Knowing when to give up?

A good friend of mine is looking for wisdom on how to know when homeschooling is and is not the best schooling for your child. In her case, her almost 6 year old is very strong-willed and their relationship is often strained because of homeschooling. The mother is frustrated as one day the daughter will read far above grade level in a matter of minutes and the next day, she’ll act as though she can’t read the word “the.” Those days of “success” help to encourage her that her daughter has actually learned something, but they are the fewer of the days they have together.(She also has a 2 yr old son and newborn and is having a hard time balancing all of this, in light of her oldest’s ever-changing mindset and attitude.) The public school where she is located is not one she’d prefer either and she’s struggling under the pressure of feeling like a ‘quitter’ under the her own expectations and the expectation of homeschoolers around her. Does anyone have any words of advice to pass along to her, similar experience with a child like this, or curriculum they’d recommend? Thank you!

I’m sure I’m woefully under qualified to answer this question @katiewendtwhere, but a few things popped into my head as I was reading.
A) Is this 6 year old seeking attention from mom? Life may not seem very fair to her right now.
B) Is there a learning issue. My daughter has a learning disability and although she is older, one day she remembers how to do something and the next day she looks at me like I’m an alien.
C) Sometimes 6 year olds simply are not ready to read. And this young lady is not quite 6.
D) Strong willed children, I have one of those but I never homeschooled her. Strong will usually (in my experience) indicates a power struggle. Again life may not seem fair right now with a toddler and a newborn in the house. My strong willed child was the youngest for nearly 6 years, she very much resented not being the baby after little sister was born.

Testing for a disability would be one option. Another less drastic option would be to take the summer off to do fun things and just read as a family. This might give her the breathing room she needs to regroup and begin again in the fall.


I obviously don’t know her, but I would guess if a 6 year old is already acting burned out on school that she is probably being pushed too much. At that age learning should be fun. Is this lady perhaps trying to copy public school at home? Having the 6yo sitting down a lot and doing work book type schooling? At 6 we had a couple workbooks (like explode the code), but we mostly read a lot, explored specific interests, tried to move around a lot, tried not to sit for too long at a time, did crafts, ect.

It’s hard when you are a new homeschooler, but one of the first things she needs to realize is that the expectations of the homeschoolers around her don’t matter and can be really detrimental.

If I were her I would focus on making reading enjoyable and figuring out her child’s learning style. Parents often try to pick out curriculum for their own learning style or what they think their child’s learning style should be like and not the child’s actual learning style. Maybe she just needs some more hands on type things.

If she truly suspects a learning disorder that can be something to check out too. It sounds normal to me personally. I have a high energy son who would have withered inside if I had copied public school’s style.


Shes 6! Dont give up yet!
Deep breath. Tell your friend to remember that she is only 6.
If she reads like a high schoolers one day…use that day to read like the dickens…if she reads like shes just learning the next…do hands in science/art/crafts that day.
The joy of home education is that we can tailor education to our children…so if today isnt going how we expect, theres always tomorrow. Its okay to have lofty expectations but its also okay to watch educational tv when they deciden Shakespeare isnt for them today.


It sounds like she needs more focus on her heart problems right now -attitude and obedience - than academic subjects. It is really easy for Mom to get too worried about the academics but at the younger ages the time can be better served on creating good habits. Any academic skills can and will be caught up after the child is ready to handle them. We went through a stage with my son where he would just quickly do whatever he needed to do to just get it done. We had a long discussion with him about Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. We had him memorize the verse, and he now understands that his school work is God’s will for him. He isn’t perfect of course but it helps to have that verse to refocus his energy and heart!


The only perspective I can offer is from our own experience with this. We ran into a bit of this problem with both of our children when they were both at this age (my daughter is now 8 and went through this at 5 years old and my son just went through this and he is now turning 6 this week). Ours came during handwriting for both. In my daughter’s case, the letter “d” will go down in history in our household! I wholeheartedly agree with everyone who has responded here and said it could be a multitude of issues including the coursework, a learning issue, or another factor, and it is very important to identify the source. For us, however it was a matter of attitude and obedience as @michelletown mentioned, and this should be considered as well. My children (both of them when they were both 5, almost 6) reached a point of testing my patience and their own will. They did not want to do the assignment the way it was supposed to be done and were purposely doing it wrong, which, after discipline and discussion, they admitted, and we were able to move forward. But for us it was a condition of their heart that needed to be dealt with. I hear many parents say, “I couldn’t homeschool my child. He/she is too strong willed” or “He/she and I wouldn’t be able to be in the same room together and get anything accomplished–we’d clash too much!” and this just makes me so sad. For our family, it brought to light at a very young age some real struggles that I didn’t realize were there, and if my child had been away at school under someone else’s teaching, it might have gone on for a very long time before I realized it, and my relationship as a mother to my children, might be very different because those issues might still be there unidentified. I hope that makes sense.

