388 | Seven Tips to Reach Reluctant, Resistant, or Uninterested Learners (Jennifer Cabrera)
Some days resistant learners spend more time complaining about what must be done than it would take them to just do the work in front of them. Sigh. Chug more coffee. In this episode I share my tips for enticing those seemingly uninterested kids and how to reach them by providing interest and purpose.
*Plus I've got a special Hifalutin August offer from HomeScienceTools.com!
Jennifer Cabrera, the Hifalutin Homeschooler, is the writer of homeschool truth, humor, and inspiration. Jennifer lives in Salado, Texas with her husband and three brilliant boys. She is a licensed Physician Assistant/MPH, but set aside that career for her ultimate life's work. She is also the author of Socialize Like a Homeschooler: A Humorous Homeschool Handbook and Revolting Writing, a hilarious writing, vocabulary, and illustration journal for reluctant writers. She is a featured speaker with Great Homeschool Conventions and her memes and witty insights are widely shared on social media.
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Jennifer Cabrera Hello and welcome to another Hifalutin Homeschooler episode of The Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Jennifer Cabrera and I am one of many hosts here on the podcast. Each week, we bring you an encouraging conversation, inspiration, tips, tricks, and or humor from this busy and blessed journey of educating our children at home.
Now, while the title of the show is Homeschool Solutions, we do not pretend to have the answer to every question related to homeschooling, but we do hope to keep it real through lessons we've learned and urge you toward Jesus Christ and prayer with him as the greatest parent-teacher conference available.
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Wait! Don't pull your hair out and chase down the big yellow bus just yet. Here are my seven tips for reaching resistant, reluctant, or uninterested learners. As a homeschool mom, who has survived and absolutely enjoyed raising and educating three boys, mostly. I have wasted all the time, made fruitless efforts, and found out the hard way to share with you today the genius of forgetting the mold and homeschooling each of your kids in the method, style, or off-roading seat gripping ride that is their unique and best way to learn. All three of mine are different. I have one who needs apocalyptic silence, great resources, a few professional or experienced individuals for guidance and debate, and for everyone else to get out of his way.
He does all assignments with intent and determination to achieve top results and is hard on himself when he feels things could have gone better. His motivation to get his work done is a trip to the bookstore or time to figure out something new to learn on his own. Now, I have another who needs to move, to stomp, and sing randomly while learning. His motivating interests is learning anything to do with flying. Getting to go flying. Talking about flying. Teaching others about flying. Oh, and current events, statistics, and playing guitar. He gets what he needs to do done A.S.A.P with enough effort to get to what he'd rather be doing.
And finally, I have one who needs extra, shall we say, motivation. So to recap, my boys learning styles succinctly. One obsesses over everything. There's perfection or failure. Number two, get it done. Good enough? Yes. That's an eight, unless it's supposed to be a six and then, yeah, that's a six. Can I go flying now? Or, number three, why do in 15 minutes what I can complain about for the next 3 hours? Now, there are two main forces that drive learning in all of us and our kids, interest or purpose. The wonderful wonder students, like my first, just love to learn and have an interest in perfecting all that they do. Proving themselves is the purpose. Also, many agreeable teacher-pleasing students may find a purpose to just do what the teacher asks or learn the things simply to move on to their interests, like my second child. But there are still many out there, like my third amazing granite-headed angel. If they don't have an interest in or see an immediate purpose for learning something, they often balk, groan, procrastinate, or flat-out refuse.
There's always that one child that really shapes you as a parent. Maybe they marched to the beat of their own drummer. Maybe they are fearful of failure and masked that fear with stubbornness. Maybe they just love to argue. Or maybe they just want to call all the shots. The signs were pretty clear early with my third child. In the Church Mothers Day Out program, he was asked to practice writing the letter R. He did. He wrote one letter R, and then he was finished. He wasn't writing anymore. Even after they sent him to the imaginary principal's office, which was simply the church office where the director covered her giggles as he explained his refusal. He had written the letter R just about perfect, well in his mind, and there was no need to write another. End of discussion. But he's a sweet, fun guy, and he has the greatest dry sense of humor. He's the kind of kid who would one day decide to carry his piano music to lessons in a tackle box to make the instructor chuckle. He will talk your ear off and spend 15 minutes wowing you with an anecdote that he later admits he'd just made up for the thrill of telling it. But he still hates to write and any schoolwork not open to his method of learning, which is learning without having to write anything down. I mean, he knows how. He even knows cursive, but oh, I miss my sweet, fun guy when the horns of refusal come out. And I often wonder at times, so this is what it's like to raise a dictator. Some days he spends more time complaining about what work he has to do than it would take him to actually do the work.
