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Headstrong 7yo won't "do school"

post #1 of 61
Thread Starter 

We've been homeschooling for a year now.  My 7 year old son absolutely refuses to participate in anything school-ish.  He throws a fit, screams "no" at me, whines and complains.  When I make it clear that he needs to sit at the table and participate, he glares at me, mutters under his breath, and complains the whole time.  His work takes ten times longer than it should because he complains so much and drags it out.  If I sit with him, I have to endure his complaints and grumbles.  If I explain his work and walk away, he will mess around or simply leave the table.  If I make it clear that he will have no play time or toys until "school" is done, he just makes me sit there and be the enforcer instead of taking responsibility for his own work. If I tell him he may not act disrespectfully at me, and the he must go to his room until he is ready to be kind and participate, he will either go to his room and play with toys for a long time, or say he's going to be good and then the whole thing begins again two minutes later.

 

I expect so very little "work" from him.  An hour or two a day of simple handwriting practice, arithmetic, journaling and reading.  As much as I try to keep it fun and interesting, he is so resistant to everything, it doesn't seem to matter if it's fun and creative, or if it's a worksheet. Radical unschooling is not an option for us.

 

I am at the end of my rope and ready to send him back to school.  He is making me, his sister (4 yo), and my husband miserable.  I spend most of my day on discipline instead of on learning and playing.  He had an absolutely miserable time in school, and we thought that bringing him home might change his mind on learning and education, but he's just as angry and resentful as ever.  My thoughts are that if he is so miserable here, and so miserable at school, that perhaps I should just send him back to school because at least then I have a quiet house for 7 hours a day.

 

Please, I am at the end of my rope and have no idea how to handle this boy any more. I can no longer retain my cool, and I feel myself growing angry and resentful. 

post #2 of 61
I had one that way. He would not "work" for me no matter what techniques I tried. Hubby and I were unwilling to let him get further behind with grade level work so we did send him back to a brick and mortar school. He loves the social aspect and he's a fair student.
post #3 of 61
Thread Starter 

Thanks, philomom. Just out of curiosity, do you have other children? Do they attend school or homeschool? My 4yo is absolutely dying to go to school. The example her brother is setting is not making homeschool like like much fun to her.

 

How did you son adjust to going back to school?

post #4 of 61

This is a tough situation. I am an elementary school teacher, so I'm on the other side of this problem, so to speak. I have found involving students in "rule making" to be the best way to get them to comply. I guide the process of course, but involving students helps them feel involved and empowered. 

 

For example, at the beginning of the year I tell my students that we come to school everyday to learn. It is important to learn math, science, reading, writing, social studies, etc. but we need to have rules so that learning can happen (Quick statement, no lecture). For example, we can't all talk at the same, time. Eventually we come up with a short set of general rules (e.g., "Treat others with respect.")

 

Maybe a similar approach would work with your son? You could tell him that learning is important and that you think he needs to spend x hours each day doing work... or complete x amount of work. Let him help you come up with a schedule. Perhaps 1 hour of language arts and 30 minutes of science in the morning, then 1 hour of math and 30 minutes of social studies in the afternoon. Whatever works for ya'll. 

 

One point. It is important to set the consequences for "breaking" the rules when you make them. For example, if you don't do your work during class time, you will do it during recess. Obviously that's a consequence more applicable to my situation than yours, but the point is the same. Kids need to know what to expect.

 

Hope this helps in some way! Good luck!

post #5 of 61

What does your ds want to do? What does he want to learn about? How does he want to learn? 

 

My kids are older and we have never done even close to "an hour or two a day" at the table. Whatever sit-down work we've done at the table has been minimal and never more than 20-40 minutes a day, even at the high school level. They've learned from kitchen and outdoor projects, arts and construction play, physical activity, their involvement in music and organized sports, from conversations, travel, field trips, community involvement, documentaries, computer games, films, readalouds, podcasts, audiobooks, mentorships and so on. 

 

Do you think that part of your ds's misery at school was due to the fact that his learning style does not fit well with the "sit down and listen" approach that tends to be used there? If that's the case, you'd probably do well to avoid replicating that approach at home. What is his learning style? How can you adapt your homeschooling to suit it?

 

THose are the questions I'd be asking myself in your shoes.

 

Miranda

post #6 of 61

My daughter and I have recently transitioned from a more relaxed or unschooly kind of homeschooling to classical and more formal homeschooling.   Like you, I don't expect a lot but there are certain things I do expect from her.  I think an hour or so a day seems reasonably, especially since you mentioned you are working hard to keep it interesting and fun.