I could be wrong, but if the child is reading above grade level one day, and the next is saying she can’t read the word, “the,” it’s not that she can’t, it 's that she won’t. And this is not a matter of ability, but of attitude. And that’s ok! All children go through this! And this is a wonderful opportunity for the parent to find out what is going on in her child’s heart and to work through it with her. It may take discipline before her daughter is willing to admit it (my children had to have a few time outs before they were willing to admit what they were doing on purpose with their handwriting activities, but once they did, we could talk openly about it). I hope this helps.


I really appreciate your encouraging posts. Thank you! I’ve committed to praying for/with my friend for the next week about this, to seek God’s direction and to encourage her in the way she decides to go. (I’m pro-homeschooling and excited to start next year with my 5 year old, but that’s just that - I haven’t experienced what she has and our eldest daughters are night and day different. So it’s nice to get advice from others who’ve experienced what she has.) We’re getting together next Monday to talk and I plan to share much of what you ladies have shared here. Again, thank you! Forchristandkids - beautifully stated. Thank you!


All the replies are great. All I have to add or second or third is that fact of the child’s young age. It sounds like she is being pushed too hard for her age and the mother’s expectations are too high. The child sounds like a normal 6 year old. (I know this from personal experience!) I think the mom would benefit by surrounding herself with pro-homeschool people, a good homeschool community, maybe a homeschool conference, and lots of prayer. Character training by need to be considered for the child and can be done with just some wonderful read alouds and bible stories.

I remember my son’s kindergarten year. I think around Thanksgiving time when we were butting heads (as we often did), I realized that I was well on my way to ruining my relationship with him over a workbook.

School for a 5 year-old does not need to be this way. I backed way off, kept things shorter and lighter, focused more on read-alouds, doing things together (how about more buddy reading or fun with games on the days she’s struggling to read?) and the like. By the time my youngest was 5, I had totally changed my approach (instead of early math books, she played with manipulatives for her “official” school time etc…)

This is completely normal, and the child may not be acting at all. I would not assume right off that this is the child being strong-willed, resistant, lazy, disobedient etc… Instead, I would assume that the child may be bored, confused, her brain is focusing on something else developmentally that day, she wants attention and has decided this is how to get it, etc…

When my oldest would give wrong answers, I sometimes would say a wrong answer–“Oh, this must be ____!” and he would say, “Nooo, it’s ____!” Then I knew 2 things–1, he knew the material, and 2, he was either bored or attention-seeking.

Other times he really didn’t know–and that was important for me to realize too.

As my kids have grown, there have been many times when they knew something one day and the next couldn’t remember (honestly, as an adult I have that at times–I know I know something but I can’t bring the information out).

I prefer not to turn school into character issues requiring character training for young children. They really aren’t developmentally ready for a lot of the things we require of them (there’s a reason in the past that we didn’t start formal education until age 7 or 8–many things are much easier to teach at a slightly older age). Instead, I use chores for working on character issues and training positive character traits like being diligent etc… Keep school light and fun for now and let her grow gradually into more bookwork as she is ready. She is showing by her actions that she’s not developmentally ready, even if she is in some ways, and even though she’s bright. That’s not the same thing.

I agree with many others who have said that she may be struggling with her position in the family, with the addition of another child, with a tired mom, and so on. Honestly, with a newborn, I would completely stop school for now (except maybe read-alouds and reading for Bible), and just work on helping everyone adjust. There is time enough for school later.

1, I’d say if the PS isn’t one she’d prefer, that exploring more and different ways of homeschooling is likely a better option.

2, Her job is to be her daughter’s mother. She will be a mother and teacher whether her daughter goes to public school, private school, or she homeschools. Nothing changes that.

3, she is drowning under her own expectations and those (real or perceived) of homeschoolers around her. You cannot successfully homeschool if you are worried about what others will think of you, of the job you are doing, etc… Kids pick up on things like this, so if mom feels this kind of pressure, her daughter likely does too, and it could be contributing to her acting out.

4, Grace. She needs to give herself lots and lots of grace, and give her daughter lots of grace. She needs the freedom to fail (because only then do we have the freedom to succeed). Take time to get used to the new baby and to love on her other two children. Do fun things together–what’s her daughter interested in? Explore interests, bake together, craft together, go to the park together, just be for now.

