Monday, June 27, 2011

When Your Child Balks at School

Even with the most exciting lessons, most children will at some point resist having school.  Some children will resist frequently.  Forcing compliance through punishment will not get the child's willing cooperation, but there are other ways to approach the problem.
Talk to her about what the purpose of school is (preparing your mind and body for adult life and the work God has planned for you to do) and how each thing you do in school works toward that purpose.  (Make sure everything DOES in fact work toward that purpose!  No busywork.)  After that, wait for a day when she is especially uncooperative.  Calmly close up your book, put away the supplies, and get out the cleaning supplies.  Explain that today is going to be a day for a different type of preparation for adulthood--housework.  Adults have to know how to do that too, and since the schoolwork isn't going well you're both going to work on housework instead during the time that is always set aside for preparation for adulthood.
Years ago, one of the Ambleside Advisory members (I think) said that she began each school year by sitting in a chair with a cookie recipe in hand, orally directing each of her children through the cookie-making process.  If they listened and followed instructions, they ended up with cookies to eat.  The idea was to emphasize the importance of following her instructions as she guided them through school.
Another Advisory member mentioned a book she used (I cannot remember the name right off and don't remember where my notes are) that discusses the godly purpose behind each school subject.  She would use tidbits from that at the beginning of each school year, if I remember rightly.
Some children more than others need to know the *why* of what they are doing--they want to do something meaningful.  We can show them the why of it.  But then we must insist on the work as well, even when they don't feel like it.  That too is part of preparation for adulthood.


  1. I would LOVE to know the title of that book, if you can find your notes!

  2. I did NOT find my notes, but I did ask around, and I think the book I remembered was this one:
    Encyclopedia of Bible Truths for School Subjects
    by Ruth C. Haycock

  3. This was just what I needed to read today! Thank you!

  4. Love the new blog :)

  5. A year after writing this post and it still leaves a mark on folks! I am on the AO yahoo group, and visit your blog quite often. I was reading through your "ambleside" posts and came across this one. It was as if it was written for me! You even used "she" in reference to the child! My oldest is my "What's the Point?" child, the one who needs clear purpose for EVERYTHING she does. I struggle with this, becuase sometimes the reasons AREN'T going to make sense to her at the moment. I think of cursive as a major teeth-gnasher, as well as particular topics in math.
    I am finding that much of the balking comes from the challenge of the task, and how hard it seems, and even more so, stamina-longsuffering-perservance. Traits this mama doesn't really give much of a shine :)
    Thank you for this post, as it gives me something very real to do in response, but it also gives me something to think about -- WHY am I having her do this thing? What is the value, and does it move her towards the goal of being a woman living and breathing for God as a light in this world? Does it prepare to to thrive in the world inasmuch as she needs to be that light, that person of integrity for other around her? The jury is out on cursive.....

  6. Sally, thanks for that lovely comment! I laughed about the cursive issue, though. Really, my two girls both *wanted* to do cursive and had to be restrained for a little before beginning. But we are using italic handwriting, so cursive is not substantially different from printing, so that may help. (Although dd #2 wanted a fancier cursive, so we chose an more elaborate italic font for her.) I look at cursive as a useful life skill for writing beautiful notes. All of us will at one time or another need to write handwritten notes of thanks, condolence, support, or etc., and knowing how to write cursive beautifully enhances that. So that's how I would frame it. But if the pushback were severe or the skill extremely hard to master for a particular child, we might not work as hard or as long to achieve mastery of that particular skill. lol

  7. Very helpful information! Thank you for this. I followed the link you put up today from the email. God bless

  8. Encyclopedia of Bible Truths for School Subjects by Ruth Haycock--I think Wendi​​ was the Advisory member. :-)