Though we all have many different reasons why we homeschool and how we homeschool I think there would be a common thread that we all want our kids to learn.  We may differ on the what to learn and the how to learn – but we want our kids to learn.  So when they start being really disinterested regardless of what we put in front of them it is a concern.  I homeschooled 4 kids, from prep to year 12 – where each of my children are different in their abilities, their interests and the way they approach learning. And we certainly faced seasons where they just weren’t interested.  Today I’m sharing some teaching methods and strategies that helped me keep our homeschooling going even when the kids were not that interested.

 

 

Helping a Homeschool Student move from Un-engaged to a Love of Learning

 

When homeschool students lose interest in learning, parents often find themselves being at a bit of a loss – the child’s resistence can affect every thing thats going on in the family, and then there is this sense of not actually doing our homeschooling well, and that dreaded feeling of falling behind and all the pressure that brings.

The fear of falling behind comes from our ingrained understanding of the grade system that schools are based on.  As a homeschooling family – we do not have to follow that system.  One of the biggest benefits we have is that we can make an individualised learning experience for each of our kids.  Which means, when they don’t want to learn – we have the opportunity to address learning from a completely different perspective.  We don’t have to keep on doing the same thing, hoping for different results.

 My goal, or one of my goals, was to educate my children in such a way that they became lifelong learners.  I wasn’t aiming for them to pass a test, or even to get back into a classroom.  I wanted them to love learning, and to have the skills to learn.  And though I believe that a love of learning is a high goal for education there is also a sense of responsibility thatwe take on when we start homeschooling we have to educate our child.  So when they are simply not interested we have to have a serious look at why they feel this way, and what we can do about it.  

 

Re-engaging Disinterested Learners

I think each of our kids had  moments when they weren’t interested in doing what I had planned for our homeschooling.  Not just a rebellion – I don’t want to – type of thing, but rather a real struggle or burnout about learning.  Whenever this happened I came back to this love of learning.  When that was my ultimate goal it helped me adjust the teaching methods and strategies that I used.  I asked myself the question – what can I do today to help my child love learning?  It is a very different question than asking yourself – what do I have to teach today.

Here are 8 ideas to help keep your student engaged – or rather re-engage in learning.

-1-  Decide if they need to push through or take a break.  Taking a break from a subject that is hard, does wonders for the learning process.  But learning is as much a character choice (of persevering and self-control for example) as it is an intellecutal ability.  Only a parent can decide if it is a heart issue or an ability issue and how best to address it.  So first up – think about these things before you assume one way or the other.

-2- Keep structured learning time to a minimum. Our structured learning time was generally spent on Bible / Character and the 3R’s, though even the 3R’s were flexible when a child was showing disinterest for a season.  If or when you do continue with structured lessons, keep them short and finish on a positive note each day.   A little every day means you make progress without the overload. 

-3- Change how you teach or how you expect them to learn.  Learning about Learning styles was one of the first things I read about as a new homeschool mum.  It helped me see how I learnt and helped me allow my children to do things differently than they could in a classroom – if it helped them to learn.  When they were struggling I made an effort to shift our lessons to their learning style strengths – even if it meant I had to change the curriculum choices I had made.  If something isn’t working, it isn’t worth keeping.  

-4- Take a break from books and learn in real life as a family.  Doing something together as a family is a good way to help our children see that learning is for life, and is more than books and lessons.  Get each child involved in a part of the project and learn together.  Projects we did were a veggie garden, a family lapbook on a read aloud, volunteering at Salvation Army shop, You can start a new family habit – or it could just be for a season.

-5- Let them choose something they want to learn about and give them time every day to focus on this project.  It can be anything.  It can be a topic of knowledge or a skill or a project.  Get them to brainstorm ideas, maybe they could browse the library to be inspired, and then choose one. And get them to do something on it every day.

-6- Keep a routine that keeps them engaged in life.  Homeschooling isn’t just about the lessons they have to learn – it is about the whole of life – so keep a family routine that engages your child in life.  They need to do chores, and sport or exercise, they need to have some creative time, some outdoors time, some friends time.  Help your child to lead a full and engaging life, so that they start to explore the world and it’s possiblities.  

-7- Prioritise read alouds and conversations.  As a part of our family routine, we continued to read books together and have conversations about general knowledge things and Biblical worldview perspectives.  This alone often got our kids over a hump so to speak when they had a twinge of interest based on something we were reading about.

-8- Ask them why they are not interested.  This maybe should have been the first or second point.  But talk about their disinterest and ask for their input on why they feel this way.  Is something really hard for them, maybe you need to look into learning challenges, maybe they are bored and you need to find more challenging work, maybe they are processing something else like a friend leaving town, or a friend ignoring them, or maybe they fear failing or disappointing you, maybe they don’t understand the reason why learning is important.  I was so often surprised by the insights my kids shared about what was going on in their heart when I just sat down and asked them and reassured them of my desire to help them do well.

