Child Refusing to Do School Work? Stop Those Distance Learning Struggles!

By Ann Koenig, Education Specialist 

What was once an exciting new adventure for students just a couple of months ago is now a dreaded daily chore for many: distance learning.

You may be following all of our tips to keep your child engaged in remote learning (including creating their ideal home office) – and your child might still be avoiding, resisting or flat-out refusing to do schoolwork.

How can you turn this struggle into success?

Ann Koenig, education specialist at Connecticut Children’s, joins the blog with advice.

Go easy on your child and yourself, and focus on trying your best.

What a difficult and frustrating time coronavirus school closures have created for both caretakers and school-aged children. As a parent, you may feel the need to help multiple children with remote learning, maintain household responsibilities, and in many cases, complete your own work from home commitments.

Not all adults are natural teachers. The field requires extensive training, knowledge of subject matter and unending patience. Beyond that, families face additional challenges. Some do not have access to a computer for their child to use. Others have one computer for multiple children. Some do not have an available adult at home to supervise and help with schoolwork.

Here’s the takeaway: Just remember to try your best and encourage the same for your child. There may be days when your child does not complete all their assignments. That’s okay!

When your child gets frustrated with an assignment, stop and support them.

If your child is frustrated, be proactive about supporting them. Encourage them to stop what they’re doing, change their activity or subject, or take a short break from schoolwork. Lead them through one of these calming exercises, or try a coping toolbox.

Most importantly, stop what you’re doing to listen to what’s on their mind, validate their feelings, and be understanding.

Here’s a common example: fractions. This is a tough concept for kids, even when they’re being taught in a classroom by a seasoned pro. So it’s especially hard for your child to learn at home with no prior instruction, and limited teaching support. Lots of families are finding themselves in situations like this, and feeling stressed as a result.

When frustration is high, try saying something to child your like, “I get that you are upset. Let’s go on the swing, go for a walk or shoot some baskets. When we return, let’s make a plan. We both know that you have to do schoolwork, just like I have to do my work, but I don’t want us both to get this upset. We can learn about fractions together. Maybe Grandma, who is a teacher, can teach us both how to solve these math problems.”

In years to come, your child will not remember if they completed their math work. Instead, they will remember the dynamics in the house during this time. Every generation remembers where they were when big events occurred, and how those around them acted during a stressful time. Your child will remember how supportive you were and how you made them feel.

> Want more help getting your family through COVID-19? Check out our School Closure Kit

Use fun activities to sneak in some extra learning.

  • Play a math game: This is a great way to work on addition, subtraction and multiplication. Roll two dice and add, subtract and multiply the two numbers. For example, with 4 and 6, you could do these combinations: 4+6=10, 6-4=2, 6×4=24. Make a chart for each operation. Repeat rolling the dice five times. Once you are finished, add each column. The winner is the person with the highest combined total for their answers.
  • Go “shopping”: Give your child a budget and supermarket flyer. Without going over the given budget, have your child “shop” for a menu of the day. They can practice math by totaling up the amount of their chosen items and even determine how much of their budget they have left to spend. (Want to teach your kids about nutritious meal planning at the same time? Our pediatric dietitian has advice.)
  • Watch a movie to practice writing: After watching a movie with your child, discuss the main characters, the plot, the setting, the problem and the conclusion. You can even have them write a short review featuring these elements.
  • Set up a FaceTime lesson with a teacher in your family: If your child is having difficulty mastering a lesson, tap a teacher in your family to help out. Grandparents, aunts and uncles can help your child take a fresh look at a difficult assignment.
  • Arrange a Zoom study hall with friends: Have your child video chat with friends to work on school assignments together, share thoughts about schoolwork and trade helpful hints.
  • Arrange a virtual play session: Have your child video chat with friends just for fun! Our developmental pediatrician shares 23 suggestions for video chat activities.
  • Get your bake on: Bake or cook a tasty treat with your child. You can turn it into a great math lesson. Here are tips to get kids involved in the kitchen.

Stay positive – and keep up the good work.

While it might have been fun at first, the appeal of distance learning has probably worn off by now. Be sure to manage your own stress and role model self-care so that your child doesn’t sense your frustration – here are simple strategies for parents to “keep calm and carry on.”

It’s okay if you can’t help with every lesson. The goal is to help where you can, work on making memories and remember the fun times.

The U.S. recently celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week – and it’s fair to say that this year, more than ever, there is a special place in everyone’s heart for classroom teachers. Homeschooling will one day be over and teachers will pick up where you left off when school resumes. You can do this! You’ve got this! Don’t give up!

Related Links
5 Ways to Keep Your Child Engaged in At-Home Learning
18 Tips to Help Children With Special Needs Thrive While Learning at Home
Creating Your Child’s Ideal “Home Office” for Distance Learning

Check out all of our coronavirus resources for families >>

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