Encouragement Homeschool

What if My Child Refuses to Do School Work?

“What can I do if my son refuses to do his school work?” or, “I don’t know how to get my daughter to do her assignments. She just sits there for hours and doesn’t get it done!” I hear questions like these from tired and frustrated moms who simply don’t know how to get their children to do their school work! (And lest you think this is just a homeschool problem, I hear the same questions from many public and private school teachers too! Unfortunately, though, those teachers have much less control over their students’ environments than homeschooling parents, so it may be harder to remedy the situation.)

 

I understand how difficult it can be to get children to do their school work (I have two homeschool graduates and an 11th grader.), and there may be a variety of causes for this problem. It’s extremely important for parents to carefully search out the reasons for the child’s refusal to work, though, in order to apply the best solution.

Is there any possibility that the child might have a learning problem, eye sight issue, or learning problem that hasn’t been discovered?

I’ve known of several children who had undiscovered eye problems, physical problems, or learning difficulties that caused them to have trouble doing their school work. But children usually have no idea that school work is harder for them that it is for others, so they get discouraged. They decide that, since school is so hard, yet everyone else seems to be able to do it, they must not be as smart or capable as others. They simply don’t know that school work isn’t that hard for other students who don’t have the same problems to overcome.

Vision, Eyesight, and Hearing

If your child is refusing to do his school work, you might want to begin by having his vision, eyesight, and hearing tested. I’ve know several students who had vision problems that caused it to be very hard for them to learn to read. Once the vision problems were found and addressed, the children were able to learn to read much more easily!

The same thing is true for eyesight and hearing. Children who can’t receive and process information correctly will have trouble doing their school work and may refuse to work because of frustration and because they have no idea why learning is so hard and no idea how to express that to you.

Learning Problems

Or you may suspect that your child has a learning problem. If that’s the case, you can check with *your local school district to find out if they provide educational testing, or you can go to your pediatrician or family doctor to find out how and where to get testing done. It can be hard to admit to ourselves when our children have learning differences, but it’s very important to admit it and get the necessary help! If not, school work and learning will be extremely difficult for your child. (I’ve been through this myself, so I do understand how hard it can be! But getting the necessary help makes a huge difference!)

*If you go through your local school district, be prepared to deal with school administrators who may try to talk you into putting your child into public school! Not all school districts behave that way, but some do! If you have trouble dealing with that kind of situation, have a friend or relative go with you to the school or help you make phone calls.

What if it’s an attitude problem?

Talk to Your Child About It

If you are certain your child doesn’t have any physical problems or undiagnosed learning problems, you may be dealing with an attitude problem. If this is the case, it may be helpful to sit down with your child at a time when you’re NOT trying to get school word done–preferably a time when both of you are calm and in a good mood–to talk with him or her about it. Younger children may not be able to express why they refuse to do their work. Even older children may have difficulty putting into words the reasons for their attitudes. But it’s a good idea to give your child the opportunity to express himself/herself anyway. At least the child will know you care and that you want to help. Older children may be able to explain their troubles, so it’s worth taking the time to ask.

Ask for the Help of Another Trusted Adult

If your child is unwilling to talk with you about it, you may have a trusted friend, pastor, or counselor who could help. Sometimes children of all ages) find it easier to confide in an adult who is unbiased and not willing to get upset upon hearing the child’s answers. Our children may be afraid to tell us about their difficulties–especially if something we are saying or doing contributes to the problem. It’s absolutely worth taking the time to have your child talk with another adult who might be able to listen objectively.

Make Changes

When my son (who has graduated from our homeschool and is now 20 years old) went through a stage when he refused to do his school work, I had to take action. I had his eyesight, hearing, and vision tested. I also had educational testing done. I had already suspected that he had Asperger’s and therefore knew he might have a harder time learning than other students. (Although many children on the autism spectrum are very smart, it can be very hard for them to pay attention, process information, ignore distractions, etc.)

Once I learned how to deal with my son’s learning differences, I explained to him that school would be different and that we were going to make some changes that would help him. You have to make the changes that are right for your own child–which may be different from those that my child required.

In my son’s case, he needed:

  • to be as free of distraction as possible.
  • to be free to work at his own pace.
  • to know at the beginning of each school day what he would be required to do for that day.
  • to work as independently as possible with me showing/telling/teaching him and then allowing him to do his work independently as much as possible. (He knew I was available to help and answer questions at any time, but he needed to be allowed to do his work in a different room than his siblings. Once his work was done, I checked it, reviewed any problems with him, and had him correct his work as needed.)

These changes made it easier for him to get his work done, but he still went through a stage during which he completely refused to do his work in spite of the changes we made. So what did I do then?

Take Stronger Action if Necessary

All children are different, so it can be very hard to make suggestions for children I don’t know personally. But I can tell you what I did when my son went through a stage during which he completely refused to do his school work. I must point out, though, that I was certain at this point that there weren’t any other reasons for his refusal except his attitude. He was testing the limits to see if he could get away with refusing to work. If he’d had undiagnosed issues, no amount of “being tough” would have caused him to get his work done. It is absolutely necessary to make sure there aren’t any underlying issues that are causing your child’s refusal to work before you take stronger action!

At one point my son realized that, once his school work was done, he was free to play, take a break, go outside, read, play video games, or otherwise have fun and do what he wanted to do. Once he realized that, he decided he needed to just skip that pesky school work and get straight to the fun part! Another time when he was older, he tried it again. Both times I took basically the same approach to getting him to do his work. I’ll explain.

I began by simply explaining that his school work must be done before he could play with friends, play video games, go on field trips or activities, or whatever else he enjoyed doing based on his age and interests at the time. I hoped, of course, that he would take me seriously and do his work, but I was prepared to take action if he didn’t. Unfortunately, he put me to the test right away.

