Homeschooling And The Oppositional Child
"I pulled my child out of school because she was having such a hard time with her teachers. They didn’t seem to know what to do with her, and she was showing lots of signs of anger and aggression, both at school and at home. We decided, as a family, to homeschool, but she still shows such opposition to it. She doesn’t want to listen, and it’s such a battle each day."
While this situation is fictional, as ideal as homeschooling can be, there are children that really have a hard time schooling in any setting. What are the characteristics of an oppositional child?
1. Intense. A child with intense emotions will show you his/her dislike towards homeschooling. It will be easy to see, and intense frustration will be felt by both the child and the homeschooling parent/teacher.
2. Non-compliant. An oppositional child will not want to do the work presented, and will work hard to make the school day, and perhaps the home life, a battle.
3. Angry. Along with intensity, a non-compliant child may show signs of anger towards the homeschooling parent/teacher and the work involved.
4. Persistent. This characteristic can work towards your advantage, once it’s redirected, because persistence is a good quality. When mis-directed in homeschooling this can mean each day is a battle, because the persistent dislike is towards the activity, subject, or even the whole homeschool day.
Why The Opposition To Homeschooling?
The opposition towards homeschooling can occur for many reasons. If you rule out the first three, asking your child questions about his/her discomfort towards school could lead to the root of the problem.
1. Learning Disability. If a child has a learning disability that hasn’t been discovered, or has been discovered, and strides haven’t been made to meet this special need, the child could easily get frustrated on the day in and day out grind of not understanding the work being presented.
2. Attention Deficit Disorder or Distractability. If your child is easily distractable and has a hard time staying on task, this could be due to Attention Deficit Disorder, or a great level of distractability. All children can be distractable, and attention spans increase with age. A doctor or health professional could help you seek a formal diagnosis if you suspect your child may have A.D.D. or A.D.H.D..
3. Oppositional/Behavioral Disorder. Oppositional Defiance Disorder is defined by Wikipedia as "an ongoing pattern of disobedient, hostile and defiant behavior toward authority figures that goes beyond the normal scope of childhood behavior." A behavioral disorder umbrellas many diagnoses including emotional disorders, autism, and others. If your child has been diagnosed with O.D.D. or B.D. it would be most beneficial to seek counsel from special education experts, and see what resources are available in your community to help you homeschool your child effectively.
4. None of the Above! If you have ruled out a learning disability, A.D.D., A.D.H.D., O.D.D., and B.D., then your child is meeting homeschooling with opposition for a different reason. A good place to start with determining your child’s dislike towards homeschool is to ask him/her what parts don’t they like, what would their ideal school day look like, how can we get along better as student and teacher, or how long have they been feeling such discomfort towards homeschooling. By asking some probing questions you may be able to get to the bottom of the root cause. Maybe it’s a social reason, where a teenager would like to be around more kids his/her age. Maybe it’s a teaching issue, where you have been pushing too hard, and the child feels intense scrutiny to do well. Maybe it’s a learning style issue, where the child is very hand-on, and the school day consists of a lot of sitting and doing work book pages. Asking questions may help to understand the child’s feelings towards homeschooling.
Tips For Helping Your Child Learn At Home
- Make sure your child is rested and well-fed. I heard a national, parenting and education expert say that 90% of discipline problems come from a child being over-tired or hungry. While that statistic may seem high, there is much accuracy to this statement. If your child hasn’t eaten a good breakfast, or didn’t get enough sleep you may be off to a rocky start if you push doing school too quickly. This doesn’t mean take the whole day off, but perhaps if you are usually rigid about when you start consider pushing back the school time by a half hour, or preparing some healthy snacks to eat while schooling.
- Be consistent. Most experts in the subject of dealing with strong willed children say to be consistent. Often children that are strong willed, or oppositional towards homeschooling, need a consistent plan and a consistent set of consequences. This keeps the child accountable to what’s required of him/her.
- Offer choices. Most educational experts will tell you that children of all ages love choices! Whether it’s helping make out the order of subjects for the day, or where to school (in the kitchen or the living room), or what time to stop for lunch, children who have some control over their day will respond better overall.
Be creative. In our school setting, I try to find different ways to motivate our son all the time. He’s only 5, so some of the things we’ve done with him are helping him stay on ‘green’ each day with a clothespin mover and a stoplight poster board. See picture below. After he stays on green, for working hard, and not having battles about school work, he earns a ‘train car sticker,’ After he gets 9 train cars, he’s earned a family train night, where we’ll all play trains together. Find ways to keep your child motivated, and mix things up, so the routine doesn’t get boring!
- Teach to his/her learning style. 7 Learning styles, determined by leading psychologists, are Linguistic (very language oriented), Logical (very math oriented), Bodily (very movement/tactile oriented), Musical (very musically oriented), Spatial (very visual), Intrapersonal (work best alone), Interpersonal (work best with others). Check out some books at the library on learning styles and how to teach to them, or check out articles, here on Bright Hub. Type in "learning styles" in the search box on this sight, and you’ll find over 10 articles on the learning styles and how to teach to them!
- Make goals. We started out the year with 3 goals for our 5 year old son. A picture of the goals is below. Make goals for your child, dealing with character and academics. Talk about the goals daily, and how you’ll work to achieve them.
- Pray together. Praying together with your child, for the school day, and about the challenges, helps to soften the situation. Sometimes we I’ve hit a rough patch in the day, I pray with my child, immediately after a situation has occurred where we’re tense with one another. Praying adds another level of power to your defense.
Homeschooling And The Oppositional Child: Is It Ever Impossible?
The answer immediately is no! It’s never impossible to homeschool an oppositional child, however there may come a point where you would want to consider other means of schooling. Whether it’s unschooling, where there is more child-directed learning, or seeking a co-op situation where classes are taught partially by another adult teacher, an online learning setting, like K12, which offers all online teaching, or even a community college, if your child is old enough to learn in this setting, there are many other options if you’re not ready to try a traditional school setting.