homeschool: dealing with a strong willed or rebellious child

If you read my first post about how our family got started homeschooling, you know it was almost accidental. It was one of those “try-it-and-see” deals.

Not at all planned. But we did like it. We saw good results with our oldest son, Corey. Since he was going into second grade when we started and hadn’t cared a whole lot for his prior experiences with both public and private school, it was a comparatively smooth transition.

Once his brother Casey, four years younger, was actually old enough to “officially” start working on lessons, he had already been “playing school” along with us as Corey did his work.

I’m not sure if that’s what led us to problems with Casey’s schooling or if it was truly his hard-headed nature!

The early years weren’t terrible. I saw right away that Casey was NOT going to work or study the way his brother did. Corey liked to learn, he appreciated books and was comfortable with abstracts. Casey, on the other hand, had a learning style more like his dad in that abstract concepts frustrated him more than anything. He liked the concrete, the hands-on, the logical. He wasn’t a bit interested in reading fiction, not even those adventure books most boys love or anything of the sort unless it had to do with some game they had created together. But if it had very much reading, he was done.

Casey didn’t mind doing math lessons and was okay with science unless it included writing. Like I said, his mind dealt better with things that were obviously either true or false, right or wrong. He just wanted nothing to do with lessons that included possibilities or imagining various endings or scenarios. English, spelling, and reading were things he despised.

I finally realized that he had a bit of a problem with reading, probably a mild form of dyslexia. His dad and grandpa were the same way. They had lots of trouble reading, often turning small words into something other than what they were. For instance, “that” would become “then”, “what” would be interpreted as “where”. At least, that’s how his dad would read. His grandpa had a bit more trouble than that, but had made it through seminary, and Casey’s dad had done well enough, I thought we should be able to handle the issue.

The thing was that it made Casey mad, I think. He resented not being able to do things as easily as his big brother did. If it was the least bit challenging to him, he didn’t want to do it. He liked to do what was easy for him, what came naturally and what he could excel in. He loved knowing how things worked, much like his daddy. He was forever taking things apart as a toddler, and so he loved working on vehicles the way his dad did.

As he got older, it just got harder and harder to get him to complete his lessons. By the time he became a teen, we were almost at each other’s throats all the time with me showing, telling, demanding, begging him to finish his school work and him just simply NOT doing it. He would piddle, he would just write “stuff”, he would doodle…anything to pass and avoid his lessons. He would never read what he was supposed to but could read through a magazine about cars in record time. I KNEW he was capable of doing it, he simply didn’t want to and wouldn’t.

I’m sure some of you are thinking I could have and should have just “made” him to his work, but after trying everything I knew to do, he still refused. Not outright to my face, but he just wouldn’t do it. His daddy and I weren’t communicating the best at that time in our marriage, and it’s possible he didn’t even think it was as bad as I was saying. Whatever the reason, Tommy wasn’t as supportive as I wanted and needed him to be. When I realized, with only a few credits left to go, that Casey wasn’t going to finish school, I talked with my husband and we sat him down and told him he needed to either get busy or get a job but I wouldn’t give him a diploma he didn’t earn. It broke my heart, but it was getting to the point that I would be irreparably damaging any relationship with him if I continued pushing him in school.

And yes, we did consider putting him in public school, but only for a split-second. We had seen another family put their sons in the local high school after a divorce and since they were my boys’ good friends, we saw them go through a really bad, reckless time. I know the divorce itself had a lot to do with it, but I also knew with the very rebellious attitude that Casey had, putting him in public school would only intensify that and widen the chasm between us. I knew that if he found that he was the least bit behind in a public school, he would just shut down and not try at all. That tends to lead a child to trouble. I wasn’t going to do that to him, even if he was throwing away his education.

I felt that protecting his soul and mind as much as possible was more important. I think he would agree with that today.

And speaking of today, Casey is happily married now, to an RN who is continuing her college education, so it’s done him a lot of good to see her working on her lessons to make a better future. With her encouragement, he is now taking his GED and wants to go on and get his Master Plumber certificate, which requires a written test. He reads very well now and is a hard-working, contributing member of society. I’ve come to the conclusion that his struggle with high school was more about maturity than anything else. That and a very strong-willed, sort-of angry attitude. That combination doesn’t make for a very good student.

But God has provided, He’s worked things out to his good and I still have a relationship with my son that I might not have had if I’d pushed him to finish high school.

Don’t let this discourage you if you’re a new homeschooling mom. Next time, I’ll tell you about the more willing student I had who probably spoiled me a little with his love of learning.

