Getting Your Kid to School When It’s at Home

Unlike “away school,” there’s no hard-and-fast delineation in home school between home, school, and the rest of life. I imagine it’s kind of like telecommuting: you never really leave work at work because you work at home. We never really leave school because school is all around us.

Even though we don’t try to replicate what’s done at the local elementary school – we don’t have a rigid schedule and we’re not following their curriculum – I still try to have a period of time during the day when we “do school” and where my kid/student is expected to sit for a bit and engage in scholarly pursuits. And, unlike “away school” we do these school-type things – like language studies, math, history, and science (well, it’s done in the kitchen along with other science experiments we call “dinner”) – around our dining table.

But sometimes home creeps more into school than school into home. And this is when things get a lil’ crazy ’round here!

This is what happens when you don’t do your school work.

Different Perspectives

As it so happens, the past couple of weeks – and especially last week – were hard school-wise. Monday was beautifully calm and productive (unusual for a Monday), and then suddenly the rest of the week went straight down hill with the kid flat-out refusing to do 90% of whatever I suggested. I could have said let’s go get ice cream and she would’ve balked! Desperate for some alternative approaches (and perspective), I asked some people what they do to keep their kids on task.

I got a spectrum of answers: from taking away privileges or toys or sending kids into their rooms to think about cooperating, to letting them pick one thing to do and not worry about everything that particular day (after all, we have all year to meet the 180 days requirement). Others said everything was scheduled and that seemed to keep both them and their kids on task.

Several parents said when this anti-schooling attitude happens with their kid, they ease up, look at what’s off in the situation or the person (tired, hungry, bored and needing something different – either parent or kid), and try correcting those things before moving on.

Whether the parents were employing consequences, rewards, or looking at environmental factors, a common theme was flexibility. Replacing burnout and boredom (child- OR parent-oriented) with fun seemed to be a common theme as well.

Child-centered Days

I have a lot of deschooling to do for myself before any of this comes naturally. I still have to remind myself some days “we are not at school.” The whole point of homeschooling, for us, was that we could help our children learn according to their particular learning styles. We could – hopefully – instill in her a love of learning and a thirst for knowledge. But some days, I just wonder if she’s focused enough to do the basics. Those are the days when the red flags fly. And hopefully on those days I am focused enough to see them.

We never really leave school because school is all around us.

A good day is when I can be the “ease up and let it flow” parent. But I have to be fully present for this to work. My attitude and the way I’m approaching the lessons has a TON of influence over how willing my kid is to listen and learn (she does not respond well to authoritarian approaches). I have to be flexible with my kid and let her make some choices (amongst our options) about what she’s going to study for the day and then compromise, negotiate, and adjust where appropriate. If she’s grumpy, I can turn it around….unless I’m out-of-sorts myself. Once I get myself together, I can get her together and it runs smoothly. Most of the time.

Adjusting Attitudes

Yes, that’s plural. Both my attitude and my kids’ attitudes are important in the homeschooling equation. If anyone wakes up grumpy or tired or unmotivated, things have to adjust for us to get started. And, as the adult/parent/teacher, that means I have to figure that out and accommodate or direct (gently, now!) the kids in a way that will make us more productive and receptive to knowledge. In retrospect, last week I was not managing my or my kid’s attitude well, and that combination is detrimental to the learning process. I didn’t see the red flags until it was too late.

Other kid/parent combos could be totally different and respond to totally different approaches (see the spectrum of answers above). Good thing we don’t have to deal with the “one size fits all” approach.