Village sisters regularly post questions for coaching and feedback in The Village app. We take the best of those questions and responses and share them here with you (with edits for clarity). If you’d like to become a Village sister and have your questions answered, you can join here.
A sister posted this question:
“Hey Everyone! How do you deal with discipline while homeschooling? …My son is really taking advantage of me working while he is supposed to be doing his school work. This is our first year and he’s 9 years old and an only child.”
Phew, y’all! Would you raise a hand if you’ve been here?
I know I have. My 6 year old would literally try to scurry away with just the tiniest window of opportunity. I’m going to share strategies that I’ve used at home and in the classroom to help build up independence.
Before we jump in, I want to remind you that you are doing good work and that you can do this. It’s not perfect, but that’s not the goal. You’re working to show up for your kids and that’s what is so valuable.
Now here are some practical applications:
Re-evaluate Your Expectations: I want to remind you that this is new for both of you-and this is true no matter how long you’ve been homeschooling. Just like you are figuring out what it means to homeschool (while working) in this stage of life, your child is adjusting to this season of life too. Whether this is his first time being homeschooled, a new academic level, or just the first time where you’re less accessible to his- this is new. New things are hard, for everyone, so be sure to give yourselves lots of grace as you transition.
Reschool Yourself: The process of changing how you view school and learning is known as deschooling in the homeschool world. Here in The Village, we call it reschooling because we want encourage you to reorient yourself to the way you experience and anticipate learning. You’re not taking away school, you are transforming your idea of where learning can happen and that’s a good thing. Have a conversation with yourself and then your child about how traditional school is different from homeschool. Check out The Melanin Mama’s Guide to Homeschooling for insights on how you can emphasize that learning at home means that you have the opportunity to learn everywhere, not just from textbooks.
Know that you’re needed: At this point, it’s a mismatched expectation that your child would be able to work independently on school work for long chunks of time without your support or intervention. This is because he is not accustomed to such isolated work time and because at 9 you don’t have the discipline to just keep doing things you don’t want to do. Heck at 40 it’s hard to muster up that discipline. So, you might start with 20-minutes of work that your child can do on their own and then check-in. I know you might be thinking, “I can’t check in on this child every 20-minutes!” which is totally understandable. The check-in can be brief, “How ya doing? Let’s hug. Any quick questions?” You can also establish a classroom protocol for what to do when he’s stuck that helps him to problem solve until he can get your support.
Checking in is important because when kids get stuck on just one problem or one concept, it can feel impossible to move forward. It often goes like this: Your child encounters a question that is new, different, or difficult, and his brain goes, “I don’t know how to do this and I need help. No help is around and I don’t even want to do this anyway, so onto something else!” Your presence helps break this loop by helping him to refocus and teaching him how to think things through when he has a problem.
Embrace togetherness: Learning is relational and children are not meant to simply learn, read, and do on their own. Even if he loved everything about school and doing his work, he’d still want you there to share in his excitement. So, I’d encourage you to think about how you can do school in a way that you can be actively involved (like before and after work).
At this age, he needs about a solid 2-3 hours of academic time each day. If you wanted to experiment, you could teach an hour in the morning and then two hours when you get off so you can be present with him during his learning time. If you have a flexible job, you can school from 8 am- 11 am then start your day later. You want to do whatever works for you while leaning into the fact that he needs you and wants you to learn alongside him. Then, while you are working, he can have independent time, student-driven projects, and electronics as you see fit. We can also brainstorm some other ideas.
Lastly, I want to encourage you: it won’t be like this always, sis.
As your child gets older, and you both fall into the groove of homeschooling, you will see there are areas in which they need less support and be able to pull away in those.
For now, lean into togetherness, consider your perspectives on learning, and come up with systems to help him be independent when you aren’t around.