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Headstrong 7yo won't "do school" - Page 2

post #21 of 61
Originally Posted by laundrycrisis View Post

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.



post #22 of 61
Originally Posted by SweetSilver View Post



It may sound harsh, but the amount of work I was requiring of him for the whole day could easily be completed in about 45 minutes when he quit fighting !  And he was getting help from me for all of it.   It's not like I was making him do hours and hours of difficult worksheets by himself.   This was very basic stuff, a minimal amount, completely with help available.  He just didn't want to do it.   I decided enough was enough, and it was time for him to learn to do what was required.   BTW this was not preschool; it was 2nd grade.  


The half year of buckling down worked wonders.   And he has been very well rewarded for his changed attitude !  He's now a very busy kid who gets to do a lot of fun stuff.  He simply needed to learn the lesson "work before play".

post #23 of 61
Originally Posted by laundrycrisis View Post

It may sound harsh, but the amount of work I was requiring of him for the whole day could easily be completed in about 45 minutes when he quit fighting !  And he was getting help from me for all of it.   It's not like I was making him do hours and hours of difficult worksheets by himself.   This was very basic stuff, a minimal amount, completely with help available.  He just didn't want to do it.   I decided enough was enough, and it was time for him to learn to do what was required.   BTW this was not preschool; it was 2nd grade.  


The half year of buckling down worked wonders.   And he has been very well rewarded for his changed attitude !  He's now a very busy kid who gets to do a lot of fun stuff.  He simply needed to learn the lesson "work before play".

Just that it took so much harshness to arrive at that place where he could get it all done in 45 minutes.  It's not the amount of work I am cringing at.  45 minutes isn't much to expect of a 2nd grader, to be sure.  But that definitely would not be what I would do to get it.  Just me, my personality, just saying.......


post #24 of 61
Originally Posted by SweetSilver View Post

Just that it took so much harshness to arrive at that place where he could get it all done in 45 minutes.  It's not the amount of work I am cringing at.  45 minutes isn't much to expect of a 2nd grader, to be sure.  But that definitely would not be what I would do to get it.  Just me, my personality, just saying.......


Not could get it done - would get it done.  There is a huge difference there. 


On his part it was purely experimental.  I bet I can outlast mom !  She will get sick of this and I will be off the hook !   I know this kid and how he thinks.  BTW the battle would likely have been the same if it was homework coming home with him from school.  Except it would have taken place in his evenings and weekends. 


Also, this is not that unusual.  I have swapped similar stories with quite a few other homeschool moms who had to go through the same process with a child.  Some kids just dig in their heels.  They have an idea that being home with mom might mean they get a pass on doing academic work, and they want to try for that.  In fact, I have overhead neighbor kids and baseball kids asking our son this very question, or saying that he is lucky he gets to homeschool because his mom probably doesn't make him do any hard work !!  Our son had the idea that first he could appeal to my sympathy to get out of work, and then move on to tantrums, and then to outright refusal.  He had to complete this process of experimentation to reach his conclusion: nope, she's not going for it.  I guess I have to do it after all.  Once he completed all of that, he was really and truly done with it.  He moved on to put his efforts toward getting his work done, and doing a good enough job with it that I didn't make him spend more time on it, so he could do other things. 


A year later, after a year of applying himself to his studies, he is a kid who has become a reader (he was not before), who stays up for a while reading in his room every night.  A kid who used to fight all schoolwork now finds something to enjoy learning every time he does it, and says, "I love math !   I love music !   I love science !" and can't decide what his favorite subject is.  The transformation came after he gave up on fighting the schoolwork.  It was a huge relief to all of us and the results have been good in every way. 


Edited by PGTlatte - 1/17/12 at 5:30pm
post #25 of 61

I'm glad you finally saw success, and I do know how kids can dig in their heels and many parents have this experience.  But I also know parents who have taken a gentler route and seen success as well, just like moominmama's experience with her older daughter.  

post #26 of 61
Originally Posted by philomom View Post

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


My eldest is 18, living on her own, working, studying, has been an honour roll student since enrolling a grade level ahead in 10th grade, and is currently being wooed by her university of choice with scholarship offers. Yes, it has continued to work.



post #27 of 61
I was once a special ed teacher, and now I'm the mother of a just-turned-19 year old college sophomore, who speaks three languages, has her own column and radio show, and is attending a selective school on an academic scholarship. She homeschooled through high school. She was also stubborn (and still is) and was years behind in some skills (handwriting, writing in general) when she was the OP's son's age. Schools, in general, need kids to start writing at fairly young ages, because it's much easier to assess 20 or 30 kids when you have something written to go on. Homeschoolers don't have that problem. We can talk with our kids and see whether or not they understand subtraction, or the life cycle of a butterfly, or a story they've read. We can school according to the needs of the individual child.