5, It’s so easy with little ones to focus mainly on correction, and I would gently say to focus mainly on training instead. Training takes time and lots and lots of repetition. Imagine having a job where we are shown how to do a multitude of tasks 1-2 times and then expected to remember them all and do them all or face consequences. This would be so hard, we’d be sure to do some of the things wrong again and again. Imagine the frustration and the anger at how impossible it would seem. This isn’t unlike what we sometimes do as parents. Consider instead training until we see them consistently able to remember to do something, helping and walking alongside when they are struggling to obey–still holding them to the standard but in a much different way.

Similarly–remember that as moms–we are not going to get it right the first or second or third time. We’re going to have to learn some lessons over and over. If we expect perfection from ourselves, we’ll fail miserably and feel miserable and project that on our kids. But if we can give ourselves some grace, recognize where we need to learn and grow and rely on the Lord more all the time–and similarly train our kids how to rely on the Lord as they grow–we can enjoy life despite our failures and setbacks.


Merry - THANK YOU!!! That.was.perfect. I’m sharing this with her now. But regardless of her response, I am so encouraged by your response and plan to revisit your post as I know I’ll have moments of doubt and insecurity next year when I start this whole homeschool journey. Thanks again!

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@Merry - Your reply was so inspiring and so wonderful! I have a very strong willed little Kinder student too, and your words were very helpful to me as well. Thank you so much!


@Merry Your response I think was perfect! I think not only will it speak to this gal, but it will help/encourage/speak to many of us❤️

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Don’t give up! But don’t feel like a failure either! I have myself a strong willed 6yr old as well and she is a daily struggle for me…On top of homeschooling her I also school my 8 yr old and have a 9 month old. My number one suggestion would be to take a breath and a step back. Reevaluate how you work with her and what she may need. A lot of the time if we have problems it is tied to another problem completely unrelated to school. Eating or napping or even outside influences. My 6 yr old needs more of my attention then my other two because of her personality. But she also takes the most patience as she frustrates me the most. I live her and see myself in her a lot. My first year homeschooling I felt like a failure, but we changed it up a bit and it got better. Good luck, prayers and best wishes for you and your kiddos.

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Her daughter sounds a lot like my six year old daughter. I am planning on home schooling her next year, but this year when school started my twins we just a few months old and my older son not quite 3 and I was feeling overwhelmed. So I put her in public school and you know what I have the exact same trouble with her. She can read fluently and usually will. However, other times she will act like simple words are too hard to read and will throw fits about having to read her phonics books. Since she is in school and has the assignment to read her phonics books each night I don’t have as much freedom with how to respond to this.

Like your friend this sometimes puts a strain on our relationship, but I only have my daughter home in after school hours to connect with her. I would guess that during the day your friend probably get a lot more opportunity to bond with her daughter and have great moments to connect because often it seems like quality time and quantity of time go hand in hand.

I guess the reason I am sharing this even though I’m not technically a homeschool parent yet and maybe can not fully understand all of the difficulties that come with homeschool is to let her know that sending her to school won’t necessarily fix all her problems. I deal with the same problem and my daughter is in school but I also miss out on having more time to make those positive connections that will keep their relationship strong when conflicts like this happen.

One way I have found to make the situation better is to not engage when she gets into these kinds of moods. She does much better when she wants to learn. I take her to the library and let her choose books. She loves the piggy and elephant books and will gladly read those. Also she love to imaginary play and will read a pretend menu when she is playing restaurant or doctor chart when playing doctor. When I stop trying to force her into learning and let her have fun while learning instead things go much better for us. I hope all works out for your friend and she will be able to find what works best for her family.


I agree with Merry on pretty much everything! Such a thorough response! I will add that I have a very strong willed 8 year old, and when I backed off and focused more on our relationship and her heart, things became much smoother!

I’m guessing that even if the six year old was in public school, her mom would still be having the battle with her over reading. When he was six (and in public school), DS got a bit stubborn at a certain point in his reading homework. He was at the point where he could “decode” and read doctored readers well, but didn’t want to take on a bit more challenging text from real story books, and he reeeeaaallly dug his heels in. I told him he had to read his paragraph before his other fun things, and after a week he got over the hump since he figured out that I wasn’t going to budge on it. After that he didn’t fight over it anymore and enjoyed reading. I’m not sure what was causing the problem. Sometimes he just doesn’t like new challenges. Don’t we all?