I'd like to share some tips on motivation. (These are random thoughts I posted several years ago on an online board!)
Getting started in the morning seems to be a something that is a problem in some homeschooling homes. The kids seem to drag along forever and before long it is lunch time and only half (or less!) of the lesson plans for the day have been covered.
The key here seems to be getting the children to be motivated first thing in the morning-- then once they get used to a standard routine in the mornings, it seems to become easier and even a habit. (At least that is what has worked in our home.)
We can maintain a basic structure, which still allows room for flexibility. But it seems to work well for us to have certain things that we do by a specific time every day.
For example, we do our basic clean up of the kitchen and other main parts of the house each morning before 9:00. Then it is time for schooling to begin and they do independent studies most of the morning.
I don't stand over them to make sure they get it done. If I see one of them standing on their head in the den or generally goofing off, I might ask if they're already finished with their assignments.
During this time of the morning they work on their Saxon math, and do a page or two of their BJU Writing and Grammar Text, then spend time working on any other ongoing projects, such as writing, reading *real* books of history and science, etc.
We work together around lunchtime and a little afterwards. Then it's naptime for the toddlers and the older kids use this time to work on the computer, practice their music, bake cookies, do art, etc. Or, if they haven't finished all their "school work" for the day, they finish it up.
Afternoons are spent outside playing sports and games. They must have their projects cleaned up and lesson assignments for the day completed before they go outside.
It seems to me that some children are just "naturally" self-motivated and others must be trained! Obviously all children are self-motivated in some ways, if a child is truly interested in a subject or project; they are more inclined to be motivated to do it on their own. It is a worthy goal for parents to want to see their children become self-motivated learners for the majority of their subjects, especially by around age 12.
I will share a few ideas that we used back in the days when it was necessary to motivate kids in the morning! Although we have some slow mornings every now and then, for the most part the routine is firmly established and everyone knows what is expected. I have made my children responsible for their own assignments. It's up to them to see that they have them done and do their best. We do check them regularly and if need any help we're available. If they are not faithful in doing their work, they are grounded from all outside activities, etc. until they catch up. My children have always been homeschooled and they are used to working on their own. It sometimes takes time for younger children to mature or new homeschoolers to adjust so don't despair! It will happen!
By the way, I feel like it is a MAJOR help when the homeschooling parents greet the day with enthusiasm and anticipation for a great homeschooling day! Be POSITIVE! Upbeat! Cheerful! Enthusiasm is contagious! How can you expect the kids to be excited about getting started with homeschooling first thing, if you act "draggy" and stressful and keep nagging everyone to "Hurry Up! We're never going to get finished at this rate!" Here are a few suggestions.
- Post a Map on the wall and have a geography question of the day each day for the kids to answer as soon as they get their chores done and are ready to begin their lessons. Questions could be simple or complicated depending on the child's age. Let them put a star on the location that answers the question. Give stickers as rewards for everyone who gets their question correct. They will be learning something too!
- Read aloud first thing. Make it an exciting, interesting story, a chapter a day to keep the anticipation going. (Make it exciting for you, too, and drink your coffee first so you don't fall asleep!)
- Penny Math, for the first 5 minutes of school-- present them with math drills in addition, subtraction, multiplication or division and give them a penny for each correct answer. This also helps them get their speed up! We put the pennies in a pot and then used the money to buy a special treat for the kids.
- Exercise! Put the lively music on and dance and do exercises or put on a favorite exercise videotape. We have a great one for children that our little ones love! Also several for Mom and the older kids!
Difficulty in Motivating Children?
If you are having difficulty in getting your children to be self-motivated here are some suggestions.
- Give your children smaller, shorter assignments to help them become faithful in completing their lessons without your constant presence. Let them have an opportunity to learn to be faithful and diligent in the small things before being given bigger lessons or tasks.
Even a regular amount of assignments becomes overwhelming to someone not used to self-discipline! They feel as if it's too much, that they will never finish! The younger the child, the shorter the assignments should be.
It just takes adjustment for many children to learn to work on their own, especially if they are used to public or private school classrooms. This can be true even if they have been homeschooled, but you have been bearing the "burden" of seeing that they are completing their work.
When they have shorter, more obtainable goals, they will sense accomplishment when they are through and that will provide them with motivation for future assignments!
- Make the work neither too easy nor too hard. Keep the child aware of his progress.
Notice the good things they do and praise them! Focus on future success and not past failures. *Demonstrate* your love and confidence in them! Make a big deal when they finish an assignment. Help them set goals and understand the purpose of their assignments.
Take time to look it over and appreciate the child's work. When a correction is needed, be gentle, yet firm, and add encouraging words as well.
