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Homeschooling Non-Traditional Students {Update}

Reflections on homeschooling difficult kids and non-traditional students.

Back in 2008, I posted about my frustrations in homeschooling then eight-year-old Enoch. Enoch has always been his own man. Curious, determined, stubborn. Homeschooling Enoch left me frazzled, frustrated and bewildered every day. He was obviously intelligent, but not a great “student”. He often refused to do his work and snuck off every chance he got. You could often find him taking something around the house apart or “fixing” things. But book work? No way. Enoch didn’t read well until he was eight. At age nine he read Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park.

Reflections on homeschooling a non-traditional student and homeschooling difficult kids.

I often looked at our days and thought, “If he were my only child, I’d likely follow his interests only. I’d let him explore the world, with me by his side. We’d put the books away and find other ways to learn math and reading and writing“. But he wasn’t my only child. I was homeschooling him amid my older and younger children. I could hardly tell him that he didn’t need to do daily schoolwork while requiring his siblings to complete assignments. We already focused on unit studies, using textbooks and worksheets for math and writing only.

But even that was “too much” for Enoch.

Remember my  post, Consistency is the Key? Yeah, I could have written that back in 2008 as well.

Reflections on homeschooling a non-traditional student.

Now, I feel like it is time to give a little update. Enoch turned sixteen in January and is taking his first class outside of our home ever. He is taking a math class along with Kalina. And how is he doing? That squirrelly kid who was determined to get out of work every day? The kid who complained his schoolwork was too hard? The kid who would expend more energy avoiding work than just doing the job?

On his first test of the year, he scored higher than any student the teacher had ever taught. A perfect score, plus extra credit. He continues to thrive, getting nearly perfect scores on assignments and perfect scores on his tests. He studies hard and loves the challenge. He loves the recognition that comes along with his high scores. He has also turned into a hard (and more importantly) dependable worker. He is mature and responsible. The boy who used to avoid work at all costs worked full-time at a local show garden last summer.

But didn’t he go to Tanzania last summer, you ask? Why yes, he did. He worked up until the day he left. He returned home on a Thursday, called his boss on Friday, and was back at work on Monday.

Yes, he’s a hard worker.

Don’t lose heart, mamas. Follow your gut. Do what is best for your family and your children. Yes, some rules apply to everyone. We need to  teach our children to be kind and respectful and think of others. When Enoch was young, I made the best decisions I could, day by day. Sometimes I made him sit and do his schoolwork. Some days I was just happy if he was occupied and not causing trouble.

Things weren’t perfect back in 2008 and things aren’t perfect now, but he is growing and learning and thriving. And that’s enough for me.

How do you manage kids with different personalities in your home? Do you have different rules? Do you find you can have different rules and still maintain the same standard?




  1. lisagaylesmith1963

    We did not homeschool, but have had some of these same experiences. Two daughters and one son did their homework and easily met their obligations while two of my boys needed me to sit with them and keep them on task each evening, or the homework did not get done. One, I just had to sit with and be present, but the other I had to help with every step of the process. It had nothing to do with defiance or a bad attitude. All five kids were very smart. They just could not all perform the same. They have all turned out to be very productive and wonderful people. I’m glad I was able to treat them all as individuals and help them each in the way they needed to be treated. Like you, I sometimes wondered how much differently it could have been for the two who struggled to sit and do the work if they had been my only child. It might have been easier in some ways but I’m sure thankful for each and every one of those kids. I’m one lucky mama.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Thanks for you school perspective. Hezekiah comes home with homework and will not move until it is all finished and perfect. He is so serious, I wish he would take it easy…

  2. Judy Small

    Renee, I think you wrote this post for ME! Your timing is impeccable! I really wanted to get your “take” on our situation, since I know you have experienced all types of learning with your kiddos. Our Ryan is a very bright boy and reads like crazy! His main interest right now is Hardy Boys, but he also reads Calvin & Hobbes and Garfield, and now some Odyssey adventures too. He is 6-1/2. However, we are struggling to get him to knuckle down and do his homeschool workbooks. We are using the Abeka curriculum, and he is in the 1st grade math, language, letters & sounds, and cursive handwriting books. He is doing just what Enoch did…sneaking off and reading a book if we don’t stay by him and remind him to do his work. We are now giving him breaks every 15 minutes, but he really struggles to stay on task for those 15 minutes. He doodles and dawdles, rather than get the work done.

    My question for you is…are we expecting too much of him, and that is why he is being passively resistant and negligent? I’d consider sending him to school, but I’m afraid he won’t be able to stay in his chair in class, and he will be classified as a bad kid (which he isn’t). He’s a home body, too, so getting him to go to school will be a challenge. He’s smart, but would just rather read than do anything else.

    Any suggestions?

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Are you expecting too much of him? I think so. Keep in mind, as I’ve stated before, we don’t start “formal” learning until about age 8. Most of my kids have been reading years before that, but for math books and curriculum? I personally think six is too young, UNLESS the kid loves it (some do).

      At that age, I would offer lots of learning tools and games (you know I love Timberdoodle) and let him read. I would (maybe) gently steer him toward other books, but maybe not. I would find out what he is interested in and go to the library, find books on that topic, play games surrounding the topic, pick a recipe to bake, build out of play dough, etc. I would not expect him to sit with a workbook and do “school”.

  3. Melpub

    Dear Judy Small: if your kid would just rather read than do anything else, you are soooo lucky. Your kid is a godsend. Let the kid read! I used to be able to read to mine all the time, but now, largely because they are not homeschooled and so are influenced by the love for computer games, I don’t get to read to them as much. We do still read some.
    Renee, when I read this post, I first thought you’d written “difficult” personalities. Oh, mine are difficult! But also absolutely driven and determined–I know they’ll find a focus and strive for knowledge in their chosen fields.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Great words of advice to Judy! I agree, reading is wonderful. Yes, we have our share of difficult personalities too. I just try to be sensitive to them on this blog 🙂

  4. Anna

    With eight kids, heck yes we have different personalities. They have done their best to make my life a giant puzzle. Going with the flow is so much easier when there are two or three, but going with the flow for eight resembles chaos. So yes, I do have different rules and standards and no, there is no order. Only chaos. Some days I feel anxiety about keeping my head above water, other days I feel perfectly balanced. And when I figure out the secret of the balanced day, I will tell you, we will patent it, and make millions.

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