The next day when it was time for school, he didn’t do his work. He either sat there and did nothing or doodled or worked extremely slowly so that not much was accomplished. When the time came that I had to straighten up the house and start cooking dinner (or whatever else I needed to get done that afternoon), I told him that school was over for the day. When he got ready to play his video games, I calmly explained that he wasn’t allowed to play video games that day since his school work didn’t get done and that he could try again tomorrow. He was very unhappy and upset, and I really did feel awful, but I had to stay calm and not give in. It was hard for both of us!

I’m sure he thought at that moment that he would do better the next day, but he didn’t. By the next day, he had renewed his efforts not to do his work in hopes that I would back down. I didn’t. I (somehow!!) remained calm while he dawdled, whined, and did everything except his school work. Later that afternoon I let him know that school time was over and he was free to go. That night there was an activity (probably a church activity or homeschool get-together) that he was looking forward to going to. I had to tell him that he wouldn’t be going since he didn’t get done with school that day. He didn’t take the news very well, but once again I did my best to remain calm and get through it.

After a few days of this, he was finally convinced that it was better to do his school work than to be denied the chance to have fun. There were still occasional days here and there that he goofed around or didn’t do his work well. On those days, I had to once again deny him the chance to do whatever fun activity he next wanted to do. I didn’t enjoy it, and he certainly didn’t like it, but eventually he learned that doing his school work and doing his best on it was better than suffering the consequences.

There is something very important to make note of here, though. You should NEVER penalize a child for having trouble with a particular subject or assignment as long as the child is doing his or her best. Even if your child fails a test or misses all of the math problems, he should not be penalized if he truly doesn’t understand it. If he goofed around and refused to listen as you taught the math concept and therefore missed all of the math problems, that is a different story. But if he really was trying his best, he shouldn’t be penalized.

Was it easy to be kind, patient, and firm while my son learned that it was better to do his work than suffer the consequences? Not at all!! Was it worth it? Absolutely! Eventually he learned that it was better to do his work well the first time so that he could have the freedoms and privileges he wanted to enjoy. There were times when he did well for a while and then test me again to see if the rules still applied, but eventually he learned to do his work, do it well, and do it in a timely manner.

Dealing with Different Personalities

When my daughter went through a similar time of refusing to do her school work, the process was very different. When I first sat her down to talk with her about it and give her the chance to explain (if she could) why she wasn’t doing her school work, it turned out that she simply needed a little more direction from me than my son had needed and wanted. She didn’t feel confident doing her work with the amount of freedom that my son loved and required, and she “shut down” and got nothing done because she felt overwhelmed.

This was a much easier situation to remedy, and I was glad I’d given her the chance to explain, without fear of being “in trouble,” why her work wasn’t getting done. In fact, my daughter is now in 9th grade, and she still likes more direction and explanation than my son did at her age. I am encouraging her to be more independent since she is older, but I’ve also let her know that I’ll be checking on her and that I’m here if she needs help.

Do What Works for Your Family

Each family is different, and what works for one family may not work for another. But it helps sometimes to learn how others have handled problems and then think about ways their solutions might be adapted to work for your family. Sometimes solutions don’t come right away. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out the problem and decide how to deal with it. Sometimes it takes more than one try. But don’t give up! Success is worth the time and effort you put into it!

About the author

Wendy

Wendy is one of the owners of Hip Homeschool Moms. She married her high school sweetheart, Scott, 28 years ago, and they live in the South with their three children. Hannah, age 23, has autism and was the first homeschool graduate in the family. Noah, age 22, was the second homeschool graduate. Mary Grace, age 16, is the remaining homeschool student. Wendy loves working out and teaching Training for Warriors classes at her local gym. She also enjoys learning along with her family, educational travel, reading, and writing, and she attempts to grow an herb garden every summer with limited success.

249 Comments

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  • I have been through this with a couple of my children. You are so right, figuring out the root cause is the first step, then be consistent. Wonderful advice, thank you.
    Shared on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Thank you for this article, I cam across it at the right time. I have a 14 year old that likes to pick and choose which subjects he will complete and which he will put off or not do entirely…fortunately he will complete after being told once or twice, but if I am not diligent about checking his progress throughout the day he will avoid some things as long as I don’t catch on. Kids will test their boundaries and as frustrating as it can be it is completely normal. This was a great reminder of that.

    • I am currently struggling with my nine year old- although this is our second year homeschooling, she still struggles to accept this change. She constantly talks about not having a friend and her stories always include about her classrooms and teachers. Then, towards the end of the year, she began to lie and using internet games instead doing her assignments without my knowledge. It has been a very frustrating journey as I try to keep her busy by signing her up in several activities such as swimming and karate.

  • Hi Wendy,
    Thank you for your insight. My son(7th grade) is more along the lines of your son just refusing & losing free time. What I learned from your article is that I need to stay calm 😮 My son is a debater as to why it didn’t get done. I also need my husband and I on the same page, when I enforce “no free time” my husband does not at times. If we are on the same page, it will send a different message to our son. He’s in the public school system and I communicate often with his teachers as far as assignments/homework to make sure I understand and he can’t pull the wool over my eyes so to speak. (He’s done that many times-normally plays the victim.) I also do a break down of his work, meaning I break it up into smaller sections so it won’t seem so overwhelming because I notice on big projects/studying for tests is where it is extremely challenging. So I guess after typing this, he is a little of both of your children :-). Thank you!!

  • Wendy,
    I have two granddaughters that my husband and I have adopted. One is 12, and she has aspergers autism and bipolar disorder. Learning is very hard for her, but we are working thru that. The other daughter is 10, she also has aspergers autism and bipolar disorder. With her, she is very smart, and thinks that she knows everything. She says that since she knows so much, she doesn’t need to do schoolwork. She has been abusive to me when I’ve tried to be calm, and talk to her about it, but it doesn’t go over very well. I need help in knowing what to do. She is in counseling, but when she goes, she tries to tell her counselor that she doesn’t need to do school, because she is so smart. I’ve tried taking privileges away, and grounding her, but nothing seems to work.
    Any suggestions would be helpful.

