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#1 of 21 Old 09-27-2011, 09:56 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm having such a hard time getting my kids to anything. All they want to do is spend all day playing video games. I'll kick them off the computers to practice writing or do some reading, etc & they'll either run off to play or just sit & whine endlessly for an hour or 2 until they think they can go back to the computer without getting in trouble, usually when I'm busy doing something else.  It doesn't help that I'm pregnant right now as well as being really sick. I just don't have the energy to "make" them work.


I'm not too concerned about my 6 year old, he's picking up the reading we're doing pretty quickly and some basic addition. My 10 year old, on the other hand, is registered as being in grade 5 this year, but is more like grade 3 level. I'd like him to at least get caught up to where he should be this year. I don't think it would take that much, he went from not writing at all at the beginning of last year to getting grade 3 level on standardized testing. He just needs to practice, but he won't. It's not like I'm trying to get them to spend hours & hours each day, either. I think about 45 min- an hour for the 6yr old & 2-3hrs for the 10 year old would be more than enough for them both to be doing really well.


I'm just so frustrated.

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#2 of 21 Old 09-28-2011, 06:25 AM
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Would they do better with a more self-directed approach, or may'be changing some of the curricula around a bit? Have you tried having your husband/partner teach?

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#3 of 21 Old 09-28-2011, 08:28 PM
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I agree with Mittsy. It sounds like they need to feel more ownership over their educations. I highly doubt that they simply don't want to learn. I'd guess that either the learning they're being offered isn't well-suited to them, or else they and you have inadvertently got locked in a set of behaviours that are conflict- and resistance-based. 


One way to give them more autonomy over their educations would be to involve them in designing and planning what they'll be doing. Ask them what they want to learn, how they want to learn that, what sort of structure they think would be optimal, what role they want you to take in setting up and enforcing that structure. If you've had a discussion about those things and come up with some sort of plan, try it for a week. Get together after a week to evaluate how it's working and to decide collaboratively on any tweaks or changes that might be needed. 


I've always been impressed that when we meet and talk at a time that's not conflict-ridden, my kids are surprisingly reasonable people. They don't always agree with me, but their alternative suggestions are generally worth considering and trying. If nothing else we realize we're really all on the same side: we all want to grow and learn happily together and become confident capable human beings. And that does a lot to reduce the conflict and resistance.



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#4 of 21 Old 09-28-2011, 10:50 PM - Thread Starter
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Trying to get them to do some work is actually pretty new to us. I was mostly unschooling ds1 for the first few years, but he really wouldn't do anything except play games. Which would be fine if he were playing things other than first person shooters, but he'd virtually stopped doing any other kind. of game. Even getting him to watch some really interesting shows that happened to be educational was met with serious resistance.  I'm afraid I wasn't laid back enough to accept a nine year old who couldn't even write his own name.


So last year, I added about half an hour a day of structured stuff, doing lists on Spelling City, practicing math in a workbook or on the computer, practicing writing, etc. It went pretty well, but he was very whiny about it. As soon as anything gets a bit hard, he just stops trying. And he's having a lot of trouble with remembering even basic math. I think maybe we need to do more memorizing of facts for him, but he resists that too.


Ds2 isn't too bad, he actually initiates doing stuff occasionally (mostly reading and starting to learn addition). He seems more to be of the mind set that if his brother isn't doing anything, he doesn't have to either.


I've tried to talk to ds1 about what he might be interested in/ want to learn, but those conversations never seem to get anywhere. He just tells me he doesn't know/doesn't care. A few years ago he wanted to be an inventor, so were working on math to help him with that, but he's changed his mind & doesn't seem interested in anything anymore. I think it's mostly just more of his usual giving up when something requires any kind of effort from him.

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#5 of 21 Old 09-29-2011, 07:50 AM
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But what if you went out for ice cream with him and had a conversation about what sorts of skills he thinks a person needs as they grow up and get prepare to become active, contributing members of society? If you explained that although you're trying to be flexible and open-minded, it does worry you to see that the sorts of basic skills that most children have by age 10 are things that he is not interested in? If you asked him what he thought he ought to be doing to ensure that he's achieving a healthy balance in his life so that his mind and body are being properly nurtured? If you asked him if he had any suggestions for things that would help you worry less about his skills and his future? 


