Homeschooling requires motivation from both parent and child. Since there is not the outside accountability that comes with a traditional school environment to keep grades up, how can you motivate your kids to keep going?
Identify the Problem
First, identify the problem. What is the source of your child’s lack of motivation? In my house when we are cooped up like we have been these past few weeks from severe weather and several cancellations, motivation is low. Not getting enough sleep is a key motivation killer for both kids and mom. Too many activities and getting run down from not taking regular breaks can get deplete the energy to keep up with homeschooling. What other areas can you think of that are sapping motivation from your kids? How can you counter those issues with positive motivation?
Spending time with friends gives my kids a break from the monotony that can hover over us like a black cloud, sapping motivation. Last week we had a playdate with three homeschool families and it was refreshing for moms and kids alike. After social outings, our focus returns and we are all more willing to accomplish the rest of our work for the week. Another way for us to fight monotony is to get outside and enjoy nature. In the middle of a particularly difficult week, we went hiking on a trail and fed some chickadees. My daughter’s face lit up with joy and excitement when a tiny chickadee landed on her outstretched hand. Just the brief time outside in nature zapped the negativity and gave us the boost we needed.
I remember school dragging on and on day after day when I was a kid. There were no real goals. You just had to sit there and do your work until the end of each week and then all the way to the end of the year even though we really didn’t learn anything new that whole last month. Homeschooling can be motivated by weekly goals and yearly goals that are clearly spelled out. Every week my kids know what needs to be finished by Friday. Once they reach that weekly goal they are done for the week. Their hard work is rewarded with a sense of accomplishment which alone is hugely motivational. Free time on Friday is good too. The same goes for our school year. Once our work is done for the year, we are done. This does take some planning and an understanding of how much your kids can reasonably do each week and by the end of the year. After a month or so of tweaking the weekly goal, you should have a fairly good idea of what will work for the year.
Motivation in one area can be a catalyst for motivation in other areas. This year I signed my girls up for one class each that was new to them and in area of high interest. They have come home feeling excited about the new things they have learned which of course has elevated their confidence but also their motivation to keep learning academics at home.
Navigating a reward system can be a sort of minefield. In reality, the reward for learning is that you are actually learning. Giving your kids lots of rewards for completing their work can very quickly turn into bribing them to study. Before you know it, what you thought was motivating them will turn into just the opposite: they won’t feel any motivation at all without getting something in return. A well- placed reward every now and then, however, can be just the ticket to keep that motivation ball rolling.
Take a few minutes to make a list of motivation sappers and motivation builders for your kids. Then when you need some reminders you can look at your list and give motivation a boost.
Sarah Brutovski is a homeschool mom of three children. She grew up just down the street from where she and her husband are raising their family now in rural Upstate New York. When she is not teaching her kids, grocery shopping, or drinking coffee you might find her training for a half marathon, escaping for a morning at the beach, or chatting on the phone with one of her four siblings. Sarah loves writing on her blog sarahswritingcafe.blogspot.com and currently teaches creative writing at her kids’ weekly co-op.