    Thank you
    Linda

    • First, I have to say that I don’t have any experience with adoption, and I know that brings with it a whole new set of issues and emotions that I’m not familiar with. But I’m very familiar with autism and Asperger’s (although each child with one of those conditions is often very different from another child with the same diagnosis). One thing you should absolutely do if you haven’t already is learn as much as you can about autism. That should help a lot. And something to keep in mind is that your daughter probably truly believes she’s right. She probably isn’t just trying to be a know-it-all. It may help to actually show her that she doesn’t know everything and that she does need to keep learning. You may want to do something like this: Have a talk with her and tell her that you need proof that she really does know so much that she doesn’t need to do school any more. But let her know that she’ll have to prove it by taking some tests. Then give her a very high-level math test, science test, English test, history test, etc. Make sure they’re so high-level that she can’t accidentally guess the answers and get them right. (Keep in mind that you aren’t doing this to be mean. You simply need to be very matter-of-fact about it.) After she’s taken the tests, you’ll have to show her that she didn’t do well at all and explain to her that she does need to keep learning so she’ll eventually know what she needs to know to finish high school and go on to college. I doubt that grounding her or taking away privileges will do much good because those aren’t really connected with her school work and have no correlation with why she does or doesn’t need to do her school work. I hope this helps!! Or at least maybe it will give you something to think about and try so you can work toward finding answers. Blessings!!

      • I appreciate your thoughts, and also your acknowledgement that adopted kiddos have a different set of circumstances to consider. I am the mom of an adopted son, who has RAD, who is currently sitting rather than playing. He’s got days where he MUST be in control rather than just accept he needs to do his school work. Tonight, it’s about reviewing the math work he completed earlier today. He’s actually good at math, but tends to struggle with new concepts, until he’s had several days of practice. He does his work, but if he gets one wrong, it’s the end of the world. For the most part, we’ve dealt with that part of the equation meaning… if it’s wrong, it just means you haven’t learned it yet, but tonight, he would rather not even have me correct his work, and he’s got a pretty disrespectful way of showing it.

        It’s so incredibly frustrating to watch him be like this (deep breathing helps), but what it comes down to is this, because of his behavior, he’s choosing to sit on the couch AND DO NOTHING, rather than play with any electronics, or play up in his room. How long??? Well, that depends. For tonight, when I’m ready to try again, we’ll see how respectful he is and how high his effort level is. Throughout the years (homeschooling for 8) could go on for a couple of days, or could be over when I’m done with this website. Never know. But I do have a glass of wine waiting for me, either way.

        Thanks again for reminding me I’m doing the right thing – hard as nails some days, but gotta do what I gotta do.

    • I follow a site called Asperger Experts. They have some articles and a book (and even a class, I think) on getting your child out of”defense mode” so you can have better cooperation and harmony at home. I highly recommend checking it out. I hope it helps! It helped me a whole lot with one of my kids.

  • Thank you for making a distinction between vision and eyesight problems. They are not the same thing! When my then 2nd grade daughter Serena was struggling to read at a 1st grade level, we found a developmental optometrist (not just optometrist) who diagnosed her vision disorder called convergence insufficiency. After a few months of vision therapy, she improved to easily reading one grade level ahead. By the 6th grade, she was reading at a 12th grade level. Her improvement was mentioned in an article at http://news.cision.com/college-of-optometrists-in-vision-development/r/struggling-students–a-global-problem-with-a-universal-solution-according-to-the-college-of-optometr,c9439423 The article has additional links that will be helpful to parents of children with the same or related vision disorders.

  • I appreciate your honest and helpful words! I have a 9th grader who is very independent but still needs a lot of accountability. We also use the same type of consequence system. It’s helpful to know I’m not alone in this!

  • I just came across this today while searching for ideas to help my son. My son is actually in public school. His first year of high school. He has an IEP (which he has been classified as ADHD even though he is technically not. He struggles with testing and they classified him as this in middle school so he could get the extra time and quiet space for testing). I’ve never seen him struggle like he is this year. Currently failing every class. I can’t get the school to respond to me or help me out in any way. Instead of contacting me about him not turning things in, they just put zeros in. If I contact the teacher, there response is “he just didn’t turn it in.” Never anything about how they can help. His Dad and I are divorced and I’m really the only one that helps him with his homework. His Dad asks me each day what he has for homework. If I didn’t tell him, he would have no way of knowing. I feel like it’s all me and no one else. I’ve found that it’s become an obsession each day of watching the computer program that shows my sons grades. I’m beginning to wonder if I need to truly step back and let him do what he’s going to do and see if he gets it under control on his own. Maybe me not hovering so much will help. I’m at al loss.

  • Thank you so much, it’s really nice to know I’m not alone. My kids are 8 and 11. Homeschooled, My 8 year old is dyslexic and still requires a lot of help. My 11 year old (6th grade) refuses to do work. He wants the same attention as his 3rd grade brother. I feel as I’m letting my 6th grade down not teaching him. I dont want to send him to public middle school, and I cant keep going on this way.

  • I am so glad I am not alone in this. My kids are great but motivation to do their work is something that we struggle with. Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom and helping us with some great advice. I will be applying some of these.

  • Thank you!! Our youngest was recently diagnosed with anxiety and depression. She has had struggles with wanting to do school at times, but with the diagnosis, she seems to use that as a crutch. I know her emotions are real, but I believe she may be manipulating my momma heart to her advantage some days. This article has given me hope for helping her in different ways.