"What are you interested in learning?" may be far too open-ended a question for an aimless 10-year-old. "Do you think it would be helpful for you to have the goal of developing legible handwriting over the next couple of years?" may be specific enough. "Is it time to do some work on those basic math skills to make sure you've filled in any gaps?" might be a question he could answer. "Would it be reasonable for you to do 45 minutes of book work a day, if you had a choice between three different subject areas?" might be the sort of question he could answer. "What do you think is a healthy number of hours of physical activity per week? How many hours a day of gaming do you think is healthy for a kid? Can you suggest any ways that we might get a better balance between sitting-down time and active time?" Those sorts of specific question might help you both frame the issues and reach an understanding or a plan.


If he's new to these sorts of conversations and to having some parental expectations in his life, you may have to discuss things at length and frequently, to gradually find your path.


Good luck!



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#6 of 21 Old 09-29-2011, 05:25 PM
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What I do for my 11 yr old is give him a list of things that need to be done by the end of the week and he gets to pick and choose when to do them.

For example:

Math  Chapter 2- complete test by Sunday night

History Read Ch 4 and do questions on pgs x (1and4) xx(2and 3) xxx(6, write the full paragraph)

Summarizing Pgs 78-82

Vocab pgs 16-20

Read for an hr every day in book 'xxx  xxxx'


We really do unschool and the books/subjects are something DS wants to do and are heavy on the literature/language arts side.  The math is an online program he is enrolled in.

He usually gets the stuff done by weds and is way ahead of the syllabus in Math so if he finishes the class early we just register for the next one.


I make up his schedule Sunday night and leave it for him for the following week.  He will come and find me during the week if he has any problems or issues.


For the most part he came to the store and picked out the workbooks and such.

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#7 of 21 Old 10-01-2011, 07:09 AM
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I am right there with you.  My 9 year old has no desire to do any reading, writing or math at all most days.  Mine does do science and history but only on his terms.  

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#8 of 21 Old 10-01-2011, 09:00 AM
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Lock the computers with a password.  If they cannot regulate themselves, you need to step in.  Once they have their school work done, then they get playtime.  Kids need structure and limits.  They may not like them, but they need them.  


This has been a difficult ongoing issue, I know.  I also know you guys have struggled with health issues and other problems.  When life is hard, it makes it easy to kind of check out and not take care of what needs to be done.  Been there, done that.  It's a daily battle for me.  (you know that from our talks)  But as parents, we can't keep letting things go, even when it's hard.  I have a difficult child.  We are in the process of having an evaluation done for him so that we can better parent him and get him the help he needs.  It's hard for me to be consistent.  It's hard for me to stop what I am doing and make sure he is doing what he should be as well as not doing what he shouldn't be.  Sometimes it seems like it would be easier to just let him do what he wants, when he wants.  But in the long run, it would be doing him a disservice.  I can't do that to him.  I have to be the parent he needs.  I have to be consistent.  


You can do this!  Talk with your boys about time management.  It's a vital skill they need in life.  Frame it from a reference they can understand.  "You know, I really like to do XYZ.  But if I do too much XYZ, then our family suffers.  Clothes don't get washed, food doesn't get made.  So I have to do the needed things before I get to do the fun things."  


Make learning fun for them.  Get them journals they can write in daily.  They don't have to write big entries, just a summation of their day.  This will help with spelling, writing etc.  Journals are a fun way to build on skills.  


You can do this.  You need to.  For you and more importantly, for them.

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#9 of 21 Old 10-01-2011, 11:09 AM
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My kids each have their own login on the computer, but I've used the built-in parental controls to put limits on the time of day they can sign on, as well as the total amount of time they can be logged on for.


I figure that I have already learned how to balance fun/work time, but I learned that with help from my parents, teachers, extended family, etc.   My kids need the same assistance.   It's like the Flylady says -- so much of this sort of thing is about building habits.


With the accounts set up that way, the kids know, for example, that they *cannot* sign on at certain times of day, meaning they have to come up with other things to do.  With the basic time limits, I can always increase their time manually if they finish other things first.


Another thing I've found is this:   My kids respond better to "turn off the TV, get off the computer, do something else, work needs doing" messages  .... when they apply to me as well.   If I want them to be cleaning their rooms, they're far more ready to get up and do it if *I* am cleaning *my* room, too.   They whine and drag their feet about getting off the computer if *I* am using the laptop, still.   Sometimes it works best to lead from the front, KWIM?