The classic kid labeled as learning disabled in the school system is a left-handed little boy who is one of the younger kids in his grade. Each of those three things lead to later development of writing skills, on average, so when you combine two or three you sometimes get a kid who just isn't ready to write when his classmates are. Homeschoolers are fortunate to have the luxury of time, so a child can write less when it is so difficult for him to do so, and when his fine motor skills and finger strength develop naturally over the next year or two, he'll still think of writing as a fun thing (unlike the kids I would get in the schools, who generally came to be in third grade and hated writing with a fiery passion).

My daughter also loves learning. Laundry Crisis, your oldest is 8, yes? I hope he still loves learning when he's grown, like Moominmamma's daughter and my own, but my experience has been that approaches like yours often backfire when kids reach adolescence and aren't as easily controlled. Something to think about, anyway...
post #28 of 61

Wow, reading the debate has been interesting.  I think it goes to show how unique each situation is.  I think that finding success can happen in more than one way.  I think that it isn't just the temperment of the child, but also that of the mother.  For some of us, we may not have the stamina to do one approach, but can do the other.  And some of us may not have the patience required for the opposite.  


I also have a VERY headstrong child.  She will be six next week.  I am thankful she is my third vs first because I think I would have killed her spirit if she were my first.  I have grown a lot as a parent since then.  However, my side of the family has lots of "headstrong" people.  My grandfather, my mother, my sister, and my daughter.  I personally think "headstrong" is a very mild way of describing them.  My mother resents her parents--(they RULED by manipulation and spankings).  My sister resents my parents (mom was very firm, but didn't spank-- she was a yeller; dad avoids conflict).  I really don't want my dd to grow up to resent me.  I am trying to learn from the previous generations, but still worry that I will only screw her up in a new way.  


Good luck to the OP.  I know I strayed in my posting, but I was going to ask how long you have been homeschooling him.  I was wondering if you took time for deschooling.  I was wondering if he remembers the brick and mortar school.  When I pulled my oldest out, she knew that it wasn't JUST about her.  This had to work for the family--if it didn't work, we would re-enroll her.  I haven't had to do that, but I have reminded her of that once in while.  Perhaps he would respond well if he knew that going back to school was  a real possibility.  I would let him know that in June I would be evaluating how the year went.  If you and him can't find a way to make it work, he will be going back.  Yes, you will have homework battles.  But, your day won't be constant stress, your other children will get their mom back, and you might have a chance to get other things done.  



post #29 of 61


post #30 of 61

For me, one of the reasons I homeschool--after a year of public kindergarten--is so that my kids can work in their sweet spot, the zone of proximal development. If the work is too easy, he's not getting much from it; if it's overwhelming, he's maybe eventually getting the work done, but not learning from it. Trying to find that sweet spot--I don't see that as coaxing, or giving in, or letting myself be manipulated. 


Your mileage may vary, but I have found the times that I dig in my heels and insist on a particular material or line of approach are simply not the times that the best learning happens. DS may find it hard to transition into work, but if there is reluctance beyond the usual, in our house it usually means that the task is too big, or that he needs more scaffolding, more breaking down into small pieces. Or, conversely, that it's  too easy and he needs something more interesting to dig into.


I hear a script sometimes, too--that we're letting the tail wag the dog, that he needs to just do it--but I find that when I can reflect and discuss and find some common ground with DS on incremental progression, I *am* teaching the meta-things I want him to learn: breaking a job down into manageable bits, building habits of success, facing something overwhelming and learning to take one small step forward.


With the learning difficulty in writing, especially, my first step would just be to ask what does seem acceptable? How much independent writing feels okay? How much handwriting would feel good? And when he hits that point, is it that his hand hurts? That it's hard to remember the letters? That' it's hard to focus on a rote task? I'm suggesting you ask so that he can refuse all work, but to say that if there are specific things that are hard, let's find out what is hardest and help him through. (If that seems too permissive, reread Little House on the Prairie--Laura Ingalls, not my idea of a pushover, is teaching a teenager twice her size who resists any work; she gives him the smallest amount of work she can, and lets him decide he's capable of more.)


In any case, it sounds like the writing component is the most difficult part; you might be interested in The Complete Writing With Ease:




which is a pretty rigorous program, but one that focuses initially on copywork, dictation, and analysis and then moves gradually into very high level writing. The writer is an English professor, so her standards are high, but it is relatively friendly for reluctant writers because it emphasizes summarizing and narration first, and when more independent writing comes in it is crafting arguments rather than personal journaling, which many boys find much harder.


