Motivating kids while schooling at home doesn’t have to be such a struggle. I suggest starting by finding an outlet your children enjoy, such as music, crafts, or one-on-one time with you. Use these to supplement their traditional learning. For age-appropriate hobby ideas, check out this article by First Cry Parenting or this one by Mom Junction. You can also utilize extrinsic rewards for staying focused and completing work. For instance, maybe they can take some time off from schoolwork, play a game, watch a movie, or cook – which all still provide opportunities for learning and are very motivating to kids. However, to make sure your children are not just rushing through and putting out low quality work just to get to the reward, remind them that you have to check their work first (and schedule that time into your day) or set boundaries so that these rewards cannot take place until a certain time of the day. And, if your child is just not feeling it one day, give extra hugs, take a longer break, or maybe just skip some assignments to get back to neutral. Motivating kids can be a challenge while schooling at home, but with some planning, students can find success.
Sometimes you may just need to take a break from schooling at home to, well, learn. Kids innately love to learn, so that can be motivating in itself. Keep in mind that not all learning requires formal lessons. Being outside in nature allows for learning about math, science, inquiry, and innovation. Movement and physical activity allows for learning about self-awareness, impulse control, nonverbal cues, and personal strength. Hearing books read aloud allows for learning about active listening, empathy, critical thinking, and debate. Baking allows for learning math, social studies, geography, and nutrition. Digging in the backyard allows for learning earth science and problem solving. Raising animals allows for learning biology, empathy, and responsibility. Gardening allows for learning about horticulture, ecosystems, life cycles, and nutrition. Providing these nontraditional learning opportunities is a great way to motivate kids while schooling at home.
For older children, lack of motivation may stem from difficulty with defining goals. Students who do not see the point of an assignment will likely regard it as “busy work,” and kids who do not see the Big Picture will probably reject the steps to get there. Start by having a discussion about goals. Help them identify something specific they want to accomplish that is meaningful to them. Suggest starting with something that is fairly simple and achievable, like saving money, before moving on to longer-term goals, like buying a car. Once you have helped them identify short- and long-term goals, encourage them to think about what has to be done to achieve them. Ask questions like: “What skills need to be learned?” and “What are some problems that might arise?” Then break it down into weekly individual goals. At the end of each week, allow time to reflect on why they did or did not meet those goals. This encourages them to think deeply about their behaviors and abilities, and allows them to view struggle as an integral part of growth and learning. All of this will help them get into a goal-oriented mindset. Then when it comes to schoolwork, encourage your children to consider “why” they are asked to do certain tasks and how they matter. For instance, why was this assignment given and what can be gained from completing it. You can suggest that your children write down these big-picture reasons and goals where it can be easily referenced while they are working.
When working through these recommended strategies, parents of tweens and teens especially may be met with some resistance. As children grow older and want to assert their independence, they may be less likely to accept the guidance of their parents. If this is the case with your children, consider utilizing a moderator. It may be helpful to have a family member or friend speak with your child, or to hire an academic coach like one of our instructors. Parenting can be tough – especially when it comes to motivating your kids – but you don’t have to do it alone!