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Home > Support > Homeschooling > Do you have any advice to help with a boy who takes forever on his schoolwork?
 
 
Question: I have a 10 year old who is very capable of doing all his homework well and getting A's. The trouble I am having is he will spend all day and then some doing his homework. One assignment in math sometimes takes 3 to 4 hours and it's not because he doesn't understand it. He has no motivation. We have tried to punish, reward, any and all advice from others. Nothing seems to work. Do you have any advice to help with this boy who takes forever?
Answer:

Dear Mom,

Let's begin at the beginning. I see that this is your first year homeschooling your son. This is important to me because it means that there are several factors that are in play. First and most importantly we must remember that when we bring our children home for their primary education we have an adjustment period that must be allowed. It is as though we have to detox our dear children from the methods of teaching that are employed in the public system. I do not want to imply that the methods in the public system are in any way inferior but they do not work well with home education. The methods in public education are designed with a very large classroom situation in mind where several different skill levels are interacting constantly. Many times teachers in this environment must assign work that will keep bright children 'busy' in order that they do not distract slower children from finishing their work. Then there is the mentality of the 'classroom' child. A child in the classroom knows just how far they can go with some behaviors before they will be reprimanded. It is as though the classroom child understands  the regiment of school; lining up for everything, quietly moving from task to task, don't touch your neighbor, sit up in the desk, feet on the floor, timed tests, and on and on but can not relate that to the home experience. When these children come home they rightly understand that home is not school, therefore perhaps some of those 'rules' do not apply. This takes some time to get used to for the child. However remember, that to disobey your mom is not about getting sent to the principal's office but disrespectful. There is a difference in the child's mind. Somehow when all the 'rules' are gone, the child feels that homeschooling is somehow less school. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the normal classroom there are many, many distractions. This is just the joyful nature of children. Children in the classroom get used to the distractions and are able to adjust and work effectively. For example if  'Johnny' is wiggling in his seat and causes a disruption by falling out of his desk, most of the children in the classroom will continue on with their work only looking up slightly interested while 'Johnny' is scolded. However when the child is in the home environment they have to get used to the distractions that are common in the home. Remember that the children that your child is interfacing with each day are his own siblings. His best friends. The antics of the 'baby' are adorable and call out for his attention, etc.

These adjustments take time. Make allowances for the learning experience of adjusting to this new way of schooling. To my mind, the most important lesson that is learned in the homeschool that very first year is how to efficiently do one's schoolwork. This 'skill' is worth all the time it takes to impart its discipline. In the long run this skill will serve you better than a completed math sheet. Remember that 'homework' is school work that a student does at home. Homeschool is learning through the unique rhythm of the home. Quite a different approach. It is not workable to try and imitate the classroom experience in the home. It can't be done with any degree of success. Children know the difference between an institutional setting and the coziness of their own home. Which would you prefer? The best classrooms in the public school setting that I have seen, have a sense of 'home' when you walk into them.

Here are few guidelines that I have used to help with this adjustment. First be realistic in the amount of work that you are asking this little guy to do. If he understands the concept, Praise God! Why keep hitting it over and over? Move onto something more challenging. Through his day dreaming he is trying to stimulate his eager, active mind to learn something. Remember that children are learning machines. They love to learn.

Let him work on his own for a short time each day. I like to 'teach' the concept and then give the child the opportunity to go to a quiet place and do the work with a reasonable time limit. When math time is up for the day, it's up. Any work that is not finished becomes 'homework'. The wheels of the van (taxi service to after-school activities) do not move in the afternoon unless homework is finished. This was our family rule from the very beginning. I have had children in a 'school' situation since 1979.

Look outside. See the weather. See the joy of being alive in the springtime. Imagine that you are a little boy with loads of energy and an eagerness to get outside and have fun. Again be realistic in your expectations. To do 4 problems well and in a timely manner is as worthy as spending 4 hours trying to finish 20 problems. Each way demonstrates the skill level of the student however the first approach keeps everyone happy and eager to learn more.

Go easy on yourself. Many moms are under the false belief that they must somehow be excellent teachers. Though this is a worthy goal it is not realistic and leads a hardworking mom to give up. Think instead of being the best mom you can be. Empower your children to enjoy learning. Knowing how to do math correctly is empowering and helps build self esteem. Teaching children good study habits will serve them far better than most of us realize.

You are a wonderful mommy. You have a heart for your children. Go forward into this journey with joy. Pray for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to anoint your efforts.

Remember that children are eager to learn. Learning comes natural to them. Celebrate the unique learning style of your child.

Let us pray together a Hail Mary for all the families that are being affected by adverse weather this spring. Lord please shelter and protect them.

Sending out a prayer,

Rita Munn

   
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