If you are homeschooling a difficult child, the following tips may help you.
The day did not look promising. My youngest daughter threw herself into her chair with a scowl on her face, making it abundantly clear that this game was being played under protest. Books were slammed, the table was kicked, and complaints filled the air. “Why do I have to do this?” “This is so stupid!” “I can’t!” “I don’t know how!” “It’s too hard!” Unfortunately, this was not my daughter just having a bad day. This was almost every day of our homeschooling career, year after year. Yet, somehow, we made it through, weathering the tantrums and tears by sheer determination, undergirded by the grace of God.
Since I am by nature a “fixer,” I wanted to find out why my daughter was behaving the way she was and what I could do to help her. As we struggled through our homeschooling years, I explored different possibilities that might underlie the problems we were experiencing. The only thing that truly helped my daughter was maturity; however, God did reveal some specific strategies that made the homeschooling journey a little easier. If you are homeschooling a difficult child, I offer these for your consideration.
Homeschooling the Difficult Child
While I knew this intellectually, I needed to realize fully that my daughter was different from her siblings. First, we discovered she had food sensitivities, which meant that her behavior was much better when her diet was controlled. She was also more active than my other children, so I had to plan frequent breaks for running laps around the house or skating up and down the sidewalk a few times. Your child may also experience a unique issue or disability that requires special consideration. Even though I had already parented three children, I still had to learn how God had designed this one.
Similarly, children do not develop at the same pace, so not all are ready to handle a particular task at a given point in time. Just because your older children read at age 5, it doesn’t mean that your next one will. It can also be tempting to compare your child to the whiz kid in the homeschool co-op or the neighbor’s kid in public school. Relaxing your expectations can go a long way in relieving frustration in your child and may lead to better behavior.
Children also have different learning styles. My first two children were visual learners, content to sit still and read books; my third was an auditory learner, who needed to talk about what she was learning. My youngest, however, was a kinesthetic learner, so giving her plenty of opportunities for activity and hands-on learning made her more likely to cooperate.
Along the same lines, my older children were completely happy with textbooks and workbooks (with a few CDs and videos thrown in for my third child). However, the same materials that worked for those three did not work for the fourth. With her, I had to move to a unit-study approach, as that gave her the activity that she needed. Be prepared to abandon your “tried and true” if it better serves your child.
Sometimes we must face the harsh reality that, despite our best efforts to learn about each child’s unique design and plan our homeschooling accordingly, difficulty with a child occurs because of heart issues. These may be on the part of the child (laziness, selfishness, pride, rebellion), or they may be our own issues (laziness, selfishness, pride, impatience). I often found that being willing to deal with these issues and being open about my own failures helped to soften my daughter’s heart and many times got us back on track, both in our relationship and in our homeschooling.
It is my firm belief that God sends us difficult children to teach us humility. We quickly learn that we cannot depend on our knowledge or our experience but must depend totally on Him for wisdom and grace. If we are wise, we will be open to trying new ways of parenting and new ways of teaching. We will also seek counsel from others and ask them to support us in prayer. Look at your difficult child, not as a burden, but as an opportunity to grow as a parent and as a teacher.