This website is dedicated to motivating learning. But I would argue that learning is intrinsically motivating and I bet you agree with me.
The homeschool subjects that I have no trouble motivating myself to teach are those that enable me to learn along with my children. In fact, when I learn something new, I often become so enthralled that I begin telling others about it and surfing the web to learn more. In the process, I sometimes forget about my children’s education completely! They will ask me questions about the new exciting subject and I may put them off until my own curiosity is satisfied. My bad. But aren’t we hoping to motivate our children to be that kind of lifelong learner?
For this reason, Mystery of History is one of my favorite resources. Somehow, in all my years of education, I never learned world history. Because I didn’t, each and every lesson is new and exciting for me. Even if I had no children to teach at home, I would read these fantastic volumes. They fascinate me! Sometimes I have to keep from reading ahead.
You may be thinking, “That’s nice for you, Melanie, but what does this have to do with motivation?” Well, notice that the only reason I am so motivated to study history is because I am learning something new. I don’t think I’m that unusual. Okay, I AM unusual, but not in that way. People naturally love to learn new things. For example, what are your children most interested in: playing the same old games or a brand new game? Would they rather watch a movie they’ve seen three times or a brand new film? Granted, some children are afraid of new things, but that reaction is only typical of kids who’ve experienced failure. Children have a natural curiosity and learning is immensely satisfying to them.
How can we apply this truth to improve our homeschools?
- If your students aren’t motivated, consider that they may not be learning anything new. Completing workbook pages full of exercises on a topic you already understand is not motivating. Making mistakes on tests or quizzes doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t know the material; your kids just may not care to demonstrate proficiency in a subject that has become boring.
- Try a curriculum that teaches new material or the old material in a new way. This flexibility is a huge advantage of homeschooling. Before committing financially, borrow materials from a homeschooling friend, check out books from a library or co-op, or surf the web to find new facts. If the test drive is effective, you may want to change your approach or decide to change things up on a regular basis.
- Find information that is new to you. Excitement is contagious. My children enjoy history so much because they see how excited I get about it. If you use materials that you would read even if you didn’t have children, you’re moving in the right direction. My recommendation is that you share the material with your kids right away before the enthusiasm is gone. For example, if I learn something in my personal devotions that I am excited about, I will skip our Bible curriculum for the day and teach the new insight.
- Allow your students to satisfy their curiosity. Stopping in the middle of a lesson to allow kids to watch videos on something that strikes their fancy can drive orderly homeschoolers nuts! But just as it’s my natural inclination to dig deeper into a subject in the moment, it’s our children’s too. Keep making progress in the curriculum, but allow for fascinating pit stops along the way.
- Consider challenging your students. Sometimes the problem isn’t that the material isn’t new, but that it doesn’t push them out of their comfort zone. It’s new, but it’s too easy. I remember being in an honors writing course in second grade. The projects they expected us to complete seemed out of the realm of possibility. But because the teachers said I could do it, I gave it a shot and I remember the writing I did to this day.
- Add a student to your classroom. Like a flock of chickens eating around you, a student who is hungry to learn will motivate your student to study, too. We have all kinds of toys and sports equipment at our house that lay dormant until another kid comes over to play. His or her interest in what there is to do motivates my children like no amount of encouragement from me. Even having a friend (or Dad!) take part in your school for a day can reignite a love for learning.
- Have your students share what they’ve learned. When I learn something new, I can’t keep my mouth shut about it. Our students are the same way, but often don’t have the outlets for sharing that adults do. Consider having a sharing time at dinner with dad, calling or emailing Grandma every week, or creating a homeschool newsletter or blog. My children are also motivated to give reports for co-op or to teach the younger kids what they’ve learned.
- Learn from your homeschool colleagues. One of my favorite things to do is talk to other homeschoolers about curriculum they love or subjects they’re studying. If you don’t regularly communicate with other homeschoolers about what you’re learning, may I commend it to you? With the web, we have so many opportunities to learn from one another.
What new information are you learning this year that can help you be a motivated homeschooler?