 

My dd is 8 and at first it was a rough transition, but one thing that has helped like magic is a behavior chart.  She loves it!  We sat down together and compromised on the behavior (homeschooling with a positive attitude) and we decided together that for every 10 stickers she gets for days she homeschools without whining she gets a small treat of her choice.  Her first treat she is working towards is a trip to a nearby candy store to buy a gummy rat.  (gag!  lol)

 

Anyway, it's only been 8 days for far but the turnaround in her attitude is amazing.  Good luck!

post #7 of 61
Thread Starter 

KathrynH: I have done all of that.  We have a list of things that we have to get through in a day, and he can easily see at a glace what has been done and what needs to be done. I've tried placing some of the responsibility on him, thinking that it might help him to not have me telling him what to do. We also have a set of family rules that he is expected to follow. At this point, I am at a loss as to what to use as a consequence.  I'm aware that he needs to know that there will be consequences to his actions (or lack thereof) but nothing seems to phase him (removing privileges, taking away toys, etc).

 

Moominmamma: I know that part of his misery is having to sit down for part of the day, that's why he had such a hard time at school.  We do LOTS of learning at parks, at the beach, and on various field trips.  I keep it creative, we do science experiments, crafts, and hands-on activities. They are pretty much hit-or-miss. He likes these about half the time.  And while I love that aspect of homeschooling and I know it's important, I also know that it's important for him to be able to write clearly and legibly (he's been in o.t. for writing and motor problems). We simply have to work through his difficulties on that.  He hates it and it is HARD work, but I simply will not budge.  I've tried taking the work outside, taking it to various locations, giving him a clipboard and letting him loose.  He simply MUST do it and he doesn't want to.  I also expect that he be able to write and craft sentences.  He is required only two sentences a day on any subject he likes. I do not think that is too much to ask. I also ask him to do some simple math, and we work on a practical skills, too.  This might be tying shoes, counting money, telling time, etc. I understand that children cannot be expected to sit at a desk for hours a day, but an hour a day (with breaks) is not too much to ask I think. I really don't know how to determine his "learning style." Can anyone point me in the right direction for that?

 

Atilla the Honey: We have initiated a "star chart" for him, and whenever he does anything (school or otherwise) without being asked, or if he does school without grumbling, he earns a star. When the chart is filled he gets a new toy.

 

Thanks for the input everyone. I just got the book 1 2 3 Magic and hear that's helpful for obstinate and defiant behavior. Hope it helps. I'm really ready to have some peace.

 

post #8 of 61

I found the book "How Your Child is Smart" by Dawna Markova to be very enlightening in terms of learning style.

 

If you discover he has a kinesthetic learning style you could do his math by having him jump along a number line on the floor, or bouncing his answers on a mini-tramp. If he is more auditory, do oral math questions: "I'm thinking of a secret number. Your clues are that it is a two-digit number between twenty and thirty, and the sum of its digits is six. Can you guess my number?" 

 

If he hates handwriting and you won't budge on your expectations I think you're at an impasse. However, if you're willing to look beyond conventional daily handwriting practice you may find some alternatives. My ds has dysgraphia and we found lots of ways to help him along without doing battle. If you want him to work on crafting sentences, you could use the computer, or take dictation, purposely leaving out punctuation or making spelling mistakes and challenging him to find and fix your mistakes. He's done lots of non-writing fine motor work with Lego, K'Nex, Snap Circuits, Playmobil, origami, play dough, knitting, weaving, piano, violin and so on. If you are working on letter formation, consider using alternative media like chalk and slate-board, window-writers, a lap-sized whiteboard, sticks outside in sand, a Buddha board, a finger in a tray of rice or shave cream.

 

Good luck!

