Coping with Frustrated Homeschoolers

Frustrated child

I'm sure everyone who homeschools has to cope with the frustrated child.

Over the last several weeks I've noticed something in my children that I don't particularly like. When my older kids are working on math or English and come across a problem or concept they don't understand immediately, they quickly become visibly agitated and frustrated, even to the point of back talking when I try to help them understand the concept. They quickly get so distraught about the situation that they become unteachable.

Would they act this way if they were in public school, I wonder? My thought is that, no, they wouldn't act this way if they were among 25 of their peers in a public school classroom.

Sure, they would likely be just as frustrated when they encountered difficult concepts…but they wouldn't act out their frustrations like they do at home. They wouldn't cry about it and back talk their teacher.

And that's the rub. I appreciate that they don't bottle up their feelings when they're struggling, but when they get so physically riled up about the situation, they can't concentrate on the problem at hand. Their mind completely shuts down and we have no choice but to put the books aside until the return to a better frame of mind.

Surely I'm not the only homeschool mom that has this problem. Have you noticed the same thing in your children? If so, what have you done to deal with it?

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  1. Sheri Ober says

    I encountered this while I was teaching at FBCS with some students. When the frustration came on/or when I could see it coming, I would have the student put down their pencil and turn away from the desk and look at me. If they were really agitated I would send them to get a drink of water. When they came back, I explained that the frustration put a wall up in their mind that didn't allow them to see the solutions and that they really needed to try to stay calm and not get impatient. I found most students were actually impatient, not really frustrated. They wanted to be finished with their school work quickly and they met a speed bump that slowed them down.
    Anyway, I think your kids would still be frustrated in a public/private school, it just might not display itself in the same manner.


  2. Tracy says

    ok I have comment dyslexia! LOL! I meant that even with those times, the benefits out way those tough times! Like TODAY!
    Even at Co-op, the kids don't 'act' like they do at home! The peer thing works at times….and there is also the fact that we are MOM.


  3. says

    I had this happen with my youngest just today regarding a new method of piano he is learning. He was frustrated and got an attitude but only after he got home from the lesson. Well, I had him take a time out and go to his room to think about how God would like his attitude. He came out later, apologized, and was fine after that. 😀

    Sherry’s last blog post..Lumpia/Filipino Egg Rolls


  4. Jamie says

    Yes, I totally and completely relate. We have had major battles here, esp. with one particular almost-8-year-old. We do have a reward/consequence system in place. Reward for a good day's work in school and chores is a ticket. Tickets add up to prize points. Prize points add up to either special trips or cold hard cash.
    Consequences are basically losing privileges. One day when I was pushed to the outer limit I assigned "manual labor" tasks and excused him from school. I told him that if he didn't want to study, then he better learn to enjoy hard physical labor. haha
    Having said that, I have noticed that often what helps the most is to simply help him more. I wonder sometimes (about myself) if it isn't more intense schooling at home because the expectations are much higher. I know my child and what he is capable of, so therefore that is what I expect of him each and every time ( I notice to myself). A public school child can avoid his work at times, pretend to be doing it or just blend into the background and "fake it". He has a chance of not being noticed. I think sometimes my kids balk at not just the work at hand, but the *responsiblity* of the work at hand.
    So, maybe the intensity of the smaller ratio is compensated a little by providing a little extra support even. Maybe sometimes they just don't WANT to be "that smart" and always have to live up to what they know is our expectations.

    All of that is, of course, coming from my experiences with my three kids, and esp. one of mine.



  5. says

    Definitely know where you are coming from on this one! My oldest is the worst with this, I can "hear" her mind snap shut like a steel trap when she gets to something she "thinks" she can't understand. She was in public school a few years ago and of course she didn't act like this at all. But I would much prefer her to display her frustration than to just let it all "whiz" by her…which is what she used to do. It is really frustrating to me "personally" that she acts like this but as I've learned to put aside MY feelings and focus on her frustration, she has begun to trust that I won't be upset with her. We usually take a breather, get a sip of water or go to the bathroom (get a wet wash cloth and wipe her face) and then I begin by saying "okay, let's take this one piece at a time, I'm right here, stop me if you don't understand something." What I've noticed so far is that, the "episodes" are much less intense than they used to be and things seem to be clicking a little more quickly than they used to. (It's almost like MY frustration was feeding HER frustration).

