Homeschool mom and daughter

When a Child Resists Homeschooling

How do I deal with a child who is resisting homeschooling?

Though many factors lead us to choose homeschooling, we all share one overarching motivation—we believe it is the best decision for our kids.

Sometimes, however, our children do not share our assessment. Sometimes, a child vehemently disagrees with the decision to homeschool. There can be many reasons for this. Loss of the social life they enjoyed at their site-based school and fear of missing out on extra-curricular activities are common. Teens may be going through periods of prolonged conflict with parents that sour them doing school with mom & dad. Children who have experienced a life-altering event (death of a parent, divorce, chronic illness) may cling to their site-based school because it represents stability. Sometimes, your kid just prefers a conventional classroom experience.

These situations can make your decision to homeschool a controversial one. Your child may push back, frustrating your attempts and making education a subject of discord in the house. Besides being unpleasant and exhausting, these types of battles can strain relationships with your kids and lead you to second-guess yourself.

What should you do if your child is fighting back against homeschooling? Here are my tips on what to do when a child resists homeschooling…

1. Reflect on Your Decision to Homeschool

Before you do anything, it is best to reflect on your decision sincerely. Is this truly the best decision for your child? It can help to write down your rationale. Make a list of the reasons you want to pull your child from his site-based school. Then, list of what you hope to accomplish by homeschooling. Consider the pros and cons of both forms of education. When you lay it all out on paper, do the benefits of homeschooling outweigh the reasons for keeping him in school?

Presumably, if you’ve decided to homeschool, you have already reflected on this question. But if your child is resisting, it is good to do so again because we do have to leave open the possibility that homeschooling might not be the best option. Keep an open mind and ensure you sincerely look at the question from all angles. Don’t just push through because you have predetermined that it is the only way forward.

Include your child in these conversations. Bringing a reluctant daughter into the discussion will empower her and give her a sense of investment in her education. That kind of empowerment makes any change seem less scary.

Also, if your child resists, this is a time to talk to your spouse and ensure they are entirely on board and supportive. If your spouse is not 100% behind you, this conflict could cause a fissure between you both. Once that crack is opened up, your child will see it, and it can create more resistance. So, work to ensure your spouse outwardly supports the final decision.

2. Create Stability in Your Homeschool

Presuming you have reflected on the matter and decided to go forward, it is important to create stability. Of course, stability is always important for children. This is especially vital when the child is hesitant about homeschooling. It is important for you to build confidence. Your child needs to see that you have this under control—that you have a plan. They need to feel their education is being attended to with care and intentionality. Think about this in terms of predictability and routine. Children are not in control of their own circumstances. Therefore, creating predictable routines is a way of showing love, as routines allow them to feel a sense of control and predictability.

Your child will respond much better to your decision to homeschool if you can craft an educational regimen that uses a routine. What kind of routine you use is up to you, but your child should not wake up each morning feeling like, “I have no idea what is happening today.” Again, try to incorporate your child into the planning process to develop a solid routine.

3. Select a Balanced Curriculum

Your student’s academic work should be balanced. You and your child will get frustrated if the work is too challenging. Since your child is already ambivalent about homeschooling, this frustration will translate to resentment towards home education in general. On the other hand, if the work is too easy, your child will feel like homeschooling is a joke that can be blown off and not considered seriously. So you want your curriculum to be something that requires real effort, but it is within your child’s capabilities to master.

This requires knowledge of your child’s aptitude in various content areas, as well as careful study of the different homeschooling curricula and what they entail. You might want to review our article “How to Start Homeschooling Midyear“; much of this advice will be relevant. The goal with curriculum here is to letting your child know that he is actually being educated; this requires a balanced curriculum that is neither too easy nor overly complex & challenging.

4. Make Extracurricular Opportunities Available

In general, homeschooling parents should not feel like they need to mimic public school. (See “Homeschoolers Don’t Need to Mimic Public School“.) However, if there were particular aspects of the school experience that your child loved, there’s no reason you can’t find ways to recreate those opportunities. For example, if your son liked being on the high school swim team, get him involved at your community aquatics center. If your daughter enjoyed drama class, see about signing her up for community theater. Most extracurricular activities available through the public schools have non-public school counterparts available through various community organizations.

Some school districts allow your student to continue to participate in extracurricular activities even if your student is no longer enrolled. Certain states have laws stipulating that activities must be made available to every child who lives in the district, whether or not they attend the public school. It would be worth your time to research, as this could mean your son doesn’t have to quit the team just because he leaves the school.

Even if your child has never done an extracurricular activity before, this could be a fantastic time to start. The point is that your child should not feel like his or her opportunities are diminished because you’ve chosen to homeschool. Making extracurricular opportunities available communicates this. It enables them to see how they can still flourish in their new circumstances.

5. Be Generous With Social Time

If your child is concerned about missed social opportunities, make sure you go out of your way to allow them to interact with friends. You will often have to take the initiative here. Remember, now that you are homeschooling, occasions for socializing have to be created with intentionality. For younger kids, you are going to have to arrange play dates. For older kids, you may need to remind them to reach out to their friends and make yourself available for transportation. Maintaining existing friendships helps create continuity between the old and new arrangements for your child. A child who can continue to see some of his or her friends from the site-based school may be less likely to feel like they are “losing” their social life by homeschooling.

In addition, you should create opportunities for your child to make new friends as well. This might mean taking them to the homeschool co-op, parish youth group, or getting them involved in other social activities. They should not feel like their ability to fraternize with their peers is jeopardized by your decision to homeschool.

6. Trust God!

Finally, trust God! Here, I would like to share my own experience:

My son had always been homeschooled. He was always the antsy type, needing a lot of supervision to keep him on task. I often spent a disproportionate amount of time attending to him relative to my other children. As he grew older, he began pushing back against homeschooling, saying he wanted to attend a public school instead. I resisted; we were a homeschooling family, and that was that. However, over time, I saw that homeschooling was not serving him well. Every day was a constant battle; his grades were poor, and he yearned to get out into the world. He was like a horse chomping at the bit to get out of the house.

I tried various intermediate solutions, like putting him in a co-op two days a week, but he insisted on attending a local site-based school. I finally concluded that the current situation was no longer workable and allowed him to attend the school. He blossomed. He became more sociable. His grades shot up. He threw himself into his work zealously, whereas, during homeschooling, I had to practically force him to do anything. He thrived on the approbation of adults who were not his parents. He completed 7th and 8th grade in public school, then attended orientation to prepare for high school.

In 8th grade, he received the Sacrament of Confirmation. Shortly after this, he approached me abruptly and said, “I don’t want to go back to school. I want to go back to homeschooling.” I was shocked, as he had been doing so well in the local school. We had a long talk about his motivations and discussed the previous impasse we had with homeschooling. He swore up and down it would be different this time.

His two years in the public school had better disposed him to homeschooling and given him a greater appreciation for home education. Once again, I decided to give him a shot. He returned to homeschooling for 9th grade and has been killing it ever since. I have zero problems with him now. He does his work with dedication, helps his younger siblings around the house, and, in every way, has exceeded my expectations. The difficulties I used to have with him seem like another dimension.

In retrospect, I think the grace of the Sacrament of Confirmation worked upon his heart. Who knows? The point is to leave room for the Holy Spirit to work. Trust God. The road may not always be smooth, but if you walk it with prudence, consideration, and faith, it will be much more rewarding for you and your children.


For practical support in your Catholic homeschool, check out the Homeschooling Saints Podcast, available on your favorite podcasting app and YouTube.
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