When to push, and when to back off

How to Know When to Back off and When to Push Your Homeschooler

As homeschool parents, we have to decide every single day just how hard to “push” our children. I often find myself asking…

“Am I pushing them too hard?”

“Am I asking too much of them?”

“Am I challenging them enough?”

These questions haunt even the most experienced among us. Every child is different, and the same is true that how much you challenge each child is different too. Some children need gentle coaxing, while others thrive with a more demanding demeanor.

It would be super amazing if all of learning was rainbows and sunshine. If every morning, my children woke up eager to complete each task without complaint. Yes, there are plenty of opportunities to make learning exciting, engaging, and fun. But sometimes, if true learning is going on, it can look and feel a lot like work. Sometimes learning come from being pushed just past our levels of comfort. Learning comes from challenging our minds to think differently, or master a new skill. It doesn’t always come in the form of rainbows and sunshine. True learning pushes us just past our level of comfort and stretches and expands our minds to understand information in new ways.

For example…

Little Miss is right at that stage of learning where she is starting to piece together letter sounds to create words. She is right on the cusp of true reading and we are SO close I’m on the edge of my seat every day to see what kind of progress we will make. I decided to get her started on the Explode the Code series. I debated on exactly where we should start, the A-B-C series or jump right into level 1.

I gave her the pre-test for level one and she did fabulous. So where to start was decided. We flipped open the book and she plowed through the first few pages while I smugly patted myself on the back. Such a good mom. Such a good teacher- you made the right choice.

Then the work got more difficult and she started to falter. Each day I had to push her a little more. Each day I watched her get more frustrated and we battled over each and every problem. We both ended up in tears and frustrated more times than I’d actually care to admit and I decided that something had to be done. We had to change our strategy. My pushing was just compounding the problem. Instead of challenging her, it was infuriating her. Worse, pushing too hard was making her feel terrible about herself. It was affecting her confidence and she began to second guess everything. This wasn’t good learning.

What to do?

When should you push your homeschooler? What should you do when you see your child angry and frustrated? When you see your child fighting through every problem? When you see you child begin to second guess their own ability, it’s time to step back and evaluate your plan again. After all, isn’t that one of the perks of homeschooling? We can move at our own pace, gloss over mastered material, or spend more time if needed. So that’s what I decided to do.

I backed off. I spent a few weeks building her confidence back up and moving slower. We reviewed letter sounds, did fun activities, and I saw the light come back to her eyes. Just because the “test” said that she was ready, didn’t mean that she was actually ready.

When to try again

She began to relax and not fight me for every activity. She began to trust herself and her ability again. To be honest, I was hesitant to go back and try the work again. So, instead of making an “executive” decision of when she was ready, I asked her. I know, I know. It was hard to give up that control over the material. It was hard to give up control of decided when she was ready. But lo and behold, we got there. I asked if she was ready to give it a shot and see how it went. Sure enough, she gave it a shot and now attacks it with a fresh spirit and energy.

All it took was realizing when to push her and when to back off. 

When you find yourself struggling with when you should push your homeschooler, step back and look at the bigger picture. Are you seeing the process of real learning, or are you pushing just a bit too hard? We all know our children are capable, we know they can succeed, but sometimes they need time and encouragement to see it for themselves. Give them that time and you will see your child grow in ways you never thought imaginable. 

Happy Homeschooling!

~Leanne