/ 4.10.11 / 12 Comments /

Motivating Your Kids to Learn



Ever asked yourself how to inspire your kids to give you their very best? How do you motivate your kids to want to add 'quality adjectives' or 'strong verbs' to a paragraph you've just assigned them to write for the week?   Or to even write at all!

It takes one simple tool--the right motivation.  The trick is figuring out what that is....

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Teaching the girls in our homeschool co-op this month has been eye-opening for sure! These aren't my kids, so I can't just say, "Do this or else." And really... who wants to do that..even to your own kids?

We want our kids to like learning. But even you didn't enjoy every subject, did you? No, of course not.  Our favorite subjects were about things we had a passion for or that came easily to us.



In my class, I have five young teenage girls and most of them at least like writing. Only one girl has a real passion for it though; she will certainly be a great writer someday. My class will refine her skills, but I won't have to motivate her.

My son, Jacob is a great writer too. He's on the 165th typed page of an action novel set in the days of Vikings, Goths, and Huns.  History is his other passion (and weapons of course. )  This novel is just the culmination of years of writing for fun...reams and reams of handwritten pages. He's a story-teller too, so writing came naturally to him.

Teaching these kids to write well is a no-brainer.

On the other hand, for one of my girls, this is just another assignment. I wanted to see her get excited but it would take some work.



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Helping my students stay focused on doing quality work, week after week, requires some creative thinking.  The curriculum I'm using, Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons  from the Institute for Excellence in Writing, had some pretty innovative ideas. One is to give the girls raffle tickets for every quality adjective or strong verb they add to their paragraphs.  Another is to give them extra credit for intriguing or captivating sentences.

They will spend their raffle tickets  this Christmas, spring, and at the end of the year for goodies I've been picking up on clearance during weekly shopping trips.  Our recent business trip to San Antonio  also added to my stock of prizes.  I've already shown the girls several of my treasures and they can't wait for 'the store'. I wish you could see their smiling faces!




The curriculum also suggests:
  • Review Games
  • Extra Credit Ideas
  • Drawing smiley faces on well constructed sentences to indicate that you want them to read them out loud to their peers.
My girls work HARD and guess who benefits most? That's right--the girls. They are focused on quality writing week after week. The improvement in their writing has amazed me!

On the other hand, tutoring my neighbor's son one summer to get him ready for first grade proved to be even more challenging! For a five year old in the country who loved to play all day with trucks in the sand in his underpants, school was about as appealing as putting on clothes!


But he did LOVE my barn...  Climbing the rungs to the loft in that barn had been his dream for a long time. Every day, after he had written his 'letters' for the day..ON the line..not ABOVE it or below it,  and after he had done his math assignment (using plastic trucks and cars from the school supply store for manipulatives), he would make a bee-line for the barn!  

I knew he loved trucks, so guess what his first readers were all about.. That's right. I worked with his interests.


Sometimes, even the barn loft was not enough. To keep him motivated, since he was a wee bit stubborn at times, I also made a treasure chest like the ones at the dentist office. Do you remember those?  Dentists are smart cookies! They know that kids enjoy the dentist's office almost as much as the doctor's office.  

(Screaming, kicking child...exit stage right.)

That little guy would do just about anything for a chance at the itty bitty toys in my treasure box....





What about older teens? Well, my youngest son is 17 and has a very laid back approach to life.  (Translate: Doesn't always get his work done in a timely manner.) He loves to learn, but he doesn't care for some subjects at all...especially literature.

This year, I signed us up for a homeschool co-op called Tapestry.  For him, the solution was accountability... and a chance for socialization.. Because it was assigned, he's now reading Till We Have Faces, Beowulf, and Dante's Inferno. He discovered that he actually LIKES some of this 'stuff'! We just needed to find the right motivation.




Whether your child is home-schooled or public-schooled, there is usually a creative way to get them on board.  Motivation is the key. :o)

I'm sure our readers would love to hear how you motivate your kids to do their work. What works best for your family? 


  For more ideas visit eHow Family.
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12 comments:

Natasha in Oz said...

I follow the ehow tweets and always find so much grest stuff on their site. I really appreciate your words of wisdom here too.

It's so great to see you blogging again...your way, your terms, your time frame. Good on you Donna!

Best wishes for a wonderful week,
Natasha.
xo

Needled Mom said...

Just checking in here, Donna. I was glad to see that you haven't given up blogging while I was away.

We have always loved our trips to San Antonio. I can almost taste the delicious food at a Mexican restaurant along the Riverwalk.

Donna said...

It is good food! (As long as you hit the RIGHT restaurant of course!) I loved the Mexican music and the beautiful sights along the riverwalk.

No, I haven't given up, I'm just going slower. Very busy with school and our co-op. But I'm getting back in the swing of things. :o)

So glad you dropped by!

