Turning those frowns upside down – Motivation!


We have all had those days,

Where children frown,

have the sulks,

shed tears,


delay and procrastinate,

whine and complain,

throw temper-tantrums,

and go so, so slow.

Homeschool moms who regularly experience these problems need to –

  1. Assess

  2. Plan

  3. Motivate

Parents need to assess why a child is unhappy and unmotivated.

  1. Is the negativity regular or consistent?
  2. Is there a pattern of this behaviour?
  3. Does this occur with all subjects or just some/one?
  4. Is the child sick/ tired?
  5. Has my child some physical problem that makes the learning difficult? Eyesight? Hearing? Low muscle tone? Any allergies?
  6. Is my child too busy?
  7. Are we over-scheduled?  Too many activities outside home?
  8. What is my child’s preferred learning style?
  9. Is my teaching method/ curriculum suited to my child’s learning style?
  10. What motivates him/her?  How quickly does my child regain motivation?
  11. Is the work level too high?  Is the work too difficult?
  12. Am I requiring too much too soon?
  13. Are there other underlying emotional problems that frustrate and anger my child?
  14. Has the home routine been disrupted? New baby? A move?
  15. Is there a loss of regular meal and sleep schedules?
  16. Has the child recently been taken out of public school?  Does he/she need un-schooling?
  17. What TV/ movies/ music/ peer friends / network group is my child involved in?
  18. What are sibling relationships and family relationships like?
  19. How much one-on-one time does my child have with parents?
  20. Are parents experiencing difficulties?  Financial?  Marital?  Children are very sensitive to even unspoken stresses in the home.

When I assess, I pray to the Lord first.  I want His report.

Too often my own fears of inadequacy or uncertainty cloud my judgement.  When I pray and journal, the Lord encourages me.  He is my Hope.  His answers are often very simple.

When things are difficult at homeschool, I always talk to my husband.  He is not involved with much of the schooling/ curriculum/ methods/ principles, but he knows me.  He knows our children and he is the Head of our home.  We talk about the problems and possible solutions.  He and I assess together.  He is much more reluctant than I am to seek outside help, but if there are physical issues, we agree together to consult with the experts.

Establish the underlying problem/s, then plan and re-schedule –

  1. Start the day with prayer.  Pray together.  Pray for each other.  Pray for strength to face any difficulty.
  2. Keep at least 4 days (preferably 1 week) to the BARE ESSENTIALS.  Do not go out!  Do not entertain. Stay at home.
  3. Re-introduce the basic routine.  Keep strict sleep times and healthy, happy meals times.
  4. Keep school lessons short and sweet.
  5. Start with the hardest subject first.
  6. Use a different approach – do the work with drama/ movement/ puppet show/ songs/ actions/ fun activities.
  7. Have a snack and tea break when desk work (3 R’s) is complete.
  8. Continue with one enjoyable discovery subject (geography/ science/ history) per day.  Do it with minimum stress. Use delight-directed studies.
  9. Finish school with a song as you pack away.  End the day happily.
  10. Have a fun afternoon picnic/ swim/ game/ craft or activity/ go on a nature walk.  No books or work.  Keep it simple and fun.  Let them have free play outdoors.
  11. Avoid all TV/ DVDs/ computer games for a week.  Play family games/ read aloud/ listen to classical music/audio books while doing a family collage/ project.
  12. Introduce any healthy dietary changes gently if there were bad eating habits.
  13. Introduce any therapy with a positive and gentle approach.
  14. Be available in the day.  No blogging! Put aside your own activities or plan that the children join you in yours.  (Garden/ cook/ fold laundry together.)
  15. Make bedtime simple, affectionate and whisper encouraging words in your child’s ear.  End the day with gratitude together.  Journal together or privately.  Rejoice over every victory.  (My younger children write to me in a special notebook and put it under my pillow.  I answer and write back and place it under theirs.  It has been our most precious and personal activity.)

Some encouraging ideas about motivation:

Smiley Face

  • Sit together with your children and ask them what they really like/ dislike.  Agree to do even the disliked subjects, but discuss how you can make it enjoyable.
  • Plan your timetable together.  Let them choose with you.
    Although I plan the subjects and topics, we set up our timetable together.   If we need to do maths, spelling and writing for example, I let them decide which they do first.  I ask my kids which subject on which day; Geography/ Science/ History on Monday?  We then put our timetable up on the notice board.
  • Put 1 fun activity in each day.  We love brain gym and physical ed games. Art and crafts, nature walks are all added to the schedule.  If there is a fun activity, they will aim to complete the work quickly so they can enjoy that afterwards.  (Even if you don’t use workboxes, these moms have fantastic fun activities, ideas and links.)
  • Create short lessons.  Make sure that lessons are not longer than 20 minutes.  Rather 2 minutes of perfect handwriting, than half an hour of sloppy worksheets.  The schedule is a guideline, not a task master, so it is fine if a year schedule takes 18 months!
  • Use whatever method of motivation you find helps your children to complete work independently.  Many moms swear by the workbox method.  Others enjoy ticking off a task listgifts/ sweets for completed work.  Star charts work for some children.  This is personal, but I have stopped extrinsic motivational methods.  Whatever method you chose, aim to bring your children to the place where they chose intrinsically to do the work excellently, quickly and independently. for the day.  Some moms use surprise
  • Do difficult work in a new way.  Put aside workbooks and use other methods.  Play educational games.  Reinforce basics with fun drills.  Use songs to memorize.  Play with apparatus instead of paper and pen.  Go online and find some fascinating resources/ online game/ video.
  • Stick to the  time limits.  Keep the lesson short and sweet.  Time the lesson, then stop when time is up.  Put aside incomplete work without a fuss.  Avoid nagging, shouting and insisting.  Tomorrow just start where you left off.
  • Keep one day of the week for informal studies/nature studies/ music/ art and poetry.  We all look forward to high tea and poetry!  Don’t do formal studies and writing at first.  Just whet their appetite and enjoy the music or art.  Talk.  Discuss.  Later introduce notebook pages and some technical aspects.  (I have lost one child to nature journalling because I was too formal and technical.  Now I approach nature journalling gently and informally.)
  • Review your week and plan for the next week.  Keep just 1 step ahead and your confidence and joy will keep you focused and motivated.
  • Be prepared.  Set up the schoolroom the night before.  Put out a new activity or create a surprise.  Kids love this!  A simple encouraging note at their place will do wonders! You’ll also start the day with a twinkle in your eye!
  • If things don’t work out, plan a Catch-up week.  In 1 week you can catch up a whole term of a subject.

    Have a “Music Monday” and dive in deep!  Do nature studies and science for a whole week.  I have stressed about a subject we neglected,  but we consolidated, caught up and re-captured. At the end of a week’s study of a composer or artist and his works, the children know and recognise that artist.  Doing a whole week of science experiments was fantastic!  Every day became an adventure!) our love and enjoyment.  In fact, focusing on 1 subject for a week is very motivating!

  • Plan an outing.  Go on a school trip.
  • Do school in a new place.  Hold school in a park/ library/ botanical garden/ under a tree.
  • Join another homeschool family and do a hands-on project together.  (We once built a raft using logs on the beach after a flood and rowed up the river estuary! Something I would never have done on my own.)
  • Co-ops are great motivators!  One talented mom can give art or music lessons for the group and there will be no tears or tantrums with outsiders!
  • Visit an expert or master craftsman.  Learn a skill from an expert.  Archery/ metalwork/ stained glass artwork or pottery classes can inject wonderful motivation to homeschool. (Only add this once the basics are well established and done with enthusiasm – see 2 and 3 in planning above.)

While most these thoughts have worked for me, I appreciate that every child and family is unique.

The joy and blessing of homeschool is that you can tailor-make your schooling.  Children learn best when they use their natural learning style and study the topics that interest them.  A child who learns with joy and delight will tackle more challenging subjects with confidence.

Nothing in life and especially in homeschool is carved in stone!  My ideals have changed over the years.  Methods I once frowned upon, I now use and they serve their purpose – my children are learning and school is fun for all of us!

I trust that I may have encouraged you.

What works for you to turn those frowns upside down?


9 thoughts on “Turning those frowns upside down – Motivation!

  1. I had this open in my browser for a couple of days thinking I was eventually going to comment… but even though I never did, I LOVE this post. We’ve used LOTs of the ideas you mentioned here. It’s definitely one of those posts worth bookmarking for a rainy day 🙂

    thanks for submitting this to the carnival! I look forward to sharing it with everyone! 😉

    amy in peru


  2. There’s so much meat here, Nadene. Many parts of this post could be an entire post in themselves.

    I especially like what you say about reducing computer time, playing games together, and being available to our kids.


  3. Thank you for this comprehensive post!…I have also found I can be too technical as well and then my boys lose the interst and enjoyment of learning. In response I also have done many of the things you suggested and have found them revive the interest and turn frowns to smiles. This post is one I will forward to others…you have so many wonderful and very practical ideas. I also loved your post regarding making lapbooking a no hassle event by preparing the minibooks and other elements ahead of time. This simple adjustment allowed us to focus on the idea of the lesson and not get entangled and frustrated with folding and cutting etc. It is such a nice reward to hear my boys stop in the process of putting the lapbook together and gush with joy saying, “Mom this is so fun!”

    Thanks so much Nadene!


  4. Wow, you have really compiled some great ideas!

    Your last paragraph is so true for me, too. I feel like I should have all the answers since I’ve been homeschooling for so many years but kids are different, our lives change and so my approach to homeschooling has changed in various ways. One thing that hasn’t changed though,is my aversion to workbooks. I believe there are much better ways to learn!

    You have a nice site.



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