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“Help! My Child Won’t Do Homeschooling Work!”

Read on for my top suggestions and ideas for getting more cooperation and less power struggles from your homeschool student. Give choices in subject matter, time, or place of study. For example, would your child like to do Math or English today? When is your child’s best, most alert time of day to do schoolwork? Would they like to study in their room or on the couch?

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

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

Present the material in a fun way and geared to child’s learning style. Use learning aids such as movies, cookie fractions, 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 a book report, perhaps they 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 for rewards from parents. Or have a jar of 200 dimes (one for each school day). Any day your child doesn’t whine about doing schoolwork, put in one dime. The child can keep the money at the end of the school 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 hesitant writers, try being the scribe while your child dictates their ideas. Or try letting them write on the computer, which is easier on little hands. At home, you have the time and resources to deliver the knowledge in other formats, so you can wait until they are 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 they are 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.

If working with more than one child, work with the child that is most interested in the topic you are teaching (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 child’s learning plateau, trust that their desire and motivation to learn 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! You will try again, another day, another way.

Judy Arnall, BA, DTM, CCFE (Certified Family Life Educator), teaches parenting at the University of Calgary, Continuing Education, and has taught for Chinook Learning, Families Matter, and Alberta Health Services for over 13 years. Judy is the author of the international bestseller, Discipline Without Distress: 135 Tools for raising caring, responsible children without time-out, spanking, punishment or bribery, and Parenting With Patience: Turn frustration into connection with 3 easy steps. For more information, contact 403-714-6766 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. To join the list for monthly notification of her free parenting webinars, proudly sponsored by Calgary’s Child Magazine, visit

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