It also strikes me that that list, aside from the reading, isn't especially boy friendly. That is, handwriting, journaling, and math drill are the three things I most commonly hear young boys struggling with. I hear your wanting him to be able to get along in math and write reasonably, but I can't think it feels good to have the balance be so skewed toward the things that are the hardest for a small boy.



post #31 of 61
Thread Starter 

Wow.  Thanks everyone, and what a lively debate!  It's been a while since I came back to check this and I was surprised to find so many replies!  There are some great suggestions in here, and I have lots to think about.  To clarify, my son was in school for K and half of 1st grade.  He hated every day of it and every day was a struggle of bad behavior both at home and at school. For reasons too numerous to mention here, we brought him home.  I do keep his work appropriate for his level.  And I don't necessarily mean his age.  He is falling behind his schooled friends in certain areas, and I just have to have faith that he will make it through all right in the end.  I am in no rush to push him before he is ready.  Most of our problems come from handwriting and his resistance to that.  We are slowly (an I mean VERY slowly) working our way through "Handwriting Without Tears" which his OT recommended.  He is extremely strong willed and simply doesn't want to do it because it is hard. 


I find that with my son, it doesn't really matter WHAT I do, as long as I am CONSISTENT.  He is truly of the if-you-give-him-an-inch-he-will-take-a-mile variety. I give him many opportunities to learn about any subject he wants. Robots, dinosaurs, birds, parasites, sea monsters--whatever tickles his fancy, I will do anything I can to get him the information he desires.  I try to keep it fun and interesting.  My goal in this homeschooling thing is for him to walk away thinking that the world is a really cool, interesting, and fascinating place, which is how I feel about it.  There's so much cool stuff to learn about!!!  I don't want him to sit in a chair and be force-fed useless information and worksheets all day.  But I will admit that there are days when I wish he were an easily compliant kid who would just. go. to. school. We haven't really found a perfect homeschool rhythm, either.  He complains about schoolwork, he begs me all day to call his friends and take him to do "something fun."  Well, life isn't all fun and excitement, I have another child, and I have chores and things to do, too.  And his friends are all in school all day.  I know that he craves more playtime and time with other kids, but we haven't really found any homeschoolers that we have made a real connection with, and it seems they are all so BUSY all the time with classes, co-op, and lessons (oh the irony!).  Anyway, that's a whole other ball of wax.  I guess my point is just that he doesn't seem very happy, and I frequently remind him that if he doesn't like how we do things here, he can go back to school. I say it in a non-threatening way, but simply to let him know that if he really thinks things are so hard and bad here, he can go back to school.


post #32 of 61

Might he benefit from a more kinesthetic approach?  One of the classics for K-3 focuses on measuring.  He might get a kick out of practicing counting by counting how many steps it takes to get from place to place, or how far he can go in 20 steps, for example.  Comparisons (greater than, less than, equal to) can be handled by measuring objects with a ruler or a string or his thumb or his foot or something else.  


I know it feels like 45 minutes is a reasonable amount of time for seat work, but your ds is clearly communicating that it doesn't work for him.  It might be more helpful to drop back to the amount of time he can handle comfortably, even if it's short.  Work on building up to your target from there.  

post #33 of 61

Hi, the headline for this post grabbed by attention.  I have not had time to read the posts, but I it grabbed my attention because I had just read this article and thought it was quite interesting.It is about a child who refused to go to school.  We homeschool and so far we are loving it.  I think the case in this article is an extreme case, but I really sympathize with her experience.



post #34 of 61

Have you sat down with him and listed the things he needs to work on, and asked him for ways he thinks might work for him? I have a friend who tried the handwriting without tears and found it very hard. She does things more with letter writing (thank you notes, letters to friends and family, letters to companies she is interested in etc.). And art. Caligraphy even.

post #35 of 61


Originally Posted by MamaScout View Post


I've always found my kids' miles to be very worthwhile. They may not move in the direction I had expected, or in the direction I had initially hoped, but wow, have they ever gone on some amazing journeys! To each her own, though, I suppose.



post #36 of 61

OP, you mention that he is falling behind.  If you suspect any learning disabilities, I would get those checked out.  Our son needed vision therapy.  He had convergence insufficiency and some major visual processing problems that were not picked up by the "regular" optometrist who said "20/20, no problems".  Wrong.  An exam by a developmental optometrist found major issues there. Also if he hates handwriting there is the possibility of dysgraphia.  An OT can do an evaluation for that.  In the meantime, he may get some relief by learning to type (Dancemat is free) and doing some work on the computer Click'n Spell, Wordy Qwerty, Dreambox math, and Brainpop have all been helpful here. Also I have our son do a lot of work through reading comprehension workbooks for various subjects, but when it is just the writing itself that is making him tired, not the reading or the subject matter, I find ways for him to do the work that minimize the writing load, or I scribe for him.   I want him to practice reading for information and actually learn the material..not lose his focus by being overwhelmed by the physical act of writing.   Also for now his work in learning to write/compose is actually narration/dictation with just a little copywork, which he can choose to type if he wants.  It helps a lot that although I do always require him to complete his work before he gets his free time, he is not carrying the load alone.  He is getting assistance in breaking his work down into small tasks, and I find ways to adapt the physical part that is hard for him.  The school workload is less overwhelming this way and he makes more progress.  


