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The Miracle Cure for Bad Homeschooling Attitudes

The Miracle Cure for Bad Homeschooling Attitudes

There’s no way to get through homeschooling without experiencing it.

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It comes in various forms: “I hate Math”. “This is boring”. “Why do we have to spend so much time on this?” “I don’t feel like doing school today”. Or sometimes even just “I caaaaaaaaaan’t”. Whether it’s whined, complained, stated matter-of-factly or yelled in frustration, there’s no way getting around the inevitable bad attitude about getting schoolwork done.

When children balk at their academics, it can twist homeschooling from a lively adventure into a grinding battle. And, unfortunately, in this war, there are no winners. Kids turn sour, parents turn angry, work doesn’t get completed, and learning is stalled. If the battle continues long enough, it can significantly alter family life and damage relationships. For some, bad attitudes can lead to giving up on homeschooling all together.

So what’s a parent to do?

Figuring out the source of the complaints is a good place to start. When children begin resisting doing their school work, parents should step back and take an assessment:

  • Are we moving too quickly, or does the child not understand a concept? If so, then it could be that simply slowing the pace or explaining things in a different way can help ease a child’s frustration.
  • Is there a learning disability or special condition involved? Dyslexia, ADHD, and other challenges should be identified and parents should get support in handling those specific issues, in order to maximize learning.
  • Am I using teaching methods that best enhance my child’s learning style? A hands-on learner is going to be bored and not learn as effectively by simply listening to lectures. Using techniques that incorporate the student’s personal modality of learning will help him or her stay invested and engaged.
  • Is this curriculum the best for my child’s ability and learning style? One of the biggest benefits of homeschooling is the ability to tailor the curriculum to the learner rather than vice versa. Simply adjusting resources to the specific needs of the learner can make all the difference in the child’s attitude and confidence toward learning.
  • Has school become too routine? It is easy to get into a rut and do the same thing day after day. Simply changing schedule or doing some activities outside of the norm can make school interesting again. Field trips, anyone?
  • Is my own attitude and approach helping my child learn? Often we as parents can contribute to our kids’ frustration without even realizing it. Keeping an optimistic attitude, encouraging spirit, and excitement about “doing school” will help the kids to feel the same way.
  • Is my child getting enough sleep, nutrition, and physical exercise? All of these factors can significantly affect a child’s ability to learn and attitude toward learning.

But what if all of those factors have been addressed, and the child still has a bad attitude on a regular basis? Enter the Miracle Cure.

What is the Miracle Cure?

The Miracle Cure is an old-fashioned remedy for persistent bad attitudes that is simple, but effective. It falls along the lines of making life without getting schoolwork done less desirable than life with getting schoolwork completed. Some might know it by its more common name: manual labor.

It works like this: Each time the child complains, whines, makes a negative comment about schoolwork, or displays an unwillingness to be diligent, he or she gets to do some other, less enjoyable work instead. There are endless possibilities as to what this “work” can entail, but household cleaning and yard maintenance are excellent options. Essentially, the Miracle Cure involves helping the child understand that the alternative to not doing schoolwork is not something enjoyable; the alternative is less desirable work of another sort. Oh, and by the way, when they finish that less desirable work, their schoolwork is still waiting for them.

How is the Miracle Cure implemented?

The Miracle Cure only works effectively if the “alternative” tasks are not given in anger or frustration. It should simply be framed as a choice: “Johnny, it is important for you to be diligent and learn the information and skills you need to be successful. If you choose to not do your schoolwork with a cheerful spirit, then you will need to do some other work until you are ready to return to your schoolwork with a good attitude.” The child should be expected to continue completing assigned tasks until he/she can demonstrate a willing spirit to be responsible. The tasks can be given by the parent according to things that need to be done around the house at that moment, or tasks can be pre-written on slips of paper and put in a jar ahead of time for the child to take out and complete one at a time (checking in with the parent after each one). When the child demonstrates a positive, diligent attitude, she then returns to whatever schoolwork assignments she did not complete. A key to the Miracle Cure is that whenever the child is ready to do schoolwork with a good attitude, he/she must go back and finish everything that was originally assigned; any time spent doing chores should not take away from school assignment time, but from personal time.

Learn More...

If authentic engagement represents your homeschool philosophy, read more about how to engage your children in these posts from our contributor Living Education by Oak Meadow covering topics like nature-based learning, creativity, handwriting, homeschooling multiple grades, authentic engagement, and more.

