When Your Homeschooler Refuses to Do Any Work: Exactly What To Do!

Do you have a homeschooler who refuses to do their work?

Are your school days laced with frustration, pleading, anger, and tantrums – from both parent and child?

Is your kid slipping further and further beneath their potential because of their stubbornness?

Are you at your wit’s end?

Let me tell you, you are not alone!

I have had my own struggles with my 3 girls, and I have received emails from some pretty broken, frustrated homeschool moms too. 

I have written a couple of posts on how to motivate a homeschooler and whether bribing is every appropriate in homeschooling….but I don’t think I’ve ever addressed the issue of what to do with a supremely stubborn child.

The homeschooler who won’t do school work no matter what “reward” is waiting for them. 

If you are in a daily battle of the wills with your homeschooler, you are in the right place. 

Get some coffee, and I’m going to show you how you can and will regain control of your homeschool and raise a child who loves learning! 

How to Deal With A Homeschool Kid Who Refuses To Do Any Work

Is your homeschooler refusing to do school work? Are you in a battle of the wills every day and thinking about quitting? You CAN stop fighting and still win the battle! Click to explore the reasons your homeschooler won't do work and exactly what to do to change your child's attitude.

1. Really Stop and Think. Dig Deep.

I don’t believe there is a “one size fits all” reason for why a kid continually and stubbornly refuses their homeschool work.

For that reason, you really need to sit down and think about what is truly causing the friction you are experiencing every day.

If you identify and correct these issues, it could make a world of difference in your homeschool!

To get your mind rolling, think through each of the below points and see if they apply to your homeschooler:

– Are you an angry homeschool mom?

No judgment over here. I have been there!

How would you feel if a teacher in a classroom treated your child the way that you do?

If you felt a pang of conviction there, please read my post on How to Stop Being an Angry Homeschool Mom

It gives practical tips that I have learned over the year to stop being impatient and angry with the 3 kids I love the most in the world. 

– Is the curriculum you’re using appropriate?

I am not one to say that you should run out and buy new curriculum every time your kid gets grumpy about school. But if your child is continually fighting you day after day, it may be worth it to try a different curriculum. 

I had one kid that went from slugging through math every day with a sour face to exclaiming, “Thank you, mommy! Thank you, mommy, for being this curriculum! I’m good at math!” 

All I did was switch out the curriculum and it made a shocking change in my child and our homeschool.

If you think this is the boat you’re in, read When to Switch Up the Curriculum.

– Is your child frustrated with new material?

Many kids fly through the early years of school and everything just clicks for them. People always remark about how smart they are.

Your kid may come to feel that they are just naturally gifted with all things school.

Inevitably though, these kids will hit material that is a challenge for them – it doesn’t come easily.

This may anger, frustrate, and scare your child. Instead of facing the challenge head-on, your homeschooler refuses to do it at all, so they won’t be seen as a failure. 

“Everyone says I’m smart. I don’t get this stuff though! Am I not smart anymore??”

I have had more than one kid like this. 

Here is how I handle it:

Pull the kid up into your lap, look them in the eye, and say with soft eyes, “We have a long stretch of years ahead of us where I will be teaching you. There will be lots of new material like this. You don’t know everything. If you did, you would be living in your own house, with your own job, and your own money. Did you know that school was hard for me too? I had to work really hard to learn {fill in the blank}. It was tough for me! I know this material is a challenge for you and you don’t like that, but let me tell you the truth about really smart people – they work hard. Smart people dig in and keep going even when it’s tough. Smart people don’t quit. You are a hard worker too, so I know you can do this if you set your mind to it.”

From this point on, praise your child for how hard they work, not for how smart they are.  

– Is your child under social stress? Dealing with depression?

Some homeschoolers may be refusing their schoolwork because they are rejecting the concept of homeschooling. 

They feel isolated. Yes, socialization does matter

Is your kid able to get out and see their friends on a regular basis? Does your child have solid friends?