And reasoning with him is futile. He doesn't care if he has to live under a bridge when he grows up. If it doesn't look like fun or there aren't any cash prizes, he's not doing it without at least a stare-down and couple hundred sighs of extortion. Right away, my first best tip for homeschooling resistant learners is, if you can't make it fun, make it edible. However, life is full of have to's and you can't serve every subject with chips and queso, though I'm willing to try and write such an experimental curriculum. Yum.
Anyway, number two, my second tip for homeschooling a resistant learner, purpose. My "get her done" son would write essays if assigned, but believed them a useless waste of paper and time. So we argued on occasion, often. "No one cares what I think about the Boston Tea Party, mom." However, when he needed a two-page leadership essay to complete his application to staff a civil Air Patrol encampment, a purpose was clear. "Mom, help me edit this paper. I really want to be part of the cadre at camp this year." And so there was my chance to teach. While his attention was greatest. When we find a purpose that drives them, we must capitalize on it. Another example of purpose in interest-driven learning can be seen in the order you approach a science lesson. If you want to kill the excitement from the start, have your kid first read the entire chapter and answer all focused questions. Then, read the experiment entirely before making them format their write-up in their lab notebook. Then, and only then, proceed to allowing them to watch you conduct the experiment or allow them, but under heavy supervision. Assuring the desired result occurs while you pepper them with recall questions and demand real-time explanations of what the experiment is showing.
Now, your kids hate science. Possibly the most exciting subject has been laid to rest in your homeschool. But what if you dared to let them just do the experiment first? Oh, messy interest. Don't read to the end of the page to learn what should happen. Don't look up the scientific theory and basis for the lesson yet. Just get the supplies. Read the procedure. Make a wild but logical guess as to what's going to happen next. And then let them see if they are right. You know, like real scientists do it. When your resistant learner gets to do the hands-on fun stuff first, which gives you a chance to grab their interest in the lesson while you run and refill your coffee, this lets them take the lead in their learning. Whether they were right or wrong in their hypothesis, they'll likely be a bit curious as to why and finding out the why becomes interest and purpose. If you can only hold their interest enough to get to the quickly explained "why" in oral form, or by looking up a video of the same thing done on a larger scale with an explanation, some learning has occurred. Now, speaking of hands-on real science, homesciencetools.com is the place to shop for homeschool science needs and wants. And I've got an August 2023 promotional code just for Highfalutin HomeSchooler fans. Here it is, you ready? Write this down. Highfalutin HST. Now that will get you 10% off sitewide. Plus, if you spend $50 or more, you'll get a free beaker mug. It's this cute little coffee mug that looks like a science beaker, and it will make you totally look like the science professor that you are when you run to refill your coffee while letting your kids be those real scientists. Now, Home Science Tools has hundreds of curriculum sets and also offers the accompanying lab kits with all you need for each lab. Science is our fave. Okay, maybe next to read-alouds. It's a toss-up, but from Home Science Tools, we have enjoyed busting our own geodes, digital microscopes, dissection specimens such as fetal pigs, fish, worms. We've had stem kits such as constructing our own windmill. And we've done several of the best homeschool products they offer. The science unlocked boxes that come complete with a month of lessons, student and teacher workbooks, and all you need to conduct and reproduce several exciting experiments. You can mix or match from all science disciplines, compile them for a year of study, or just buy one at a time for fun. So check out homeschoolscience.com and use code Highfalutin HST for the special deal. Now this promo runs from August 1st through August 31st, so have fun shopping for science stuff.
And now back to my tips. Another tip to reach your resistant learner is to make learning as game-like as possible. Even without a sibling to play against, games make it feel less like school. Kids can compete against themselves to outdo an old score, or vocabulary jeopardy against dad. Oral tests when you don't have to write it down are less stressful and actually allow kids to express their comprehension more in-depth, and can be done like a game show. I've had my boys do oral tests in history, math, science, spelling, with the rules being that they have to answer a certain amount correctly and in a row. The more you miss in a row, the more questions I ask. Well, it gets them laughing, sweating the next question in a fun way, thinking, explaining, and all the while you are ensuring they really comprehend the lesson, while they are literally keeping on their toes pacing and keeping that hamster wheel turning. Board games are also a great way to do school when you don't want to do school. Keeping the hamster wheel turning on a school day is dynamic and fun with games.
Now, tip number four, it doesn't have to look like school to be effective. Not looking like school is often more effective, in fact. To homeschool is to discover that the best knowledge and experiences are often gained on the days that look the least like school. It doesn't have to be school at the table or desk taking notes from mom with the whiteboard. Force feed info, regurgitate, dump, repeat. This is not a model to follow.