 

Miranda

post #9 of 61

For me, the only cure to this is to find SOMETHING that your child likes enough to do willingly.  (this goes for unschooling or school at home)  Forget anything else for a period of time and create a consistent routine of working on that which child will do willingly and create a pattern/habit of studying during the time frame that you choose.  This structure is the foundation of being able to teach the child, because it gets the child to be present for the lesson in the first place.  Don't be afraid to be firm.  Although I do not like to make school feel like a chore for my children, I do react to the "complaining" about school with a bit of firmness.  I remind them that they are blessed to have a good working brain and (God, the universe, Buddha, Ja, whoever you worship) or even their descendants if atheist, provided them with these gifts and it is a wonderful thing to be able to learn as much as we can in this life and this interesting world, so I will hear no complaining and they are lucky to be so intelligent and eager to learn.  This little rant seems to work with them, probably because I am passionate about it.  This helped for me when I was in your situation. The pattern and the rant.  I wish you luck in finding your power to be consistent and power through this time.  It is a process and some periods are less productive than others in how much content is covered, but this is a good time to work on the foundation of what you are trying to accomplish, which is to create a child who is interested in knowing more about his/her world and the various subjects within. 

post #10 of 61

Remove all of his toys from his room.   His room should be the most boring place in the house.  In fact pack them all up into boxes from wherever they are in the house.  He has to earn them back one at a time, as well as any other privileges and freedoms he enjoys.   He is likely counting on wearing you down each day so that he always eventually gets what he wants.  You will have to outlast him.  If you cannot commit to doing this, I would put him back in school.  But the homework battle will have to have the same terms.  No toys, freedoms or privileges at all until he earns them back through cooperation. 

 

BTW I do not believe in switching into a mode of "coaxing" a kid into being willing to do school.   It only teaches them that if they are stubborn enough, they get to be in control and call the shots.  Not a lesson I am willing to teach.

post #11 of 61
Quote:
 I just got the book 1 2 3 Magic and hear that's helpful for obstinate and defiant behavior. Hope it helps. I'm really ready to have some peace.

 



I will recommend a much stronger book.  My strong-willed kid loved 1-2-3 because he quickly figured out he would get away with something three times before I did anything !  Wheee !!! He spent the days finding mischief to repeat three times !!  Smart kid.  He figured out how to get a day of entertainment by yanking my chain and watching me react.  He really needed a much more proactive approach than 1-2-3.

Setting Limits with Your Strong-Willed Child : Eliminating Conflict by Establishing Clear, Firm, and Respectful Boundaries

Robert J. MacKenzie Ed.D.

 

 

I also recommend this one:

It Takes a Parent : How the Culture of Pushover Parenting Is Hurting Our Kids--and What to Do About It

Betsy Hart

 

It really put things in perspective for me.  I used to feel guilty for taking charge in a very firm way.  Now I realize it is essential.


 

 


Edited by PGTlatte - 1/17/12 at 1:01pm
post #12 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by laundrycrisis View Post

BTW I do not believe in switching into a mode of "coaxing" a kid into being willing to do school.   It only teaches them that if they are stubborn enough, they get to be in control and call the shots.  Not a lesson I am willing to teach.


I spent a lot of time and energy finding the sweet spot with my extremely stubborn eldest child, where I was able to connect with her over things that she wanted to to. Call it coaxing if you like, but by finding out what she wanted I was able to support and guide her through even the challenging parts of her learning -- because it was her choice not my pronouncement. She just turned 18 and despite my approach, she has been described by her school principal and violin teacher in her recently procured letters of reference for college as "exceptionally driven to achieve excellence," "resilient and adaptable when dealing with others," "exceptionally diligent," and "always eager to work towards tangible goals." She's everything you probably would have feared she'd never be if you'd seen her as a 7-year-old yelling "You just made me want to do it LESS by mentioning it! I might have done it, but now I'm not going to. No way!" 

 

Now granted, n=1 in this parenting study. But I do believe that in dealing with exceptionally headstrong kids you're far more likely to win if you're playing on the same side they are.

 

Miranda

post #13 of 61

I haven't had any issue like this, but I do have one suggestion.  First a question:  does he struggle with some of the material?  I mean, apart from just not wanting to sit down?  Even if he is "at" the level you are working at, is it possible that he is protesting in part because he's something of a perfectionist and that kind of academic struggle is off-putting?  If any of this sounds likely, I might start with something he already knows.  Make the focus of the sit-down time just that: acclimatizing to sitting down, not trying to struggle with yet another thing.  I am assuming that you adjust according to his ability to even sit still easily.  I might also start very, very small.  The goal, again, being more getting used to the idea of structured time more than the actual subject matter.

