Homeschooling parents are often faced with the challenging task of teasing out why a child would resist a time of instruction and then what to do about it. I was puzzling over this in the first part of this series and put forth some questions I always run through here.
I think there are two major thrusts to this – the part that YOU, as the parent and teacher, can change or put forth differently and then also the part of the child. Two separate but intertwined things that together can make a beautiful and fun experience or just lead to headlock.
In our home, I try to put forth a ho-hum attitude of “this is our life”, the idea of not talking too much (which sometimes I fail at miserably, especially with the child that tends to throw me the most resistance), the idea of expecting things to generally go well and that we must work together in order for this to be a successful experience, and that we are a team. I try to be careful about balancing the needs of three children of widely disparate ages within our school experience, and I try to be careful about what I expect. However, I also feel older children ( especially those post nine year change) should start to have a sense and idea about personal responsibility and the part they play in making homeschooling a success or not. This post is mainly geared toward those post-nine year change children. (If you have questions about children in the Early Years or grades 1-3, please leave them below in the comment box. Perhaps I can write a different post).
It seems to me that in Waldorf homeschooling and homeschooling in general that we often talk about the “teacher” end of it. What we should, could, be doing differently and how we should and could do that and we plan and plan again. What we often don’t seem to want to talk about is that some children are just not peaceful when it comes to this sort of thing.
Some Waldorf Schools seem to fail miserably in the area of what to do with the child who is disrupting the entire grades class, and some schools have gone on and accepted discipline policies that are very clearly outlined. Some Waldorf Schools now only give a child two or three chances in the grades classrooms before they are expelled from the school. Do you have a thought about what to do with the disruption and lack of respect by your children in your own homeschool day, and the consequences of that? What do you do? If someone asked you what do you do if your child misbehaves in school consistently and, would you have a consistent answer for that? Or would the response be just what you are feeling in the moment?
I often check myself by asking myself if I am letting them develop habits that will not serve them later in life at all? Am I giving them a false sense of freedom that will not hold true in the outside world? Am I instilling in them a sense that they are above any rule, request or idea and how will that serve them as they lead their own families? Is this such a bad habit that they are complaining about any contribution to not just homeschooling but family life in general? Charlotte Mason talks a lot about habits, Steiner talks a lot about rhythms and building the will. Are we doing our children favors in the way we approach our children’s resistance to things?
I think every family has a different way of dealing with situations such as these, a way that feels comfortable to them. I would just encourage you to find out what your way is, make the rule and consequence and that the children know that, and then follow through. This is beyond homeschooling and into building a healthy adult.
I think discipline, this guiding of each other and the idea of instilling inner discipline in general is part of how we grow up and live mature adult lives. So therefore, I am more than happy to listen to my child and connect with my child, observe my child, meditate on my child and adjust my lesson plans, include their interests, …but by the same token, at some point I just am ready to teach. I am also a teacher and I teach with an eye toward the big lessons of life. My biggest goal in homeschooling, outside of raising moral and compassionate human beings and instilling our family’s beliefs, is to raise a family unit that works together in love and respect for one another. If one child is completely resistant, then all of the children in the family are affected, my time is affected, and other fun things we want to do are affected. It is just not acceptable in homeschooling and it is not acceptable in family life.
At this point in homeschooling, I really nip any complaining or whining or being resistant in the bud. For a child who is not normally resistant but having a bad day, I will connect to that child in the moment and tell that child that I love them, and for my children nine and up, I will ask them if they would like some time to do something else and then come back for schooling. Sometimes, I will give the child the day off and at this point in homeschooling I am much better about realizing if we had x/y/z going on, then this child may need a day off and I can give that the night before rather going into a homeschool day where everything is going to fall apart. I will double check and adjust my lesson ideas to where they are because we live and work with the child in the moment, but I will also remind them that it is difficult to teach and learn together if all we do is complain, whine, refuse, walk away. These are all things to be done in that spirit of meeting a child where they are and connecting works.
However, for a child that is continually resistant, day after day (and I have been there), I will first make sure I have done my part to remedy the situation with the child in my own teaching plans and in my own spiritual life. I look hard to see what is helpful to that not peaceful child. For example, we have one child that pretty much needs to start every lesson with a story or a book we are reading. For whatever reason, this works best for this child to ease into school and I have discovered this over time. There may be a simple cure to a daily objection and resistance.
However, if I feel as if I have done all I can do, and I feel this is now an issue of the child’s attitude and respect toward me and other family members, then I will remind myself with a quick mark on the board or a piece of paper near me (silently, not talking about it) and see if it is just my perception or did that child really interrupt, complain, whine, refuse or walk away five times in a short span? This helps me to be objective. After that, then basically that child will talk to their dad later about their behavior, and that child will do extra chores from a chore jar. (This may not be your solution, because yes, then you may have to supervise the chores later on after school is completed). If that child is receiving any allowance, that will also be affected. I will then often move on to the next child to start there and return to the child who is having difficulty later, which may cut into something we have planned for the day, and if worse comes to worse, outside activities in general over a period of time will be affected. I also keep track on a piece of paper how many times this happens because it helps me identify patterns for the week and month and provides an idea where this child is. On the flipside of this, I work hard to connect with my child in a loving way outside of school as well in the midst of all of this. Communication is never cut off, and I always am available to help a child who wants to act differently and make different choices. So many more fun things can happen when we work together, and when the consequences of a chosen action are laid out, everything is clear and without a battle.
I don’t know if this really helps anyone out there struggling, but I hope that this encourages you to be firm and really guide your children in this area. Homeschooling is first and foremost about how we run our families and how our children come to have their own inner discipline for their own adult lives.