6 Tips for Teaching Resistant Learners At Home: Preschool & Beyond

January 17, 2021, 8:44 am

These days it seems like every mom is looking for help teaching resistant learners at home. It is no wonder because teaching unengaged students can often feel like stapling jello to a wall.  

Part of the problem is that many parents believe homeschool life is supposed to look like traditional school except at home. And often, this is where the resistance to learning comes into play.

How Do You Homeschool Resistant Learners?

Not to beat a dead horse, but let me repeat. Homeschooling does not have to look like school at home. And, personally, I argue, that it really shouldn’t.  

This should give you cause to celebrate! You have so much power to make choices that work for your child. Yay!

play preschool teaching ideas, play-based learning, homeschool preschool

Tips for Teaching Resistant Learners At Home

1. Use Your Child’s Interests

If you’re struggling to keep your younger student engaged in learning, there’s hope.

My number one tip for teaching resistant learners at home is one that I offer for every student regardless of age.  Use your child’s interests as the goldmine to learning that it is.

2. Think Through Our Response

When trying to engage children who resist instruction, we need to think outside the box. As adults, we have choices to make as to how we respond to perceived “disobedience.” Here are 3 choices that we may face when our kids push back against our lessons.

1: Become frustrated with our child’s resistance to learning and enforce our will upon them.

2: Take personal offense when our kid doesn’t comply with our directives and push harder.

3: Focus on the learning objective (learn to read, to count, multiply, etc).

Most often, when we step back to prioritize the learning obejctive, we’re better able to think outside-the-box and shift our approach. In the end, this helps us meet kids where they are in order to best equip them for the long term.

2. Don’t Force It: Stress & Learning Don’t Mix

One morning I realized that my boy wasn’t excited about my plan to teach him some sight words. In fact, he was pretty adamant that learning sight words was not going to happen.  

In the end, I could’ve chosen to be frustrated and forced the issue (and believe me, I’ve done this way too many times.)

But, this would’ve only added to the problem and caused undue strain on our relationship.  Ultimately, that would have made the learning experience that much more stressful.

When the stress response takes over, ability to learn and process new information plummets. Don’t force it. It’s not worth it in the long-run.

For more information on the brain, executive functioning, and behavior, check out Homeschooling The Distracted Child.

3. Engage in Play

Play-based learning is highly effective for preschoolers and younger students.  Not only that, but play is essential for adults. 

Think about it this way. 

Why are some of our most deeply rooted memories associated with fun, laughter, and play?


Teaching & Engagement and Alvin & The Chipmunks

So what did I do that morning? I engaged my boy in play.

Hey, Alvin, Simon, Theodore, Baby Monkey! Are you guys ready to learn your words?”

Yep. I simply shifted my perspective and attention to my boy’s stuffed animals. “Pretending” to be the teacher, I directed all instruction to his Chipmunks.  

With the pressure off of him, he immediately engaged. He loved playing along and was clueless to the fact that he didn’t want to learn.

simon chipmunk toy used to teach math
Here’s one instance when we used my son’s Simon Chipmunk to teach ordinal numbers.

4. Quantity Doesn’t Equal Quality When Learning

My son and I ended up using this strategy to learn six new sight words that day.  We connected relationally while engaging in pretend play.

As such, the next time we “worked” on sight words, he was set up for success. In fact, he eventually took the lead from me and began to “teach” his stuffed animals using his new found skills. 

Win! Win!

Preschool Letter Recognition


5. Tip For Resistant Learners: Keep It Short

Remember, small chunks of intentional learning over time yields fruit.  Short increments of time is essential.  Small 5-15 minute chunks of teaching is not only effective but essential for many students. Keep your lessons short.  Engaging in short chunks of play-based learning not only opens doors to a deepened parent-child relationship, but also primes the brain for optimal learning. 

RELATED EPISODE: Tips for Teaching Preschoolers & Other Resistant Learners

In-Depth Homeschool Support 

For more tips on how to engage resistant of struggling students in learning, check out Homeschooling The Distracted Student.  The one-hour in-depth homeschool teacher training will radically equip you to think outside the box to support your child’s learning.

What are your favorite ways to engage your younger or resistant student in learning? Comment below. Would love to hear from you.

Some of My Favorite Phonics Resources

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Preschool Letter Recognition

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