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#10 of 21 Old 10-01-2011, 12:01 PM
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Forgive me if I'm missing something, but it's a question I've always wondered about when I see threads like this. Why don't you just take away the gaming system, deny them access to the computer, etc? I'm sure that my kids would play video games all day if I let them, but I don't let them. Problem solved.
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#11 of 21 Old 10-01-2011, 03:03 PM
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I'll be blunt, even when we unschooled two of our kids, we had limits on screen time.  Basically rules are; no going on the computer or turning on the television without a parent's permission before 3pm, Monday through Friday.  Some of my kids do classes on line (Time4learning and Calvert high school), but they have to use one of the lap tops and they have to be in the living room or kitchen where I can see the screen from time to time.  The only exception for this is when my oldest is taking a timed test and then he is allowed to go in his room, but he has proven himself trustworthy.  


The television only comes on for school related streaming from Netflix or PBS kids programs to keep the younger ones occupied for awhile when I need to work with the older kids.  I know this sounds kind of harsh, but I need to set limits for my kids.  I set limits on my own computer use and television watching. 


We have tried unlimited screen time and self regulation several times over the years and it simply never worked for us.  The result was endless squabbling over the only television and what games to play.  One kid screaming because it was "My turn".  Or three kids seriously vegged out, me pissed because all they did was watch TV, and the third kid getting in endless mischief because he had too much free time. 

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#12 of 21 Old 10-01-2011, 06:12 PM
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We do a combo.  My kids take a big part of "planning their education."  They choose time periods of study, ways to learn, and books to read.  We do lots of experiments because the kids love to learn with hands on activities.  Reading can be a science book, a story, an encylopedia. . . but reading has to happen.  This isn't really a struggle because they choose most the material. 


At the same time, there are limits.  We don't watch tv during the day unless it is part of "school" which isn't very often.  There are limits on screen time.  Sometimes we need to be reminded of them.



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#13 of 21 Old 10-01-2011, 10:42 PM
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I might be in the minority on here....but this just wouldn't fly with me.


In my house, you've gotta do the work if you want to play. I know how awful it is to be sick while pregnant (I had hyperemesis), but this just isn't okay for them to disrespect you and their own work like this.


I'd ask them what they do/don't like about their current work and then go about figuring how you can get them on board. Do they have a set time in the day to work? I've found a routine has helped us so much.


My kids know that if they don't do their work or if they just have horrible attitudes about everything, they will need to go to school...they will have to do their work one way or the other.


You are the parent. They are not the boss of you. They've got to see that there are consequences for their actions.

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#14 of 21 Old 10-02-2011, 10:03 PM
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I'm thinking that maybe instead of them having "work" to go off and do on their own in order to learn, they might be more receptive to doing more things with you that are not called or considered work but just interesting and/or fun activities - maybe even sometimes just being right there with them, doing your own activities right alongside them and just offering warm attention. What if you set aside that part of your day when you're feeling best for just being with them in the most joyous and cozy way possible for learning activities? There are so many wonderful games and activities that could be fun and/or satisfying for learning - take a look through the Fun-Books catalog for ideas. There are things that could be as attractive to them as video games once they have a chance to discover that for themselves, and it could take some time to get there, but if it happens during especially positive time with you, it can help. 


Writing is not an unusual thing for lots of children, especially boys, to want to avoid - some are just not as developmentally ready as others. But their finding things they want to write about can help. I remember telling an acquaintance, when my son was 11, that he had absolutely no interest in writing, and she said, "When he has something he wants to write about, he'll write." I found that pretty irritating - seemed pretty easy for her to say, since her kids were older and already writing! But that's exactly what happened when he later had things he wanted to write about for and with his friends. They used to send one another creative emails to share humor, tell their stories, and just play around with different styles of writing - it was all their thing, and they loved it. He was an accomplished writer in no time. You mentioned that your son made good progress at it awhile back, so that indicates that he's going to be able to get up to speed when the time comes. In the meantime, you might keep exploring different ways to provide enjoyable opportunities for him to write in smaller periods of time with you right there to encourage and inspire him. The FUN-Books catalog has some fun resources that might work. I don't think it should take 2 or 3 hours of independent work for a 10 yr. old. Well, I just ran out of steam, but I hope some of this is helpful!  Lillian

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#15 of 21 Old 10-05-2011, 04:05 PM
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I know that for my DD, if we have candy and snacks in the house and she is given a choice, she will choose candy and snacks until the cows come home, or worse.


