Some kids are easier to school at home than others—just as some kids are easier in the classroom than others. Taking them out of a traditional brick and mortar classroom doesn’t make them easier to teach; it just means that their problems fall on their parents, who have more individual time and attention to give them than their teachers did. Some kids have attention problems; other kids just don’t seem to want to learn the material. Some of them will seem to know it perfectly one day, but the next, they won’t have any idea what they’re doing again.
And then there are the ones who seem to court distractions. They don’t want to work on whatever subject they’re supposed to be working on. They will do anything—even other people’s chores!—just to avoid having to pay attention to their current assignment. And getting them to actually retain the information is akin to trying to fit a squirming octopus into an undersized pillow case.
If this is your child, just know: you’re not alone, Mom! Some kids really are harder to teach than others—and some of them just don’t seem to want to learn. For many, the virtual schooling environment may not be the best choice. It’s not that there are fewer distractions during the school day; it’s that there’s a regular pace that they have to keep, and during dedicated work time, there are fewer things that they can choose to do instead. For others, it’s possible that a little bit of outside discipline may help them learn some self-discipline—but it may well be a long road.
Communicate clear expectations. Explain that there are certain things that must be completed each day, and that there will be consequences if they are not followed.
Insist on a regular schedule. If days off are a problem, don’t give them—or incorporate half days off around other things in your schedule instead. On a regular week, as much as possible, stick to the same sort of schedule so that the child knows what’s coming.
Provide regular study breaks. Sometimes, a genuine break helps to refocus the mind a little.
Take advantage of the time of day when your child learns the best. Some children do best first thing in the morning. Others are more focused in the afternoon. Try to find out when this is for your child, and work during this period of time as often as you are able. This may require some rearranging on your part, but it will be worth it to not have to say, “What are you supposed to be doing?” and “Why aren’t you doing it?” five hundred times a day.
Don’t allow them to suck you in. If your child is being particularly engaging, or trying to strike up a conversation with you, you may be tempted to give way and let them have the discussion they want. Don’t do it! As much as possible, try to keep them on task. Their “big picture” questions won’t go away just because you insist that school time is school time, and discussion time of that nature is for when they’re done with what they’re supposed to be doing.
Keep an eye on what they’re doing. It’s much more difficult to get off-task and distracted with a parent breathing down your back all the time.
Exercise patience when you can. Remember that they are young. Yes, you are teaching life skills that they must learn. Yes, schoolwork is important, and they do need to get it done. But losing your temper (probably) won’t help—and it may just create yet another distraction.