 

Also, get as much learning "off the table" as you can.  Do reading on the couch, and see if you can get by with just reading and not the "lesson".  Some kids (not all, of course) do well by just having storytime.  Keep a brief calender to mark down what he does that is remotely "schoolish" so you can be assured that some learning is being done-- or at least the opportunity for it-- even at other times.  Take all this together, and then try to tailor a small amount of table time to cover the subjects you feel strongly about.  But again, make it easy for him for a while if you think perfectionism gets in the way.  Start small, then as he settles into the routine, you can slowly increase the time and the difficulty of the material.

 

BTW:  I am also a fan of meeting kids with their interests, and I don't see it necessarily as teaching the kids they can get whatever they want.  I suppose that if done in a way that is completely unbalanced, completely away from the needs of the parent, it could be a problem.  I recently thought of the metaphor of "giving the child the reins".  The key with that approach is for the parent to feel like they are sitting *next* to the child, supporting him, and not being the cart-horse themselves.  I think that nearly everything a child can choose to explore can include opportunities for parents to teach what they feel is necessary to include in a well-rounded education.

 

 


Edited by SweetSilver - 1/17/12 at 12:35pm
post #14 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post
 But I do believe that in dealing with exceptionally headstrong kids you're far more likely to win if you're playing on the same side they are.

 



My exceptionally headstrong kid has come to understand that I am on his side, and that is exactly why he is required to work whether he feels like it or not.   It took about half of one academic year of dropping out of all social and leisure activities that took place during normal school hours.  I also removed access to all remotes and toys during school hours.  I locked the computer with a password so he could only get to school applications.  We became the kind of homeschoolers that stay home and do school.   I firmly established a routine - got him up early (and I do mean early...6:30 or 7, and had him working while he was still sleepy.)  immediately ate, dressed, brushed teeth, and got to work.  There was simply no way out for him.  No leisure or play except very short breaks until all the work was done.  If he made it take all day, that was his problem.  He was only wasting his own free time.  He could not outlast me.  I would stand over him and enforce what was required until bedtime if necessary.  This totally reset his expectations.   He's now very good about doing his work and gets it done in half the day.  I'm so glad I didn't waste time trying to figure out how to make him happy about it, or begging and arguing.  He's learned that he has to do it - a very important lesson.  Now he is happy because he has good work habits, gets his work done and then has a lot of free time.  We are also very busy in the afternoons with those "other" activities, so this is a good balance between academics and leisure/social activities. 

 

It takes a very strong commitment to see this through initially, but it does not go on forever.  If you never give in, eventually they get it.  And then the days are easier and more productive, school can actually happen, progress can be made, and the household can be peaceful without a lot of stress about behavior and school.


Edited by PGTlatte - 1/17/12 at 12:53pm
post #15 of 61

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by laundrycrisis View Post

I'm so glad I didn't waste time trying to figure out how to make him happy about it, 

 

Well, we have very different aims in education, then. My kids are happy and excited about their learning. Thrilled about it a lot of the time. And we're free of stress and conflict because of it. So I'm glad I "wasted" time trying to figure out how to make them happy about it. To each his own, I suppose.

 

Miranda

post #16 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post



Well, we have very different aims in education, then. My kids are happy and excited about their learning. Thrilled about it a lot of the time. And we're free of stress and conflict because of it. So I'm glad I "wasted" time trying to figure out how to make them happy about it. To each his own, I suppose.

Miranda

Really hopes this approach continues to work for you once their "work" gets harder.

That's one of the big issues that finally put me off of homeschooling was that I kept meeting big kids who couldn't write an essay , couldn't do math and played tons of violent video games. It really does the kids a huge disservice.
post #17 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post

 

 

Well, we have very different aims in education, then. My kids are happy and excited about their learning. Thrilled about it a lot of the time. And we're free of stress and conflict because of it. So I'm glad I "wasted" time trying to figure out how to make them happy about it. To each his own, I suppose.

 

Miranda



Mine is too, now that he has put his experiment with attempting to call the shots behind him.  Now, instead of NO !  I hear, "wow, that's cool !"  and "look how much I've done !!"   He is proud of himself and how much he learns !  It is a happy situation !  He could not have gotten to this point if I had not laid the question of who is in charge to rest for him.  I have no doubt he would have continued to struggle to win that for years.   It's his nature.  With him, it was the same with bedtime, use of the TV, and use of the computer.  He just wants to find out if he can gain control of situations.  But he's proven many times that he is a happier and more relaxed child once he realizes that he's not in charge and gives it up.  I have read about kids like him in books and he fits that type. 