As long as there are fun things to do, she will not, never, ever, choose to do schoolwork or anything that smacks of schoolwork or anything that requires use of her brain for anything that is not immediately rewarded with FUN.


I think it used to be that reading was fun because there wasn't much to compete with it, and it was either that or be bored. It was intrinsically reinforcing, this reading and writing stuff. People did boredom-abating things like play cards or board games in the evenings, tell stories, play charades or something. Not anymore. There's too much cool electronic stuff to do. It isn't even really fair to her to ask her to be able to willingly, or even mopingly, agree to do some school stuff, with all the other stuff available in our culture and in our houses.


So I think there's two options: either eliminate the competing stimuli and activities, or increase the fun of the school work. I don't know how to increase the fun of doing schoolwork to the level that it would realistically compete with video games and dvds, so I limit those things. I don't really like that solution but I don't see any other way. I did implement a token system for school work (one token for each completed activity, and at the end, she can buy things from the token shelf with her tokens) and that does help quite a bit. But I don't like using a token system, either, because it uses external reinforcement for something I would prefer to be fun in and of itself. But there's not much I can do to "make" her like anything more than something else. She likes what she likes.

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#16 of 21 Old 10-05-2011, 09:31 PM
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Yeah, I would just breath about how you are going to go about it. Like in the middle of the night raid on the stuff, etc. Have a speech prepared, have a day out thought of and maybe even a choice for it to be one place or another better yet, both. Have more outings for a while to get their minds off of it. 


I have always looked at this issue with complete dread. I look at those game systems and hear the older kids talk and I get weirded out. It seems so consuming. I really want to give my kid some options, but I will never, ever, ever let them have hours unless for one day a month, called on and for and nothing else, not even sick. I will be so uptight... TV, the whole deal.. you mamas I know are real people and I do spend a good 3 hours here sometimes twice a month but really can't get more and it does go in spurts. I don't need tv.. I feel a deep magic in myself when my hobbies/dreams, and goals/dreams, and even deep love with DH/dreams come to be and the whole plugging into things is not a way to live those. 


I had cancer and gave my son TV (oh I was pregnant with it/surgery.. and then colic baby) I eventually got him into a Montessori Pre-school and that helped. I am very strict about the screen time now days. I have no structure, but we might have a lot more self-kid work around here and it takes a long time for them to help out. I put all kinds of school-ish properties on being neat and clean, right down to sweeping being cross body brain what evers. We make fun food mostly healthy food, we all help out in almost every area and then yes, he can watch a couple edu type shows if he wants to on a rainy day or while sister naps, but the less it is on, the less it is in his soul to want.. He is a very bright boy and I totally got to him about his dreams not being to watch tv all his life one time and tried to explain lightly that we moved and it was a lot of work, the TV helped us get through all the changes but it is over now. I am so honest with him but not really, it is a light level of emotions because I know he needs me to be that ground and I am much more explain how life works. 


 (he is 4 now, siggy won't change) "Fred, you are going to be knight, a shining knight, that flies planes, rides motorcycles, climbs trees, swims raging rivers and finds the sweetest rose to give to your wife some day. TV day after day after day weakens all those dreams and that power. Playing, eating right, laughing, talking to your neighbors or forest friends (etc, etc, etc, etc.. and I go on) is going to open doors to your whole life. You are going to get better and better until you are.. ahh, all grown up and a **stunning** man... and you will hold your dreams right here (point to his heart) and that is going to take you sooo far. TV can't give this to you because all you do is sit down. A little bit is okay, but you gotta get out there and be *****Freddddddyyyyyyy!!!****"


That was my big talk when I got busy for awhile and my love, SAHD, went over board with screen time recently. It worked sooooo well. 

Leslie, organic semi-unschooling mama teaching my children 5 and 2.75, that love & happiness is most important. Letting their light shine, finding out they are teaching me. Love being in the moment & nature.

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#17 of 21 Old 10-14-2011, 03:09 PM
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Our kids generally aren't allowed on the TV/computer until at least their math lessons have been done.


With your ten year old testing at a third grade level, if him getting up to where his age group/grade would be is important to you, I'd recommend not allowing television during what you decide is going to be your "school day."



 As soon as anything gets a bit hard, he just stops trying.