  • This has been my biggest fear as we begin 1st grade. Thank you for giving me some tools to have in my back pocket

  • I am the mom of six, five of them currently schooling and a toddler in tow. My middle daughter has always been a different type of learner than my older children and I have had to “learn” how to teach in a different way. I have learned to begin each day with the subjects hardest for her in an effort to begin the day with a fresh start and hopefully not have distractions or frustrations begin before things are accomplished. Allow her to have small breaks for yoga and movement. I bought a lap desk that is portable and provides the flexibility to read or work on writing at a place maybe not in our classroom if it is noisy or distracting. She has taught me through many set backs and struggles how to not only be a better teacher but a better mom. How to reframe my thinking about what I thought our school day looks like. I’m so thankful to have different learners in all of my children as it provides me with insight and opportunity to see our school in so many different ways.

  • Seems like everytime there is a problem something else is the cause.. kids deflect instead of talk so I have definitely learned to talk it out more.

  • I go through this often with my son! It’s 100% an attitude problem. I believe he is bored because the work is to “easy” for him. When he is dragging and not doing work, we usually just stop and start again the next day😊

  • Sometimes it just comes with age and being consistent that they finally start doing better. Making a daily to do list has been a game changer for my distractible child though! When she knows what to expect she can get through it all more easily.

  • This is such a helpful article! I fell all kids go through this at some point as part of growing pains. I found that sometimes just switching curriculum can make all the difference.
    Thank you…🙏🏻

  • Thank you for these ideas! It was a good reminder to start with physiological issues that might be impeding learning. Sometimes I assume that issues like this must be attitude-based. Have a blessed day!

  • I have a struggling learner due to a disability and two others who just don’t want to do school. I try to mix in lots of hands on fun stuff now and that seems to help, just getting outside and discovering our world.

  • My daughter is incredible artistic and she behaves the same way! She will mess around and distract herself to enjoy what she’s doing or won’t do anything at all sometimes. When she was in public school, she would get her work down so quickly because she was so bored. With our first year homeschooling, she struggled a lot because she didn’t view home like real school and would waste time. Now I have implemented a similar strategy to remind her of the boundaries and decisions she’s actively making to show her accountability and critical thought about her own choices. Great article! 💗

  • Such an informative and helpful article, thank you! I’ll be saving this one to read again as needed during the school year 😊

  • great article! It’s important to remember workbooks and written work are not the only or even the best way for children to learn.

  • Good points. I’ve had to approach school very differently for my one boy that hates reading than my overachiever that spends all his free time reading. I’ve suspected dyslexia for years but don’t know where to check. Think I’ll try the school district like you mentioned. Thankfully, ours seems very homeschool-friendly.

  • This is a very good read! I have a strong willed child and sometimes we have a hard time getting schoolwork finished.

  • We go through this frequently. She is at the age now where we let her pick things she wants to study. It makes it a bit easier. Thanks for sharing.

  • Loved this article and sent it to my husband. Our 6 year old comes to our veterinary hospital everyday and sometimes it’s hard to get him to do anything. Other days he fantastically reads all day long. So important to keep everything in perspective!

  • My son is 14, he struggles but if we let him work in his room away from his siblings he copes much better. Also to work at his pace. Yes i want my children to always try their hardest but i also want my children to be kind.

  • I am going through this right now with my oldest. Selective subjects and tasks. Thank you for the advice. It helped reaffirm that I am on the right track. When starting homeschooling 3 years ago I did not anticipate the pressure and anxiety of realizing it’s all up to me. If they don’t succeed or do well it’s my fault, that is a very overwhelming feeling at times. Thank you for all of your helpful articles.

  • So helpful! I think my daughter is the same as yours, hoping i can help her and she can get back on track for this school year.

  • Thank you for this article. We are at a point with my youngest that cognitive testing is being suggested and I am up in the air about it. He does his schoolwork but we are having trouble with retaining the info and so it makes for a very difficult schooling session. Thank you for sharing and I now know there is nothing wrong with testing and will help in the long run. I guess I just always felt that if he had some learning disability that it was somehow my fault and that I didn’t do something right when he was little. This article was a breath of fresh air for me to know that I am not alone and it is all going to be ok.

  • It is amazing how different each child can be. Two of mine were perfectionists and took lots of patience and understanding to help them.

  • Thank you for the article! I have a 8yr old that is like this. It is a struggle to get him to focus and do any of his work? He does seem to do better with dad, but dad works a lot. This article is great and definitely going to use some of the ideas.

  • My son is a reluctant learning. I’ve had his vision checked so my next step is talking to his doctor about testing. Sometimes it seems like his attitude is the problem but it does genuinely seem like he has a hard time.

  • Yes! Each child is so different. I had to take time to figure out each child’s “currency”… For some it was the activities, for some it was games. Finding ways to reward the productive behavior and keep my sanity.

  • This is a daily struggle with my 13 year old. He has diagnosed learning disabilities. I’ve been humbled and stretched out of my comfort zone so many times! It’s a hard road but I’ve learned so much. Hopefully he has too. 😉

  • We are just starting the homeschool journey……11th grade daughter…..this is my biggest fear……happy to have some tools in the arsenal, thanks

  • Thank you for sharing this! I am about to start my daughter in homeschooling this year (kindergarten) and trying to read up on all the things to get prepared! So helpful! Will be following your articles from here on out! ☺️

  • This was always the guys in trouble when there was not real honesty about skills that were lacking which presented as shame . Thankfully were working through all that

  • From my experience, when it’s an attitude problem, it xomes in phases and puberty has a lot to do with it! Just keep pushing though! And go get ice cream!

