Some days everyone wants to sit on the couch and watch TV. That’s when we homeschooling moms start to panic. They are supposed to be LEARNING!
In my 16 years of homeschooling, we had plenty of “unproductive” days, and here are a few things I learned:
1. Adjust your expectations.
Concentrate on your child’s attitude toward learning more than the observable act of learning. My mantra through the years has been “maintain the joy of childhood and the joy of learning.”
More than giving information, my job was to nurture that natural love of learning, not to kill it. I had to stop and stand back once in awhile, gagging that teacher in me. If they were engrossed in a book, I refrained from assigning a book report. Instead, we talked about what they were learning, extending and applying what they read, but no book reports unless they asked for it.
Look at their activities objectively. Even if it doesn’t look like they are learning, maybe they are.
I boiled my teaching job down to two essentials: teach them how to read and encourage a love of reading. But they can’t be reading all the time. When you start to panic, just remind yourself that you are on the right track.
2. Build internal motivation.
A child will do what interests him. Ask him what he wants to learn about: the stars? photography? rocks? horses? music? animation? World War II? The world is our classroom, and there is much more to learn than anyone can in a lifetime, so let him or her pick the topic.
Next, go to the library and check out books and videos related to his interests. This shows you value him while it gives him the opportunity to read, research, and develop his interests. After the library, research the Internet. If he continues to show interest, find field trips, experts and classes to go even deeper.
You will be surprised how much science, social studies, English, and math will be absorbed in letting your child follow his interests. When that interest dies, let him pick another. And of course, more than one interest can be going at once.
Even if his interests are a little “out of the box,” that’s OK. The point is to nurture, not discourage, his love of learning.
3. Avoid yelling, threatening, or punishing.
Negative motivation just doesn’t work in the long run. Since we were a homeschooling family, I was mom and teacher all rolled into one. If I lost the hearts of my children, I would lose them on both fronts.
Now my kids are young adults, ages 21, 18, and 16. We respect each other because I always respected them. They listen to me because I listened to them. And they don’t harbor resentment or anger from the way they were treated as children.
4. Use bribes sparingly.
I used tradition motivators (check charts, candy, money, trips) when the internal motivation was just not there. This would include certain workbooks and chores.
If done sparingly, bribes are useful, and can be fun.
That’s it! Four principles for motivating your learners.
What would you add? How do you motivate your young learners?