One thing I remember from reading the Tiger Mother book is when she said "Nothing is fun until you're good at it." I think that it's okay to push him to learn to do the basics- reading, writing, mathematics- and do them well before you let him decide that he's going to slack off.

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#18 of 21 Old 10-16-2011, 05:01 AM
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I have many conversations with my 7 yr old about not wanting to work.  He would happily spend most days playing with legos.  He'll happily do any type of science experiment I set up, or real-life math type scenereo I prepare for him to do, but he would never just sit down and do schoolwork.   So when I'm feeling organized, we'll have some projects to do in the morning, read some books or magazines together, and then we can go out to the park, museum, play with friends, or dive into the lego bin.   Sometimes I have reading/writing type work to do too, so I"ll sit down at the table and invite him to sit with me, and we'll do some things togehter.  I think just seeing me sitting there with my book makes it easier for him to come join me, even if I end up putting my book down most of the time to help him.

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#19 of 21 Old 10-16-2011, 07:05 AM
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I could of started this thread. I have a almost 7 yo who is the exact same way. He is not interested in anything to do with school at all. I asked him "do you want to learn to read?" and he says...."no not yet". When do you make them learn to read? Ya know!

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#20 of 21 Old 10-22-2011, 02:31 PM
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IMO kids who are hooked on screen time are not going to do anything self-directed.    I used to deal with multiple daily battles to get school done or to leave the house for anything - I was always fighting the blasted computer games or some show.


To get school to happen around here I had to become the person in charge, and I completely banned all TV and computer games during the school days....and whining for them during the school day will result in losing those privileges until after school the next day.  


The results have been great.  It took a few weeks for their expectations to change but I stood my ground through that.  Now they no longer ask, and they have forgotten to be waiting for those things by the end of the day.  They now do other things when school time is over, like art, building stuff with toys, pretend games, or playing outside.   The computer games are rarely remembered.  The computer is actually used for school now.   Dreambox, Math Whizz, Brainpop Jr., Wordy is so much more peaceful around here without all the conflict over the screens.


For anyone who is having trouble getting their kids to stop goofing off and actually do some school, I recommend taking charge and setting some rules.  If you want to let your kids participate in some of the choices about how to approach each subject, fine.  But make it clear that the focus on school during school time is not optional, and enforce it.  Turning the whole of school over to their direction and letting them decide when and what and if they want to do it is IMO not a good plan.

DS1 March 2003DS2 Sept 2005,
and 3 , in our happy secular
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#21 of 21 Old 10-23-2011, 10:38 AM
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It sounds as if you're locked in a power struggle.  I've been there with other issues, and I've found that the easiest way out is to completely re-envision the conflict.  We're unschoolers, and we honestly don't have power struggles over media.  That said, we don't have a house full of all the latest gadgets, 500 TV channels, etc.  We have a family laptop, which is currently out of order (searching for a replacement), and a kind of standard cable TV package.  At one point, our oldest was asking for a Wii, and we simply explained that we felt there were better uses for our money, though if he was interested in earning the money himself, we'd be happy to provide him with a way to do that.  He dropped the subject, and seems completely content to play with his cousin's Wii once a month when we're over there. 


We also have tons of fun learning activities that don't resemble traditional school work, and that much of the time seem way more fun than watching TV.  Honestly, though, I need to be very available to my kids for decent chunks of time during the day.  They enjoy my company, and if they had to read alone, they just might choose TV instead.  Snuggling up and reading with me, however--or playing board games while eating popcorn--usually trumps the TV option.  TV would probably win out over boring workbooks, though, which is why I'm glad there really are other ways to learn arithmetic, for example.  My four-year-old is learning basic addition facts from playing Shut the Box, with absolutely no coercion from me.  Plus, he's learning the underlying concepts (e.g., that two and two make four, and three and one also make four). 


I personally am uncomfortable with a house full of rules; I'd rather set things up to minimize struggle.  If the only sweets in the house are a box of fig newtons, and the three kids eat the box at one sitting, I'm not too freaked out because a). they have some redeeming nutritional value; b). once the box is gone, they'll have to select healthier food until the next grocery-buying trip.  If I couldn't resolve the media conflict any other way, I'd be inclined to eliminate ALL screens in the house (including mine) so everyone just had access to them during library trips, etc.  For me, that would be way better than battling constantly.






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