safety and Love. For more information, contact Judy at 403-714-6766, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit

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