Are you homeschooling a strong-willed child? I am, too, and believe me when I say it can be done. Here are five tips to help you successfully homeschool your strong-willed child.
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich wrote that “well behaved women seldom make history.”
This reminds me of a few of the saints:
Joan of Arc
Teresa of Avila
Catherine of Siena
My second child has the same undeniable spark, a smoldering ember that will set the world afire.
Assuming she can keep from burning herself in the process.
To call my daughter strong-willed is an understatement. This kid has an iron core, and may the good Lord help you if you happen to get in the way. My first encounter with this came in Walmart, when an incident involving a sparkling pink dog purse ended in a tantrum so severe another shopper accused me of child abuse. Her will only solidified as she grew older, and our first year of homeschooling was a battle royale in which I wondered who would survive.
Fortunately, we both did, and I’ve learned a few things in my quest to homeschool my strong-willed child.
Five Tips for Homeschooling Your Strong-willed Child
If you’ve done any reading on the subject, you probably know some experts advocate breaking the will. But as a strong-willed woman myself, I disagree with that assessment.
Strong-willed attitudes and behaviors in children are an undeniable asset. If guided correctly, these children become adults who
- persevere through difficulty
- challenge injustice
- exhibit great passion
- advocate for the downtrodden
- lead with integrity
- seek out what is right
The key to getting there, though, is learning how to work with, not against, a strong-willed child. I’ve developed five techniques for homeschooling my strong-willed child that provide both freedom and structure: a combination I find especially helpful in teaching her to channel that beautiful spirit.
I involve her in decision making.
Strong-willed children want to know that their opinions are valued. When it comes to my girl, I offer her as much input as I can when making educational decisions. Take our reading curriculum, for instance. The first one I bought she hated: the main character, a bear, was always telling her what to do (facepalm). Then she didn’t like the second program because I was telling her what to do. We went round and round the mulberry bush until I finally just asked her: “Don’t you want to learn to read?!?”
I stood there, slack-jawed and catching flies, as my father would have said. And then I realized something. She was five and a late September baby. She knows herself quite well, and if she didn’t want to learn to read it was because she wasn’t ready. So we quit and spent the last quarter of the year just doing read-alouds and imaginary play.
A few months later she was ready to start, and we did, with a new program. She’s happy. I’m happy. And we’re finally on the way to reading.
I give her time to do her thing.
B needs play the way some people need a caffeine IV in the morning. She also needs snuggle time and a few minutes of my undivided attention. To affect this, I’ve started a morning read aloud and basket routine. Her brother and I cuddle up on the couch and read, then she has time to explore her morning basket contents while I work with the oldest and the babe.
The result? Her attitude is better, she wants to do her work, and she seems to enjoy learning rather than complain about it. I’m only sorry it took me so long to figure this one out.
I avoid triggers as best I can.
Everybody has them. For B, they are her undying and irrational love for chocolate. Her intense focus on play that trumps trips to the bathroom, water breaks, and nutritious meals. Her overwhelming sensitivity and sense of pride. All of these things will derail our homeschool day if I don’t stay actively involved. It’s a fine line between walking on eggshells and nagging, but an appropriate structure to her day and a few gentle reminders seems to work. As long as she’s feeling well, she’s learning well, and that’s the end goal.
I set boundaries and stick to them.
We’re still working on this one. I’m ashamed to admit that when my daughter was a toddler/preschooler it was easier to give in to her demands than do something about them (the hubs and I were worn out from navigating our oldest daughter’s challenges).
I’m sure you can imagine how well that worked out, and how surprising it has been for her now that we are holding her to a higher standard. I grounded her a few weeks ago for talking (well, yelling) back at me from across the court when I asked her to come in for lunch. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but I don’t care how strong your will is: it ain’t an excuse for talkin’ trash, especially to your mama.
The truth is, there will be times when she doesn’t get her way. It’s my responsibility to equip her with the emotional reserves to survive such an incident. Taking the time to set boundaries and hold her to them now will serve her well in the future.
I provide opportunities to channel her zeal.
Strong-willed children often thrive in leadership positions. When I let my kiddo take the reins (or at least let her think she is), our schooling is much more peaceful. I set up a list of tasks we have to complete during the week, and she gets to choose what we do when. She selects our read alouds from a basket I’ve compiled. She also determines the number and frequency of schooling breaks.
The resulting sense of ownership is so important. As the school day goes on, my girl not only feels as though she’s in control but also that she has a vital role in the success of our homeschool. She’s personally invested in what we do and that makes all the difference.
Even though it’s a struggle at times, I love that my daughter is strong-willed.
She comes by it honestly through a long line of stubborn women of whom I am immensely proud.
My daughter might never be president. She might never fly to the moon. She might be “just” a mom like me. But whatever she does, I’m committed to helping her do it bravely and boldly, with a heart fixed on holiness and a will that’s stronger than iron.
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