How do you keep them motivated? It’s a legitimate question and we have all asked, hoping for not just an answer but maybe a magic formula that will keep our kids focused and on task. As a homeschooling mom I often feel like I’m failing if my kids are not pumped for the day’s lessons or if they drag their feet. If they aren’t excited about their school work I must be doing something wrong, right?
Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that it isn’t all my fault and I am not really doing anything wrong but could be doing some things better. Below is a list of things a mom can consider when planning her children’s school days, giving everyone potential for staying motivated.
But remember this – each child is unique with different needs, talents and abilities. Every mom is unique with different needs, talents and abilities. Put them together and you have an infinite number of variables, possibilities and outcomes. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it here again – no two families will homeschool in the same way. And that’s okay, that’s the way it should be!
Vary the order of studies – if you’ve always started the school day with math, then spelling, then science, change things up this year. What about starting with science? It may jumpstart their brains and set them up for success the rest of the day. If your child gets groggy after lunch and won’t focus on his language lesson, try swapping places with something from earlier in the day.
Doing the same ol’ same ol’ day in and day out can be a good way to create routine (some kids thrive on that, I know) but our brains can get lazy and run on auto-pilot. Changing the order of school lessons may be just the thing to fire up those neurons and liven up the brain.
Choose your timing wisely – Plan the lessons that are most difficult for the time of day when your child is the most alert. Some children are slow waker-uppers. Some are wide away the moment their feet hit the floor. If she’s not fully awake until after she’s had breakfast and a little quiet time to herself, don’t try forcing those tedious phonics lessons until her brain in fully in gear. Maybe read aloud time would be better first thing.
Do you have little ones who nap mid-morning or mid-afternoon? That’s a great time to tackle those one-on-one lessons with your older child. I remember saving the messy projects or hands-on lessons for naptime when required assembling things with tiny pieces or mixing concoctions of some sort. With toddlers in the house we were were able to get a lot more accomplished when they were napping.
Does Dad have an unusual work schedule? My daughter sometimes does school with her kids on Saturdays because her husband sometimes works weekends. They take the week days off school when he’s home. Just because the neighbors send their kids to school Monday-Friday from 8 to 3 does not mean that’s the schedule that’s right for you.
The element of surprise – when the weather is pleasant, announce that math class will take place on the back deck. On National Coffee Day, surprise the kids with a trip to the local coffee house and take your school work along with you. Enjoy a cuppa and spread out the papers and make memories.
Tossing out something they don’t expect every now and then will keep them on their toes. If you’ve had an exceptional week of good attitudes and hard work, take a spontaneous field trip to the nearby museum or invite friends to meet you at the apple orchard.
My kids love new school supplies. Saving some back to distribute mid-year is a great way to give new life to old lessons. A shiny new box of crayons or newly sharpened colored pencils, maybe a pristine notebook that still has that new paper smell – these make old school books seem not so boring.
Give your student options – As you plan out your school year, take into consideration what your child’s interests are. What would they like to study? What gets them excited? Include something in your school plans that really floats their boat, if you know what I mean.
Ask their opinion on the order of your days. Even young children can tell you when they are feeling good and when they have the most energy. Ask them for help in setting the routines of the day as you enter your school year. Their wisdom just might surprise you!
Checklists – It doesn’t have to be super detailed (though it can be if that what motivates them) but just seeing those little boxes fill up with check marks can give your child that sense of satisfaction and helps them see he’s making progress.
You can list out the subjects for each day of the week, or have them mark on your lesson plan pages when they finish an assignment. I recommend letting the children make the marks – there’s nothing better than that feeling you get when you mark something off your to-do list! You could use a computer program or spreadsheet if you wish. There are so many available now.
Add in the fun factor – Have you ever tried Fun School? In the life of a child, living is learning. Really. Sitting at a table or desk, working at pulling knowledge out of books all day long, regurgitating information onto paper is really not all there is to a well-rounded education.
Take advantage of opportunities in your community – programs offered at national parks and museums. Visit local attractions like apple orchards, historic sites, a nearby pond.
Designate Friday as Game Day and play math games and word games. Quiz each other and have a little competition if that’s something that motivates your kids. Or let them be the teacher for the day and you be the student. That will teach you both something!
My kids used to memorize poems while jump roping or jumping on trampoline. They were having fun and their brains were engaged at the same time.
Make time for physical activity and fresh air – Children need plenty of both of these, no matter what age. And so does mom! It’s been popular in recent years for schools to cut back on recess time in order to squeeze more academics into the day. The studies are showing, though, that children actually learn better when they have opportunity to be up and about, using their muscles and moving their bodies. A little sunshine and fresh air is good for the brain and for their emotional state.
When my son was beginning formal school work he would get antsy and would not focus on our lessons so I tried an experiment. I kept lessons short, 15 to 20 minutes, then sent him outside. I told him to run around the house 3 times, or swing and slide for until I rang the bell. He would come in, grab a drink of water and be ready to sit for another short lesson. This worked beautifully. As he grew and matured, his lessons stretched out and he learned to stay on task for longer periods of time.
How do you keep your children motivated? I know my list is not exhaustive. I’d love to hear your ideas!
Speaking of ideas, this post is a part of a the Back to School Blog Hop series with the Homeschool Review Crew. You can see all my posts in this series here. You’ll also get all sorts of ideas from my fellow crew mates on this Motivation Monday in the 5 Days of Homeschool Encouragement – I hope you’ll join us!