Do you find your kids procrastinating instead of doing their schoolwork in a diligent and timely fashion?  Do your kids dawdle, sharpen pencils, get water, then go to the bathroom and eventually get to their work only after chasing them down? Don’t worry your not alone!

Today we’re going to cover WHY students procrastinate and HOW to encourage them to work diligently! So grab a cup of tea and keep reading!


I’d venture to bet that procrastination is probably found in most homes. And it can definitely become a problem for a homeschooling mama with more than one child to teach.

Like if you hypothetically have four children for example.

Fine, it’s not a hypothetical for me. I do have four children. And procrastination isn’t a hypothetical for us either! It was like an everyday occurrence back in the day. Sometimes it still is! With multiple kiddos it’s easy for them to distract each other with the latest video game update, or playing with the cat, or watching a feather blow by in the breeze, you get the idea. Just about anything can distract kids who aren’t particularly committed to their education.

Check out my Tip Tuesday video: 6 Tips to Stop Procrastination in Your Homeschool!

Why children procrastinate.

Honestly I think that when talking about procrastination and homeschooling it has a bit to do with just getting used to a more formal schedule.

And getting used to mom as your teacher.

And figuring out that there are assignments that you actually do need to accomplish.

Sometimes students think that homeschooling will be all fun and games, with easy daily workloads, and totally optional assignment lists. At least that’s what my kids used to think.

There are however occasions where students are procrastinating because they’re truly overwhelmed by their workload. Or it might even be a specific subject that causes them anxiety and so they dawdle in order to avoid it. Sometimes it’s just a poor curriculum fit and changing to something that they can relate to better fixes the issue.  In the case of a struggling student, make sure to take a look at their load, or at the subject they’re struggling with and see what changes you can make. Or find a way to help them understand it better.

For my kids it’s usually not that they’re struggling, but it was more of an adjustment to homeschooling. Even though they have never been in a traditional school, it still took at least a good year for each of them, meaning kindergarten, to fully understand that they did have work that I expected them to complete each day. It was like we had to teach them that school wasn’t optional just because we were doing it at home.

Now we complete our school most days without too much dawdling. Mainly because my children know that they’re free once their assignments for the day are done. That puts them in charge of when they’re out of school, rather than me. Which is nice. And has been motivating to my kids for the most part.

How to put an end to procrastination in your homeschool.

My daughters are really good at sitting down and getting through their work. My son on the other hand is a natural procrastinator. He gets it from his father. Who also likes to wait until the last second to complete his work.

And like his father he can be focused when he wants to. Which means he can sharpen pencils for the first half of the day, then bust out his workload in the last 20 minutes easily. So often I’ll find him messing around and doing everything but school. Then rushing to get it done right before I start letting him know his teacher is leaving work for the day.

This is bad on a few levels. One, we might be waiting for him to complete his work in order for us to move on to a group activity. And two, I don’t want him rushing through his work. I’d like him to focus and actually learn something.

One thing that has helped him out has been setting a timer for each of his assignments. I often use my phone and give him a reasonable amount of time to do each subject.  I will tell him how long he has to complete his assignment, then set the timer. If he’s messing around and doesn’t finish, then we put it aside and he can do it for homework in the afternoon when everyone else is playing outside after school.

The first time I tried timing him we just continued adding his unfinished work in a pile for homework until his day was done. After dinner he had to finish his work just like regular homework.

I do not stay in the room with them after school hours, so my kids have to do homework on their own. Mom’s school hours are 8-3ish. They can come ask a question if they need to, but mainly it’s a consequence for messing around during class. So they don’t get to work with me in there with them. I like to get out of school at a reasonable time too!

Some other ideas to help kids focus on their work would be to give them some headphones. If you have more than one child working, it can be distracting for them to try and pay attention to something. I’ve found that a good set of headphones to block out the noise can be quite effective in helping them focus.

Another idea is to put up a divider between your students. Since we have one giant desk that we work from, it’s easy for them to chit-chat and distract one another. Most craft stores sell those foldable cardboard presentation boards, which can work well as a divider to give your student a little more privacy to get their work done.

And finally, if all else fails, I will sometimes let the procrastinating student go sit in another room to do their work. Our birds can get loud, and so can the other kiddos, so if someone is having a hard time focusing or getting work done, they can move to the kitchen, or dining room as long as they actually work in there. This isn’t my first choice though because often the procrastinator can’t be seen from the other room and so they might choose to take advantage of their alone time by messing around even further.

What if they’re working diligently, but just taking a long time?

With that said, it’s different if someone is working diligently, but just having a hard time with their work. In that case they get more time, and I’ll help them with it until we’re done then they can move on. Or sometimes we’ll set it aside and move on to other things. Then we’ll come back after school together and work through any troubles they might have had when everyone else is gone from the room. Sometimes a bit of focused one-on-one quite time really helps to help students comprehend the material.