What can you do to meet those very real needs?

Check out my post – The Secret Strategy for Helping your Homeschooler Make Friends – to help your kid out.

More and more kids are also dealing with depression for many different reasons that have nothing to do with school.

If you think this could be an issue, there would be no harm in a doctor’s visit or seeing a counselor to help your child address the issue. 

– Are you pushing too hard?

This was 100% me in my first year of homeschooling. My type-A personality wanted my homeschool to be a huge success, so I pushed that onto my little 1st grader. 

I would tell her that she didn’t really need those manipulatives to do her math problem – couldn’t she just remember the answer?

The truth was, I was asking her to do things that were beyond her grade and development level – no wonder she wasn’t loving school!

I had to check myself, do some research, and make sure that my expectations matched what was appropriate for her. 

Are your expectations too high?

Are your school days way too long?

Do you push your kid because you want to validate yourself and your decision to homeschool?

– Are you having fun?

School, especially homeschool, should be fun. If you’re not having fun, why is that?

What can you change about your homeschool to make it more engaging and interesting for your kid?

Sometimes it is as simple as changing what you write on – check out that homeschool hack here.

Maybe you need a new read-aloud book. 

Make more time for art projects, science experiments, music, and P.E.

Find exciting Youtube videos that match up with your lesson. 

Be flexible, and incorporate the things your child is interested in into your lessons.

I once threw out a month of science lessons so we could dive into a study of Megalodon, which was something my kid was obsessed with at the time.

She was so excited for school to start every morning!

Take some time and go through these questions and really take an inventory of what is going on in your homeschool. If you still think your kid is just plain stubborn, then read on.

2. Lift Your Kid’s Eyes to the Future

Homeschool kid thinking about his future and why he should stop refusing to do schoolwork

Sometimes kids need a little extra motivation than your typical sticker chart rewards system.  Sit down with them and talk about their future (not in a scary way, but in an excited, adventure sort of way). 

What do they want to be? What are they passionate about? What do they want to do with their lives? Where do they want to go to college?

My oldest daughter (7 or 8 years old at the time) flat out refused to do math at one point. I took the time to gently show her that just about any job (and many basic life skills) requires an understanding of math. This is true of all core curriculum too!

We went online and looked up some good colleges that had programs she was interested in. We watched videos for prospective students and even looked at some of the college housing pages.

It all looked really cool and my daughter was very interested!

I told her that there is an end goal to school. There is a reason for what we do day in and day out – and that is to open every possible door for her. I want her to have her pick of colleges when the time comes. I want her to be prepared and to excel.

I want her to soar when she leaves my house and be anything she wants to be. 

But for that to happen, she has to apply herself in school. Kids that don’t do well in school, don’t have as many options and opportunities as kids who did apply themselves.

No matter the age your kid is, it doesn’t hurt to lovingly lift their child’s eyes to look at the long-term goal.

Make sure they know that all your efforts come from a desire to see them succeed in life!

3.  Introduce a Bookend Reward System

Bookends to motivate a homeschooler who won't do schoolwork

After discussing the future and the importance of school with your resistant homeschooler, introduce a Bookend Reward System.

That means that when they finish school in a reasonable amount of time, with a good attitude – there will be a reward.

Now this reward must be something that you don’t mind giving out and they really want. It could be increased screentime, a sticker chart that helps them earn something bigger, a later bedtime, special treat, etc.

If your child fails to meet that standard (due to a bad attitude, not because they were actually struggling with the material) there will be a consequence.

The consequence should be something they really don’t want and you don’t mind doing. It could be a loss of screen time, taking away a favorite toy, putting their tablet in timeout for 24 hours, etc.

If you’re not sure what your consequence should be, think about the thing your kid would always rather do than schoolwork. Then take that thing away as the consequence. 

It’s important to communicate this “bookend” system with great love and concern. You are not angry – you love your homeschooler and you want to help motivate them to reach their true potential.

