Tag Archives: homeschooling help

Mental Matters: Homeschooling kids who hate school

By Erika Rizkallah

I don’t enjoy Mondays. Not for obvious reasons – repetitious drudgery or weekend exhaustion – but because I know five days of life sucking fights are ahead of me.

The old joke about mothers being “blessed” (cursed) by having children just like them was made for me. I hated school too. Each morning I’d think of new ways to avoid going.

My favorite was putting my clothes in the dryer and faking sick. Mom would scowl, tell me I wasn’t really sick and prove it by getting the thermometer. In those days we used the glass thermometers that you’d shake down to zero and wait forever for the silvery mercury to rise.

She was always rushing to get to work so she’d say, “I’ll be back in a few minutes to check it, now get ready for school!”

good old thermometer trick #fakesick

I’d get my clothes from the dryer and use the heat from my jeans to raise the temperature on the thermometer. Then I’d shake it down to 100 or 101 degrees.

Sneaky? Yes. Successful? Always.

Of course now I stand watch over a digital one but it doesn’t keep them from whining about invisible ailments. Headaches, stomaches and nausea are easily faked but I know the truth. My teens simply hate school. They’d rather focus on other interests.

But work must be done so I cajole or encourage and on bad days, threaten.

Most days we’re not one of those smily families working at desks or the kitchen table. They sprawl on the sofa, sit in bed or hang outside on the deck. I suppose that’s what I get for causing my mother so much grief.

I’ve given up fighting about when or where it gets done but I insist that it will. get. done.

Baking with Teta 2
Smile for mommy – hee hee!

Homeschooling kids who hate school is harder than anything I’ve ever done. But the struggle isn’t without costs and benefits. The cost? My energy and patience takes a hit. The benefit? We’ve learned how to fight fair, negotiate and compromise which is useful in the real world.

All days aren’t like this but Mondays …

How about you? What do Mondays in your homeschool look like?

Homeschool Help!

I know it must seem like I’ve taken an extra long spring break – don’t I wish – and I apologize for being gone so long. At the last minute, my daughter and nephew (also my homeschooler) decided they want to be dual enrolled in the local community college.

Can you say “freaked out?” Because I can. I am totally freaked out about the idea of sending my kiddos off to college so soon. Even though it’s not really college, it’s high school in a college setting. They’re not ready. I mean . . . I’m not ready.

I don’t always jump at their every wish or impulse, but this is a great opportunity for us all. It allows them to finish high school and earn college credit at the same time. It will also free me up from teaching two students. Bonus!

Because I didn’t anticipate this, I’m not adequately prepared. Thank God – and I do thank God – for Lee Binz. For those of you not familiar with her, she’s a sanity-saving resource for me and many others. One of the things I have to do to get the kids ready, is prepare high school transcripts and Lee is a wealth of information for everything high school related.

This week I’ll prep my kids for the required Accuplacer test and beef up their essay writing skills. So while I’m busy prayerfully trying to stay focused on the goal of getting in, I ask that you lift us up in prayer as well.

Be back soon with tales of this adventure and helpful hints in case you decide to dual enroll.

With God, it’s always an adventure!

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. Jesus (Matthew 21:22)

Testing Testing 1-2-3!

I was never good at tests . . . especially math.

I’ll never forget one year in fourth grade – this would be around 1977 – we took a special test. Our math teacher walked between our desks, placing a sharpened pencil and test packet – face down – on each one. When we turned it over, I noticed something different. At the bottom was a strange configuration of black lines: skinny, medium and wider ones.

I dreaded any kind of math test (still do). I couldn’t understand math well and tests made me anxious. So during that class, while the other kids answered the questions, I counted the lines over and over, convinced they were some sort of magic code I could crack in order to get the answers.

Later we learned the name of this new thing: it was called a barcode.  Our teacher told us the paper would be put into a machine and graded somehow, but I didn’t believe her.

Barcode meme1

Testing these days is surrounded by controversy, especially when it comes to Common Core. I read a newspaper article the other day that said our School Superintendent was disappointed with the state about the level of required testing. For example, in one high school, students will be subjected to 188 tests designed mainly to assess the teachers, not the kids.

Thankfully homeschool testing is nothing like that. My kids took their national  standardized tests two weeks ago (many schools use only state tests). We hired a private testing company to come to our home and administer the Woodcock Johnson III test. Our administrator is a woman we’ve used for three years; she’s child friendly, compassionate and super smart. She encourages me and the kids to keep going and finish well.

Best of all, no one gets stressed out (ok, except me the first year).

Testing is really for parents; it lets us know how our child is doing and in what areas they could use improvement.

The first year of testing was tough on all of us. I didn’t know what to expect so I worried and got myself and the kids all twisted up about it. Until something happened that I’ll never forget. I took a prayer walk and poured out my heart to God. He said, “Your kids don’t get their intelligence from you, they get it from me.”

I got schooled!

Your Turn: How do you and your kids handle testing?

Movie Mondays: One way to turn Mondays into Fun Days

My teens HATE Mondays and let’s face it, many adults do too (myself included).

