10 Simple Solutions When Kids Dawdle in the Homeschool

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Nothing is worse than when kids dawdle in the homeschool.

They mope. They complain. They take forever to complete their math lesson!

So here are 10 simple solutions for when your kids avoid their schoolwork.

1. Create Good Habits

Habits are important and they’ll make or break your homeschool. Because kids will get into the habit of sitting down, looking at that math or writing assignment, and complaining. They’ll whine, they’ll groan, and they’ll spend more time whimpering than working.

Or they sit down and doodle instead of studying.

Good homeschool habits are a different matter. Then kids will sit down, look at their assignments, grab a pencil, and get to work. And without complaint!

Changing bad habits into good habits is difficult. It’s often necessary to step back and reduce the assignment lengths to a point where it’s ridiculous for the kids to complain.

I’ve cut elementary kids back to a single word at times to retrain them to complete their work without complaint. Then I build slowly up to a short sentence. Then one long sentence. Two short sentences. Two long sentences. And finally paragraphs. It takes time, but it’s worth creating good study habits in my kids.

A second option is to sit down with your kids and walk them through how to study. First, gather any supplies you need and sit down at the table.

Next, open your book and do a quick glance through today’s assignment. Now begin with the first problem.

Have your kids practice sitting down to begin the day’s assignment until they can quickly and quietly do so without complaint.

And yes, it’s worth spending a day or even a week drilling the steps. Gather supplies. Sit down at the table. Open your book and quickly glance through the day’s assignments. Now open to the first problem and begin.

Do it again! And again. And again. Until the kids create a new habit of sitting down to work without complaint.

2. Reduce Distractions

Distractions will kill your homeschool. Kids don’t study well with the television going in the background. It’s hard to concentrate with loud music or with younger siblings begging for time to play.

I know I struggle to concentrate under these conditions. Don’t you?

So how can you expect your kids to concentrate when someone is playing a computer game next to them?

Take a look around your house and think about what types of distractions your kids face when they’re doing their schoolwork.

Are they studying in their bedroom next to that awesome book they’re dying to finish?

Are the younger children quick or making a ruckus in the living room? I’m the first to admit that it’s hard to keep our toddlers and preschoolers quiet, but it is possible. I highly recommend you put your older kids on a rotation to play with their younger siblings.

You’ll reduce distractions, keep the younger kids quiet and occupied, and give your older kids a much-needed break during the homeschool day.

So turn off the radio or play quiet music in the background. Turn off the television, even if it’s keeping the littles occupied. Yes, even Daniel Tiger will distract your older children from their studies!

You must remove the distractions and allow your kids to concentrate.

3. Create a Pleasant Learning Environment

Take a look at the learning environment you have in the house. Can your kids find pencils, paper, and rulers when needed? Do your kids have good lighting and the space they need to spread out?

Kids need a pleasant learning environment to study. They need to be able to find the books and pencils they need. They need to be able to find rulers and paper. They need quiet to study.

Let’s face it. It’s hard to work in a disruptive environment and it’s impossible to work when you can’t find the tools you need when you need them. Make an effort to clean the house and tidy up each day.

Take the time to create a study area for your children. Quite frankly, we have a small house so I don’t have a dedicated school room. However, each child has a crate with all of their homeschool supplies. A bookshelf holds all books we’re currently using. And I strive to keep the kitchen and dining room tables clear of clutter so kids have a space to sit down and study.

Kids study better when they have the supplies they need close at hand.

4. Short Lessons

If a little is good, more must be better! However, when lessons get too long, kids struggle to complete them.

The lessons are intimidating. They go on forever. And kids will stall, whine, and dawdle to avoid starting.

If dawdling is a big problem in your house, try reducing the size of the lessons or breaking one large lesson into two or three small pieces. It’s easier to sit down and do several small assignments than it is to do one large assignment.

Take a look:

  • Complete math lesson


  • Drill sheet
  • Read math lesson
  • Practice problems
  • Math worksheet

Also, keep in mind that children are not cookie cutters of each other. Some kids easily read 40 or 50 pages an hour. They’ll sit down with a pile of books and be finished with the week’s reading assignments in a couple of hours.

But a child with reading issues such as dyslexia or tracking issues may read well, but slowly. I’ve seen a child read as slowly as 7 pages an hour.

That 50-page reading assignment their sibling read in an hour? Took this child 7 hours to complete.

So watch and time your children as they work through the lessons. There’s a big difference between a child working slowly and carefully and a child staring out the window for hours on end.

