I have lost track of how many pencils my son has broken this month.
Let’s just say a lot, K?
It’s his go-to method of shutting down whatever it is we are working on. I honestly think he believes if he snaps the pencil, he will not be able to finish the exercise. No more pencil. No more writing, right? (Nevermind the borderline hoarder status of my school supply cabinet, filled to the brim with as many writing implements as one can possibly imagine. God as my witness, we will never go without random Staples products again.)
As much as I enjoy homeschooling my two boys and as much as we have been able to accomplish together over the past seven years, the truth is, both of my boys can be resistant and often, downright defiant when it comes to learning.
They come by it honestly.
Dysgraphia makes writing for my pencil snapping little ninja extremely difficult.
Sensory issues overwhelm my oldest when he is asked to write anything at all.
My hand already hurts.
I can smell the pen.
I can hear the pencil scratching against the paper.
Often, I can actually feel the resistance coming before I even start our learning for the day.
Rather than giving up and going back to bed (which is so tempting sometimes I want to cry) or screaming and yelling (which is also so tempting sometimes I want to cry), I have discovered some tips that help a resistant learner actually learn.
5 Tips For Homeschooling A Resistant Learner
Resistance Is Not Always Laziness
I am not sure why this is my default and I am not proud of it, but the truth is I am more likely to attribute resistance to laziness than is reasonable. Yes, sometimes my boys would rather play video games than learn. But the resistance in that scenario is very different from what I see most. Laziness sounds a lot like whininess in my home. Outright resistance (think stubborn refusals, pencil snapping, and tears) almost always has another source.
These are far more likely to create resistance in my boys than laziness. The good news is, when I have the presence of mind to remember that there is more going on here than sheer lack of will, I am more likely to proceed with love and patience.
Fun Is Always Better
100% of the time, my sons resist when I am trying to get them to do something that is a requirement, but no fun at all. (Think handwriting worksheet). While there are some occasions where it is necessary to just do the work, most of the time, if I can find a way to incorporate fun into the learning, the resistance fades.
I love what Pam Barnhill shares in this podcast. She says that she adds pugs to just about everything to make it more fun for her son. He loves pugs, so making a math word problem about pugs instead of watermelons is an easy way to incorporate some silliness and avoid resistance.
Draw Your Mom Line and Hold It
As my boys are getting older, there are some things that I consider to be nonnegotiables each day. Reading practice for my dyslexic son is one of them.
When he resists, I have learned to take a break from whatever it is that we are working on, but also clearly state that we will come back to it later. Inevitably, later in the day, he will want to start playing with his brother. When he does, I casually say, “OK, let’s hurry up and finish that reading so that you can be done for the day.” It works almost every time.
Then Let Go Of Everything Else
While I have my lines drawn and my nonnegotiables in place, I have also learned to then let go of everything else. While reading is a big deal for my youngest, a math worksheet is not. I prioritize the most important learning first, when dealing with resistance.
Focus On Today and Today Only
This is probably my most important tip –
When your child resists learning, do not play it all out.
If he doesn’t practice, he’ll never learn to read.
I want him to have a strong work ethic. How is he ever going to hold down a job?
I should send him to school.
None of these are helpful when dealing with a resistant learner. Playing out all the worst case scenarios just makes you panic, push harder and creates more resistance.
My advice is to just focus on today, on the activities you want to complete, and on the child in front of you.
All of us, at one point or another, will likely encounter a resistance to learning in our children. Although it can be frustrating (and exhausting) it doesn’t have to derail the day.
If all else fails and I just can’t get back on track, I pack the kids up in the car, turn on an audiobook, grab some ice cream and breathe a little.
Tomorrow is a new day.
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