Monday, September 11, 2006

Homeschooling A Strong Willed Child (Girl or Boy)

I keep getting hits on my blog for people using the phrase on Internet search engines "homeschooling a strong willed boy", or "child" so I feel a need to state an opinion on this.

Here is my answer to this in a nutshell. The issue is a parenting issue. If you homeschool you will take on the responsibility of educating your child at home. Increased time together can either make things harder, meaning, more time together will give more opportunities to have conflicts. HOWEVER I feel that will also force the parent to actively parent the child using various parenting techniques to teach the child better behavior/good behavior, communication skills, and whatever else the issues are.

Being an active parent is not an easy task by any means, and that includes parents of schooled children.

Being an active parent (addressing negative behaviors, appreciating positive behaviors, etc.) plus homeschooling them is a HUGE job. I am not going to try and kid anyone with the idea that it is not hard work.

One issue with homeschooling is that since the parent and child are together more I feel that the parent has almost no choice but to address the problems with the child's personality or the child's negative behavior. Who wants to be around a person all day who is unpleasant if not outright rude and/or destructive or fill-in-the-blank. So the remedy is to fix the problem, teach the child the better ways to act, behave, and communicate in a positive manner (whatever is acceptable and desirable in your family)

If the parent chooses to not parent, if they ignore the issue, or send the child to school in order to get separation from the child who is undesirable to be around, then that is not really solving the issue, is it? The badly behaving child will act badly at school or in public or whatever--it is just that the parent won't be around to suffer like the rest of the people are (other children and the non-parent adults who serve as guardians of that child in the parent's absence).

My advice is to parent the child and fix the issues, that is the role of the parent anyway (no matter where the child is educated). (And that applies to all parents not just homeschooling parents.)

If you homeschool your child and fix the issues, teach the child respect, if you treat your child with respect, etc. etc. then the increased time together will (gasp) be enjoyable for both of you. Things that strong-willed children do can be tempered and smoothed out a bit where the edges are rough (that is called socialization according to Dr. Phil, who says that all parents have a responsibility to socialize their children).

If you are considering homeschooling but fear it due to increased time with the badly behaving child of yours, I can understand your worry and doubt. Homeschooling is a huge responsibility, please only do it if you are committed.

I am very confident that any child can be successfully homeschooled, strong-willed or not strong-willed. In the end it is all about the relationship between the parent and the child, and many regular parenting issues such as whether you both treat each other with respect or not, whether your child considers you an authority figure that they must listen to, take directions from, etc.

If you don't think that your strong-willed child and you can get along enough to spend more time together plus doing the learning and teaching that homeschoooing requires, then don't homeschool your child. But I beg of you to not choose not to parent your child just because you can ship them out to school for the majority of their waking hours so you won't have to endure their presence. The few hours a day that parents of schooled children have with them should be enjoyed and savored, not short torture sessions that the parent endures because they know it is just a few hours between when the bus drops off the child and when the child falls asleep at night.

I'd rather see more parents actively parenting their children than seeing more parents homeschooling their children, so I am not going to go around trying to push all parents to homeschool. What I am saying is that if your child is strong-willed to a point where it is causing problems in the family I urge you to address it just because you are the parent and that is your job.

My favorite parenting books are written by William Sears M.D. in case you are wondering.

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The Crew! said...

I appreciate your encouragement. In your experience, do you think there is ever a child or a child's personality that just doesn't tolerate homeschooling? I feel like we are actively parenting our child and addressing issues but every day is a battle with our daughter. Some battles just leave me wanting to throw in the towel. She wants to go to school daily (she attends classes twice per week) which means that trying to get schoolwork done (with a positive attitude and an open, active mind)becomes a drag and a chore for both her and I. There is no way I can replicate a classroom setting and experience so it leaves me feeling defeated. I've felt tempted to send her to school and allow her to have what she wants while supplementing what she doesn't get at home but for *my* strong-will it feels like giving up. I just can't find this addressed anywhere nor can I find anyone who wants to admit it exists in their home too. We're starting out and in our second year of homeschooling so I just see before me this huge hill and wonder if there really is any good on the other side of it or if its going to be one long battle with nothing to measure success at the end.

christinemm said...

Hello Mother of "The Crew"!

I'd be happy to chat via email about your situation.

One thing that has me concerned is if she is in school 2 days a week & loves it then she doesn't like homeschooling I worry that the 'other way' of learning, whatever it is you do at home will never measure up.

