I sometimes hear from homeschool parents or their kids that school has become a little too routine. One mom bemoaned having to change curriculum after using it from K-8 when her son became tired of it. Another parent called for help when her daughter complained, “Mom is really boring as a teacher!”
Though I don’t think that homeschool always has to be barrels of fun, it shouldn’t be utterly miserable either. And while some of these matters should be addressed (a boring curriculum), other claims can be just plain silly (a “boring” parent)!
Whatever the outward manifestation though, these claims of boredom deserve attention. When children or parents voice concerns about homeschooling, there is usually a reason worth exploring. There are many ways to keep homeschooling fresh and children motivated to learn. In this post, you’ll learn how to recognize the signs of a real S.O.S. and ways to make your homeschool a happier and more productive place.
But first, a little pep talk…
Though the reasons behind the boredom are not always welcome, making a change is really necessary when you suspect something is going on. Across all 50 states, homeschoolers are given the freedom to select curriculum and products, decide exactly what they’d like to study, and structure their days however they like. Given the ability to make these choices, there is little reason to remain stuck in a boring routine, a mundane series of lessons, or become mired in an unsuccessful pattern. These are the problems of public schools — homeschoolers can easily escape this dilemma.
Problem is, choosing curriculum and planning lessons all over again can be time-consuming, and sometimes expensive. Once families get rolling and everyone is familiar with a product line or a learning system, it takes some effort to make a switch. And mundane can happen accidentally, too, without anyone really noticing it creeping up. So although routine invites relaxation, which is a good thing, relaxation can easily give way to lackadaisical behavior, too — which is not so good.
Choosing curriculum and learning materials, or switching to new ones, is just one of the responsibilities of a homeschooling family. And when seen as a privilege instead of an unpleasant duty, or as a way to customize a child’s learning experience instead of giving in to a child’s whims or preferences, the task is far easier. By looking at change from a different angle, it will be viewed as the reason homeschooling is so wildly successful, and something to look forward to — not to be avoided.
With this in mind, see if you can begin to discover the root of your child’s boredom (or yours). Should something jump out at you from this list, invest in the necessary time it takes to fix. In the long run, boredom may be just that. But it also could be an indicator of something more.
1. Plain old boredom.
When doing the same thing over and over again, it is easy to see how plain old boredom might just grab hold. Like the family stuck in the same curriculum pattern for 9 years, it just might be that your homeschool is in need of a little updating. A change in venue or schedule could be all it takes. Or maybe the addition of a pleasant activity that everyone looks forward to before or after school. If curriculum or materials appear to be the problem, it may be time to change them out, too. Start small and make gradual changes first. Then, monitor the level of boredom along the way. Simple changes might do the trick. If they don’t, think bigger (read on).
2. Level of coursework
Sometimes boredom is a way for a student to express a mismatch between what he can do, and the level of work you have assigned. Children may express boredom when work is just too easy. But they can also use boredom as a way to avoid assignments that are just too tough. It is up to parents to gauge their child’s level of understanding and the appropriateness of the materials they use each year. Careful selection of materials (see placement), followed by monitoring, observation, talking with the student, and even testing can determine if the work being assigned is the right fit. If it isn’t, using those tools will quickly bring the problem to the surface, making which direction to go (up or down a level) more obvious.
3. Level of interest
Like anyone, kids may lose interest in topics they just don’t like, or aren’t immediately useful. Remembering the times your child has asked, “When am I ever gonna use this?” should make it easy to spot when she doesn’t see the purpose in what she is being asked to learn and do. And though some skills need to be learned whether she likes them or not (e.g., basic grammar and basic mathematics), the way the skills are taught could make all the difference in the world when it comes to beating boredom. When a child expresses boredom in a single area, finding at a way to interest her in the topic could bring about a change. Reframing ideas differently, using examples she can directly relate to, adding activities that interest her or taking at least a part of the boring ones away might help. Then, allow her to focus on other areas that she really enjoys to maximize learning and keep enthusiasm levels high.
4. Exploring other ways to learn
Finally, realizing that not all learning comes from books opens up opportunities for children to learn in other ways. Boredom with book learning may easily be counteracted by thinking about other ways to achieve the same result. Today’s homeschoolers have access to online learning, software products, co-op learning, part-time classes, and so much more. Checking out other teaching models (see HERE) and learning about other opportunities in the community will help to find more conducives way for that child to learn. A dramatic change of this kind just might turn a boring, dreaded subject into that child’s favorite thing to do.
Paying attention to claims of boredom works in more ways than one. Providing important clues about a child’s learning, it also helps to maintain a vibrant and supportive homeschool environment throughout the years. Listen carefully the next time you notice boredom at home. Then, see what you can do to update (or even completely rebuild) your homeschool into the optimal place for your whole family to learn!