    That's just been my experience (it seems to be working for my 14yo and my 9yo) I have two others (12 and 5) that don't seem to have this issue.

    ThereO’s last blog post..Lent on my Mind


  6. says

    Yes, yes, yes! And that's exactly the sort of scenario that gets me riled up, because I KNOW they wouldn't act that way in school. Because, let's face it: it's hard to feel that kind of frustration coming out at you, and hard when you want to help your children, but they won't let you.

    It's easy, at those times, to wish they were in school, or at least more familiar with school so that they'd know it's NOT OK to act that way. But then…I realize that they'd probably feel the same way, whether in school or not. The only difference is that at home, they have more freedom of expression. Which I consider a good thing — have you considered the emotional damage that might come from not being allowed to express your frustration? Also, consider this: maybe this expression, and even refusal to listen to explanation, is a child's innate way of saying, "Stop. I'm overwhelmed. This is more than I can handle right now."

    Maybe we as parents need to recognize and respect that messsage, while teaching our kids (the older ones esp.) to say those words.


    Jennifer Fink’s last blog post..The Leprechauns are Coming!


  7. says

    I definately understand! One thing that has helped, is I am constantly reminding my oldest that getting frustrated makes everything 10 times harder to figure out. I had a time where I sat him down and explained this, and now this reasoning is usually all he needs to calm himself down. If it is really bad, we'll put the subject away and do something easy to build up his confidence again, and revisit it either later, or the next day first thing.


  8. TAMMY says

    I am glad to see it's not just me. However, this is something that I am currently struggling in with math and my third grader. Sometimes, I have been so mad, I have threatened to put her in school and let someone else deal with it. This amounts to more tears and a realization that I am failing at self control. While praying about this, the Lord prompted my thoughts on spiritual warfare. If we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and rulers of darkness, then it is a fair conclusion that this wrestling match is in fact spiritual and the enemy is using it to try and derail the family. He is out to cause us to quit, to sin, and to steal the hearts of our children.
    Knowing that, I now stop and explain to my daughter what is really happening and we pray together. We specifically mention what we know is taking place and pray against the enemy, taking authority over him and asking for peace and understanding. It works every time.
    I am thankful God showed me this. I hope it will be helpful to you.


    Gina Chapman Reply:

    @TAMMY, I am so glad to hear someone else put voice to what I have thought during our own battles. I caved this past year and, with a major surgery recovery on my horizon, I put my 2 youngest girls back into public school. We had only done "homeschooling" through an online public school for 1 year and we experienced so many meltdowns in the beginning that I began to second guess myself. During this, our second year of schooling at home and our first year of true homeschooling, I decided to put my kids back into the public school. The oldest one was going into the 5th grade and the youngest was between 3rd & 4th so I put her into 4th knowing I could help her if she struggled. I actually found that we were doing just as much, if not MORE, work at home after I put them into public school! It was as though, if I wanted them to do well and actually LEARN, I had to teach them myself anyway. Much of the same meltdown existed for them. In addition, they had aquired, in only a few short months, a public school attitude. They were beginning to become less "innocent minded" and I got the eye rolling and body language that is often associated with the teen years. They are only 9 & 11 yrs old. I prayed. I prayed a lot! I asked God to open my eyes and give me a clear answer. I came to the same conclusion you did. I see the enemy at work and quickly decided to take action. We decided to bring it back home. Over the next 7 yrs I expect to homeschool (God willing), I will remember your advice and act quickly when I see the enemy trying to block us off from our learning. I tell them that if they fill their hearts completely with Love, Hope, Patience, Understanding, Forgiveness, and all things of God, they will not have any room left there for hatred, hopelessness, frustration, impatience, or anything of the enemy. I hope to hold my children close enough to God so that there will not be room for anything to come between them & His will. I have learned that, regardless of what other opportunities I have to offer them, teaching children faithful living has to start at home and by example. It must be applied to every part of life and life to every part of it. There is no other way.
    Thank you for re-affirming this for me. We will keep all of you in our prayers.


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