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Why does it work?

When children recognize that having a poor attitude about completing schoolwork only results in them getting more work to complete, schoolwork quickly becomes remarkably more desirable. Vacuuming rugs, cleaning bathrooms, folding socks, and scooping dog poop out of the backyard are all valuable lessons in diligence and responsibility that are, conveniently, usually much less enjoyable than completing a page of math problems. And if they aren’t less enjoyable, find some tasks that are. When the option is not “schoolwork or no schoolwork” but “schoolwork or hard work”, attitudes about academics miraculously improve.

There are many factors in why children complain about doing schoolwork, and it is always important to get to the source of the issue and address significant underlying problems. But if the issue is simply an unwilling spirit, or a desire to do something more enjoyable than schoolwork, the Miracle Cure is true to its name. After just a few days or a couple weeks of consistently applying the Miracle Cure, kids will be contentedly completing their academics and parents will no longer be pulling their hair out. In the process, a lot of tasks that need to be done around the house will get finished, and kids will learn the value of responsibility, diligence, and cheerfulness.

Rebecca Capuano

Rebecca Capuano is the stay-at-home mom of three children (one of whom is in heaven) who also makes attempts at being a homeschooler, writer, photographer, scrapbooker, and truth-seeker. She earned her Master of Social Work degree from East Carolina University, and has worked in a variety of capacities (including group homes, day treatment centers, and public schools) with at-risk children and staff, including developing a therapeutic and educational day treatment center for delinquent youth in Wilmington, North Carolina. She currently resides in Virginia, and has written on a variety of topics for both Examiner.com and Home Educators Association of Virginia. Rebecca believes that family is created by God as the most fundamental institution in society, and she is dedicated to helping families nurture their children to become responsible persons of character and integrity. In addition to reading her posts at TheHomeSchoolMom, you can follow her search for truth (and blunders along the way) in family, faith and culture by visiting her blog, seeluminosity.com.

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Comments

  1. Jaime

    Love this! Thinking about tasks for my 6-year-old… The bonus? It’s work that needs to be done anyway.

  2. I love this idea! My kids need me to implement this idea today! I can’t wait to try it! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Johanna

    Thank you, I needed to read this tonight. I had one of those days. Thank you for sharing I am not the only one.

  4. Kathy

    If the jobs are looked at as an alternative to schoolwork, sort of like you’ll do work if not school, then how do you explain when you do ask them to do these jobs mentioned. At my house they would have to do these jobs sooner than later so my kids would probably say they would rather do the jobs right away and get them done, therefore not getting any school work done.

  5. Susan Morris

    I think an important thing to recognize is the need for the child to have some control and to be able to make choices. If a child has to do chores anyway, and gets to choose whether to do the chores or schoolwork first, that’s a plus. Kids aren’t just learning their academics. While all this school work is going on, they are also learning how to be separate independent adult individuals. They need to have control and choices within the parameters set by the parent. One day, they won’t be able to expect someone else to supervise their every decision.

  6. Miracle Cure – I am so glad I read this. I have seven children (six school age) and there is always someone with an unwilling attitude. I have done something similiar but you mentioned the extra jobs cannot be given in anger or frustration. I love that it becomes the child’s choice. Oh, I really hope it works.

  7. S

    My kids run laps outside, or do jumping jacks, etc. The idea is 1. exercise is good for you all the time. 2. gets the blood pumping to help shake their bad moods. 3. I get a little space to breath out my frustration while they are outside. Rain, shine, snow or sleet they run. 4. I don’t want them to associate chores as a negative consequence for not doing their work. It works fairly well. They almost always have a smile on their face afterwards because of the endorphin release from exercise. If they get frumpy again, or give me sass/bad attitude, off they go. Sometimes it’s 3x’s in one morning! Usually there are other things going on (tired, work is a little challenging and feeling overwhelmed, but I offer my support and still not a good attitude/and unwillingness). Exercise is my go to now! 🙂

    • I agree that exercise is great at getting the cobwebs out of grumpy children – or parents!

      Many people have differing opinions on REQUIRING manual labor or exercise, depending on their approach to parenting and homeschooling.

      But I can’t argue a bit that a break to do something physical and outdoors is often just what is needed to freshen up moods!

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