Tip number five, and that's why my next tip is move, go, do. All kids love field trips. Homeschooling allows for more opportunities and real-world learning. We did all of Texas history one year by going and seeing, tasting and doing, battlegrounds, battleships, colleges, museums, stockyards, tech presentations, even Willie Nelson. Now, at the end, they each made a scrapbook of pictures, coloring pages, recipes, timelines, and brochures. All of this is mostly what we think of as traditional field trips, but know that there are a lot of people in our communities that would love to share their expertise and stories with our kids if we only ask. Bakers, farmers, mechanics, veterinarians, artists, and many others would love to share their expertise and mentor kids who are interested and respectful.
And now my sixth tip for dealing with reluctant, resistant, or uninterested learners is to expect, enforce, and tweak. EET. Expect, enforce, tweak. Eat. It always comes back to food, doesn't it? Because we do need to set some expectations and boundaries because life isn't all fun and games. I don't want to give the impression that I let my kids run amuck doing only what suited their tastes, abilities, and pleasures.
I'm actually mostly a type A, a pusher, a control freak. And it's taken me years to loosen up where I have, and my youngest is definitely reaping the benefits. But I do expect. Expect, challenge them, hold them accountable because the world will. Each week I write out a detailed list of daily expectations and assignments by subject on my son's personal planner. I also list all the practices, appointments, family events, and activities so that he isn't blindsided and can't be legitimately outraged when he whines, you didn't tell me that. Yes, I did. Look at your planner. And then enforce. Let there be natural consequences or enforced repercussions. Each day's work must be completed before he turns on a TV, plays a video game, or chats with friends on a device or in person. My son can absolutely break for a few hoop shots in the driveway as needed. Water the garden. Eat again. This method gives autonomy and responsibility. Kids can work on a personal project or other educational interest as well throughout the day to break things up. But as long as that interest isn't YouTube till your eyes bleed. My son still tries to talk me out of things. He begs; makes deals, so remaining firm in expectations is key. I expect him to be up and starting at a certain time. The ultimate consequence is loss of computer and friend time, and it usually works efficiently to get him through a homeschool day. But sometimes you may have to threaten with long-term loss of devices or canceling fun outings because homeschooling is about raising responsible, hard-working, moral adults and the adult world has consequences. However, this is eat, remember, eat, expect, enforce, and tweak. Tweaking expectations can be school on the floor, outside, on the floor outside. Oral tests instead of written assignments; allowing them to put a puzzle together during read-alouds. Math on the whiteboard instead of in a spiral. Tweak where you can because this is homeschooling and personalizing and enjoyment is part of it.
Within the parameters of our expectations, we can tweak things to fit our kids individually. Like when we enforce read-aloud time, I give them all options within a selection of books I'd chosen. There's thousands of great books out there, and they can put a puzzle together, draw, roll around on the floor with the dog quietly, or eat again while you read. Get things done in relaxing comfort, expect, enforce, and tweak. Obviously, we need to ensure we are moving forward and our kids are learning to become productive adults. However, when pulling your kids from the confines of institutional learning, make sure you aren't building another cage, albeit more parent-approved, around them at home. Let life and the world be your classroom.
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And finally, tip number seven. The tip I want to share most is this if a subject is inherently boring and no amount of queso and chips on the side will improve its palatability, go rogue. Make it funny and make it memorable. For instance, multiplication tables. I believe they should be memorized for growth in math effectively. My youngest believed otherwise. Hollywood hath no death scene like my child doing flashcards. Flopping around; whining on the floor at the size of the stack that I held in my hand. The infinite impossibility of the whole thing. It almost killed him. So I made Minecraft flashcards to teach him his multiplication facts. A whole chart of redstone blocks and diamonds, swords, and creepers for each group of ten facts. It worked for about a day and a half. I could make him learn under threat, but we were both miserable. I sat him down one day and held up a stack of cards as he flailed in agony and growled out the answers. And then a card popped up with the word bugger written on it. He grinned sideways and shouted the word on the card, thinking one of his brothers had slid it in there and he'd just gotten away with something devious. I didn't flinch. I just kept flipping those cards until another rogue word appeared and he was laughing hysterically. He forgot to be mad, and he was answering the multiplication facts as fast as he could in anticipation of the next exciting potty word he would get to read aloud.
Go ahead and judge me. Just know that he has mastered multiplication, butt face. And then, this edgy math experiment then led to the creation of my language arts program for reluctant writers because my son hated writing more than he once hated flashcards. What reluctant writers hate about writing, you may have a reluctant writer, and this may be why. First, it's an overwhelming process that starts with brainstorming and precedes with outlining five paragraphs, topic sentences and supporting facts, intros, and conclusions. Just writing complete sentences with the subject verb intense agreement is agonizing if you don't like to write, and then they expect you to capitalize things and not capitalize other things. And if that wasn't enough, then you have to edit for spelling, grammar, and then rewrite or type the whole thing. Or actual pen to paper, hand cramping, exhausting horridness. But most of all, it's pointless and boring.
