How to motivate homeschooled kids for powerful results

Let me just say this:  *I* do not motivate my kid.  “Kid” singular–because I don’t actually educate Girly at all yet.  But BigGuy is 10 and would be entering 5th grade and I regularly see posts from parents who “can’t get their kid to do anything”.

Totally been there.

But I’m usually dealing with that kind of stuff when I’m shoving my own educational agenda down my son’s throat.  And really, if I wanted that kind of experience for him, I could’ve put him in a school… amiright?

So here we go… now what do you do, right?  Why not let your kids decide?  One message board post today expressed frustration with a 4th grader that wanted to do his 6th grade brother’s math work.  So what?  If he’s not capable he will soon find out and either decide to do the foundation work needed or will realize it’s just not where he’s at.

BigGuy willingly working on Cell Biology homework after 6 hours of being in Cell Biology class.
BigGuy willingly working on Cell Biology homework after 6 hours of being in Cell Biology class.

When my kid pushes back, I have to really ask myself the following:

1) How does this particular thing contribute to my child’s stated desires and goals?  If it DOES contribute, I just need to explain the “how” to him.

2) If it doesn’t contribute, is it something he NEEDS to learn?  Like, ever?  I’m sorry, but my son never needs to learn that papyrus was one of the first wannabe paper products.  It will serve no useful purpose in his life.  Same for the year of any given battle of the American Revolution.

3) Let’s assume he NEEDS to learn it.  Does he NEED to learn it NOW?  In the grand scheme of things, is it something that “needs to be learned before being an independent adult” and therefore can maybe wait 2, 3 or even 5 years?  Who NEEDS to read before the age of 9?

4) Okay… you get past all of that and decide it’s something they NEED to learn NOW.  Well, then your challenge becomes the METHOD of teaching it.  Because the current method is clearly NOT working.

Out of the box thinking, y’all.  It requires a serious willingness to step outside of the mainstream and their expectations about what a child should learn and when.  Believe it or not, that is not exactly as cut and dry as the education community would have you believe.  Sorry, folks–but even among your very own children, some will do addition at 4 and some won’t do it until they’re 10.  As long as they can do it by the time they have to balance a check book, does it matter?


3 thoughts on “How to motivate homeschooled kids for powerful results

  1. I love this entry! We are the same way. I start with my kids’ current abilities and scaffold up from there, sticking to main skills (the 4 functions of math, for example, being able to read for content and meaning, and being aware of the world around them) and move out from those basics as their interest and growing abilities dictate. As an adult, I’ve never needed to figure out the slope of a line, and at 43 I don’t envision I will need to any time soon 😉


  2. Every year, I would involve my son in planning his curriculum for the year. We had non-negotiables – math, grammar, spelling, reading, writing, science, and history and then the areas where he could have some say – languages, logic, art, music and anything else he was interested in learning. It resulted in him studying Chinese in 7th grade along with Latin, Spanish, and French (I know…the kid is a language and math genious. He’s 17 and in public school now…and blows me away all the time)… and that was fine. He studied Jazz, he studied classical music – but it was all his choice. When we’d sit down and plan out how our weeks would go, I had him give his input – what times he thought were better for him to work on different subjects. It kept him really motivated becaues even though (we did th classical method as you can tell) there was a lot to cover…because he felt he had ownership over the material, the pacing, and the projects he’d do…he’d get really excited about the year. Not every day was perfect or without struggle…but it went a long way to getting through our material 🙂 Fridays were also fun days – so we’d do a game that would tie into language arts and a special math activity…or go on a field trip of some sort…


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