Reduce the length of the lessons until the children are able to complete their schoolwork in a reasonable amount of time.

5. Well-Planned Lessons

For a time I allowed my kids to plan their own week. Generally, this system worked well, but one child struggled to finish his assignments week after week. So I grabbed his planner to see what was going on.

It turned out he wrote every single assignment that was due that week on Monday. One long, intimidating, never-ending list of work to be done.

And every Monday he sat down, looked at that list, and was overwhelmed.

The solution was simple. I insisted we sit down and plan his lessons together. Reading assignments were broken into small chunks throughout the week. Math assignments were assigned to a specific day.

You have to make certain the week is planned and planned well. Have you accounted for events outside the house, start times, end times, and spread the work evenly throughout the week?

If not, then the issue is planning. Too many assignments on one day will intimidate your kids and make it hard for them to complete their schoolwork.

Sometimes kids prefer to have reading assignments joined together: read pages 1-50 this week.

Other kids need reading assignments broken up: read pages 1-7 on Monday, 8-14 on Tuesday, and so on.

Sit down and plan your week with your individual kids in mind. Kids aren’t born knowing how to plan and organize their week. You need to do it for the kids and then teach them how to do so themselves.

A well-planned week will solve problems before they begin.

6. Ensure Basics Are Mastered

Sometimes we get into a rush to push our kids beyond their capabilities. We push. We rush. And the lessons turn too hard.

The kids cry. They fuss. They dawdle.

If your kids are dawdling, sometimes it’s because the lessons have become too difficult. I expect this to happen every spring. The material my family uses introduces the next grade’s concepts at the end of the book.

It’s an introduction and the kids aren’t expected to master it at this point. But they look at the information and squirm. They wiggle. They dawdle.

Since we’re finishing off the school year, I don’t worry about it. But if we’re at the beginning of the school year, a bit of review is in order. I cringe and turn back the pages until the kids hit material they do understand. Concepts they can master. And then we move forward. Usually, they move forward and plow through the pages they were struggling with a short time before.

7. Clear Instructions

Do you have clear instructions for what is expected from your kids?

Kids dawdle when they’re not certain what they need to be doing. You may have assigned your 13-year-old to write an essay.

But does your child even know what an essay is?

Or do you need to hand-hold your child through the steps of planning, outlining, and writing?

And don’t ask your kids if they understand what they’re to do. I’ll ask mine and they ALWAYS say, “I got it, Mom!”

But they don’t always get it.

So if your kids are consistently not completing a subject, it’s time to sit down and give a hard look at the subject. Make sure your kids understand what they are to do and how they are to complete it.

Hand-hold them through one or two assignments. Ensure they understand how to complete each step and can do so by themselves.

8. Your Attitude About Homeschooling

I think we all agree that education is important. But are you modeling how important education is for your kids? How do you spend your free time? Do you sit down and read the great books or are you watching Netflix all evening?

Do you treat your homeschool as a list of to-do’s that need to be done and finished before you move on to the fun part of your day? Or are you taking the time to savor your books, to enjoy literature with your kids, and model a love of learning?

Kids catch more than is taught. If you want your kids to understand the importance of education then you need to model that yourself.

You need to take the time to educate yourself. To show a fascination with the world and learn with your kids.

9. Motivation

Why should your kids even want to complete their schoolwork? You can talk all you want about needing to read, write, and know math to your little 6-year-old. But the future is a long way off for young kids.

Especially when Legos, play dough, and swings are calling their name.

I’ve found it helps to allow the kids to do something extra after they’re done with their lessons. For instance, they may get 30 minutes on the computer or to play a computer game.

Just a little something that’s easy to provide, I’d allow it anyway and gives a small incentive to sit down and complete their schoolwork now.

10. Add Wonder and Joy

Are your kids bored with homeschooling? Then you need to add wonder and joy to your day!

Classical education isn’t meant to be dull and boring.

You’re learning about the world. You’re learning beautiful literature, beautiful poetry. You’re learning about great men and women of the past. The battles, the struggles, and the challenges.

So take time to find material that inspires and encourages your kids to learn. You want to fill your kids with a sense of wonder and joy about the world, not just moan and groan when schoolwork comes up because they think it’s boring.

Can you add projects such as mummifying a chicken to your day? What about creating a salt map of the world or writing a play about the pilgrims.

Figure out ways to add wonder and joy to your homeschool.

Make your homeschool exciting.

The next time your kids dawdle in your homeschool try one of these solutions instead of getting frustrated. If all else fails, take the time to reconnect and try again tomorrow.

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