Homeschool Behavior Issues and Motivation

At some point, the honeymoon phase of a new lifestyle choice inevitably ends. The excitement wears off, the fun becomes routine, and the adventure settles into a new kind of normal. Often we begin to experience a lack of motivation and even some typical child behavior issues. This happens with homeschooling just as much as it happens with a new relationship, new job, new house, and so on. Can you relate to this? 

You were super excited to start homeschooling, but after a couple of months, problems emerged through the excitement. 

behavior issues “I was so excited to start schooling, then I ran into roadblocks with the kids and myself!” – Suzanne L., Columbus, OH.

There are struggles with your kids: increased whining, refusal to complete coursework, and not taking homeschool seriously. In a nutshell, behavior issues. Additionally, you may have personal daily battles: feeling burned out, unmotivated, and at a loss for solutions. 

You might be doubting your decisions. Critical thoughts are swarming in your mind. ‘Why did I even choose to homeschool?’ ‘Why did I think they could view me as a teacher?’ ‘How can I teach these topics that I don’t remember?’ ‘How will they pass this grade if they don’t want to try?’

And you know what? We’ve felt this way, too.

These struggles, my friends, are just part of life. Sometimes it gets bogged down and messy. Sometimes it takes time to untangle. At times, you just can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Parents don’t choose to homeschool because they think it’ll be easy; they choose to homeschool because they think it’s the best choice for their kids. That’s still true. Remind yourself of why you started to begin with. Then, take a look at some of our best articles on this topic.

When It Just Isn’t Working: Behavior Issues

Sometimes, kids just refuse to do their work. You’ve hit a brick wall with them and you’re not quite sure how it got there, or how to get past it. 

There are a few reasons why these behavior issues develop. 


  • Often feel the stakes are lower when submitting subpar work because you are “mom” or “dad.” 
  • Feel like they can act out more because they aren’t with their peers. 
  • May not take coursework seriously as schoolwork and feel it’s optional since it’s not–to them–what they associate with “real school.”

“I’ve done everything I can imagine to help my 12yo keep going, but he just refuses to do his work and it’s always an argument. Help!” – Mary D., Baltimore, MD.

Here’s the thing about that last point: when kids come from a traditional school, this situation is very likely. Try to think about it from their perspective. 

Sure, you’ve taught them life skills, but that feels different than school. They may struggle with the idea of their education relying on their parents. This isn’t a smack against you–it’s an adjustment. If it feels strange for you to take on teaching and grading, it also feels strange for them to think of their parents as their teacher. This can happen even with kids who love the idea of homeschooling and are as excited about it as you. It’s still a huge life change. It goes from the idea of homeschooling to the reality of sitting down to work on lessons together.

This is why it’s important to take time to deschool

“Until we took the time to deschool, I hadn’t realized we didn’t need our homeschool to look like a traditional school with desks and rigid schedules!” – Catherine N., Rochester, NY.

Deschooling is an adjustment period between traditional school and homeschooling. This transition is meant to expand your family’s image of what school looks like. Deschooling helps both parents and students realize that “real” learning does indeed happen outside the classroom. Deschooling looks different for each family, but it usually involves taking a few weeks without formal lessons, enjoying field trips, sampling curriculum styles, exploring homeschooling ideas, etc. Learn more about deschooling here.

So, what else can you do to help resolve homeschooling-related behavior issues?

  • Avoid fighting back.
    • It’s difficult and frustrating, but when you participate in the argument, in a way, it’s positive reinforcement for the bad behavior.
  • Consider other issues that could be contributing to the behavior.
  • Consider reviewing old material.
    • There’s a chance that covering old concepts will reduce their resistance to new, challenging lessons.
  • Implement clear consequences for refusing to complete work and/or lying about it.
    • It doesn’t need to be a fight when everyone knows what to expect.
  • Perhaps try minimizing the workload.
    • It may seem ridiculous, but if you reduce a math worksheet down to only one problem, it’s not even worth fighting over. 
    • You’re not necessarily giving in, rather, you’re trying to stop the habit of arguing. Eventually, that instinctive reaction to fight will change and you can slowly add more problems or assignments over time.
    • As the arguments become less often, use positive reinforcement to encourage better choices.

When You Feel Uninspired: Maintaining Motivation

We’ll be the first to admit that the homeschool journey is not all happy-go-lucky. There are challenges, issues, and struggles, and they are draining. It’s completely normal for your motivation to fizzle out when the excitement of your new journey dissipates.

This usually happens around September/October, after about the first month or two of homeschooling, and around February. Of course, this timeline shifts with the earlier or later the homeschool year begins. The honeymoon period is over and you’re left with challenges. How do you motivate your students to complete their coursework? How to keep yourself motivated? Your student is stuck on a lesson and has been for a few weeks; how do you get past it? These obstacles feed on your motivation to homeschool until you are burned out and full of regrets.

“Homeschooling seemed like a good choice for us, but now it’s just a daily battle. I’m worn out and just not so sure anymore.” – Julie, G., Phoenix, AZ.

Homeschool burnout doesn’t mean it’s the wrong decision for your family. It means you need a change!

What can you do to restore your excitement for homeschooling?

          Resources for Happy Homeschoolers

          “Happy homeschoolers” is, of course, a generalization, but we all want our homeschoolers to be happy, so let’s go with it. Your daily homeschooling doesn’t have to be filled with tears or arguments! Every child goes through challenging phases. 

          Difficult days don’t mean it was a mistake to homeschool. It’s a signal.

          This signal could mean taking a break for a little bit–maybe your children are burned out. It could mean switching curriculum. Perhaps the program doesn’t work with their learning style. It could mean allowing your kids a choice between topics so they feel a sense of involvement and control. Maybe you need to evaluate your homeschooling method. Is it the right one for your family?

          “My daughter changed overnight from crying over lessons to breezing through her textbook once we changed the curriculum. I never realized it could make such a huge difference!” – Martha, C., Anchorage, AK.

          Each situation is going to be different for every family. Here are our best resources from experienced homeschoolers!

          Resources for Building Motivation

          Homeschool motivation suggestions are not just for moms. While moms are the largest percentage of homeschooling parents, we know there are many committed dads, grandmothers, and guardians devoted to helping a child with home education. Regardless of your relationship with your homeschooler, anyone can find themselves stuck in a rut or hitting a brick wall.

          Below, you’ll find an archive of every entry we have created over the years to help homeschooling families with motivation. As real homeschoolers with real struggles, we’re here to help you!