Homeschooling a Difficult Kid | The Unplanned Homeschooler

Homeschooling conundrums have you in a quandary? Unexpected questions have you scratching your head and wondering what to do next? Don’t worry. The Unplanned Homeschooler is ready to help you tackle your homeschooling issues with confidence.

Dear Unplanned Homeschooler,

We put my 15-year-old daughter back in public school for high school, because she insisted that she wanted to have that “high school experience” with the football games and dances and clubs. I was okay with letting her go back to school, because we live in a safe area and the schools here get high marks.

It’s only been a little while, though, and we are already seeing changes in her behavior and the kids she has chosen to hang out with may be trouble. One of them got suspended last year for having drug paraphernalia on a school trip. We homeschooled her to keep her away from bad influences, but now I am concerned that we’ve made a mistake letting her go back to school. What should we do?

Worried about my daughter

Dear Worried,

Adapting to a new school, while at the same time getting older and more independent, would surely cause some behavioral changes in any child. As long as your daughter is still respectful, of herself and others, and is not engaging in destructive or immoral behavior, I would try to be understanding of her changes and just keep the lines of communication open.

The more troubling part of your question is the issue of her new friends. Now is the time to set clear boundaries, so that your daughter will be better equipped to say no to friends who want her to do bad things. And it would be a good idea to get to know her new friends, and better yet, let them get to know you. Her friends may be less likely to push her into destructive behavior if they know you are involved and watching.

With regard to the one who was suspended last year, I would be very wary of letting my daughter spend any time outside the classroom or my home with a friend who had gotten into trouble over drugs. Yes, kids can change, but this friendship needs to exist under close supervision. Only once I was completely sure that drugs were no longer an issue would I even think of allowing them to spend time alone.

Dear Unplanned Homeschooler,

I think I may be ruining my son. We’ve homeschooled for a few years now, and it has never gone well, but in the last year, he has barely done any school. He only did a couple of sections of math, and read part of one book for English.

He is 13 and should be going into 8th grade, but he’s way behind. I don’t know what I am supposed to do, though, if he refuses school. People tell me to put him back in public school, but I know he would refuse to do his work there, too. No one seems to understand how hard it is when your child just refuses to do school. Can I just let him keep going like he is until he doesn’t have to legally be in school anymore? Then what do I do?

Butting heads with a difficult kid

Dear Butting Heads,

Are you kidding me? I usually try to be nice when responding to queries, but honestly, this has me fired up! You are right, about one thing, though. If the situation is as described, you are probably ruining your kid.

First of all, I don’t believe in refusing school, unless you are dealing with a child who is severely cognitively impaired. I have personally taught developmentally disabled children and adults, and though some of them were exceedingly stubborn, I was able to teach them with patience and persistence.

So, having taken on the responsibility of educating your own child at home, it is your job to make sure that he is getting a quality education. That means you have to sit down and do the hard work of making him read, work math problems and learn new concepts. You can’t just drop a book on the table and expect him to educate himself on his own. That is not only irresponsible, it is lazy.

Assuming your son is not profoundly cognitively challenged, you should be able to get him to do way more than a week or two worth of school work in a year, even if you are only able to work in 15 minute increments at a time.

Now, I realize that some students are harder to educate than others. I know that some kids have difficulty paying attention or concentrating, and some will do just about anything to get out of doing their work. But you are the adult and the teacher. You are the one who has to sit down with him and actually teach the material, even if you can only get him to focus for an hour or two each day.

If you are not committed to providing your son with an actual education, you are not homeschooling at all. Most real homeschoolers work diligently to educate their kids. They get their kids evaluated if they suspect a learning disability and seek help if they fall behind. They don’t just allow their kids to refuse school. Why? Because they accept the responsibility that comes with home education, which is to actually teach your kids!

What you are engaged in is called educational neglect, and should be reported to the local authorities. Your son should be back in school if you are unwilling or incapable of teaching him, and you should probably be investigated for letting this go on so long.

I strongly encourage homeschoolers who suspect educational neglect to talk to the family in question and get to know more about their situation. They may be trying hard and just need some help, or their child may have learning disabilities they are struggling to overcome. If, after getting to know the family, you still believe that the children are victims of neglect or abuse, please don’t turn a blind eye. There is nothing wrong with reaching out to authorities to get a child the help they need.

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