Homeschool Discipline

How do you discipline in the context of "home schooling"?

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Homeschool discipline is a crucial element of a family who seeks to educate their children at home. In reality, the discipline in homeschooling shouldn't really look any different than the discipline that normally happens in your home. As you bring up children, you need to set the boundaries and set out consequences for when your children are disobedient. It is just the same when homeschooling.

There are a number of ways we have tried to keep our children on track and staying on task. We really want to establish good working habits for our children - for now and for the future.

* One thing we have tried to instill is a habit of attention. I read a short poem to my children this week describing exactly that. It goes:

Work while you work,
Play while you play;
One thing each time,
That is the way.
All that you do,
Do with your might;
Things done by halves
Are not done right.

This is taken from a McGuffey primer book.

As you see, many years down the track, we are still working on our children's habits' (and our own) and as long as you live you will either be disciplining your children or your own self. We all need reminders.

I really loved this poem (which I found in The Book of Virtues by William J.Bennett). I think it is really important to help your children focus on a task and complete it without losing attention constantly. One way I have tried to do this is by having short lessons - and requiring disciplined attention for the certain amount of time (15-20 minutes). You can begin with very short lessons (5-10 minutes), and explain that whatever they achieve in that time, with full concentration, is enough. You do this with a whole range of subject areas. By doing this, they are encouraged to always give their full attention, knowing that after that time, they have completed their task. As they learn to give their full attention, you can increase the amount of time - but generally, keep to short lessons and expect full concentration.

It is much better to work in shorter time slots with full concentration, than allow your child to work for an hour while learning sloppy habits and day-dreaming.

You can achieve a good deal of work when your child is giving full attention, and this also means that their day (and yours) doesn't go on and on, everyone becoming more and more wearied through dragging lessons.

* We have also used checklists for our children to tick off as they complete a task. Children like to know what is expected of them in the day, and my children have enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment as they complete tasks. I have also, from time to time, set up reward systems corresponding to their checklists. When they complete a task, they receive pretend "money" which can be spent at our "shop" at the end of the week. The shop items I have included are the types of things they may have for a special afternoon tea (chip packets/icy pole/fizzy drink or whatever you are happy to give to them). Sometimes I include things like pencils, rubbers, stationery items and so on.

* I mostly keep to quite a regular routine or pattern to the day, but I try to vary the types of activities which they do. This can be motivational for the child. "When you've finished your 15 minutes of Math, it's your trampoline time." "After writing, it is time for the maths game." Spelling is followed by learning to type on the computer; and so on. A sit down task- followed by an activity which involves a different set of learning skills.

* Another important consideration is knowing and working with your child's strengths and weaknesses. Is the work that he has been given appropriate for his level? Is he bored with it? Are you working with or against his learning style? Could you tackle this task orally? Is he being lazy or is he not "getting it?" This is often difficult to determine, but as a parent, you know your child well and you need to judge whether the behaviour he is displaying is characteristic of him in his life, or whether it is specific in a general area. If his laziness, for example, is consistent in many areas of his life, then work on it. Give him active tasks to do - plant a garden, fix a bike, rake the leaves, wash the dishes every night - something which he must be responsible for. Work hard to drive out his laziness. If however, it seems to manifest itself when a specific task is given, then consider whether he has specific problems with that learning area. Perhaps there is a physical reason for his behaviour (does he need an eye checkup?). Perhaps if your child is a boy, he needs time to move around physically. He may learn his tables better if he were bouncing on a trampoline or repeating his spelling words there. Perhaps your child has a different way in which they would like to express themselves - give them some freedom in how they present their learning - a writing will not suit everyone. Some children may prefer to create a poem, speak about what they have learned, make a game, draw or create an art work, make a powerpoint presentation on the computer. Allow them to be creative and not feel stifled or frustrated.

* On the negative side, there are punishments involved. There have been many times that my children have missed out on a meal because they haven't completed what they were supposed to achieve. It is difficult at times to work out the difference between the goals you set for your child and what they are able to achieve. So, you need to assess if it is a realistic expectation. But, if you feel that your expectation is realistic, then you need to expect obedience and set out consequences. Our children survived missing a meal, and some children have missed more than others, but they really don't like to do that (especially being hungry boys!) and this has been a motivating factor. In Proverbs we read, "He who works his land, will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgement." and "All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty." Industriousness needs to be taught and the proverbs speak of the reality of laziness. An employer will not want a lazy worker!

* Sometimes the loss of privileges is an effective means to encourage diligence and completion of their set work. (computer time, earlier bed times and so on).

* At times, I have needed to separate my children into different work areas when they were distracting each other.

* Another thing we have done is actually increased their work load. This sounds strange, but I sometimes say, "You obviously haven't learned to concentrate on that task, so I will give you some more practice at it."

God calls children to obey their parents, and if we are not teaching them to be obedient, we are failing in the jobs God has called us to do. Children should be taught that "it is right" (as it says in Ephesians 6) to obey their parents and it is their duty. Whether you homeschool or not, it should be something we are all working towards and encouraging our children to please the Lord by being obedient to mum and dad. Of course, there has to be room for forgiveness and new beginnings and that is what the gospel of Jesus is all about.

It is on-going and very tiring at times, but it is what I believe we are called to do as parents. It is more important to work on obedience in the home and development of character in the early years through training, so that things can run smoothly in your home. When they are young encourage them to help you cheerfully in all sorts of chores. Have them with you as you complete chores and give them small appropriate tasks - insisting that they complete what you have asked cheerfully and obediently. Do this constantly. Reward them with praise. "God is pleased when you obey mummy. Thank you." "I'm really happy that you did that job with a happy face! Well done!" "Thank you for cleaning up the toys for your sister, even though you did not make that mess!" "You are such a big help to me!"

I said that poem above, quite a few times this week and I think we will actually write it out in our Writing Treasure as a reminder of a great principle in all of life. As you can see, we are always working with one issue or another in our family. But I encourage you to keep training, keep disciplining, keep encouraging your child to do "what pleases the Lord." May God give you the strength to raise children who honour and respect their parents, and who desire to be obedient.

What does homeschool discipline look like in your family? Add a comment.

Comments for Homeschool Discipline

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Oct 24, 2011
by: Mandy

I have tried a few different disciplines for my son. I tried for the first time today, saying that he has 45 minutes for his PS3 game, but if there is bad attitude, not doing school work, or not listening he will lose his time 5 minutes for every infraction. The incentive for him to straighten up is that if he does do better and gets moving he can earn those minutes back. It worked wonders!! We got everything done and had fun despite the three times he lost 5 minutes. He was proud of himself for earning all of the time back. Also, I had a board with "Game Time" on it and 45 minutes at the top and i would subtract or add back the time so he could see it. also helps with math!!

Mar 08, 2011
decision made
by: Anonymous

I am in the process of shifting to home schooling and your excellent article has clearly reinforced my decision to home school i will use your great ideas and tecniques in the descipline area. The 15min attention lessons is fantastic i can see that working for me. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this article and help us parents starting out with good advice. God bless.

Dec 24, 2008
Homeschool discipline
by: Anonymous

We use the paddle, just like was used in schools for years before the lost control of the kids. a few well placed swats with them bent over provides a reminder of the behavior expected, and a ramification for the inappropriate actions.

Dec 05, 2007
habit of attention
by: Anonymous

I loved the poem and the term "habit of attention".

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