Let’s say that you’ve either made the huge decision to remove your kids from school or have decided not to send them in the first place. You have made the commitment to homeschool them and things seem to be going well, in your opinion. What do you do if your kids decide that they want you to put them back?
I have received several questions from parents asking me that question. It can be a heartbreaking position to be in. You’ve sacrificed, you’ve planned for hours week after week, you’ve really dedicated yourself to the task… only to have one or more of your children reject the whole idea. It can be tough when our kids want (or think they want) something different than what we’ve chosen for them. What is the best thing to do in this situation?
The answer to that question depends on several factors:
- Age of your children – The older your children are, the more input they need to have. When children are very young, it is important for us to make decisions for them. As they get older, however, they need to start having a say in what happens in their lives. No matter how old our children are, however, we are their parents. Some decisions still need to be made for them. Quite often, our children aren’t going to agree with us and we need to make our case and stick to our convictions. If we do it correctly, with the right intentions, they will thank us for it someday.
- How strong is your desire? – Why did you decide to homeschool in the first place? What are your reasons? If these reasons are extremely strong, you should stick to your guns more adamantly than if you just had a mild curiosity about it and wanted to give it a try. If you’ve been in prayer about the decision and feel that homeschooling is God’s will for your family, then you need to continue. No matter what your kids’ short-term response might be, you want to be fully in the middle of God’s plan for your life. Sometimes it’s hard to understand why God wants us to go down a certain road in life – but we still need to continue on in that direction. Explain to your kids that God is in control and we need to obey Him, whether we agree with Him or not.
- How strong is their desire? – We all know that the more a child wants something the more passionate their responses will be. Is your child just asking mild questions or are they off-the-charts ardent about returning to school? Remind them that they’re remembering younger years of school. As they get older and school gets harder, they would have less and less social time with their friends. They would have been sitting at a desk for hours a day – not able to talk or pass notes unless they wanted to get into trouble. They would have been able to socialize with their friends at lunchtime and recess and that’s about it.
You can force your child to be homeschooled but you can’t make them learn. If your child is really fighting your attempts to homeschool, here are some positive strategies you can use to try to win over their heart:
1. Make it special – Every time you do something with them that they wouldn’t be able to do if they were in public school, be sure to mention it to them and play it up. For instance, taking off the first warm day in the spring. Or spending family time together in the evenings instead of having to do homework. Be sure they see how late that big, yellow bus goes by in your neighborhood to drop off kids… so that they realize how much LONGER they would be sitting at a desk if they were in school. Paint a very clear picture to your kids about the PROS of homeschooling and the CONS of public school. Yes, there are pros and cons to both – but right now you want to get them to focus on the positive aspects of homeschooling.
2. Make it enjoyable – Add in a subject or two about which your kids are especially interested. We’ve added in computer programming for one son and videography for the other. They spend half an hour a day doing this and it is something they look forward to. They wouldn’t be able to spend time pursuing their own interests or have many options on their educational choices if they were in a traditional school. Be sure they realize this!
3. Make it fun – Be very intentional about throwing some fun or joy into your school day. This is always a great thing to do, anyway. But since you’re trying to turn their heart toward home, a great way to do that is to laugh together… They think their best childhood memories are at school. Ask them what it is they remember so fondly and try to recreate or top some of those experiences at home. It should be easy to do because you have so much more freedom than does the school.
4. Connect with friends – If they’re missing specific school friends, have them over occasionally. After being away from them for awhile, those friends may have changed in an undesirable way and your kids might not miss them so badly if they are able to spend time with them again. If they still have common interests, help your child to have time to spend with them. Just because they aren’t going to school together doesn’t mean they can’t continue their friendship. Let them email a friend or have an occasional lunch date with a buddy. Consider letting them talk on the phone or skype on days when getting together with a friend wouldn’t be possible.
5. Teach them about other homeschoolers – Homeschooling isn’t the prominent educational model in modern society. However, there are many cool people throughout history who were homeschooled and who went on to become famous authors, artists, inventors, business men, pastors, missionaries, etc. Teach your children about these great men and women. Once they realize what great company they are in, they may accept homeschooling more readily.
6. Consider a co-op – It’s important to spending time doing activities with other homeschool families. If you don’t belong to a co-op you might want to consider that option. We belong to one that only meets every other Friday morning – but it gives my boys a consistent time when they are able to have a few classes with their homeschool buddies. My boys really appreciate this time! I also try setting up field trips and taking off afternoons occasionally to visit with their friends. They really enjoy that as well. My boys are also very social and they miss being around other kids if we aren’t doing it often enough. Obviously, you need to have balance and still get the schoolwork done – but if you realize you haven’t been doing it very often, you might want to bump friend time up a little bit.
7. Join a team – Being on a sports team can help your child fulfill part of their social craving. My boys play softball with a homeschool group every summer and that has been another fun way for them to make friends, burn off some energy, and have time away from home.
8. Make it real – Have heart-to-heart talks with your kids and explain to them why you’re doing what you’re doing. Make sure they have a vision for why you are homeschooling. This isn’t just a crazy impulse. Homeschooling is important for you and you honestly feel it is the best option for your family or you wouldn’t be doing it.
9. Give them input – Be sure you are communicating with your child. Ask them what they miss. Try to incorporate activities they would appreciate throughout your homeschool day. Be sure you are using techniques which appeal to the way they learn best.
10. Engage their minds – Be a student of your child. Teach them in a way that will activate their interest and turn on their love for learning. Throw away as many worksheets as you can. Read them great books. Do active learning activities with them. If your child enjoys learning they aren’t going to want to stop!
It can be devastating when our children don’t think they want to be homeschooled. Sometimes with a few minor changes to our routine, we can help them to see that homeschooling can give them the freedom to have a specialized education that will be just right for them. Take the time to talk with your kids and to determine what will work best for your family. Once you’ve won over your child’s heart, you will be able to better enjoy the long days that you spend together. It’s definitely worth the effort!
Question: Have your kids ever wanted to go back to school? What did you do? If you have any further tips to share with other parents please leave a comment below.