5 Questions to Ask When Your Kids Don’t Want to Learn

It happens to the best of us. One moment, you think everything is fine. The next … tears … defiance … refusal.

Your kid does NOT want to do their school work.

Their eyes lock with yours, and you realize that this is a battle that you’re not sure you can win. You start to feel your jaw tighten or your shoulders sag.

Is it worth the fight?

You may consider begging and pleading … OR … consequences and forcing.

BUT there is an alternative!

Stop and ask yourself the following questions …

Do my kids feel forced?

Motivation comes when a kid feels like they have a say in what they are learning.

And sometimes as homeschool moms, in our effort to make sure we get “all the subjects” in, we inadvertently turn our homes into a dictatorship.

Do this! Do that! Finish your math! Don’t forget your spelling!

Your kids can end up feeling like they are cogs in a machine … grinding away at one subject and then another.

And that’s a recipe to kill motivation.

Instead, make sure your kids are involved in the learning decisions. Ask for their input.

Which curriculum? Which game? Which book? Which movie? Or … do you want to do something else?

Do they want to cook instead? Or maybe build a fort out of couch cushions? What about a puppet show with stuffed animals?

If you expand your vision of what “school” can look like, you’ll find that you’re kids often are doing amazing learning all on their own … and you didn’t even realize it.

Do my kids feel misunderstood or disconnected?

Learning happens AFTER a relationship is in a good place.

Remember your favorite teacher from school? The one that inspired you and made you want to do a little better?

Did you also feel like that teacher liked you and that you had a good relationship?

Your kids need that too!

They need to feel loved and supported and connected to you. And sometimes that can be hard if your relationship is in a rocky place (believe me … if it hasn’t happened yet, it will!)

When the relationship starts to go south … or if it’s already there … don’t be afraid to pull the plug on school for a while and focus on building up the relationship.

Spend time together that ISN’T related to school or has any requirements. Play a game. Go for a walk or a drive. Do something your KID wants to do (and try and be super interested!)

As your relationship improves, they will naturally be more inclined to listen and learn from you.

Is the work too easy or too hard?

Your kids want to be challenged, but not too much!

If the work you are assigning is too easy, they’ll get bored and moan and complain.

If the work is too hard, they’ll get overwhelmed and cry.

And remember – what YOU think is too easy or too hard may not match what your kid thinks. This is the point where it’s not about “right” or “wrong” but about perception.

If they PERCEIVE it to be too hard or too easy, it is.

Since perception creates emotions … it’s the emotions that really get in the way of good learning. Negative emotions literally shut the brain off.

So step back and try to see the request from the eyes of your kid. Ask them (not in the moment … later) if they were feeling overwhelmed or bored. Make sure it’s a safe place for them to answer honestly.

Then adjust based on what they tell you. Offer more support. Take a break from the assignments. Skip the easy parts.

Tailor the learning experience to create “goldilocks” learning … just right!

Are my kids burned out?

Some kids get involved in too many things because they want to do everything.

Some homeschool moms involve their kids in too many things because they want their kids to try everything.

There is soooo many things you and your kids can do … every day of the week there is some kind of activity or fieldtrip or co-op class.

And that’s on top of the history projects and prepping for the science fair and studying for the spelling bee and the nature studies and the journaling and the literature and the hands-on math activity.


When does your kid get to just play?

Burn out looks different for every kid, but when it hits, you’ll know. The light will go out. The excitement will die.

And even the things they USED to enjoy doing, they won’t want to do anymore.

Give yourself permission to skip things. Don’t sign up for every fieldtrip and every activity—even if it’s a good price or it sounds like it will be “educational.”

Do just enough to feel good about school.

And build boundaries around your kid’s time so that there’s plenty of unstructured, “do whatever you want” time.

Play is how kids relax and unwind. So give them plenty of time to relax every day.

Are my kids distracted?

The world today is FULL of distractions.

Screens of all shapes and sizes, toys that beep and wiggle, books full of fluffy nothing.

A distracted kid is a numb kid. Their brain gets super lazy and is less able to learn anything.

They get used to the world coming to them and doing all the thinking work. And when the world does all the work, they get lazy and aren’t interested when real learning has to take place.

So fight back against the distractions.

Get rid of the toys that do all the work. Limit the amount of time on passive screen time. Send the fluffy books to the thrift store.

Surround your kids with things that expect something from them in return. Their brains will start to turn back on and they will be more engaged in learning.


Now it’s your turn …

What questions do YOU think you should consider when your kids aren’t motivated to learn?

Share you thoughts below. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

About the Author ToriAnn Perkey

I'm ToriAnn Perkey. I've been homeschooling since 2004, when my oldest daughter was 3 1/2. I'm a mother, mentor, teacher, presenter, and musician. One of my favorite pastimes is learning about ... anything! Read more here.

Susie says October 2, 2016

Do you have any suggestions for fiction-escape-obsessed JJ? I asked him to read an article on unschooling and talk about it with me. He’s literally one of the smartest kids his age, top one percent intellectually, has wonderful invested teachers, and he is failing classes. He doesn’t do the homework, and if he thinks it’s too hard, he finds a book to escape into. I told him I’m willing to check him out of school and let him explore any subject that interests him through the myriad of available resources. I asked him to ponder and pray on it. I told him that whatever he chooses, whether to stay or go, I want him to be “all in”. I want to see that light of confidence and excitement come back on.

    Admin Help says October 4, 2016

    It’s so hard when a kid seems like they just aren’t a good fit for the school system. It sounds like you’re definitely doing the right things — getting him to be a part of the conversation and looking for alternatives.

    The decision to homeschool — especially older kids can be tricky. There’s so many things to consider. And it’s not a decision to be made lightly.

    But if you’re child isn’t doing well in school and they aren’t a good fit, homeschooling can definitely resolve many of the issues that you’ve mentioned. And it can definitely bring new confidence and excitement as they are able to explore the world in the way that matches both their learning style and their personality best.

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