The Best Way To Help A Resistant Learner Actually Learn

This is, by far, the very best way I have found to help a resistant learner actually learn!

My child told me he hates school last month.

He is homeschooled, so he didn’t mean the building or the system. He pretty much meant learning with me.

Good times. 

resistant learner

His resistance to learning has been building throughout this school year. At first, I chalked it up to needing to get back on track after illness and vacations.

I thought maybe it was his increasing hormones and all the fun that comes with puberty.

I blamed the curriculum and then, I blamed myself.

Last month, it all came to a head. He hates school. After taking a deep breath and swallowing back the “You think this is bad? I work hard every single day to make sure you can learn in ways that work best for you. Why don’t you go to the middle school up the street and then you can really hate school!” I decided to instead, get to the bottom of it.

Turns out, he hates when I do things that feel “school-y.”

Repeating the sight words over and over again. The worksheets that make me happy, but I know are not the best way for him to learn or even show progress. Even some of the books we have been reading – all have made me feel a little bit better about us getting on track, but are making him groan every time I get the reading stack out. 


Once again, after eight full years of homeschooling, I am getting in my own way. 


My Son Hates School

The reality is that, although my son is thirteen, he is significantly delayed in his learning. 

We have to be out of the box in our approach. I know this. I even wrote a book about it. And still, this year, I have been lapsing back into the way I like to help him learn, rather than the way he actually learns. 


After swallowing my pride, I scrapped the plans I had for the month and started over.

We started a Viking Study that I knew would thrill him (meat and weapons, need I say more?). I planned for more time in the car to allow him to listen to audio books. I even brought blankets with us, so we could cozy up in the back seat and listen in the parking lot, while waiting for his brother to get out of class. I scheduled actual remediation for reading in the morning, when he is less likely to resist and only for short spans of time.

These are not novel for us. No, this is exactly what we have always done and what has always worked. I just needed him to remind me. 

He hates school. He loves learning. 

The Best Way To Help A Resistant Learner Actually Learn

Sometimes, the very best way to help a resistant learner actually learn is to take a step back and remember what works best.

What does she love?

What past projects have been the most successful?

Which subjects are met with the least resistance?

What are his strengths and how can I leverage them?

If your learner is anything like mine, this will not be enough.

When my son is resistant, it usually takes some time to woo him back.

The Best Way To Help A Resistant Learner Actually Learn

When I am not sure what else to do to help him engage in the learning, there is one thing that almost always works.

Are you ready for my homeschool mom, super simple secret?

Ask Questions.

Seriously, when I want to spark a little interest, even when my son is the most resistant, I start asking him questions.

Language Arts

Which is your favorite character?

Why do you think he did that to his sister?

Where do you think the author came up with that idea?


What would you have done in that same situation?

Does this happen today?

What would it have been like to live in those circumstances?


What do you think will happen if we don’t add this ingredient?

Why do you think the animal only hunts at night?

Where is this typically found in the world?


What would happen if we decided to multiply instead of add?

Whoa – how many would that be in an entire year?

What if we need to divide this recipe?


Now, obviously I don’t bombard him with questions all day long. But peppering in natural questions throughout the day helps him feel more connected and confident in the learning. 

Asking artful questions is also a wonderful way to measure progress without a formal quiz or test.

Incidentally, I am sharing all my tips for testing without an actual test in this week’s post on Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.


Again, this is simple. It is basic. And for some reason, I often forget to do it.

I needed the reminder.

He hates school, but he loves learning. 

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