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  1. #1

    Default not off to a stellar start

    After some very good advice here to ease into our new homeschooling a bit at a time instead of jumping in all at once, I decided to start this week. I figured if we did a single subject (science, my son's favorite) for a few weeks, then gradually added in the others, we'd be ready for a full schedule by the start of the "normal" school year after Labor Day, but it would let us ramp up slowly, and keep my son a little busier in these quiet, mostly-empty weeks of summer. He has a few virtual camp sessions upcoming, but nothing at all this week. So, we started Monday.

    We're 2 days in now, and so far, let's just say we are not off to a stellar start. My son has discovered that while he'd never argue with a teacher about the work that's been assigned, it's pretty easy to argue with mom. And cross his arms. And refuse flat-out. Ugh. Yesterday's brief science lesson turned into a marathon of refusal and pouting. Then today, which involved a hands-on activity I really thought would be fun and lighthearted, his perfectionist tendencies/anxiety took over as soon as things didn't work out exactly as he'd planned, and he got downright furious at the assignment. I thought he'd enjoy it. He hated almost every minute.

    I am so glad we're started this now with just science, because if I'd had to then try to teach 3 other major subjects after these fails, well, I think he and I both would have ended up in tears.

    When he cooled down, he agreed that science is all about getting it wrong, picking up, and trying again. He even was able to list some things he'd do differently if we did try again in the future. So I guess today wasn't a total disaster. And he did say he'd approach tomorrow and the next day as a chance to reset and start fresh - with a better/calmer attitude.

    Still, I can't help but think that this is in some ways more than I bargained for - I taught 35+ middle schoolers at a time, and certainly few of them had any reservation about arguing with a teacher! But it's different when it's my own kiddo. Ouch.

    Tomorrow's lesson is a brief (3 minute) lecture + reading + discussion. Hopefully nothing to upset him in that. And Thursday's is a fun lab about using multiple senses to make observations. Hoo boy, I hope that doesn't upset his applecart as well!

    (I'm really hoping for a flood of people jumping in here and saying that's typical, and it ALWAYS gets better. Please oh please...)

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  3. #2
    Senior Member Arrived RTB's Avatar
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    Feb 2012


    This is my 9th year, and it seems we always start off a little rocky. It seems to be a learning curve for everyone every year - a new program, a change in the routine, a different schedule, an increase in expectations - it is different every year.

    Don't worry things will fall into place, rough edges will smooth. Its a big transition for you both!

    Maybe some when / then language to help with the arguments? When you do your science lesson, then you can play on the Xbox (or whatever he is wanting to do). For us it works best to say these hours x-y are school hours, when you are done with your assignments using your best effort, then you can have free time, but zero screens / phones during school hours. This helps them not rush through their work, but still lets them go read, listen, or do an activity they want.

    Hang in there!
    Last edited by RTB; 07-14-2020 at 03:08 PM.
    DS 15, DD 13
    Year 9

  4. #3


    Yes, this is totally normal. Both of you are getting used to a new routine and, more importantly, a new dynamic between the two of you. This will take time. Doesn't make NOW any better, but know that you can work your way through it.

    Homeschooled two kids for 11 years, now trying to pay it forward

    Daughter -- a University of Iowa graduate: BA in English with Creative Writing, BA in Journalism, and a minor in Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies

    Son -- a Purdue University graduate: BS in Computer Science, minor in math, geology, anthropology, and history

  5. #4


    Hugs! Its always especially disappointing when something youve planned to be a fun, happy time between the two of you turns into a fight. I think we can all commiserate with that.

    Regroup, see where you can change to make it easier. Is he rebelling because he feels entitled to a summer free of schoolwork? Are you spending more time than an inschool session would be? Are you pulling him away from doing something he prefers? Is his sleep schedule regular, or is he in “migrating to be a night owl cuz hes a teen” mode? Can you understand where he is coming from? (Not saying in any of this that he is justified!)

    We are also in the RTB philosophy of not playing until the work for the day is done. Not just as a carrot reward, but Im convinced that playing video games makes them less cooperative and tractable for activities requiring their willpower. (I mean the anti-procrastination, self-discipline kind that seems to wane as the day progresses. Similar to “Decision fatigue.”)

    Make it routine, make it an easy habit. Easier said than done! Hang in there, and dont be afraid to stop for a mental health break!
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.


    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  6. #5


    Thanks, everyone.

    I'm grateful to say that today's hands-on lab went well. Phew. Finally, a good one. Yay!

    I do think he's a little thrown off by the start of "school" when it's summer - that's a fair point. I did explain to him that he chose to stuff in a lot of extra science of his choosing, plus last year's teacher emailed me with a list of math topics she didn't get to teach thanks to the shutdown, so it won't all be done in a single school year. And that learning doesn't really have a start and end date. Plus starting now gives us flexibility if he needs a mental health day now and then, or if we actually get to take our planned vacation next spring. (In my heart of hearts I know we won't, coronavirus has made it utterly impossible, but I'm still holding on to a sliver of hope.) I also reminded him that we're trying something new, and I kinda think we need to ease into it slowly instead of dropping all subjects on him at once in September - and he agreed that would be harder for him. Hoping that's the start of a little more buy-in for this early beginning...

