Stop using these 2 simple words and you can defeat the daily battle of wills over school lessons.
Struggles, frustrations, battles, tears and anger seem to be a regular partner in our homeschooling journey. Lessons can be challenging. Kids get tired and grumpy. Mom gets tired and grumpy. The house is a mess, you’re 3 weeks behind on the math lessons and you’re repeating the same explanation about how to do fractions for the 4th day in a row.
What is the problem?
There can be many reasons a child struggles with their lessons.
- Sometimes it is simply a readiness issue – too much formal schooling, too young has been shown to inhibit a child’s long-term academic potential and actually make it harder for them to excel.
- Occasionally it is a learning disorder. It’s always wise to get professional testing and evaluation if your child seems truly incapable of doing age-appropriate school lessons.
- Most of the time it’s an attitude problem, not an academic one.
Changing attitudes about school work
Have you ever told your child “you have to do your math now?”
Have you ever beaten yourself up with statements like “we should have finished with this book already!”
There is a psychological trigger to words like have to and should and it changes the way we think about situations.
Using words like have to and should is the language of victims who aren’t in control of their lives. Saying “we have to do math” is often another way of saying “we have to, but we don’t want to.” If mom is talking that way, the kids are thinking that way. People who feel like victims feel as if someone or something else is forcing them to do things they don’t want to do. Thus anything they do is done unwillingly or even put off as long as possible as a form of rebellion against who or whatever is in control.
If you children are constantly hearing “you have to get your work done now” It’s like telling them “this is something beyond our control. It’s something we are forced to do, whether we like it or not.” School becomes a task-master, a horrible chore, inflicted upon us by someone bigger and stronger than we are. It turns education into an enemy to be avoided. We crave a sense of control over our lives and anytime we are told we “have to” do something, it takes away that control and triggers an instinctive resistance.
Where it began
As adults, we may be carrying around some school-related resistance from our own childhood. Our memories may be of hard and boring lessons we were forced to complete because we were told that is the only way to learn.
When we remember school as unpleasant work that was forced upon us by distracted teachers or demanding parents, then our attitude toward school work is “I have to.” We felt like a helpless victim and we carry that mental picture into our homeschooling efforts.
While a part of us knows the value of homeschooling and we very much want to provide an exceptional education for our children, we can be hampered by that old mindset which still sees school as a burden to bear. So we use words like “we have to get that history lesson done before lunch” The message we are sending is “the work is hard and boring, we aren’t going to like it, but we are being forced to do it in order to be good students”
The first part of the solution is to remove the emotion. Instead of saying we “have to” say “we are going to do that lesson from 11 to 11:30.” Once you remove the option to like or dislike something and make it just a thing we get done each day, eventually it becomes something we get done each day, just like eating supper and taking a bath. We just do it because it has to get done.
The second part is to make education part of our lifestyle. There is a way to change boring “have-to” school work into enjoyable, engaging, adventures in learning. When encouraged to uncover and develop all their forms of intelligence, children become inquisitive, curious learning machines. School work is no longer a struggle when subjects are taught using methods which tap into the child’s strengths.
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