  • My son just doesn’t like to do it because he thinks it’s boring. He has gotten better which is good, we talked and I told him if he did it it would be done and gone and on to the next thing. 😁

  • Thank you so much for the encouragement. Last year was my first year homeschooling my daughter. This year I will take on her brother too, kindergarten and 1st grade. My daughter went through moments last year of not wanting to do her work. It was very hard on me and I am worried about them both protesting at the same time this year. But this article really helped remind me of way to handle the situation. It was very inspiring and such a good thing to read as we start up school next week! Thank you again!

  • So many good things in this article and so helpful. I work full time and try to fit in school in bits and pieces here and there and sometimes can find the lack of cooperation so difficult as I don’t have the time I would like to work through the whining etc. Thanks for the reminders to keep calm and stay consistent and strong.

  • My son is a new reader. For the longest time, he’d cry any time we tried to sound out letters. He’d have a small panic attack. Many years were shed. So we stopped. We took the year off from reading and I just read to him almost every day. We played with play doh, molding and cutting letter shapes. I completely disregarded the “age” of when he should be reading. Fast forward to this year, it was like magic. He started to read! He just needed time. He simply wasn’t ready and I was pushing it. I’m so glad I listened to him.

  • Great advice! My daughter doesn’t outright refuse, but she definitely needs me to be strict about doing school work or she gets too lazy! 🙂

  • This was great! I have a 7 year old boy who is just starting out with more assigned tasks and is struggling. (Activity book pages and age appropriate items) Definitely will be getting him in to get checked out! Thanks!

  • Thank you for this article. We are only in our second year of homeschooling, and this is my first year doing it with two students. They have very different personalities and learning styles so it’s a struggle sometimes to keep them both motivated and engaged. Thank you for the tips.

  • I so needed to read this today. My 12 yr old son is sitting in his room with his work in his lap doing absolutely nothing! We are scheduled for testing, but a lot of it is his attitude. He wants to do the fun stuff then do school “later” but later never comes. Then his attitude trickles down to the other kiddos and can quickly derail the whole day!

  • Great article! I have a very strong-willed 10 yo son. He is also VERY social and of course loves screen-time. The only thing that works for me is taking things away (social and screen). He can sit all day, but he won’t be doing anything else. I also like to mention that he has to go to school whether I do it or whether he gets on the bus everyday. This all seems to help. It’s so hard to be patient in these moments. A lot of prayer and self reflection. This is my first year homeschooling and I learn so much everyday. I love this opportunity to know my kids even more than I thought that I already did 😁. God Bless us all on this journey…it’s even more self-sacrifice than being a mom/housewife. I am blessed to get to do it, and so are all of you!

  • We had this same issue with our son. We battled with him for 2 years and tried so MANY things. It was definitely an attitude problem along with a power struggle of him wanting to control the situations. Eventually he realized we had his best interest in mind and it would benefit him to just do his work and get it done.

  • This was sometimes a struggle in our home. Schooling several at one time made it stressful for me to pinpoint the issues. This was a great article. I could have used this info years ago. But thankfully we made it.😊

  • First week of the new school year and I have already had to do this with my 9 year old daughter. We have a fact sheet of easy math questions for quick practice before a math lesson. We’ve done this for a few years now, and one day she just sat there and was slowwwwwww. She knew what she needed to have done while I started my kindergarten daughters math lesson. 30 min later she had done 3 problems. So I told her to get a drink, do some stretches and let’s get it done so we can move on. Nope… after my kindergarteners English lesson she did one more issue. This is a child who can do this worksheet in 1-2 min usually and move on. So I told her that if we couldn’t get school done there wouldn’t be free playtime at the end of the day or friends over. She finally realized I was serious. Got the rest done in 1 min. (Told her I had the timer on) and then expected to be done for the day. Nope haha I had to make sure she knew that it’s ok to take your time when you need it, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of school can just be pushed off to the next day. So we didn’t finish school till dinner time. The next day she got it all done at her normal speed. I just had to stay consistent and stick to my “schedule”. But she is strong willed and I love that. But some days it can be rough! I loved this article though, gave me some great ideas for if it happens again! It was nice to see that this happens to other parents as well and that it’s important to stay calm, find the root of the issue if it isn’t behavioral and to stay consistent.

  • Ive learned a lot of it depends on the child, the subject, the day of the week, and even the time of day…..some days my youngest has a great day – gets everything done with no issues. The next day its like a totally different kid. ahhhhh. I have learned that I need to be VERY patient. Using the Charlotte Mason methods – put the books aside and take a breather rather than everyone going to pieces and getting too frustrated. We also initiated the no TV policy. If the day’s assignments are complete they can earn TV time, if not…no TV.

  • Thank you for sharing. I’m new to homeschooling and have been worried that my child(ren) may not want to listen to me when I’m only trying to help them. But you’re right, if it’s not any of the other issues we can at least focus on what we can do to fix it and help them learn. That’s one thing I love about homeschool.. the one on one.

  • My kids sometimes drive me nuts not wanting to do school work. The only thing that has seem to work for me is giving them incentives. Challenging them or making it a game. My oldest loves because it challenges her to beat her time and is very effective. My youngest likes star fall because it’s fun.

  • Thank you for reminding me that it isn’t always about disobedience! My first child was easy peasy, and does everything asked if him, this second one challenges me every day. I appreciate the reminder!

  • I try the same approach of no fun and games unless school work is done. Sometimes we have to tweak things but that is the beauty of homeschool. We do what works for our family.

  • I have a son who is very reluctant to complete his school work. It takes forever to get done for the day due to his time wasting… staring out the window, clipping toenails for 30 minutes….you name it. On the other hand I have a 15 year old daughter who is completely independent. My prayer is that it is a phase and this too shall pass.

  • Excellent advice. Every child is different and may have different needs. Also, if you as the parent say they can /can’t go somewhere or do something unless work is finished….then stick with it. No matter how much they whine or complain. They’ll figure out you mean business!

