How to Keep Your Students Motivated
You might be sitting with a cup of coffee in your hand as you feel overwhelmed by all of your failed attempts to keep your homeschooled child motivated. I understand; I feel your pain. When a child is born, we as parents have all these visions about that child, and we can imagine how the future should unfold. We can see them graduate from a dream college, and start an amazing career. Then the child starts preschool or kindergarten and our sand castle starts to fall apart. The well-planned path becomes bumpy, and the ride is not so enjoyable. You are exhausted and don't know what to do.
I probably won't resolve all of your worries, but I would like to cheer for you because you are an excellent parent. You are trying to do the best for your child, but there will still be days when things don't turn out as you had hoped.
My first disappointment surfaced when I had to face the fact that my daughter had slow motor skills, and she ended up in a special-ed program in Kindergarten. She was an intelligent child who spoke two languages, but she was slow in reading and writing. Today she is blossoming. She will never be a read-aloud champion, but she is good at other things. That's what matters.
Many of us overlook a problem because we hurt, or because we want our children to be perfect. We want them to be successful in life. With this helicopter parent attitude, we can produce more harm than help. When it comes to education, sometimes the most pressing question is: “How can I keep my child motivated?” Here are nine solutions that I encourage you to explore:
#1 The first and most important step is to get to know your child.
He or she may not be like you. That little bundle of joy has his/her own personality. (Oh boy!) He might be a great athlete, or he may not even be interested in playing a game of catch. He might be artistic, or he might just like to draw on your walls. Learning and accepting the strengths and weaknesses of your child is the first step towards being able to keep your student motivated.
#2 If your child is hyperactive, let him use an exercise ball as a chair.
My son hates sitting in a chair when he studies, so we got him an exercise ball. He lays on the ball and rolls back and forth while memorizing information. His hands are always busy with something. I was disappointed when it first became clear he couldn’t sit still. I was born and raised in Romania under communism, and rolling around on a ball was not part of “the five-year plan”. We always had to sit still without moving around. I had to learn to relax and accept the fact that there are other ways to study. As long as the task gets done, it doesn't matter if he’s stationary or fidgety.
#3. It is okay if your child needs to take frequent breaks.
Set a timer for five or ten minutes and let him run around. Sometimes kids need to get energy out to focus.
#4. If a child doesn't understand something after reading it, then he/she might be a kinesthetic or verbal learner.
Some children don't process what they read silently. They either need to read it out loud or they need a hands-on approach. There is nothing wrong with a different kind of learning. We must acknowledge the fact that our children are unique creations in order to help them succeed.
#5 Trust your child.
As kids grow, they want to become more independent. They want to work alone. Children don't like parents looking over their shoulders. There is a good reason why we as parents do it: we want to be in control. Years ago my daughter needed lots of help with a major life change: she started a new school. I helped her get used to the new school, and after a while, she took over. It was tough to step back and watch. If a student wants to try to be independent, demonstrate how things should be done, and then give them more freedom. They can be unsupervised as long as their grades are satisfactory. Treat children the way you would treat adults, and they will respond positively. The gift of independence can be highly effective when you are struggling to keep your student motivated.
#6 Responsibility goes hand in hand with trust.
We need to teach our kids responsibility. I remember going to preschool at age four, and warming soup on a gas stove top. Today we hardly let our children near the stove. We take such control because we don't want them to get burnt. I did burn myself as a child, and it taught me to be more careful. How are we going to teach children that the stove is hot if we never let them go close to one?
Challenge your student by making educational tasks into a game: Reward accomplishments with a visual goal: if he succeeds in completing a lesson with an ‘A’, give him a marble to put into a jar. Once the jar is filled, take him to the movie of his choice, take him out for ice cream, or spend some quality time together.
Those moments will be remembered years later. First give them small responsibilities, then bigger ones. Let them fail so they can learn how to overcome.
#7 Examine what’s happening in your child’s life.
When your child doesn’t care, it is hard to keep your student motivated. There is a deeper reason why children don’t want to study. It can be a sudden move, a divorce, PTSD, past bullying, depression, or another issue. A sudden lack of motivation could be a warning sign to parents that there is a problem. Some people don’t want to go to therapy or ask for outside help, but in many cases it may be the best option. It might feel like your child is pushing you away, but that’s all the more reason to give love and encouragement. The pressure of a situation can be so suffocating that schoolwork is just too much to manage. Lovingly approach your child, and give him an opportunity to talk about his struggles or frustrations. Ask for prayer and support from church members or friends that you trust.
#8 “KEEP OUT!”
All parents know what this means. You can’t let children isolate themselves in the icy island of their room. Behind the sign of “KEEP OUT!”, “No Trespassing”, or “Enter at your own risk” there is a child who is asking for help.
I came to this conclusion when I read the note of my struggling teenager saying: “I want to come out of my shell. I want to tell someone I need a hug. I am frozen inside. I need a hug! But I am sitting in my room alone, crying. No one knows how lonely I am. I don’t have the strength to tell anybody how much I need a true friend. I am afraid to open up to others. I thought I was coming out from that ugly darkness, but I feel that I am sinking into it again. I need someone to listen to me and understand me. People think that I am all happy, but inside I am afraid and sad. I don’t know how to talk about these things.” Many teenagers feel the same way. Keep telling your child that you are there for them and that you love them (even if they are rolling their eyes).
If you feel the need to “intrude” on a reclusive child, don't ignore your instinct. Children may see talking about their problems as a sign of weakness. Take the time to sit down with your child and tell her that you know something is not right.
Teens are little blossoms that need nurturing to survive the hormonal changes that interfere with their emotions. Facing their fears in the safety of their home will keep teens on task in school. They will begin to feel motivated as the pressure lifts off their chests.
#9 Try to have fun.
There is a reason why you decided to homeschool. Show your child that it was the best decision. Always have a positive attitude and never treat your child as if homeschooling is a burden to you. It was your decision. Make it fun with games, and time set aside for getting to know each other. You will be surprised to realize that there is so much that you don't know about one another.
#10 Build memories.
Homeschooling is special. You have time to build memories. Take weekly pictures of the work and activities you do with your child. In an online setting, many things have to be typed out, but if there is a chance to take an assignment to the next level, do it. If they have to write about the walls of Jericho, it doesn't have to be boring. You can build a scene or you can make a video and share it with the teachers. I am sure they will appreciate the creativity.
It’s understandable that sometimes students lose motivation to complete their schoolwork. Although you don't have to worry about the curriculum, you still have to keep your student motivated. Understanding your child’s learning style, and incorporating activities, ideas, games can make online schooling more colorful.
Enlightium Academy is a fully accredited online Christian school that offers students the opportunity to be schooled at home, in their own learning environment, while working at their own pace through an award-winning curriculum.