Well, obviously as a parent, we know it isn't pointless and it doesn't have to be boring, especially if we're just trying to teach the basics of writing. We try to pass all of this heavily structured and regimented writing process off as a means to freedom of expression and creativity. Write what you think or feel, but not like that, like this. Well, it's no wonder some kids give up or never even begin. But then add the dull writing prompts that aren't inspiring to most boys and even girls. What kind of tree would you be and why? Hand a 10 to 12-year-old child a list of rules and writing restrictions and demand that they write about their favorite summer day, and is it any wonder that they groan and complain? Desperate times called for desperate measures. The prompt said to write a two-person point-of-view narrative essay. Use quotations for dialog, yadda yadda, yadda. I had lost him at two point of view narrative essay. His eyes rolled back in his head. I wanted to light the curriculum on fire. At my wits end, I halfheartedly suggested he write about seeing something disgusting in the toilet and then write as if he were someone else and tell the story again. He stopped whining. His ears perked up and he said, wait, really? We were both shocked. He because I said, write about the contents of the toilet. And I because magic happened. He began writing without being threatened, actual sentences and paragraphs. And when he was finished, he read it aloud to me and I was duly appalled. I gagged and made faces which pleased him immensely. He was still reluctant to show me his work because, of course, it wasn't perfect, but we were able to edit his grammar and spelling through laughter instead of tears. And he couldn't wait to share his work with his dad and brothers, who enjoyed his revolting story as much as he did.
Jennifer Cabrera All day, kids get specific instructions from us on what we want them to do and learn. We want them to learn to write in their own voice, right? Well, why not start by allowing them to write what interests them? The best authors tell wannabe writers to write what they know. Well, what does a 12-year-old boy know? When allowed to write about what interests and excite them, kids try harder and their voice comes through their writing. With my youngest as my muse, I created revolting writing to get him to start putting words on paper in his own voice with hilarious, exciting, and even disgusting prompts. Video games, weird creatures, would you rather questions, and laugh-out-loud jokes? Keep them coming back for more.
Later, I added vocabulary, including slang words kids often use, but don't really know what they mean. I added illustration pages for them to further depict what they may not be able to get into writing just yet, and even short funny cursive copy work related to those fun hilarious themes. But wait, there's more. Gross out grammar books one and two are the companion books that align with the chapter themes and the writing book for a full year of language arts. They are full-color workbooks of grammar lessons and activities and games that are laugh-out-loud fun for ages, suggested 9 to 13 or any age looking for a creative grammar review or writing journal. All of these books, the Complete Language Arts Program, is available at Amazon and at Rainbow Resource. If you want to learn more about the program and see some sample pages and some of the art within then you can go to my website, HighfalutinHomeschooler.com/books and click on any of the books there to see inside.
Will they always need potty humor to get through learning to write? No, but if it gets them started, why not? Show them they can write, enjoy it, be creative, and as they mature, their core writing skills will be there to grow with them for more mature topics. Or they may be the next Roald Dahl who authored beloved stories such as The BFG. A character famous for drinking frobscottle and wizpopping throughout the story. And other revolting stories such as The Witches, where kids are turned into rats. And Matilda, where a horrid school principal locks kids in the chokey and forces them to eat chocolate cake until they puke. And we can't forget Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, where kids turn into blueberries and get juice and burping can save your life.
Roald Dahl was worth $10 million at the time of his passing, and before all of those great stories became box office hits, but before they can become the next Roald Dahl, we must get them writing. Now you have my seven tips for reaching a reluctant, resistent, or uninterested learner. Don't be afraid to step outside the stuffy box of classroom expectations and even the picturesque ideals of what homeschooling should look like. Leave your home and learn by interacting with the world and bring a world of options into your homeschool to shake things up and find what works to reach your kids at their level. There is more than one way to ruin a child, which is why I say you might as well keep them home and do it yourself. So until next time, stay weird and homeschool on.
Thank you for joining me here on the Homeschool Solutions Show again. You can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at homeschooling.mom. Don't forget to check out my friends at Medi-Share for healthcare you can trust. To learn more about why over 400,000 Christians have chosen Medi-share, go to greathomeschoolconventions.com/medishare.
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Lastly, have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling event of the year offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topics and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit hall in the United States. Find out more at greathomeschoolconventions.com. I hope to see you in Texas.
Also, if you'd like to connect with me, you can find me at Facebook at Hifalutin Homeschooler and on Instagram @hifalutinhomeschooler. That's H-I-F-A-L-U-T-I-N Homeschooler. Also, you can email me directly with any questions, concerns, anecdotes. I love to hear stories from other homeschoolers. That's [email protected]. Until next time, stay weird and homeschool on.