  • I went through this myself while I was in school. I hated doing the work, was easily confused by others teachings, distracted by others and easily frustrated. I am hoping to work smoothly with my two boys to help them with their individual needs and wants. If they decide to rebel and not want school I will try different ways to teach them the lessons and have help from some homeschooling mamas in my area to tackle the issues at hand. I am confident my oldest will be over the moon about school but may not want to have a set schedule and I’m preparing myself for that, as I myself do not like schedules.

  • I really enjoyed the tips in this article, over the years we’ve had to implement a few of these ideas and had success. Over the last year or so I found ambition dwindling and after talking with our teens found their biggest problem to be personal organization and individual study environments. We needed to assess what worked for them from time management to actual sitting arrangements. After a fresh start their locations of study now have a fresh new feel and have sparked their interest in studying. One child had been using their laptop on their bed and opted to switch to a desktop with a whole new desk setup. So far this minor change has made a huge difference in their attitude toward studying.

  • This was very interesting to read. We’ve only just really started homeschooling our daughter (kindergarten) and this can be helpful if when run into this issue in the future. I never thought it could be because of an underlying issue like vision. I feel a little more prepared for the future.

  • Thank you for this article. It is very informative. I have 4 boys, and the oldest one continually puts my patience to the test. I’m hoping the ideas in this article will help us.

  • This is my current situation! I have 7 at home and 5 homeschooling. 2 have autism and we are having the hardest time finding ways to help each child learn in their own way. These tips were helpful and I will check into each. Homeschooling is so rewarding once it clicks for each child. Thank you for your page!!!

  • My oldest (7) def. Has the attitude problem..I never thought about waiting till we are both more chill to do it! It has to be done when my head wants it done. Trying this wait it out and being more patient thing today!

  • We have homeschooled our children from the very start, so out oldest is 21, with 6 to follow. Every.single.child has, is or will go through this phase. There are no disabilities here, just sheer laziness and distractions. Some is probably my fault as I can give in once in a while, they sure know how to work their mama!
    It’s a struggle, but through it all I have found grace and somewhat of a balance through the years. I pray for those struggling as well.

  • Being a mother of 7 we definately have days where at least one child is just not having it. It is taxing at times but this article is great in knowing its not just us that struggle and has some great ideas to re dirrect. Along with understanding other parts of it.

  • I am going through this with my boys! one is in 8th grade the other is in 2nd. thank you for the opportunity to win a Blessing box! 🤞hoping we can win one!

  • I’ve been through this! I’ve noticed that I cant do the same thing for all my children. One will sit down and do worksheet after worksheet, but others need more interaction when they are learning. I love that I can tailor to how they learn!

  • Thank you for this. I am starting on the homeschool adventure and this is something I think about even though I have taught for 15 years. I know it is different teaching your own child. I am excited for this new step.

  • Thank you for the encouragement! I am homeschooling my two girls for the first time this year, and have saved this post for when I have issues. And I’m sure I will!

  • This is my fear, that my stubborn child won’t want to learn or do the work at homeschool. He is four now and we do a few activities and I have a few different preschool work books we use. Some days it’s good others not so much lol

  • Love this article! Been going through this with both of my children. I have switched from a block time table system to a notebooking system and so far it is working good. I think they (especially my son) will benefit more this way. My daughter may need a different system at some point and you provided some good examples and how to discuss it with her. Thank you!

  • I am currently in fear of this happening all over again with my son who will now be in 2nd grade. This is a great article and will keep it in mind as I start this new year.

  • I was just thinking about this as we get ready to start our school year. My 4th grader is the toughest, but she is getting better every year.

  • I’ve been homeschooling my 9 yr old daughter for 3 years now and for the most part things have gone smoothly. She does the work and tries her best with minimal attitude. On the other hand, my 5 yr old son is the complete opposite. Very rambunctious and doesn’t want to do formal learning. I’ve had to accept that hes just a different learner and that’s okay. It’s nice to read that I’m not the only one dealing with issues like this…

  • Both my daughters, when we first started, were great about doing the work and learning. But then as the weeks went on, they became more reluctant. I found out my oldest needed glasses and the youngest needed to get up and move more. This is great information!

  • We have been working on my daughter with this. Last year was a huge struggle to the point in almost put her in public school. And I know I threatened to at least a dozen times.
    Over summer we sat and spoke about the new year. We changed up the curriculum quite a bit. She admitted she hated the one we were using and she found it boring.
    so far this year we have much less struggles. She is more excited with her school.work

  • Thank you for this article. I have been struggling with my boys. And while one did have a vision issue the other was just bored of repeating the same easy stuff over and over again.

  • Thank you for this encouragement! Yes! I have just gone through this with my 10 year old boy. It sure made me feel like my homeschool days were not going well every now and then. I felt like I was failing! He has tried me several times. Things are much better now. It helps so much to hear from another Mom about this!

  • My almost 7 year old goes through periods of not wanting to do it, whining and avoiding at all costs. Luckily (for us) he got in big trouble (with us) with a friend and got his screen time taken away for a rather long period of time (2 weeks). It was so surprising to see he really didn’t even miss it and was a completely different child by the next day. We let the ipad do some babysitting earlier in the year and we didn’t realize how out of control it had gotten. We’ve now instituted a whole system of earning screen time. Howeve, if we have tv on in the mornings it starts all over again. We’re making good strides toward a healthy relationship with screen time but it is very hard.

  • We’ve had this problem with my middle one. It took awhile to figure out it was a combination of attitude and him just not being ready for some of the material. We took another look at his schoolwork and altered it to better fit him and his unique needs. We have also implemented a point system where the can earn points and spend them on “rewards” (screen time, staying up late, etc.). It’s really helped and bonus: the points help them learn budgeting!

