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.