Here we are, just a few weeks into 2011 and I’m totally rethinking everything I planned for our homeschool this year.
I do this every January. No matter how much I research and plan, something doesn’t quite work out right.
But this year it wasn’t just the curriculum that needed an overhaul…but us.
I knew it when my dear hubby threatened to send our 10-year-old to public school last week. The 10-year-old with a 13-year-old mouth. The wise-cracking, eye-rolling, smarty pants that makes every conversation a painful lesson in just how the English language can be turned around on you. And he’s teaching his siblings.
This is my payback for being a sarcastic smarty-pants myself. (Sorry, Mom!)
He’s also lazy. Yes, I said it. I know you’re not supposed to say negative things about your children because it might permanently harm their self-esteem…but the child is lazy.
Again, I can probably blame my own laziness for that. The kid definitely has my genes.
But the conclusion I’ve come to is this: this child is not highly motivated and unless I put a fire under his butt, he will not succeed. He needs someone to lovingly hold his feet to the coals. Seriously. Because, left to his own devices, he will do the absolute minimum he needs to do to get by. And he is capable of so much more. And his attitude is beginning to rub off on his 7-year-old sister.
For the past four years I’ve read a lot of homeschooling books, magazines, articles, blogs, etc., etc. You know those articles that extol the virtues of being able to learn on your own schedule and not having to fit into a preconceived plan for this or that based on your child’s age or state standards. We don’t need to sit the little tykes at little wooden desks in a classroom full of 30 kids the same age with a chalkboard, a posted schedule, bells ringing every 30 minutes, assessments every month, etc., etc. We can do delight directed learning. We can even do unschooling. Our children are natural learners. They are motivated. They will learn all they really need to know. Let them lead the way. They have to learn how to organize their own learning to be life-long learners anyway. No time like the present. Give them the reins and they will show you what they can do, right?
Not every child.
Some children will choose not to learn. Or they’ll learn the absolute minimum.
Think about it. Man didn’t develop an alphabet and learn to write until he found that he needed to. Our whole human history is a testament to both breath-taking technological advances and merely getting by. Does the average person write a book, invent something or even find a new way to fold their clothes?
While most children have a natural curiosity and willingness to learn about the world in which they live, there are some things you won’t leave to chance. I can’t imagine Christian parents leaving their child’s learning the Faith to chance, can you? Our creator gave us our lives and our faith, but also our minds. He gave us the ability to embrace his creation and to inhale deeply the knowledge to be found there. But our fallen nature makes our ability to accept this imperfect. We need a push in the right direction. As my 5-year-old would say, sometimes we even need a “butt-kicking machine.”
We need external motivation. At least I do. And my children do.
I don’t disagree that some children are highly motivated and can thrive in an unschooling environment, choosing their own course of study, eventually learning all they need to know.
But they aren’t all like that. Some of them are simply not motivated to learn useful skills. Let’s face it, you’re not going to be all you can be if you want to sit and play Lego all day.
There is no earthly way my 10-year-old is going to voluntarily learn the times tables, for instance. I gotta get out my butt-kicking machine (I need to use it on myself, too). And yeah, I’m going to stick it to him with rote memorization. For some things it absolutely does work. We’ve tried to do it the easy way. We’ve tried to just practice here, there and everywhere, but the fact is that no matter how many cool worksheets or activities you come up with, there isn’t enough time in a life to learn the math facts that way, not if you aren’t truly motivated.
There is no way any of my children are going to be counting on their fingers when they get out into the world on their own. No way. We can talk up the convenience of calculators and smart phones, but there is true value in being able to do figures in your head. It improves the quality of your life. It improves your ability to reason. And these are skills that I have probably used every single day of my adult life. And I certainly used them with every job I ever had. I certainly use them while teaching, cooking, shopping for food…I won’t leave my kids handicapped in this area simply because it is easier than dealing with the eternal grumbling, crying, moaning and groaning. I won’t sit by and watch them fail.
Not all work is fun, folks. Sometimes the problem is not the work itself or even how you are doing it, but how you approach it with your heart.
I personally don’t like washing dishes. But it has to be done every day, multiple times a day. I can choose to approach it with a song in my heart…or I can be all resentful about it. My kiddos haven’t figured out yet that it goes much easier with a positive attitude. They think if they moan and groan enough, they’ll get out of it.
And that’s my fault, I’ve let them get out of it too often, because it was hard work to do otherwise. And I’m lazy. And weak willed. I need to be motivated and I’m finding that motivation.
This past week has been a pretty good week for us. I’ve been getting up earlier. We’ve been starting school around 9 am each day and finishing before 2 pm. We’ve even revamped the workboxes idea and we’ve been getting so much done! In fact, I’m going to add more to their workboxes next week. I’ve seen the light. A couple of months ago I thought the problem was that I was pushing too hard. Turns out I wasn’t pushing hard enough. I’m finding the strength through prayer to deal with the grumbling. Making myself into a morning person is a real struggle, though. Staying organized, is a pain…but very much worth it. The simple fact that I’m prepared, completely prepared, every morning, with their assignments ready in hand has greatly cut down on the battle-of-wills. Juggling 3 different levels of learning, plus a toddler who’s trying to tear the whole house down, definitely a challenge. But, through the Grace of God, I can do this. And so can you.
What tips do you have for keeping your kiddos motivated?