Did we do it perfectly? Um, NO! Did we do the best we knew how at the time? You betcha. And I relate these things, these memories of mine, to you in the hope that it may somehow help you in your quest to educate your children at home and have as much overall joy as we did.



homeschooling: the early years

I worked for a family-owned natural food store when my eldest was about two years old. I was there a little over a year working mostly part time, but I ended up doing a lot of work from home after I became manager.

They were an Adventist family who homeschooled their four children. I had never really heard of homeschooling before then and honestly, hadn’t even thought about it even though I had a child of my own!

Yeah, I’m not really the plan-ahead or worry-about-the-future type of gal, I guess.

So anyhow, while I worked there, other homeschooling families who knew the owners would come in, so I got to talk with them and the owner-family’s mom would bring books in about homeschooling and I’d look through those.

It piqued my interest in the prospect of homeschooling even though I really still didn’t feel like “school” was a real “threat” in my future. I was still relishing my little toddler and spending all the time I could with him. I really loved being a mom!

Homeschooling Concept
By the time he was ready to start kindergarten, we had another baby and I had had a few medical issues that had left me in pretty bad health. I was always so fatigued and I didn’t feel there was any possible way I could attempt to homeschool.

We arranged with the local private school that was just starting up to work out part of the tuition so we could just barely afford to send Corey to preschool. It was okay. I grew stronger during that year and by the next year, tuition had gone up, of course, and we had to decide what we were going to do.

I had made friends with another young mom and her son had become friends with Corey, so I was able to send him to the city school where her son was going to attend first grade.

That’s when we started seeing all the benefits of educating him at home. First there was the shortage of reading books. Part of the time, he was sent home with one, part of the time he wasn’t. When I asked his teacher about it, she told me they didn’t have enough books for all the kids.

I know. I was like, “SERIOUSLY?!” I then began to see the pattern of sending a ton of “homework” home with him to do. I’d ask him, “What did you do at school today?”

“We watched The Lion King!” he’d answer while unloading his little backpack of all the papers he was supposed to have done for tomorrow. They had started to implement whole language at that time, and it was the most idiotic thing I’d ever seen. He would bring home pages of scribble and when asked what it was, he’d tell me it was some story he had been told to write. There wouldn’t even been one letter on the page that was recognizable, let alone any words.

They put up work papers on the walls at school with smiley faces on them and tons of misspelled words. Written on the top in mostly-legible handwriting was the word “Spelling”.

By the time that school year was over, I was just sick of the whole thing. It was just ludicrous to me that I was sending my child to spend 7 hours a day, being nickel​-and-dimed to death every time I turned around (and they STILL didn’t have enough books?!) and he seemed to be getting nothing for that time investment. We were spending several hours each evening doing the work he could and should have done at school instead of watching Disney movies. And that’s not even counting the fact that I was the one teaching him to read at home.

various stages of homeschooling
I think I’m at stage 8. (thanks, GFH!)

Tommy and I talked it over, prayed about it and decided to bite the bullet and homeschool the next year…“Just to see if it will work and if we like it.”

We ordered A Beka‘s second grade set of curriculum and then stood mouth a-gape looking at the two stacks of books that came. I guess I felt relieved that we got something tangible for the money we’d spent, but I mean, the stack of books just for Corey was almost as tall as he was!

And yet, we plunged in. To clarify, I ordered A Beka because that was the only thing I knew! That’s the curriculum the private school had used. I figured it was good enough for them, we could certainly do just as well with it.

I didn’t know any other homeschoolers at that time, other than the people I’d worked for at the food store and I didn’t really know them well enough to call up & ask questions. So ignorant me, didn’t know enough to realize that actual classroom textbooks are full of “busy work”. I thought we were supposed to do every single thing on every single page.

Needless to say, we cried a lot that first year.


We evaluated things after that and I had started chatting online with several veteran homeschoolers who helped me realize that I was overburdening us both with trying to do EVERYthing in the textbooks.

I ordered from Alpha-Omega the next year.

Things went much smoother that year. Even though we now had a toddler getting involved in things, it was still a lot less stressful using AO for school. The only thing I found was that some of the subjects were a little shallow for our liking.

The thing that stands out most to me is when Corey got to a section about Loius Pasteur and the booklet just sort of skimmed over his contribution to science but Corey had more questions about him and what he did.

I ended up finding some library books he could read to satisfy that curiosity, but it showed me that we still hadn’t found “THE” curriculum for us.

By then, I had finally met some other real-life homeschoolers in the area and began getting more tips and insight into ways of homeschooling. And by the end of that second year, we had decided that we were comfortable enough with it and Corey enjoyed it enough that we would continue.

homeschooling works!
For our family, it really did! Marvelously!

And so began our journey of learning at home…stay tuned. More memories of those years to come!