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Learning By Grace is the online homeschooling leader. Partnering successfully with families for almost ten years, we reach Christian homeschool families in all 50 states and 20 countries. Founded by veteran homeschooling parents of 8 children, we understand your needs and meet them, because we've been there.

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Reluctant Homeschooling Learners

Written by Mimi Rothschild
Wednesday, 29 October 2008 14:08

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-by Mimi Rothschild

The beginning of the school year is so exciting! We have fresh new books, sharp new pencils, great new ideas, and lots of enthusiasm.

By now, there may be foot-dragging when it’s time to gather for lessons, staring out the window when there should be diligent work going on, and even a little bit of whining.

If it’s just a reluctant day or two, there might be occasions when you should take some time out and come back refreshed. A “mental health day” every now and then is okay. A constantly reluctant learner is frustrating for the home educator, though, and is likely to fall behind and fail to be prepared for future grades, college, or adult life.

Here are some ways to cope with the reluctant learner:

• Start your day with prayer. There may also be times when you need to stop during the day and have a prayer break before you go on. Ask God to guide you and your students, to give all of you the joy of learning, and to strengthen your discipline. Proverbs 23:12, “Apply your heart to discipline and your ears to words of knowledge,” is a good verse to remember at this time. Another is, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23,24).

• Be an enthusiastic example. It’s so easy for us to lightly say, “I always hated science,” or “You’re like me. I just never liked to read.” Keeping guard over our tongues and sharing our own love of learning can make a difference in our children’s attitude. Let your students see you being diligent about your personal Bible study or your homework for Sunday school, reading for pleasure, and keeping to your housekeeping schedule conscientiously. Helping the kids seek out the interesting aspects of the things they’re studying helps, too.

• Recognize that we don’t always want to do what’s best for us. Choosing to go ahead and study even when we don’t want to is great practice for an adult life when we sometimes have to go ahead and work even when we don’t feel like it. With practice, making that choice will get easier. If we give in whenever our kids make a fuss, it will give our kids practice in refusing to work, rather than practice in discipline and diligence. Say, “I know you don’t want to study right now. However, I also know that you will enjoy having your free time when we finish the lesson, and you’ll feel good about what you accomplish, so we’re going to continue.”

• Be open to change. Having recognized that sometimes reluctant students just need to be more diligent, it is also true that there can sometimes be good reasons for learners’ reluctance. Are the lessons appropriate for the ability level of the student? Do they last the right amount of time for the age of the student? Do they work with the student’s learning style? Homeschooling allows us to accommodate the specific needs of our students, so we should take advantage of that freedom to tailor the lessons to suit our children. For some students, just moving to a more comfortable place, changing activities more often, or giving them more control over things like the order in which they study their subjects can make a difference in attitude.

• Prayerfully consider rewards. We’d like to think that intrinsic rewards like the satisfaction of learning are always enough, but our own experience will tell us that this isn’t true. As adults, we often work because we’ll be paid, or because we enjoy the company of the people we work with, as well as for the sheer joy of service. However, making rewards the center of schoolwork can backfire, causing our children to depend so much on rewards that they won’t study without them. Occasional, surprise rewards work best: free reading time when our students have made it through a tough math lesson, a special meal on Friday night when they’ve stayed on task well all week, or stickers on particularly good papers.

If all these things fail to solve the problem of reluctant learners, be sure to consider your students’ physical health. Sometimes an undiagnosed vision problem, allergies, or other physical problems can distract children from their studies. With good physical health, good habits, and time, our students can become enthusiastic learners.

Mimi Rothschild is the Founder of Learning By Grace, Inc. the nation’s leading provider of online PreK-12 online Christian educational programs for homeschoolers.

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