Because It’s Your Job, Son


I have a reluctant learner.  By all definitions, he’s reluctant.  You could say lazy, you could say learning disabilities are involved, and you could say defiant, opinionated, and angry.  All of those are true to some extent.  All of those reasons make teaching him difficult – impossible!

I would love to be a complete unschooler and let him follow his interests as far as they take him.  I would love to sit his butt down at the table and have him actually do some work.  My goals are incompatible, because neither of those work for him.

For now, we’re in-between.  We’re not very structured, but we’re not strict either.  We don’t do a lot of book work, but we do some.  Enough.

When we first started homeschooling the Engineer absorbed knowledge.  He wanted to know all about everything there was to know!  He still loves learning, especially about things he’s highly interested in, but he’s reached some sort of educational plateau and dug his heels in.  Anything resembling school is torture.


It’s frustrating.  By our early-start schedule, he’s almost 2nd grade now.  He’s almost to the point that I need to start pushing curriculum a bit harder – because he’s old enough for more formal learning.  He’s not ready.  He might be almost old enough, but he’s not ready.

The other day I asked him to do his handwriting practice worksheet: one of my goals for the next few months is for him to do at least 3 sheets a week to practice reading and handwriting.  It’s a very basic, trace-the-letters kind of worksheet, with a short sentence to read.  Very easy.  He still balks.  “Why do I have to do this?” I hear every single time.  Sometimes he throws the sheet on the floor and stomps away.  Sometimes he throws the markers.  Sometimes, he plops himself down in the chair and sulks, refusing to do anything.

So that day, I got frustrated.  He’s had some serious attitude issues lately, and I have no idea what’s going on.  When I heard the sulky “why do I have to do this?” I lost it.  “Because it’s your job, son!  It’s your job to learn and grow.  Just like your dad goes to work every day to provide for you, just like I do chores and laundry, because that’s our job!”  He got really quiet and thoughtful, and I walked away to deal with the toddler who was trying to murder his sister.

When I came back, he had finished tracing his sentence and started trying to read all on his own.  He was motivated.


It didn’t last long.  In the next few days his attitude came roaring back with a vengeance.  When told to clean up the toys on the floor, he started giving me attitude again.  Unwisely, close enough to his dad’s office for Mr. Genius to hear it.  His dad told him off, and then backed me up about doing the clean up. The Engineer sat on the floor and sulked, and flung his words towards me in the kitchen: “why don’t YOU do it!?  It’s your job to clean up after us anyway!”

I went on strike the next day, to the Engineer’s chagrin.  “Why isn’t my breakfast downstairs dad?”  “But mom, I don’t WANT to fold my own laundry!”  Tough luck kiddo, that’s not my job.  Have fun!  (He generally puts his shirts on hangers and folds underwear, but he struggles with folding pants and putting things away.)


I love the unschooling model, but my child isn’t self-motivated enough to go learn about fractions all on his own.  I want him to do bookwork, but he isn’t self-disciplined enough to sit still and behave.  I want him to listen to  the tour guide on a field trip, but his impulse control issues cause him to act out and be crazy kid.  I want my child to behave.  To learn.

I’m constantly smacking into the disability dilemma: do I accept that he cannot do better, or do I push him to learn to cope?  Is this truly a disability issue, or is this laziness or defiance?  What’s really going on here, and what do I do to counteract it?  I don’t know.  All I know is I’m tired of the attitude.  I’m tired of the defiance.  I’m tired of feeling like nothing I try works for this child.


Time to try something new, I guess.



  1. One more thing I forgot: Money. I tried this last week. I offered my 11-year-old 5 cents a page that he read, and I would pay out when he finished his book. He finished reading “The Lightening Thief,” by Rick Riordan, the first book he has probably read in a year! He is ready to move on to book two. I don’t know how old your kids are, but this works well for older kids who don’t get money any other way. The MOST important thing (in my opinion) to teach your child is to read – how to read, and to love to read. He can learn anything if he can read. Reading helps to build vocabulary. Read lots and lots exercises the eye muscles and brain development to help increase speed and smoothness. I don’t pay money for any other school work, just reading. But teaching your older child about money is important, too. I also am a strong believer in boredom. Turn off the electronic devices for hours and hours each day. I had to hide and lock of the family computer. Sometimes I will let them watch educational TV, though. Their boredom will eventually get them doing something, and all “somethings” are educational!


