This is a guest post from Sarah Faulkner. She is a homeschooling mom in Washington state. She has five kids, ages 13, 11, 9, 5, and 2. 

I am a control(ish) person by nature.  Mostly I have grand ideas, and I schedule these ideas, only to have reality step in and dash them all away.  Or rather—what really happens—I drag my kids out on some adventure rather than being responsible at home.

This doesn’t stop me from fretting over the fact it feels like school is not getting accomplished. If I create a schedule, at least I feel like something might happen. My second son does his school work without a problem. He’s the one I remind myself of when I feel like a failure with my first.

My first son has no motivation to learn.  He is politely content, a lump reading on my couch.  He is learning, but my controlling nature screams at me that he isn’t and will grow up stupid.  When these moments of panic seize me there’s nothing to do to calm down but pepper him with questions to assure myself he’s learning.  Only he hates that and moves to being a lump reading on his bed.

1.  Seek advice from someone not related to you.
I first asked my dad for help, since my sister is getting a Bachelors degree in physics, and my 16 year old brother is self teaching college calculus.  He peppered me with questions, like, “Can he convert Celsius to Fahrenheit? How fast does he multiply? How fast does he read?”  He wasn’t fast enough, and that’s when I learned what Dad really thinks: that I should send him to public school.

In my controlling quest to help my son I decided to look for someone who didn’t know me. Then, if I didn’t like the advice, I could walk away without it being so personal. I took Penelope’s course on personalities for kids and thought maybe if I can figure out his personality I can get him to at least look like he’s doing school. Only I learned his personality is to sit around like a reading lump (ISTP).

Penelope said he would learn on his own and let him decide what to learn. Ok, I totally couldn’t accept that advice. Even though it’s great advice. When I sat down and asked him what he wanted to learn he said, “Nothing”.  My anxiety came back in full force.

2.  Find a hidden talent to excite them to learn.
The next advice I found was from a random blog: find his talent. So I went to Google to learn how to find my child’s talent but it all the advice was really for kids who had an interest in something already.I really don’t know what that kid does all day. It’s not electronics, but it must be something. It seemed the advice was that if I would spend enough money to put enough different things in front of him, I would unlock his secret. Only I wanted to do other things with my money, like eat.

So I finally sat him down, near tears, and told him how I couldn’t handle just leaving him alone.  I have to see he is learning something so I can feel like a good parent. I told him my self-esteem was on the line. Apparently what others would consider bad parenting was good parenting for him. He was quiet for a long while, and said he would like to learn coding.

3.  Be willing to act when they want to learn.
We compromised on subjects.  I wrote down the ones that I felt defined me as being a good parent, and he picked 2 he could put up with, but most importantly we wrote down goals for coding.  I took a risk and invested in what this company has to offer and struck gold.  It is a Saturday night, and while the rest of the family enjoys Wipe-Out, my son has logged 3 hours learning. Most importantly, I feel like a great mom.