    As RTB and alexsmom suggested, during the school year, he's used to the rule of no electronics until the school day and homework are done. Also not so much as a reward, but as a matter of course - playing video games can make it hard for him to find any focus at all for anything else, and he feels resentful when told to stop playing. But he's been used to me more or less leaving him to pick and choose for himself all day since summer began - I require him to read for at least half an hour a day (which he loves to do, so that's not a struggle), and I do ask him to take occasional breaks from staring at screens, but to be honest, this summer, screentime's really our salvation.

    Thankfully, sleep isn't a problem for him now. He takes melatonin to fall asleep at night and it's been working like a charm. (Before that, he was having pretty typical ADHD issues with falling asleep because he simply could not spin down for the day.) He gets a reasonable 9-10-ish hours, based on his wake-up time.

    It HAS been taking longer to get through these sessions than I expected (these first lessons were planned to take ~40 min, like a school class) - I didn't plan in time spent negotiating around his outright refusal to do work. :\ We talked about that today, after our first successful lesson - we'll see if that has an impact as we move forward.

    We started tackling science in the morning because he's at his most focused shortly after taking his ADHD meds. (He forgot to take them Wednesday, which made that morning rather a disaster, from a schoolwork perspective. Neither one of us realized he'd forgotten, so he was off the wall and I was angry, thinking he was following up on the previous days' defiance... ugh. There were apologies all around when we finally noticed his un-taken pill.)

    So, yeah. I know he struggles with transitions. I know he misses school. I know he misses his friends. I know this whole situation's been hard for my sensitive kiddo. I know he's not really mad at me, I know he's mad at the world right now. But hoo boy, it's been hard having this be where he decides to let it out, because I'm feeling overwhelmed about taking on this new responsibility.

    To end on a brighter note: for tomorrow, I asked him to read a part of a book to get him started thinking about the astronomy we're going to jump into next week. It's a slim book, easy read, silly/entertaining facts about space travel. He glanced through it and asked permission to read the whole thing tomorrow. Like I'd say no to that? We'll just chat about it once he's done, easy peasy, low-key. Relaxed. Happy. I hope. Fingers crossed.

    I'm definitely open to suggestions on how to improve this process as we keep moving forward.

    Thanks again for being supportive!

  7. #6


    Hope it gets better over time. My DD12 is in a really contrary phase at the moment and refusing to do some work where she was previously a get up early and champing at the bit to start math at 8.15 am type of person. It is hard and totally normal. Also totally normal for them to dump it all on you as that is their safe place where they can let it all out. Not much fun for you but better out than in for them.

    My DD just did a course with an occupational therapist on managing big emotions. One useful thing we picked up was classifying her behaviors/feelings into blue (e.g., sad, tired), green (happy, relaxed), yellow (bit irritated or frustrated), and red (angry, meltdown) zones, and working out what were her triggers for each zone, what were her body signals she was in each zone, and what she could do to get green again. Then if she is yellow, we can recognize it and say "hey I see you are yellow right now, you need to go do something to become green" because communicating with them in the red is where you get the battle zone so you have to catch them before that. It is helping. So maybe if you can catch your son getting frustrated before you reach the red fight/battle zone, then you can get him to do something to become green and more receptive again. Maybe a brain break outside if he is missing out on summer? My daughter always insists she does not need this when she is in a bad mood but as soon as we get outside, she completely switches. Then you could try teaching again once he is green rather than keeping pushing through teaching when he is yellow and ending up in that red zone.
    NZ homeschoolers (school year runs start Feb to mid Dec).
    DD 12 (year 7) and DD 7 (year 2).
    Fourth year homeschooling.
    Part-time freelance science copyeditor.

  8. #7


    I have 4 kids. At least 2 struggle with ADHD. One of them is also bipolar, like my dad. It took us about a full year and a half out of school to transition to a point where they aren’t literally fighting with me at every turn. I grew up homeschooled, and then went to
    “Regular School” later on during high school, so I had a really hard time understanding their perspective. It didn’t help that they all processed their frustrations through anger. Eventually though, I began to see how they were struggling. They like routine, and they were accustomed to structured instruction, whereas I am definitely an exploratory learner. We’ve struggled to “unteach” some of the things they were taught at school. Like the obsession with the “right answer”. Sometimes there is more than one right answer. So we’ve spent a year learning how to learn, and getting to know each other. And it is worth it.

  9. #8


    I meant to come back to this thread and thank you for the reminder about the zones of regulation, NZ_Mama!

    My son learned about those in school and also in therapy, but we haven't really practiced it here at home so much - when homework time rolled around, he was ALWAYS in the red! :P I will definitely refresh his memory on it and we'll see how we can work that into our general "how are you feeling right now?" check-ins. Maybe giving him a little slip of paper he can pull out when he's feeling a particular way, as a visual cue, would be a good starting point. I'll talk it over with him tomorrow and see if thinks that might be a helpful way to frame his readiness for our learning together. Thanks

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not off to a stellar start