The Ontario Federation of Teaching Parents

How Do I Maintain My Child’s Interest?

When can the kids quit? I think one of the more difficult questions in homeschooling is deciding when to let the kids quit something they don’t like and when to insist that they persevere. A few points to consider, when weighing the pros and cons:

There are infinite numbers of different ways to learn and some methods and resources suit some kids a whole lot better than others. There’s no reason, for example, to force a specific history curriculum if your kids loathe it when there are so many alternative resources and approaches available.

Learning is practically nil when students lack liking or interest. If a kid absolutely hates Resource X and is miserable at the sight of it, Resource X — no matter how much it costs and how much everybody else’s kids like it — isn’t providing an optimum learning environment for yours. Look at the way kids sop information up when they’re curious and fascinated vs. their snail-like progress when they’re not. One of the great benefits of homeschooling is our ability to provide fuel for their curiosity.

This shouldn’t be a battle over parental respect.  Certainly we all want our kids to respect (and love and admire) us, but learning shouldn’t be something they do solely to please US — learning is what they do to please, delight, and surprise themselves. Homeschooling on our part, as parents, is a process of discovery, a constant experiment in helping our kids find their personal best way to learn. Anyway, nobody should panic themselves into thinking that “I hate my math program” means “I hate you.” In most cases, it means “Help!”

And kids do learn beautifully.  It’s impossible to prevent them from learning. That learning, however, doesn’t necessarily take place as (or when) we expect it to. Some kids respond enthusiastically to structure and workbooks; some don’t. Some despise history — unless it’s taught through music or science or art. Sometimes learning is messy – there you are, intent on teaching the geography of Antarctica, and they’re hopping around begging to read “Mr. Popper’s Penguins.” Homeschoolers are flexible enough to drop the map and read “Mr. Popper’s Penguins.” Strike when the iron is hot.

On the other hand…..Some skills and academic concepts are only acquired through hard and often tedious work — piano practice and the multiplication tables spring to mind. No way around this. But there are long-term rewards and huge payoffs in expertise.

On the other hand…..All three of our kids started taking violin lessons when they were very young. Two of them stuck with it, are now excellent players, and are still taking violin lessons. One of them, after a year or so of lessons, announced that he didn’t like it. He didn’t practice. We nagged. We made inspiring speeches about the rewards of hard work. We tried creative bribery. He still didn’t practice; he dragged his feet enroute to lessons. This went on for months. Finally, after much soul-searching, we let him quit. At this point, he never wanted to take music lessons again.

SIX YEARS LATER……He decided that he would like to take piano lessons. He threw himself into it; is having fun and doing great. Then, persuaded by his brothers — who pitched strings — he decided to learn the string bass. Which he is. Sometimes I think we should never have let him quit the violin. Sometimes I think we should have let him quit sooner.

Rebecca Rupp, Ph.D., has homeschooled her three sons for more than ten years and has been a leading proponent of the burgeoning homeschooling movement. She is the author of many books and articles on education and natural history, including How We Remember and Why We Forget (Three Rivers Press, 1998). She lives in Shaftsbury, Vermont. Rupp has recently written two new books: The Complete Home Learning Sourcebook (Crown, 1998) and Getting Started on Home Learning: How and Why To Teach Your Kids at Home (Crown, 1999)

The above article was obtained, with permission, from the “Homeschool Zone”. This [was] an online virtual community of homeschoolers, afterschoolers, parents, and educators with special sections for moms, dads, kids and more. Free e-newsletters; global & local support; ADD/ADHD support; free crafts.