Homeschool Behavior Contract Between Parent & Child

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

Behavior contracts are not limited to just traditional school settings; they can be valuable to homeschooling parents as well. Use this resource to help you develop and implement a homeschool behavior contract.

What is a Behavior Contract?

To encourage proper development and maturity, identifying appropriate behaviors for children is important. Like their counterparts in traditional school settings, homeschooled children are developing and figuring out their independence...they just may do their math problems in their pajamas on the couch!

For homeschool families, it is often difficult for children to transition between interacting with their parent as a parent and interacting with their parent as the teacher. Setting up a behavior contract defines the roles of 'student' and 'teacher' and helps children to know what to expect in terms of how their parent will respond to their behavior during homeschool as opposed to other family time.

Homeschool behavior contracts can be written between a parent and child to address the following objectives:

  • Behavioral expectations
  • Supports to help the student be successful
  • Positive and negative consequences

These contracts can be written to proactively encourage desired behavior or in response to a child's pattern of difficult behavior.

How Do I Write a Behavior Contract?

There are many different ways to write a homeschool behavior contract depending on the child's needs and the homeschool environment. Here are a few steps that may help you create one.

Involve the Child

Just like you wouldn't want to sign a contract for a house you never looked at or wanted to buy, children respond better when they are a part of the discussion about things that affect them. From the very beginning, it's important to have the child involved in developing the contract.

Encourage the child to share his or her thoughts and ideas. Oftentimes, you can learn a lot about why a child is exhibiting a specific behavior just from talking to him or her about it. Additionally, children may provide some great insight into how to motivate them during their homeschooling time.

Identify the Child's Needs

A behavior contract should address what the child needs to be successful in homeschool. Think about what types of behavior you need to address in this contract. Are you concerned with setting general behavioral expectations for homeschool or is there a specific subject area, time of day, or circumstance for which you want to address the child's behavior?

For example, a homeschool behavior contract could address the expectations for a student throughout the day or just address how a student is expected to behave during their least favorite subject or while at extracurricular learning activities.

Identify Behavioral Expectations

After addressing the child's needs and purpose for the behavior contract, it's time to define exactly what behavior(s) you would like the child to exhibit. When writing your behavioral expectations, consider these guidelines:

  • Make the expectations personal by using the child's name.
  • Phrase the expectations positively instead of using 'don't' or 'no'.
  • Use vocabulary that the child will understand.
  • Only list 3-5 expectations depending on the child's age and developmental level.

An example of behavioral expectations in a homeschool behavior contract for a girl named 'Sally' could be:

  1. Sally will keep her hands to herself when at the homeschool table.
  2. Sally will listen and remain quiet when directions are being given.
  3. Sally will clean up her area of the homeschool table at the end of each subject.

Identify Supports

After identifying expectations, it's important to think about how you will support the child in exhibiting the behavior(s). If the child responds well to visuals, consider creating tangible pictures, charts, checklists, etc. that will help assist him or her. For example, if the child is having difficulty transitioning from one activity to another, you may want to create a First-Then Board to prepare him or her for what will happen after the current activity.

Example of a First-Then Board

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