Every day they have a chance to either earn something positive…or experience an immediate negative consequence.

You are no longer in a daily power struggle over schoolwork.

They pick every day what they want to experience.

They are in the driver’s seat. 

4. Consistency is the Name of the Game

Homeschool parent must be consistent with kid who refuses schoolwork

It is one thing to introduce the Bookend Reward system to your homeschooler who resues to do their work…and it is any entirely different thing to actually follow through with it. 

This system will absolutely fail if you do not convince your child that you are serious. 

You must always follow through with what you said you would do.

Whenever you have to administer consequences, be firm, but kind.

Tell them you are so sorry they made this choice and you were really hoping they would choose differently.

Do not give second chances. That sounds harsh, but they need to learn what the standard is – and that is school completed on time with a good attitude.

There is no room for tantrums, ugly words, or refusing to be work. You will no longer beg them to do their work.  

When they choose the positive path – go nuts! Celebrate them to the point that they roll their eyes and say you’re embarrassing them!

Delight in the reward they receive and make a big deal about it at the dinner table. 

*****If you think your kid really struggles with connecting their actions to how the day plays out, I highly recommend getting the book “What Should Danny Do?” and “What Should Darla Do?

These are fantastic “choose your own adventure” books that allow your kid to actually choose what decisions Danny and Darla make throughout the day. They get to see how the day changes based on the decisions they make!

My own kids have benefited so much from these books and now respect their own “Power to Choose.”

But What if This Doesn’t Work and My Homeschool Still Won’t Do Their Work?

If you find that your kid still doesn’t care about the reward you’re offering and the consequence for not meeting the standard…I would tell you revisit the questions in the first point of this post and rethink what the reward and consequence are.

Whatever you have picked is not getting the job done.

Do not be afraid to sit down and ask your child what would motivate them. You might be surprised what they will tell you their consequence should be! 

Find the right pressure points and stay consistent with a loving and firm hand. 

How to Prevent Raising a Homeschooler Who Won’t Do Schoolwork

Did you read this article out of fear, not because you are actually experiencing a homeschool kid who refuses schoolwork?

Do you want to be prepared for what the future might hold?

If this is you, then I want to give you some points to avoid getting in the situations this article talks about. 

Your homeschooler may love school right now. They may relish every read-aloud book, worksheet, and project…but that attitude will likely not last. 

Mountains and valleys are extremely normal in education.

You just need to be ready.

I would strongly recommend following these steps to prevent raising a homeschooler who won’t do school work:

1. Make “fun” a central value of your homeschool. Don’t skip the cool things because you think you don’t have time. Your kids should be excited to find out what they’ll be learning tomorrow!

2. Use a reward system for schoolwork even if you don’t “need” one right now. It will help on days that your kid is a little sluggish – don’t we all have those days?

3. When and if your kid gives you an inappropriate attitude about school work, nip it in the bud quickly. Make it clear that such behavior will not be tolerated. Do not yell or get angry, just state that your job is to teach – not to beg them to do school. I have even sent my kids to their rooms and told them they have lost the privilege of doing school – which also means they lost their reward for the day.

Recap When Your Homeschooler Refuses to Do Homeschool Work

You can absolutely change the path your homeschool is on – I have no doubt. 

Remember to address those initial questions about your homeschool with brutal honesty, talk to your kid about what their future holds, introduce the Bookend Rewards System, and follow through with it! 

You can do this!

And your children will be so blessed by your efforts, Homeschool Mama.

 Do you have any tricks up your sleeve for homeschoolers who refuse to do their work? Please share in the comments! 

Want to tuck this post away for later? 

Be sure to pin it to your favorite Pinterest board and share with your homeschooling friends and followers!

Read Next:

Looking for tips to be more consistent with your homeschooling? You are in the right place! I am excited to share with you all my best tips for staying motivated, energized, and consistent with homeschooling my own 3 kids.


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