The pressure placed on young children by our educational systems to preform well on tests and meet certain educational milestones is at an all time high. As home educators, it's tempting to compare our child's development against such standards and to other children around us. Mixing modern educational expectations with a young child who lacks motivation can result in a stressful combination for both the homeschooling mother and her child. Linda offers practical insight on how to deal with young children who lack focus in their home studies by touching on the developmental and behavioral aspects. Thank you Linda for your "freeing" words of wisdom!
How did you handle the distracted child who had an, “I don’t want to do schoolwork” attitude?"
"'Bless your heart, young mother,' as we say in the South! All homeschooling moms have endured the struggle you describe. How do we 'do school' without being a replica of what we are trying to avoid? I think the first thing to remember is that when we are homeschooling, learning is taking place all day every day and we are the primary teachers. That being said, try not to think of 'school' as just the learning that takes place from a book or a curriculum. It doesn't have to take place at a desk, or even sitting down. The lack of focus and attention that you describe with your 5 year old may be just a typical immaturity for his age. It will be a process, not an event, to bring him along and some of it will resolve with time as he matures.
My suggestion is to be purposeful each day to introduce him to different concepts and life skills that he can manage; in other words take each opportunity to instruct through the exposures throughout the day. For example, find things to count with him to reinforce the rote memorization of number sequencing in a fun way. Play word games, do puzzles, read, expand his vocabulary by example. Read to him about any and everything he is interested in. At this age, do a lot of hands on creative activities. You may already be doing that and wonder if you are doing enough curriculum 'stuff.' At his age I was spending about an hour or two a day, broken down into shorter segments, with my girls on actual 'school' activities. But, I spent a lot of time with them on field trips, reading, library visits, crafts, anything outside! Note the things he is really resistant to and consider if he is just not physically able (writing, for example) or if you might need to break down some of the subjects into smaller segments. Teach for mastery, not speed. ; )
If he is totally disobedient or disrespectful about doing 'school' then it may involve a discipline problem that needs to be gently but firmly corrected. If that is the case, then I suggest that you lay down a daily 'school' requirement that he can manage and reward him with praise or a special activity when he completes it. As the focus and discipline, and hopefully interest, increase you can add more time or more curriculum to his day. The point is, set him (and you) up to succeed and build from there.
Try to avoid comparing your son with the 'prodigy' down the street or at church. God has gifted him with a unique set of skills and abilities. Your job is to help him identify what his strengths and inclinations are and maximize those. You are uniquely qualified to do that, because you know him best.
On a final note, don't be afraid to 'call it a day' when nothing is working out on a particular day. That is the beauty of homeschooling...we have the freedom to do something different! Don't forget that the most important accomplishments from homeschooling come not just from the curriculum completed, but from the emotional, spiritual, and physical progressions. Those are enduring!"
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