Boring & Uninteresting?
For homeschooling parents who feel like their children look upon their schooling as a boring and uninteresting...
While some children seem to love learning and see the importance of receiving a good, well-rounded education, others need some encouragement in this area! Here are some tips. I'm sure you can think of other suggestions and I do hope that you will share them with us!
- Give your children room to explore areas of learning that interest them in ways that they enjoy!
- Allow them to help plan their course of study. Discuss and agree upon goals. Brainstorm together to come up with new ideas for learning and educational projects and trips!
Our goals are to give the children the necessary tools for learning while they are young, and introduce them to the joys of learning! Then as they mature, we have the children function as partners with us in their education. (Much better than being a reluctant participant!)
Ultimately- as they have matured enough, they can be *totally* responsible for their own education. (Of course, we would still be available for help if needed, as well as others...) Don't ask me the exact ages all this should happen! I'd just have to say, different ages for different kids!
I consider myself still in the partner stage for the basics of some core subjects, but my children have all taken off on their own in some areas and have become totally self-motivated and responsible for their own learning in these subjects.
For example, reading. I never have to encourage my kids to read. It's as natural to them as breathing. I do have to encourage them to put the book down and go to sleep or do other things at times!
Or, science for my son...he has a curiosity and thirst for more knowledge in this area that can't be quenched. Or, history for all the kids... they study all this on their own and love it!
My older daughter is like this about writing as well...she has disciplined herself to prepare for the future since she plans to write historical fiction novels for young people as a hobby in her spare time. (The rest of the time she plans to be the first woman president... or be a pioneer in some of Alaska's remaining wilds...or be a missionary to the NFL...and of course, be lead singer in a group with her sisters!)
- Help your children find their talents! Get them to talk to others who are working in these areas and find out from them what skills and knowledge are important to be successful in this field.
If everything else fails, you may have to take a radically different approach to their learning. Read all you can about learning styles and try to determine your child's learning style. Talk to others to see what has worked with their children.
- For younger children, you may need to back off for a while from "formal academics.” Children mature at different rates, especially before age 9 and they may just need time to mature a bit. Read aloud, practice "natural learning" together, etc. Once they *are* ready, it will take them no time to "catch up.”
- For teens, a part-time job might help them see the need for academics.
- For kids of all ages, let them choose a hobby that motivates learning...I'm sure you can think of many different ideas. The library is filled with books on various hobbies and suggestions!
- Never compare your child to another. Each is an individual and should be treated that way. One of the benefits of homeschooling is being free to plan studies with the individual needs of the child in mind and not having to teach 30 kids all the exact same thing using the same learning methods for all as they have to do in public school.
So, wake up tomorrow morning determined to do something to arouse the curiosity of the children! Get excited about learning together! Focus on the positive instead of the negative. Be encouraged!
If you have been having a rough time lately, take a break tomorrow and just enjoy some "natural" learning through reading, and exploring nature, play scrabble, or other educational games.
Take time to re-group and look at your goals and what you've already achieved this year. You'll be surprised if you begin to think about all you've learned together.
Keep things in perspective. Not only will your homeschooling adventure get easier with time... It just gets better and better the longer you homeschool, believe me! (And I still have many years of homeschooling to look forward to! Isn't that exciting?! )
Review of The Relaxed Homeschool
In The Relaxed Homeschool, Dr. Mary Hood speaks of the three ways in which children are motivated to really learn something. (As opposed to simply memorizing facts long enough to pass a test and then forgetting them.) Here are the three ways she describes-- (paraphrased and with my comments!)
- When a person is internally motivated to learn something. A child who is very interested in horses, for example will naturally want to learn as much about them as he can...and he will very likely remember that information for years to come!
- When someone else has an intense love of a subject and transfers their enthusiasm to the student. I never was interested in biology much until I had a teacher that made the subject come alive to me! I learned more in that class than all the other science classes I'd had before simply because I caught her enthusiasm!
- When people set goals that have a personal significance to them, and are willing to do whatever it takes to reach those goals, even if part of the process is difficult or boring at times! My son had such a desire to learn about computers that he was willing to spend hours pouring over computer manuals and books and magazines. If I had tried to get him to spend that much time and effort on something when he wasn't interested...well, it would have been a total failure! He borrowed books that were really "beyond" his level, yet by perseverance, he worked his way through them and learned a lot!
Copyright 1995 by Tamara Eaton
Permission is given to reprint any of Tamara's articles in non-profit publications as long as the article is reprinted in full and contains the copyright information and website address. Please send a copy of the publication to :Deeper Life Family Ministries, P.O. Box 909, Killen, AL 35645.