 

The change that happens when a student becomes interested and enthusiastic about learning again has lasting impact. First they become more motivated – they find an internal drive to explore, understand and make connections.  And secondly, because they have this intrinsic motivation they actually remember and engage with what they are learning, and it sticks with them.  This is true learning. 

I have found that after a homeschool family goes through this type of season the choices they make to re-engage their child often becomes their new normal – i know it did for us.  By being confronted with their child not being interested, it makes them have a look at what they do and why they do it in terms of their homeschooling.  Of course, some people go back to what they were doing and it works for them – but I think for most they start to see education and learning in a whole new light.

 

 

Heart-focused Action Step:

If we prioritise our plans over our child’s engagement then we will simply ignore all the indicators that our child is struggling or facing burnout and press on with whatever curriculum or resources we have planned.  It can really knocks us back when we see this happening with our child – afterall, we have with the best of intentions planned the best education experiences we can think of for them.  We do want what is best for them.  So it can feel personal, it can feel like we’ve made a mistake, but it isn’t about us.  We have to put those feelings aside, and be honest about how well our child is doing with their learning and is there something that needs to change.  Chances are – if they are pushing back and not wanting to learn – something does need to change.  

The biggest block to re-engaging or re-inspiring our kids towards learning is our own preconceived ideas of how our homeschool should be.  If we can step back from that, and look at what is really important, and look at where our child is really at – and be brave enough to look outside the box to find answers then we can help our child reignite that curiosity that will lead them to be life long learners.  

So what paradyms do you have about learning, about homeschooling that maybe needs to be changed?  What are the things that you are doing now that are not really helping your child?  Are you prepared to let them go, and find a different way of doing things – for the sake of your child and their education?  Homeschooling gives us amazing opportunities – if we take them.  

 

Try deschooling

Before I go – there is one other thing that might help you make the changes necessary – and that is a season of deschooling.  Deschooling is where we give ourselves time to realign our choices with our beliefs when it comes to homeschooling.  So much of what we know or believe about education comes from our own experiences of school – or society’s expectations.  And it can be hard to make a shift toward seeing education from a different perspective. It wasn’t long into our homeschooling journey that I started to shift from a school at home model, to a lifestyle of learning model.  You can make that shift too – and I have a pre-recorded workshop that guides you through the importance of deschooling and what to actually do while you deschool.

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Spark curiosity again

How to spark curiosity again? 

But here are 3 ideas you need to believe to be true if you are going to have any success with those 8 practices.

  • If something isn’t working, it isn’t worth doing.
  • Emotional well-being is more important than a completed lesson plan or curriculum
  • Learning happens beyond text books

Think about each of those three things – because unless you know them to be true is is unlikely you’ll be able to make enough changes for your child to enjoy learning again.

Paradym Shifts might be Necessary

The biggest block to re-engaging or re-inspiring our kids towards learning is our own preconceived ideas of how our homeschool should be.  If we can step back from that, and look at what is really important, and look at where our child is really at – and be brave enough to look outside the box to find answers then we can help our child reignite that curiosity that will lead them to be life long learners.  

So what paradyms do you have about learning, about homeschooling that maybe needs to be changed?  What are the things that you are doing now that are not really helping your child?  Are you prepared to let them go, and find a different way of doing things – for the sake of your child and their education?  Homeschooling gives us amazing opportunities – if we take them. 

 

 

Emotional Meltdowns over Lessons

It is hard when our child gets emotionally upset during lesson time as a homeschool mum. We have so much to balance in our day, and we know they can do the work so when they get upset and frustrated it is hard not to react in the same way. Instead, try these things…

-1- Teach Emotional Awareness (separate from this lesson time) Teach your child to be able to use their words, so that you can help them in their frustration.

-2- Promote a Growth Mindset (also separate from this lesson time). As a family culture teach your child that they are able to learn and when things are hard, they can keep going until they get through it.

-3- Stay with them and don’t expect them to do it on their own. Eventually, our children need to be independent learners – but now may not be the right time for this child.

-4- Model Patience. Being upset with them for being upset isn’t helpful.

In the moment – sit with your child, comfort them, talk them through it, help them identify their frustration, and encourage them that they can do it, break it down to a small step, and do it again tomorrow.

And yet, tomorrow – pre-empt their struggle with talking them through the things you did yesterday before they have a melt down again. It is a slow process that needs to be handled with love and kindness.

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Kirstie

    Brilliant episode. Being willing to have a paradigm shift about education was a big one for me with my different needs learner. Thanks for a great episode.

    Reply

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