Floss said...

Hello - so interesting, in terms of the French education system. I like all your ideas and find them helpful. What's really making me think is the training day I attended on Saturday. This was for my language school - we teach business French to adults. The trainer was finishing up a three-day course. He's French but he's a 'business coach', so he's quite up on American thinking too. He felt that it was not a teacher's place to feel guilty about an unmotivated trainee. Ultimately, he said, the only one who can motivate a learner is the learner him or herself. Of course he was talking about adults. And of course, too, he wasn't advocating boring, impersonal lessons - quite the opposite. But he WAS trying to stop some of us from feeling guilty when our best efforts had little effect. I wonder what you think?

Donna said...

I like your insights Floss. But I think you are right. We have to differentiate between kids and adults. Adults are responsible for their own learning of course.

I do think that most motivation should be internal, but as parents, we can do a lot to inspire our kids, when they are having difficulties. It's our job to 'equip' our kids and sometimes they just need a little inspiration.

A teacher who loves teaching..and cares about her students can do MUCH to motivate them or inspire them. This is a heartfelt belief for most homeschoolers.

Frankly, I will never ever forget the teachers in my public school and college who cared. They loved what they taught, they loved teaching, and they loved us.

If you have all of that, and a child is still not motivated, then you should certainly NOT feel guilty. :o)

There is a real balance to be maintained here. I didn't feel it was 100% my responsibility to motivate her. There was a bit of an attitude involved that had nothing to do with me.

But as I created enthusiasm and inspiration in our group...she came along for the fun. It took a month, but yesterday, she was smiling and seemed to really care.

What is great about motivation and reward, is that it can bring about better results in the long run. All of us respond to praise and it makes us want to do better.

That being said, if a teacher is giving their best, that's is ALL they need to worry about. :o)

Great input Floss!

Donna said...

Floss, by the way, you really have me interested here. Can you really inspire unmotivated adults? I think that is possible...considering all the 'motivational' speakers out there. Though perhaps this is just part of the American 'psyche'. :o)

It's hard for me to imagine anyone paying money and attending a course and not being motivated..unless they had to do it for some 'requirement'. Quite a fascinating scenario!

Let me know how your class goes! It sounds like a fascinating course to teach.

Countrymama said...

As usual this post came at a perfect time for me. Aiden has hit the "I don't want to and you can't make me" stage of being four. For all that I love him, some times teaching him is the last thing I want to do at that moment. I've had about all I can take of playing trucks and Thomas 24/7 and every game we have he's mastered. I had to come up with something to keep his interest and not cost anything so I went searching. What I found works perfectly for both of us, online preschool learning games. I work the mouse and he taps the screen..neither one of us gets bored and we get to cuddle in the process. He wakes up every morning bounding with energy ready to learn and I get to keep some sanity. Great post Donna!

Donna said...

I understand Jaime. It is hard when they don't 'want to'. Especially at his age. Preschool, for us, was mostly just teaching them to sit and 'do school' for a little bit. I always aimed to have them work about five minutes longer than they wanted to.

My goal in pre-school, was just to make them do something educational according to my instructions. Coloring with 'right' colors. Or outlining the picture. Or just sorting 2 beans in every slot of an ice cube tray. These all were tasks that they might not like, but we did it and just a little bit longer than they wanted to.

What did this do beyond education? Teach them to obey the teacher..and stretch their attention span.

You can't educate a child who won't obey. So that part comes first. The kink is if it's not your child. This was my problem with Jake. :o)

Hang in there. Pre-school should be fun..as well as allow for some training for 'real' school.

Olga said...

Hello Donna,
Great article with many interesting motivating ideas. I especially like the one with the raffle tickets.
I do math tutoring, and I often see really smart children who only need a bit of motivation to do well.

Sara said...

This had great ideas. We had raffle tickets as a kid that we could turn in and I always loved it.

Lorraine said...

difficult one

Caroline said...

I remember during my years of teaching public school this was always an issue! Of course, the excitement of the teacher did help, as well as humor, but with 25-30 kids you weren't going to interest all of them. That's the ideal with home schooling is you can be one on one (or one on a few) and really fly with their interests (like your little guy with trucks) Fortunately goose loves school so far but academically he is far ahead (in English at least) but he has learned alot of spanish vocabulary ... I'm sure we'll encounter something someday he isn't excited about.

My students always loved when the math problems included them .... in a funny sort of situation.

“There's nothing half so pleasant as coming home again.” ~ Margaret Sangster
Welcome to Comin' Home! If you lived nearby, I'd invite you over to my neck of the woods for a nice long chat and a cup of tea out on the deck. But since we can't do that, I hope you'll stay and look around. I love learning new things and sharing what I learn with friends. Comin' Home is where I share tips from my many projects. Let's have some fun together! XO Donna

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