Monday, July 23, 2012

How to Get Your Child to "Do" School

This picture cracks me up.  The mom and child are neatly dressed.  The child is happily gleaning from the mom's wisdom and desires to learn. There are no distractions in the background and the kitchen table is obviously neatly wiped down.  I would wager that the statement right before this picture was taken was probably something along the lines of, "Mommy, please don't stop sharing your knowledge with me.  Will you please teach me some more?  I could sit here for hours because I want to be smart so I can get a great job and care for you when you are elderly.

Unless your home is completely different than mine, life isn't like that.

Here is a question that a mom posted to our ABC Jesus Loves Me Facebook Group page:
I am kind of concerned about getting my 3 year old to really listen to my teachings. She went to a Christian Preschool program last year and it was such a great blessing, the teacher was amazing. Unfortunately it is closing now due to costs and the economy. So now I am gonna be teaching her at home. Has anyone had struggles with teaching at first, and how did you get past it? I found it is easier to teach other children, and more difficult to teach your own child. I have found that my child shuts down quicker with me than others. How did you get past this?
And so goes the frustration of a mom who has tried to teach her own child.  My blood pressure rose many times as I watched Bubs' Occupation Therapist get him to do things that he never would do for me.

Daily teaching your own child academic concepts is very hard because it is just another level of roles that you place on yourself and your child.  Already you are the child's mom which includes nurturer, provider, trainer, and disciplinarian.   Other people can simply be the child's teacher without fulfilling the primary roles.  Also, teachers can distance themselves from the situation where teaching your own flesh-and-blood is very personal with you.

So, how do you get your child to "do" school several times a week? 
  • Put on the teacher hat and lay the Mommy hat aside.
    As we just discussed, this is a hard one.  But, the more you can take the "personal" aspect out of the situation, the better it will be.  Also, come to school time with a clean slate.  Don't bring with you past offenses. 

  • Create Realistic Expectations
    Don't expect your vivacious child to sit for 90 minutes straight and do the "drill and kill" method of learning.  Plan activities around your child's energy level and interest.
  • Start Small
    If your child has not learned to sit for small periods of time, training will need to begin.  On the first day, teach the child how to sit (criss-cross, hands in lap or on knees).  Make a song or game out of it.  The 2 Year Curriculum has suggestions and ideas on this.  Then work towards 30 seconds of sitting while you read or teach a fingerplay.  Slowly increase the interval of time until the child can sit for an entire Bible time or story. 
  • Monitor the Child's Subtle Clues
    Know when your child is done.  The child may become very antsy or may begin to stare.  These are signs that you need to do something different.  Either take a break or move to a different environment.  Do jumping jacks together or run around the house to get the blood flowing again.
  • Make Learning Fun
    No intelligent person ever said that learning should be boring.  Have fun with your child and enjoy the energy for your preschooler.  As stated on the ABCJesusLovesMe website, the curricula are guides for parents and teachers to make sure that the various aspects of learning are covered.  The majority of objectives can be covered in normal day play, craft, and sit down time.  The adult simply has to draw the learning out or incorporate the learning into these times.  Each of the lesson plans as well as the ABCJLM website include many ideas on how to do this.  Be sure to check out the "Supportive Ideas" section in navigator bar.

  • Play, Play, Play
    This goes along with the last point but it is still important.  Incorporate the learning into fun preschool activities and imaginary time.  Use play dough, shaving cream, cooking, balls, lacing, cars, bath time, songs, car traveling, and the list goes on and on.  Again, many play ideas can be found on the ABCJLM website and in the "Ideas" section of the lesson plans.  (Thank you, Rhonda K, for reminding me of this.)
  • Make School Part of Your Weekly Routine
    When the learning is part of your weekly schedule, the child learns to expect it as the norm.  Establish a set place and time to hold school.  Also keep the behavior expectations appropriate and consistent. 
  • Don't Ruin Your Relationship with Your Child
    In teaching piano lessons for over 20 years (I started very young), there is one statement that I have told parents many times when their child doesn't want to practice the piano.   "Don't ruin your relationship with your child.  Allow me to be the bad guy." And I say the same thing you.  If school time is putting a strain on your relationship, then stop.  Take a break.  You may need to find someone else to add to your team.  And, that's okay. 
  • Invite the Holy Spirit to Be Part of School Time
    Start your day with personal Bible time.  Read the Word, pray, and commit your day and school time to the Lord.  The Holy Spirit will be help you have wisdom and strength if you ask and listen.

What additional ideas do you have to get your child to "do" school?


  1. Thank you for going into more detail on the subject. I find it comical that I am not the only one who thinks that picture is just not reality. At least in my home. My 3 year old is so strong willed and very smart. Challenging her is a challenge in itself. I love this website, and all the stuff that is offered. This is an answer to my prayers about what to do without having to spend an absolute fortune. Now it’s just a matter of applying it and being consistent. (My word for the week=CONSISTENT) Thank you for allowing the Lord to use you in such a wonderful way to minister and bless so many. I have truly enjoyed the comments from the members from Facebook. Such great ideas!!!

    1. Glad that it was helpful! And yes, the ABCJesusLoveMe Facebook Group is awesome!

  2. Having taught my own two and four others (children I babysat...and who were kind of like nieces and nephews after a time) through the PK years, I find your suggestions very helpful. If a mom follows wisdom like this, her home won't look like the picture...but homeschooling will be a joy overall. I do get frustrated, though, at people who refuse to try homeschooling because they're "sure" they could "never" teach their own. If they truly have that problem, it means the children have no respect for the parent...and that is the starting point, quite apart from any academics. It's a character issue with the children, probably facilitated by a permissive parent in years previous. EVERY parent can teach her own child if she's willing to do the work involved - that's exactly what happened in the years before institutional school - and it is a cop-out to think otherwise.

    1. Tina - Thank you for your comments and perspective. I do believe that every situation is different and many people are not called to homeschool, myself included.

      There are issues besides discipline that can make teaching your child very difficult. The issues could include personalities, learning disabilities, or sensory issues as well as others. Many parents are not equipped to teach those with disabilities and praise God that we have experts out there who can (Our OT's for one). And that is okay. Kudos to the parent who knows his/her limitation and ability.

      Just as every parent is not able to teach their child how to play the piano well, I do not believe that every parent has the ability to teach their child chemistry well. Praise God that we are the body of Christ and we don't have to do it all.

      I do believe that we are commanded in the Bible to teach our children to "love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." Deut 6:5 That is not an option!


The Our Out-of-Sync Life blog focuses on encouraging women to deepen their spiritual life, simplify daily tasks, and impress Jesus on the children around them.