Underachievement: How to Fail at Homeschooling, Part 2

Updated: May 24, 2019

In our first post in this series, we talked about underachievement and that when we as parents ignore, resist, or fail to address the reasons behind our child's resistance toward school work, we are failing at homeschooling. In this part 2, I am going to explain why....

First and foremost, underachievement is rooted in the absence of motivation. In fact, when we take the time to find out why our child is not feeling motivated, we can begin to re-connect with them, and ultimately avoid or reverse underachievement. This can be a very powerful turn in a family's homeschooling experience and can mean the difference between success and burnout that leads to enrolling in school.  Think about it. Even as adults there are tasks that we really don't want to do. We tend to procrastinate, avoid, forget, or if forced, will do a task giving half effort, or with a negative attitude. This is simply what we do at times as humans when we are not motivated. Our children are no different. 

So what can be done?

“Findings of current research suggest that interventions that provide counseling, individualize the curriculum, and create authentic learning experiences can reverse underachieving trends.” (Besnoy, Jolly, & Manning, 2011, p. 403)

In other words, we can address, prevent, and even reverse the affects of underachievement by doing the following 3 things: 

1. Individualize Curriculum

Start by evaluating your routine and curriculum. Ask your child what he likes and dislikes about his school work. What would he prefer? Give him a voice in how he spends his days, then compromise. Of course, there will be topics and tasks he isn't going to always enjoy, but by providing a balance of preferred activities with less exciting tasks, together you can help to begin turning the tides in your homeschool. 

Find out your child's learning personality. SpritelyMind offers learning profiles to help you tailor your child's education to their needs and interests. Integrating your child's interests into your academic routine fosters motivation, which is key to avoiding underachievement. One size does not fit all. Skip all-inclusive box curricula in favor of hand selected titles, materials and activities. Utilize your local library, and low cost resources like Amazon Unlimited for reading materials. Consider foregoing large curricular purchases and opt for memberships to museums, the zoo or aquarium instead. Really consider your child's interests and build your homeschool around them.

You may not appreciate Minecraft, Star Wars, or horses as much your child does, and you may be wondering how in the world Star Wars could contain any academic value, but with a little creativity, anything can be academically valuable. 

2. Create Authentic Learning Experiences

Once again, this really depends on your child's interests. Find what motivates them, and create experiences that facilitate their interests. Balance these activities by connecting them to academic tasks, such as writing, solving problems, and reading. This may be more difficult in the beginning, but with time and consistency, your child will likely come around. Most importantly, make the purpose of activities, assignments, and topics very clear. Like adults, children want to know why they are being required to do something. They too want to know, what's in it for them. Once kids understand why you are having them do what you want them to do, they are far more likely to comply, and do so happily. 

3. Counseling

This aspect takes on two meanings. First, if your child has been acting out and unmotivated for a period of time, they may need some professional help to rewire their thinking, adjust their attitudes, or even heal from past traumas that may have been the catalyst for underachievement in the first place. We all need therapy once in awhile. Seeking it is not a reflection of failure, but refusing it when you do, is. 

The second meaning behind counseling is: COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR KIDS. They are smarter than what most adults give them credit for.  Discuss their education with them. Set goals, discuss expectations and the reasons for them. Ask them to explain their perspectives and really listen. You may be surprised at their insight.  Once again, you may be met with incredulousness, sarcasm, and a child who doesn't take you seriously. Give it time. Dynamics take time, persistence, and patience to change.  

Pat yourself on your back. By reading this, not only are you investing in your child's academic success, but also their emotional intelligence. 

Families Shape Students

A study done by Rimm & Lowe highlight the importance and profound influence of the family on the achievement of students. Ultimately, familial culture and parental attitudes and engagement directly shape the student’s attitudes of their abilities, self-worth, academic engagement, and values. Parents can make or break a child’s academic success (1988, p. 356, 358).

And on a side note, families that fall into any one of these categories are at higher risk for underachievement. 

“Those most susceptible to underachievement (a) low-socioeconomic status, (b) minority group connection, (c.) parental education, (d) single-parent family, and (the) feelings of alienation or low self-esteem.” (Besnoy, Jolly, & Manning, 2011, p. 403)

Don't Despair!

Families that do fall into any of these categories are not automatically doomed. My

family could claim 4 out of the 5 risk factors, and we turned ok. In fact, my children went through many hardships and crises over the years, including divorce, death, and loss. We all persevered. In fact, my children all began college before the age of 15. If we can do it, your family can too. Awareness is half the battle of preventing underachievement.  Please leave your comments below.  References:Besnoy, K., Jolly, J., and Manning, S. (2011). Special Populations in Gifted Education: Understanding Our Most Able Students From Diverse Backgrounds. Prufrock Press.Rimm, S. & Lowe, B. (1988). Family environments of underachieving gifted students. Gifted Child   Quarterly, 32(4), 353-359.

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