  • My son is 13 and there are days he just dreads doing his work and homeschooling is brand new to us this year so I tend to take those times to change it up either we go out for lunch or go make something fun in the kitchen or whatever. This is the greatest thing about homeschooling we now have the flexibility for our off days to do other things

  • I know my son has learning difficulties and this is our first year homeschooling. He is 12. Thank you for this article.

  • We have not yet begun on our homeschool journey, but I so wanted to this year. This is one of the issues that concerns me – keeping their focus at home. There are so many distractions with younger siblings in the house who aren’t old enough to be doing school work and who need a lot of attention themselves, and my school aged children are the same age but on different levels, which makes it very difficult when trying to teach the same materials. My daughter has been having a really hard time learning to read and gets frustrated easily. I’ve been wondering if dyslexia may be an issue for her. I will definitely use your tip of getting her eyesight checked first though. This article gives me some good ideas on where to start.

    Thanks!

  • I had the opposite problem where my accepted and knew that work had to be done before play, but it caused him to rush through his assignments causing them to be done poorly.

    Unfortunately I had to eliminate “screens” from the school week altogether so he wasn’t rushing to finish in order to get to video games or tv.

  • Good advice! It is important to remember to be patient. It may take a bit to figure out what each child’s needs, but so worth it. This article was a helpful reminder with perfect timing.

  • My oldest is struggling right now. I think she’s just ready to work and move on, but I keep explaining the importance of finishing school. She wants to go into fashion. I’ve been talking about a really great fashion program at a nearby college in hopes it’ll help her see that she needs to finish.

  • Thanks for posting. I have a 14 year old son who sounds similar to Heidi’s post above. I find that he works harder if I tie his extracurricular activities to his schoolwork being completed. Distractions are a problem in our home because of our younger special needs son.

  • This is a very well written and informative piece. I will be starting to homeschool this Fall and it answered some questions I had.

  • Starting in this homeschool year this is a big worry of mine with my stubborn children! I’ll come back to this as I need it, thank you!

  • My child loves to play games in his iPad but he absolutely doesn’t get to do that until we’ve done school. Somedays that reward works better than others.

  • When I had this issue with my son, to make a long story short, it was his way of asking for more structure from me! He is so different from my other kids. He wanted a more solid schedule and my fly by the seat of my pants teaching wasn’t working for him. We changed that aspect of our day and have had no more problems.

  • This was very helpful! I like the idea of ending the school day. We are new to home educating (8yo & 12yo) and we have schooled until bedtime many times in an attempt to correct attitude driven refusals to work. I think having a cut off time will be more effective. Then they will have down time without those extra privileges. My husband will be thrilled with having evenings back.

  • Being open minded and flexible is so important. Understanding and remembering your kids are people just like we are. If we find it difficult to do something we don’t always enjoy, we try to make it fun for ourselves or try figure the why behind it being difficult.
    Thank you for sharing!

  • This article has been so helpful! I have a 9 yr old who this last year has been refusing to do his work. We have had all the testing done you talk about, and no issues there. So, I think I might have to try the calm approach you took with your son. Wish us luck!

  • So good to know we are not alone in this journey! Our son has autism and we’ve had to implement the same strategies with him. Our daughter also needs more direction at this stage. Hopefully she will require less direction as she gets to middle school age.
    Thanks for all you do to help others in this journey!

  • I am going through this with my 7 year old. Last year (k) he would sit at the table with me and tell me he wasn’t going to do his pages, etc. I’m still trying to figure out his preferred methods of learning, because nothing has been working so far…

  • Thanks for your insight! I believe consistency is key to overcoming the attitude issues. My personal problem is in the carry through. I seem to be a distracted adult and have trouble myself staying on task. Sometimes I think our struggle is in separating being at home and relaxed, with being home and “doing school”! I truthfully believe screens are the base root of our problem. Screens rule the world with their information, social aspect and entertainment. I have a love hate relationship with screens.

    We have just moved into a new house, in a new town. I’m hopeful for this new school year that we can all learn the rules and tools to a successful learning experience.

  • My 9yr old would rather be doing anything other than school work. It’s a daily struggle. Thank you for sharing this, I am definitely going to try some of your ideas

  • I went through this last year with all 3 kids. Unfortunately I had to work and couldnt be the one to make them stick with it. It became a huge struggle and my husband didnt know what to do to make them get their work done. (They were very good at hiding in their rooms and looking like they were getting stuff done) I ended up having to quite my job and came home to try and catch them up as best I could. Our supervising teacher was threatening public school. We managed to get enough done for her before end of the year but I am still dreading this school year. I hope they have matured some over the summer. They are 15 and 13 and 11. The 2 older ones are the slackers. The 11 yr old LOVES school and keeps begging me to start soon. Lol

  • I love this. I really like that you stressed no punishment until you have checked for other issues and no punishment if they are doing their best. So often, I hear homeschool parents talk about punishing their kids for not doing work or having sloppy handwriting without having entertained the idea that they may need extra help. Thank you.

  • Great topic and guidance. My daughter was a rise and shine, get right to work so she could get it done and have the rest of the day to do things she loved to do. My son, however, is a stall and when he was younger even tried hiding his books and workso they couldn’t be found to do the work. Every child has such distinct, individual personalities.

  • This is a fear of mine with my oldest son. He has always been in public school and the system is failing him. I want to homeschool but he’s stubborn and can be difficult.

  • Yes my son is like this alot! But he has gotten better over time. He was diagnosed with ADHD his first year of kinder and we pulled this year to start homeschooling as he couldn’t take the public school system! I’m glad we did!

  • My oldest son struggles with school a lot because of Dyslexia and dysgraphia. Once I identified this and have been working with him on it, I’ve noticed a small improvement. Even small improvements should be celebrated!