Frustration from learning challenges and just not wanting to work at all can coexist, side by side.  It can be hard to tell the difference from day to day.  If you suspect any challenge areas, it is good to know what those are so you can adapt for them.  You may still end up facing a child who just does not want to work, but it's important that when he does decide to get with the program and tackle it, he can be successful with the work.  Successful school sessions build up confidence and encourage more effort.  There are still days when our son needs a big push to get started, but now he knows that once he gets going, he will be fine - nothing is going to feel impossibly hard and the work is not going to feel like it goes on forever, and he is going to have a lot of support with the parts that are hardest for him.  When a particular thing is too hard, it doesn't get him out of doing work - I just find a way to adapt it or switch him to something I know he can do while I work out a way to make the original task fit him.  IMO the point is that you keep moving forward and make and honest effort and some progress every day, but it's fine if it's baby steps.  There are days when his best efforts are only baby steps.  That's okay.  It's the effort that matters.

post #37 of 61
Thread Starter 

Thank you PGTlatte. Great advice.  I have suspected dygraphia, but we have never had him tested.  His OT (whom he hasn't seen in over a year) just kind of made it clear that if we simply applied ourselves and worked hard through The Handwriting Without Tears, that he would make it out okay in the end.  I have suspected that may not be the case. I may have to seek a second opinion. Thank you for reminding me that baby steps are okay.  That is why we took him out of school--so he could go at his own pace.


moominmamma: I will not allow myself to be flamed.  I came here willingly and with an open heart, seeking advice because I am going through a difficult time with my son. Perhaps your children aren't as headstrong and stubborn as my son, but some of us have children with very strong personalities.  And these strong-willed children come with big personalities and traits that are desirable in an adult, but difficult for children.  It is my job as my son's mother, to help him grow and learn, and to push him when he needs that nudge. If it comes off as harsh for me to use the old cliche that "if you give him an inch he will take a mile"," well, you don't know my son.  I am a strongly attached and loving mother who cares deeply for her children, not some tyrant who thinks they are are all out against me. My son requires a firm adult who is clearly in charge.  Without it he flounders and doesn't know where the limits are.  My daughter is another story altogether. I parent each of them how they need to be parented: with as much love, understanding and patience as I can muster.  So yes, I guess it is to each his own, as you say. 


Let's all play nice here. We're in this together.


post #38 of 61

You have a very unusual definition of flaming. I did not attack you. I suggested that for me and my kids a change of perspective has worked well. This is all. 


post #39 of 61

My son is also 7 and has always been a very independent thinker, with strong opinions and a very high need for autonomy. He could be described as stubborn or headstrong but I think those words have a negative connotation so I wouldn't choose them. In adults, those traits are more likely to be described as persistence and determination, right? Like you said, Mama Scout, these are actually useful traits but can be challenging in children. I think that part of the reason we find them challenging is that kids with a strong drive to be autonomous in their learning do not fit easily into some of the models of education and learning that many of us grew up with and experienced ourselves. I know I have had to radically rethink my perspectives on learning, childhood, parent child relationships etc... and have arrived in a place that looks quite different from anything I would have guessed at seven years ago. We're pretty unschooly-- my son has pretty much complete choice about what and how he learns-- and he is thriving. We don't have the power struggles we would have had if I  had tried to do "school at home" and he is an enthusiastic, curious, voracious learner.

post #40 of 61

Another thought, which may go along with Miranda's comment about her kids' "miles"...  I have found that trusting my son-- believing in his ability to know what he needs and wants, his ability to make good decisions, his ability to learn the things he needs when he needs to learn them-- has made a huge difference. Because we are free of having to follow a school curriculum, there is no real downside to him doing things in a different order than a schooled child and there is a huge advantage to being able to pursue his passions. I love that he is able to learn without any pressure, bribery or coercion-- all that is unnecessary because he is in charge. And I think most of us are motivated to do things we want to do! As he gets older and more mature, there may well be things he has to do in order to pursue an interest in more depth (eg. more advanced math, proficient keyboarding) and I trust that he will tackle these if and when he needs to. Anyway, we all approach things differently but I just wanted to point out that there is more than one way to homeschool a child who is "strong-willed".  

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