  2. I like it. My kids are VERY VERY similar. When I first started homeschooling three years ago, I got a lot of defiance (and still do to this day.) But at the time I was exhausted, had just had a new baby, and I didn’t bother to fight back, or to enforce. I just invited them, one at a time, to come and do something with me, they would scream and run away, and go play. I felt like a failure, which didn’t help depression issues. In Feb. I was particularly dealing with depression (as is often the case with me, and now I have finally figured myself out!) My kindergartner asked to go to school. I just went ahead and put them ALL in school. My teenagers I signed up with an online charter school. Now fast forward three years. We moved. I don’t have an infant at home now, she is now a 2 year old and potty training and wreaking havoc at every turn. My three teenagers, 14 through 17 are enrolled full time at the community college, and like it enough. My other 6 kids, ages 11 through 2 are at home with me all day long, and I have promised myself that I am NEVER sending my kids back to public school, ever again. I may do an online charter school for my oldest someday, to help him get into the habit of turning in assignments before I send him to college. At this stage in my homeschooling, some days, maybe a handful each month, I can get the kids to sit down and learn their math, do some handwriting, practice spelling words, or I read out loud to them. I feel like we are also a mix of “unschooling” and “I don’t know what you call us, sit down and learn something,” homeschoolers. I would LOVE it if every kid sat down and practiced math and writing and reading every day. But life gets in the way sometimes. So, they instead learn how to make chocolate chip cookies, or how to count pokemon cards, or how to mow the lawn. But on the days that I am feeling really good (and awake) I CAN get my kids to sit down. I will try to motivate them by saying, “If you get this done, then we can invite a friend over to play, or go rock climbing, or you can eat the last of the raspberries,” or whatever motivation I have on hand at the time. I have found that it really helps to have the assignments figured out first, then provide some motivation for the kids to do x, y, and z, and it usually gets done. I am having my kindergartner right now do one letter a day that he traces and writes and colors in the pictures (the website I go to for that is: I told him that I want him to do a really good job, and then when he is done I place it in a file folder so that I can make a scrapbook of some of his school work he has done. It will be fun to watch his progress through the months and years. My 7-year-old complained that I didn’t make an award for her when she counted to 100 for the first time, and I had to remind her that she did it while she was at public school. But the kids might appreciate an occasional award presented to him or her when they have reached a milestone or a big accomplishment, and you add it to their scrapbook. Take pictures of the forts they build, or their art projects, or them sitting at the table working (on the days it actually happens), or any other silly things they do. One day you might be able to make a memory book or scrap book for them.


    • Good points! And a good reminder to drag the camera out more – I actually need to document his stuff to prove progress if we have to use an evaluator for our state’s requirements.


  3. This sounds exactly like my gifted autistic son (5th grade, started homeschooling last spring). I try to make daily schedules (even though we only stick to them half the time) and that sometimes helps, especially when I show him that the “hard” stuff comes first, and then once he gets that finished, we get to do the fun stuff that he wants to do (like simple science experiments…I always having baking soda and vinegar on hand lol). A few other tricks I’ve developed – I recently bought a big exercise ball that he sits at at the classroom table instead of a chair – his body is focused on balancing, he develops core strength, and he’s not as wiggly. When I see his focus waning, we get up and do 10 minutes of exercise with the ball, or go for a 15 min walk if the weather is nice. One more trick – anything oral – i.e. chewing gum, sucking a smoothie or shake with a straw, chewing, etc. is calming and helps “organize” the brain. Hope some of this helps! I’m procrastinating doing my own school planning by reading your post and responding LOL. So nice to hear I’m not the only mom that struggles daily!!!


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