I also wonder if being tied to 2 days at school will prevent you from doing more of a free life to do learning in other ways, doing stuff like some other homeschoolers like our family does won't be able to be done (good stuff).

If you'd like you can email me & we can chat about it via email.

christine m m at snet dot net

As my post indicates I am not into converting everyone to homeschool so I will not be talking you into keeping up homeschooling if it is not working out academically or if it is hurting your parent/child relationship or hurting them in some way (hindering their development or making them have an angry heart all the time or some other things).

Local Deal Finder-Huntsville-Conroe-The Woodlands said...

I realize this post was a long time ago, but I just stumbled upon it, because like you stated...I was searching google for "homeschooling the strong-willed child" and your site was one of the first links. I don't mean to criticize your post, but to me it sounds like you are saying that a child is strong-willed because of the parents' lack of discipline and/or activity with the child. I have to whole-heartedly disagree. There are a number of books written from a Christian perspective on the personality of the strong-willed child, such as those by Dr. James Dobson. I don't believe any disciplining measure can or should change the personality of your child. I think what "most" of us, at least speaking for myself...are looking for when we search for help on homeschooling the strong-willed child, is what kind of techniques are best for teaching the child. And questions on issues such as how do you balance learning with this personality. ie, My daughter who is 4 1/2 will sometimes just refuse to do a task I've asked of her. Many times she is very cooperative and helpful, but she is highly distractible and strong-willed. And when she doesn't want to do something, she WILL NOT. But as a parent and her teacher, what is the best way to respond in these situations? You don't want to "give in" to her and take a break, but you almost have to take a break and come back to it, because otherwise you're fighting a brick wall...and I fear making the child dislike the learning process by forcing her to continue. I think the way you phrased the other option of "shipping them off to school" for someone else to deal with with also off the mark. When I think of our options and what would be best for our family, I am not trying to get out of parenting my child. I know as well as probably a lot of other moms that children behave differently in group settings. I get nothing but compliments from my kiddos' Sunday School teachers about how well-behaved and cooperative they are. I have a very close friend who sent her strong-willed daughter to private school kindergarten this past year and could not believe the difference it made in her behavior. She just learned from the "positive peer pressure" in a classroom setting more about social courtesies like not interrupting and following directions, etc. There ARE some good things about children like this going to a classroom setting and when parents like myself are considering homeschooling, but worry about whether or not I have the skills or abilities to teach a strong-willed child, these are things we are considering. I'm not debating whether or not I "want" to deal with her or ship her off to let someone else deal with her...I'm thinking about what is the best fit for our family.

Forgive me for openly "debating" your post, but I just don't agree with the idea that a child is strong-willed because of their parents' involvement. And like I said, when I personally am searching for help and advice on homeschooling my strong-willed child, I'm looking for techniques and tips on what works best with this type of personality. Thanks for listening!

ChristineMM said...

Hello Woodlands mom,

Blogger says what I have to say is too long so I will publish as a blog post tonight or tomorrow then will link in.

Maybe we can chat in person some time since I'm a new resident of The Woodlands!

ChristineMM said...

Hello again Woodlands mom,
I am really busy getting ready to move and working with the contractor, picking paint colors et cetera.

What you said has really got me thinking and writing and so far I've got 3200 plus words written. However I am forcing myself to stop so I can get back to the projects at hand.

I will say this now though.Hopefully some time I can polish up what I wrote and share more, maybe as new blog posts.

Hello Woodlands mom,

As you know and said, the post I wrote about homeschooling a strong willed child was from a few years ago. I had not read the post in a long time so before I read your entire comment I re-read what I wrote several years ago then I went back and read what you said.

You said "Forgive me for openly "debating" your post, but I just don't agree with the idea that a child is strong-willed because of their parents' involvement."

First, I love discussion. Most people who use the word debate are actually describing discussion but fear that such dialogue is negative and label the discussion a debate which is something bad. I am happy to further explain the opinions expressed in that post and to answer your questions and respond to your opinions. I have nothing to forgive you for, I welcome the dialogue.

Second, I wish you had not assumed what you did as what you think I'm saying is incorrect. We are actually in agreement. I do not feel that a strong willed child is caused by a parent's behavior or parenting style.

With that said, if a parent is not actively addressing the worst aspects or the negative parts of a strong willed child allows it to continue “unchecked”. I believe letting bad behavior (of any type with any child) can have a snowball effect, getting worse and worse over the years, until a situation is out of control.