However if the dawdling is occurring because they’re just procrastinating and wasting time, then they can have the consequence of doing homework. My children are well aware that homework is a benefit and a privilege to homeschooling. If my children choose to get their work done during the scheduled day, then they’re free to play when they’re done.

Teaching diligence and respect for others.

My main goal in stopping procrastination in our homeschool was because I wanted to impress upon my children that procrastinating is wasting not only their time, but mine as well. And if we were all waiting for one person to finish something to move on to a group activity, then they’re  wasting everyone else’s time too. Part of teaching students how to be diligent with their work includes respecting others time as well.

Not only that, but it’s such a nice feeling to get done with your work first, so that you can then have free time.

The timer method helps motivate them to do their work, and allows me stop worrying about how long their taking. It puts the ball in their court. They get to decide whether or not they want to have homework. And it frees the rest of us up to move on to our other subjects as a group without making everyone wait for one person to finish.

I do want to make it clear that my son was doing fine with the workload and could handle the material easily. And I wouldn’t time a student who was struggling with the workload or tasks assigned. But I knew he could handle what was given to him and he is always given an appropriate amount of time to complete his work.

And I will tell you that my son only procrastinated with his work twice before he figured out that he didn’t like doing school in the afternoons/evenings when everyone else is having fun. Plus he has hockey at night and doesn’t want to miss that because he is stuck home doing homework.

So now he usually gets things done in a timely manner, and though I do have to refocus his efforts here and there, he’s quite a bit better on the diligence front. I don’t even use the timer anymore either. I really only bust it out if we’re having a day when people are messing around, or if I feel like dawdling is becoming a habit for one of them again.

I hope this post helped encourage some of you struggling with procrastination in your homeschool.

Looking for more in-depth help on getting started homeschooling? Check out my new Homeschooling 101 book! It’s a step by step guide to getting started, choosing curriculum, deciding what to teach, creating lesson plans, staying the course, and more! And it comes with a FREE LESSON PLANNER!

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How do you combat procrastination in your homeschool? Leave a comment below!


  1. Hi Erica

    Thank you for this post and thank you very much for your webiste. I am all the way in Africa and I read your posts religiously because they help. I am preparing to start homeschooling next year for my 10 and 5 year old daughters, I must say you have helped me through out this year to get ready. Looking forward to more and more of your posts. God bless.

  2. Thank you SO much for this post!!! I homeschool 3, 9th, 6th and 4th grades. The two youngest ones are boys and they share our dinner table as well. My younger son is 9 and is a constant “funny guy”. This irritates his 11yo very mature brother.

    With that said I went out at lunch and bought project boards like you suggested. WHAT A HIT!!!
    Today’s lessons went so smooth and they BOTH loved their personal space!!

    Thank you for all you do for the homeschool community!!! 😊💜

    Kim P
  3. Thank you! This is a very useful post.
    We have very big problems with procrastination and discipline during homeschooling.
    I teach my daughter (2nd grade). This decision was hard for our family, but after the unsuccessful first grade, we decided for sure that the daughter will not go to school at least until high school.
    While she’s still young, she can barely sit for at least half an hour. And her attention is distracted, I can see that she doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to understand what we study.
    I found some useful tips in your article on how to get her to study. And I hope it helps.
    Thank you for your blog! I found it recently, but I’ve already read almost all the articles!

  4. I have a house full of class clowns…constantly vying for attention from each other. Sigh* As soon as I’ve got one calmed down and on task, another child is at it! So frustrating. One thing I didn’t read in your article is about learning challenges, I have 2 with attention hyperactivity and 1 mostly gifted/advanced student but lagging in a one other area. I think learning challenges, mostly the ADHD, is playing a role in the difficulty I have at home. I’m teaching 3 right now with 1 preschool learner, and next year it will be 4. I’m feeling so overwhelmed these days, and I can barely keep up the pace. Any tips?

    1. Hi! It does sound like you have your hands full 🙂 So my first tip is to keep in mind that this is just a short phase, each year it will be different and the longer you homeschool the more everyone will get used to it. They’ll also mature as you go and not need your attention as much, so persevere through these harder days! I’m not sure, but it sounds like your kids are closer in age based on your comment, so you may want to look into doing some group activities so you can all be doing the same thing together and that will get rid of some of the craziness you’re experiencing now. Of course some things you will still have to do separately, and in that instance I usually try to alternate between the kids. So have two doing something independent, even it is a game on the tablet while you instruct the third, then while the third is working, you can move on to the next, and so on. I do have a post on teaching multiple levels here:

      You may also do some things to help your ADHD students stay focused while you’re working with the others. Some great tips are things like fidget spinners, or a smooth rock for them to play with while working. I also love using those large YOGA/Workoug balls as a chair rather than a normal chair. It causes them to focus on balancing and bouncing while working and helps keep their brains engaged. You might want to check out she has great tips for helping kids focus!


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