  • Great tips. It’s hard when you pour so much of yourself into their eduction to have them refuse to participate. But they are human too.

  • I used to have this problem in the past. Now. When he gets stuck. We try different way of learning the subject. It has worked.

  • I’m fortunate enough that all my kids love school right now, buuutttt my oldest is only 8 so I’m keeping this in the back of my mind just incase for later!

  • This is really great advice. It can be so easy to assume your child is being lazy or not trying. Being able to step back from your own frustration to evaluate the possible issue causing the situation can be very difficult.

  • Thankfully, my kids haven’t really had this problem. My son complains about having to do school and will try to get away with the bare minimum but he will do it.

  • This is really helpful!! My oldest is doing 4th grade and has days where he is soooo lazy. But I know it’s nothing more than an attitude issue!

  • This is my first year homeschooling. My daughter started kindergarten this year. She did great the first week and now I’m experiencing an attitude when it comes time to put the work in. I’m going to explore different options for writing but it is what it is. Practice is necessary in that subject. I’m open to suggestions! Thank you for the insight in your own experience!

    • To be honest, you should probably not worry too much about writing right now if she’s fighting it. It could be that her motor skills aren’t sufficiently developed and it’s frustrating for her. In any case, I would set it aside and work on doing things that she enjoys for a while. Once she learns to love school, you can try again with writing and see if she does better.

  • Wow, good timing and placement on this one. I have a 14 yr old who is STILL working on 8th grade, because he just won’t do the work. He is doing it now as a way to earn privalages. Great ideas here and I will be coming back to read more. We also have a 3 yr old starting “preschool” and an 18 month old tagging along, luckily they don’t fight me yet.

  • That is great advice! I really really need to get my oldest son’s eyes check again. They were checked recently but I have my doubts.

  • What a great article! My son didn’t want to do his work for a while and we found out it was due to him not being challenged.

  • it takes a bit of time some days to find the right balance of work and play .. but when we get it right school work seems to fly by

  • I don’t have the “won’t do work” problem but I do have the “severe pokiness” problem. The promise of getting to do something fun after the work is completed does work really well for this issue as well!

  • Thanks for making me feel like I’m doing this right. I’ve told my sons from the beginning, if something isn’t working for you, tell me and we’ll figure out another way. We discovered virtual school a couple of years ago and they love it.

  • Great article. Many times my reaction is they go to public school if they won’t work for mom but this really opens the dialogue of what is right for the child.

  • I love this! My oldest daughter gets to this point every school year where she just starts dragging out all the work she does or will take the lazy way out with assignments simply because she doesn’t want to do it. I needed to read this article because I need to remember to stand firm with the consequences for not getting the work done in a timely manner or not doing the best that can be done on an assignment.

  • You know, it’s so great that you first made sure nothing was physically affecting his learning process. Rather than assume immediately that is an attitude type thing. Great eye opener. Thank you!

  • Thank you for this!! I’ve had some issues with my daughter not wanting to work on her lessons. This will help my mindset.

  • I have been dealing with my grandson not wanting to do his homework. It doesn’t matter how fun I try to make it. It’s been going on for the last 2 yrs or so. I have held his grade back so he can catch up. I hope this helps this year

  • For my kiddos, we take break frequently.. it’s like scheduled recess. When the kids get to where they are lagging or so distracted they cant do their work we go outside and run off the energy.. It a 30min recess, sometimes p.e. to get them moving. Then when they come in they are ready to get back to work!! So far this has worked well for us!

  • This is our first year and we start week after next. This is one of my biggest fears!! I pray my kids are able to transition well and do what’s needed

  • My son has slight ADHD and has to take frequent breaks. I had no idea he had it until I noticed that he couldn’t focus more than 5-10 minutes without having to get energy out. So after the doctor confirmed he had it she told me that homeschooling is so good for him. I’m so glad we chose to homeschool

  • Thank you for these insights! Right now I’m struggling to encourage my 6yo perfectionist son to try to hold a pencil. He has extreme anxiety, which goes into hyperdrive when he thinks he might make a “bump.” Ideas?

  • This was a great read! I homeschool two boys, 11 and 7, who have very different personalities. My oldest is more independent and can get how work done quickly, but my younger one is the complete opposite, to the point that he can be working on the same four math pages for six hours!!! I’ve tried so many things to “get him to do the work”, but what works the best sometimes is when I sit down beside him and show him compassion and give him my undivided attention.

  • Sometimes setting small goals throughout the day could help your kiddo get his or her work done. “Let’s get these two subjects done and we can take a break and go outside for20 minutes.” Setting these small goals gives them something to work towards.

  • My oldest daughter has autism, adhd, and a newly diagnosed slow processing disorder. Some days are better than others! And some days she doesn’t require any direction! Still trying to find her sweet spot!

  • I had this problem with my oldest son. Naturally, I made sure it wasn’t something other than laziness. But once I realized he just wasn’t doing it, I made him write “I will turn in my school work” a 100 times. Plus a few more other things over & over, he decided if he was going to do all that work, he might as well get a grade for it. My youngest was paying attention, so he did his work. lol

  • I’m struggling with this with my 10 year old and all of last year I thought maybe she just wanted more freedom to be a kid so I let her play more outside and do a lot of reading and just math thinking this year she would do better since she was gonna be a bit older but it’s not working. She whines all day and goes so slow. When I start talking to her about it she starts crying and plays the victim. She says she hates school and reading and that it’s so boring. She has asked me several times to put her in school. She says she wants friends and that there won’t be any little kids like her 4 year old sister bothering her. I don’t know what to do! I feel defeated. I home-schooled my 2 older daughter who are now in 12th and 9th grade and never had this problem with them. They try to tell her that this is the best place to be is home with me learning but she doesn’t care to listen. I want to give in and put her in a public school but then I feel like I am giving up on her. What do I do?

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