Lack of sleep and overdoing it on the weekends contributes to the energy drain and lack of attention I was seeing at the start of each new week. Finally, I had to let my frustration over the bad attitudes go. I decided to give us all a mental break and institute Funday Monday.

And you know what? It worked.

Now I choose one movie – that relates to something we’re studying – and we gather together in our family room, dressed in comfy clothes (usually pajamas). After all, what’s the benefit of homeschooling if you don’t enjoy learning together?

This semester one of our classes is World History and right now we’re focusing on the fall of Rome as we lead into the Middle Ages. So far we’ve watched Centurion . . .


and The Last Legion.

last legion

Bloody? Yes. Brutal? Yes. But wasn’t that reality? The movies themselves haven’t turned out so bad – they weren’t blockbusters and the special effects are sketchy – but we’ve all enjoyed them.

I want my kids to understand the world and atmosphere Jesus lived in. I want them to understand that despite the filth, violence and depravity, our savior managed to live a sinless life. Honestly, it amazes me that of all the times in history in which to be born, God chose this. Or that. “Whatev” as my kids would say.

In the end, all that matters is that we get it. And get to spend our morning having movies, popcorn and some amazing discussions about the world we live in.

Your turn: How do you make Mondays more fun?

The challenge of teaching boys

Homeschooling my middle school and high school age children is the most challenging job I’ve ever had.

Yesterday for instance, was a disaster. Being goofy, disregarding instructions, and inattention creates a frustrated teacher. Ok, maybe that’s not quite a disaster but it was certainly “one of those days.” Ever had one?

In my work life I’ve been a nanny, store manager, executive assistant, controller of a large company and a children’s minister. But teaching my own children and one nephew is harder than any of those jobs.

Last night – at the end of a stress filled day – my son runs into my bedroom wild-eyed. He’s coughing, choking and spewing green foam from his mouth. He grabs my water bottle as I rush over, ready to Heimlich him. Once I see he can breathe, I push him toward the bathroom screaming, “What did you do? What the H#%! is that? After he vomits green gunk (and everything else) into my trashcan, he wipes his mouth, looks at me like I’m crazy and says…


It turns out, he took “the Gamma challenge” which is the gamer version of “the cinnamon challenge.” I was so angry I thought I was going to have a heart attack. Oh, by the way, my son is a gamer and Gamma is a powdered energy drink. It’s kind of like Tang, but with added junk vitamins. I tossed the Gamma and shut my bedroom door for the rest of the night.

Boys are different and I haven’t yet mastered the art of teaching them. Most of the time I can’t imagine why they do some of the things they do. For example…

Samih tied to door
Why? Why would you tie your drawstring to the front door?

He thought this would be an appropriate cold-weather Halloween costume. I didn’t.

"I'm going to go as a man."
“I’m going as a man.”

I just need to take one picture of you in front of the tree son.


Now, my girls are better. For the most part they’re easier, except one likes to do her work and get on with life, and the other is not in any hurry.


Yes, each gender has challenges and goes through difficult seasons, but you know what?

I wouldn’t change a thing. They each teach me about a different side of life and I always remember . . . Tomorrow is another day. And I’ll keep headache medicine and a stress relieving ball nearby at all times.


The Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) offers an excellent e-book entitled, Teaching Boys, by Andrew Pudewa and Woody Robertson. I’ve ordered products from IEW and highly recommend their site for great info and writing curriculum (I don’t get paid in any way to endorse them). I got my copy of Teaching Boys last year, but I found a link to the free e-book on homeschoolgiveaways.com.

Your turn: Do you have any boy related teaching tips to share?

Homeschool help: The book that started it all

Have you ever had a crisis of faith?

A couple of years ago, two of my children began having real problems in public school. One day Katya, my 8th grader, (and the one who wasn’t having problems) insisted she wasn’t going to high school because she didn’t want to be tempted by drugs, sex or alcohol. She asked me to homeschool her.

What do you say to that? “Sorry honey, I can’t; I’m not qualified.”

Well, that’s exactly what I did.

We happened to be sitting together in Barnes & Noble at the time. When I explained that I couldn’t possibly homeschool her because she was smarter than me, she walked away. She came back five minutes later and slapped this book in my lap:


I laughed, but she was serious.

I prayed about it – hard. It’s one of those things I said I’d never be able to do because I didn’t have the desire or the patience. God confirmed that this was the path I need to take.

Just a note – Don’t ever tell God what you’ll never do.

Anyway, that’s what’s caused my crisis of faith. At the time, I couldn’t see the many ways in which God wanted to bless me. I was like the blind men that came to Jesus:

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”

     When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”

     “Yes Lord,” they replied.

      Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith will it be done to you”; and their sight was restored.” Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.”  Matthew 9:27-31

Jesus never turned down the requests of those who came to him and he still doesn’t. That promise held true for me and it will hold true for you just as soon as you decide to go to him in faith.

Dear Jesus, thank you in advance for equipping us to do what you ask us to do. May you always get the credit for your power! Amen.