Today I have refreshed a post from my archives as we revisit posts on motivation ~ see Motivation #1 and Motivation #2,
We have all had those days, where children frown, have the sulks, shed tears, refuse, delay and procrastinate, whine and complain, throw temper-tantrums, or go so s.l.o.w.
Firstly, assess why a child is unhappy and unmotivated:
- Is their negativity regular or consistent?
- Is there a pattern of this behaviour?
- Does this occur with all subjects or just some?
- Is the child sick or tired?
- Has my child some physical problem that makes the learning difficult? Eyesight? Hearing? Low muscle tone? Any allergies?
- Is my child too busy?
- Are we over-scheduled? Too many activities outside home?
- What is my child’s preferred learning style?
- Is my teaching method/ curriculum suited to my child’s learning style?
- What motivates him/her?
- Is the work level too difficult?
- Am I requiring too much too soon?
- Are there other underlying emotional problems that frustrate and anger my child?
- Has the home routine been disrupted? New baby? A move?
- Is there a loss of regular meal and sleep schedules?
- Has the child recently been taken out of public school? Does he/she need un-schooling?
- What TV/ movies/ music/ peer friends / network group is my child involved in?
- What are sibling relationships and family relationships like?
- How much one-on-one time does my child have with parents?
- Are parents experiencing difficulties? Financial? Marital? Children are very sensitive to even unspoken stresses in the home.
When I assess, I first pray. 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 an expert.
Establish the underlying problem and then plan:
- Start the day with prayer. Pray together. Pray for each other. Pray for strength to face any difficulty.
- Keep at least 4 days (preferably 1 week) to the BARE ESSENTIALS. Do not go out! Do not entertain. Stay at home.
- Re-introduce the basic routine. Keep strict sleep times and healthy, happy meals times.
- Keep school lessons short and sweet.
- Start with the hardest subject first.
- Use a different approach – do the work with drama/ movement/ puppet show/ songs/ actions/ fun activities.
- Have a snack and tea break when desk work (3 R’s) is complete.
- Continue with one enjoyable discovery subject (geography/ science/ history) per day. Do it with minimum stress. Use delight-directed studies.
- Finish school with a song as you pack away. End the day happily.
- 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.
- 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.
- Introduce any healthy dietary changes gently if there were bad eating habits.
- Introduce any therapy with a positive and gentle approach.
- 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.)
- 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.
Some encouraging ideas about motivation:
- 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.
- Plan one 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.
- 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, especially for young children!
- 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 list when they have completed work. Star charts work for some children. Whatever method you chose, aim to bring your children to the place where they chose intrinsically to do the work excellently, quickly and independently.
- 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. Some kids are motivated if there is a timer and they stop when the bell rings. 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 or poetry. Don’t do formal studies and writing at first. Just whet their appetite and enjoy the experience. Maybe informally discuss their experience. Later, introduce notebook pages or add some technical aspects. (I have lost one child to Charlotte Mason subjects because I was too formal and technical. Now I approach these subjects gently and informally.)
- Review your week and plan for the next week. Keep just one 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 one week you can catch up a whole term of a subject. Have a “Music Monday” and dive in deep! Do nature studies or science for a whole week. If a subject was neglected, consolidate and catch up in a week. In fact, focusing on one subject for a week is very motivating!
- Plan an outing. Go on a field trip. Even a simple outing to a part or botanical garden can refresh and motivate everyone!
- Do school in a new place. Move your desks, rearrange the space, Have school in a park/ library/ botanical garden/ or under a tree.
- Join another homeschool family and do a hands-on project or an activity together.
- 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 and approaches 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 your frowns upside down? Please share in the comments.
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