 

Over the past few years I have heard/read quite a few homeschool moms say that getting one particular child to cooperate with schoolwork has been a terrific struggle for many years.  It's a fight that the kid will not give up.   IMO this happens because in many little ways, the kid continues to experience small successes in getting out of schoolwork.   To the kid, those small victories of control are worth the effort of the struggle.   I decided I wanted my kid to instead experience success with doing the schoolwork.  And I did not want to struggle with this for years.  So I took the lessons I learned as a parent from enforcing bedtime rules and TV rules and computer use rules around age 5, and applied them to schoolwork.  I have a very strong-willed kid who needs to know that someone is firmly in charge of something and has a drive to test the limit until there is no doubt left.  If I did not stand my ground with him, I would be failing to meet this need of his, and he would keep going to extremes to find the limit.  I'm not crushing his joy in learning.  I provided the structure he needed to know is there so he could move on from his limit testing and get on with learning.   So now all that effort goes toward more positive things, like getting his work done, learning something new every day and exploring his non-school interests.

post #18 of 61
Quote:
Originally Posted by philomom View Post


Really hopes this approach continues to work for you once their "work" gets harder.
That's one of the big issues that finally put me off of homeschooling was that I kept meeting big kids who couldn't write an essay , couldn't do math and played tons of violent video games. It really does the kids a huge disservice.


It seems to me that the looser approach can appear to work well for kids who don't have trouble acquiring the "academic" skills like writing and math.  There are some fortunate people whose brains wrap around these things really easily and they learn this stuff very quickly once they decide they want to.  And the parent can say, see, there was no reason to ever need to push !  On the other hand are the kids who will have to work very hard to learn these basic skills, and unless someone is either requiring them to do it or some huge motivating factor comes along later in life, they are probably not going to put in that effort.  Our son is one of the second group.  Learning basic academic skills is really hard work for him.  IMO this makes it that much more important that I see him through this hard work now, so he has these skills to build on later.

post #19 of 61

I agree with LaundryCrisis - sometimes you have to decide on your priorities, take a stance, and stick with it NO MATTER WHAT.  I have a 7 year old that sounds similar to the OP's 7yo, and I feel like I have to actively maintain my status as the 'alpha dog.'  That sounds terrible I know, but sometimes things have to get done and sure, ds1 might get around to it in time but in the meanwhile the rest of the family suffers. 

 

I try really hard not to make punishment the crux of my control, but sometimes I do have to go there. Mostly though, by simply being unwavering in my commitment to have him do what he needs to do, he'll get it done.  There are some things that help us, namely giving him some input about what we're going to do and plenty of advance warning about when it's all going to happen.  When the time comes, he will still resist, whine, and say he's not going to do whatever it is, but usually it is sufficient to send him to his room until he's ready to come down and work without whining/resisting/whatever, and tell him that absolutely nothing will happen that day until he does XYZ (and I have had to, on occasion, stay at home for many many hours until I had proven my point).  I also sometimes need to remind his that I will never, ever change my mind about him doing this.  Consistency is really key here too, because he picks right up on inconsistency and runs with it. 

 

This all sounds bad and hard, and it is hard, but once it passes our household flows relatively smoothly.  Once he gets over the initial outrage of being told what to do, he embraces the schedule and does his minimal amount of formal schoolwork very well.  We do plenty of fun activities that he chooses, he has plenty of friends, etc. so I don't feel bad about making him conform to our minimal household routine of schoolwork and various chores. 

 

 

post #20 of 61

Something is obviously not working for your DS. You mentioned he had a hard time in school- is it possible he learned to strongly dislike lessons during that time? Have you read up on deschooling and given him the opportunity to let go of that negative experience and regain his enthusiasm for learning?

 

Also, are you stuck using standardized lesson material? Personally, I find standardized curriculum to be the most in-inspiring, boring, and disjointed educational material available. There is an abundance of educational material available that is high quality, interesting, and inspiring! As homeschoolers were able to offer our children more of what works for them and our family.

 

My DS is now 8 and last year at age 7 we were able to do an hour or two of seat work without complaint. He is very active and always prefers activity to seat work, but I made sure he was getting plenty of exercise and movement throughout the day to support this need and help prepare him for lesson time.

We also use a holistic literature-based program that is very high quality, interesting, and creative. The program also includes academic movement and music.

 

I also believe a strong rhythm to our days helps frame lesson time and what comes next, so lessons are part of a natural flow and not something I'm imposing whenever I feel like it (not saying you are, just offering what works for us).

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