Parents who started their children out in public school and later brought them home to learn face a unique challenge. For these children, “school” is a place, and learning takes place inside a school building. Homework may have been something that was always a challenge, or something that they put off as much and as long as possible, or perhaps something that they just didn’t bother with nine times out of ten. Regardless, once they were home for the day, public schooled (or private schooled) kids know that home is the place where they go when they want to kick back, relax, and play. They don’t have to work anymore when they’re there!
Unfortunately, for a homeschooled kid, that is a dangerous attitude. Kids who believe that home isn’t a place to work—who have really gotten that truth into their hearts and minds—don’t want to do schoolwork once they’re “home for the day”—even when “for the day” really means “all day long.” They feel like being at home is just one long summer break, and trying to shift that mentality leads to fighting, fussing, and frustration for everyone.
Homeschooling doesn’t mean that they get to play all day—it just means that they have options concerning when they complete the work that has to be done. The sooner they get this through their heads, the smoother your day will be likely to go. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help.
Set aside specific time for homeschooling. This can be—marginally—fluid. You can take field trips, and do things that have nothing to do with school, and take care of the other things that need to be taken care of; but the reality is, once your child is past early elementary school, learning for the sake of learning will likely have lost its appeal. They need boundaries—and one of those boundaries is time-based. They need to know that school hours are still school hours, even if they don’t have to travel to another location anymore.
Stick to your boundaries. If it’s homeschooling time, it’s homeschooling time. No sudden, “You know what? I don’t want to do this right now” from you. No choosing not to do a lesson because it’s too messy, too time consuming, or too involved. You do lessons at the time when lessons are to be done. There’s a lot of personal discipline involved in it. Does that mean that you can’t ever say, “Hey, it’s a beautiful day, and I want to spend it outside instead of stuck inside doing schoolwork?” No—and if it’s the only sunny day predicted in a week of grey, gloomy days, that might well be a wise choice. On the other hand, you don’t want to teach your children that it’s acceptable to set aside their work whenever they feel like it.
Set aside a place for homeschooling. This might be as small as a cabinet that only holds school supplies, or as large as an entire room devoted to homeschooling—it just depends on the space that you have available. Setting aside this particular place helps to encourage an attitude of learning, particularly in a child who tends to be easily distracted.
Have a routine. Stick to this routine to the best of your ability. If school starts at nine every morning, then make sure that you’re ready to go at nine, not sending your child off to take care of something else—especially to entertain himself while you finish up something else. If twelve o’clock is lunchtime, then at twelve, you should be ready to prepare lunch. Public schools have these sorts of boundaries set well in place; it won’t take that much additional effort to show the same kind of routine yourself.
Be prepared to fight a few battles. It might be over the television. It might be over video games, or reading non-class books, or playing outside. There will always be things that your child would rather do than work—and you may have to put your foot down. Hang in there! Once you’ve fought it out a few times and stuck to your boundaries, you’ll be less likely to have to do it again…at least until the next time.