I wish we could talk in person some day. This is a huge topic that is not easy to address in writing.

I am a huge homeschooling advocate and know that most kids can thrive with homeschooling. However if various challenges are present then homeschooling is not always superior to school. It could be something like a very sick mom who can't handle teaching homeschool or it could mean finacial issues that force a mom to go to work or it could be a mom so worn out by a strong willed child that they just can't be an effective homeschool parent teacher and be an effective mom. If that job is too huge for some women then they should not do it. Christian women should seek God's counsel on this through prayer.

If however a Christian woman feels called to homeschool and the mom is letting her worries and her mind get in between God's desire for her role in parenting/raising/educating her child that is something that needs to be addressed. Perhaps the situation in real life is not as bad as the mom imagines it might be.

Worrying about what homeschool Kindergarten would be like for a mom of a 4.5 year old might be inaccurate to the reality of what a joy homeschooling Kindergarten is for many homeschool families.

(see next comment)

ChristineMM said...

Oh how I wish I could go back just one day and have homeschool Kindergarten with both of my strong willed sons again. Kids grow up so fast and those innocent days are over so quickly.

My older son turns 14 very soon and I can't recognize the deep voice I hear talking in the other room. I still think that's dirt on his upper lip when it is just a spot he missed while shaving. I can't get over the look of the hairy legs, they are not the legs of my little boy.

My 11 year old is super strong willed and is almost like a twin to the way I was when I was a kid which kills me and shocks me to witness as I feel like I've been transported back in time and am viewing "this is your life" when in reality I had forgotten that I used to be that way. I don't know how my parents stood for the way I was.

I am challenged daily by him (especially now that he is a preteen and is voicing his opinions more) and while I sometimes am completely exasperated and don't always think I have chosen the optimal reaction, I know what I'm doing is above and beyond how I was parented. Any efforts in the right direction are better than the alternative of not acting and just letting him steamroll me and have his way, when what is done is bad and wrong.

We need to have goals as parents and home educators. I aim for the stars. If we only land on the moon it will still be fantastic.

Parenting is a huge effort and trying to reach the stars is exhausting. Sadly, arriving at the moon doesn't always feel good enough. I know though, that if I lower my expectations of myself and my family and shoot just for the moon, we would not even make it to the moon.

Perseverance is so important.

Now I'll go blog something today that my husband said that suprised me at the time but I agree with. I'd just never thought about it before.

kathywithkids said...

I truly want to scream...HELP!!!! I sit here, trying not the sob. My son is 13, and very strong willed and argumentative. What a combo. We have always homeschooled, and it seems like we have been around this "I'm ready to give up" mountain before. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God has called us to school our children at home. Saying that, how do I survive with a very strong willed young man, who argues about everything you ask him to do, or who alredy knows what to do...or even to avoid the subject will pick apart what you are saying, this always ending in a frustrating conversation then leaves me with my arms thrown up in the air. How do I parent this child? Teach this unteachable child? I truly am far more concerned about his heart, his relationship with us than I am about academics.
I feel like a failure, not only as a mom, since we are dealing with the same stuff over and over again, but as a homeschool teacher/mom.
I guess part of the challenge is who do I talk to? not my family as they don't understand our Christian values, nor do they understand the multi leveled life of mom/homeschool teacher etc. the solution for them would be to put my child in school. I can't really complain/cry on the shoulders of friends because its difficult to put into words the depth of my heart ache, my sense of failure. I am just not sure where to turn.
To me its an issue of character, not only his but mine. Anyway, I don't want to run from my God given responsibilities by ignoring the real issue and putting him in school, just to give me a break.
I feel empty and lost about this issue. It feels better to write it to find the solution.
thanks for listening.

ChristineMM said...

Hi Kathywithkids,
Due to the age I am sure you are also dealing with typical teenage behavior which is a double whammy.

(Go see my blog post dated yesterday.)

Some days are hard.

For me:
It is a rough year for us with unemployment, new job, move 1800 miles, parenting kids through that change, trying to sell the old house, dealing with house problems while we try to sell it, parenting a tween and a teen, puberty, and me in a new place with no real new friends yet and worrying about issues with relatives who live back east.

I don't have advice to give tonight. I am taking life one day at a time.

I know what you mean about the relationship is most important. Yet we also are all dealing with academics in the high school years which is no cake walk.

Hang in there.

Jasmine said...

kathywithkids- how have they turned out? I feel like I could have written your post!