High levels of motivation to learn will automatically develop in your children when they are treated well, respected, encouraged and when their schoolwork has meaning to them. Home school teachers who understand how to motivate a student can greatly enhance the education experience and performance of their children.
Most home schooled children are normally bright and inquisitive, and have a high motivation to learn - but all children go through phases when they are uninterested or, perhaps, lazy. If you find your child in one of these stages, do not despair. There are many things you can do to try to regain your child’s excitement for learning.
Ways to increase a student’s motivation to learn:
Achievable goals - Encourage your child to focus on their continued improvement, not just on their grade for any one test or assignment. Help them evaluate their progress by encouraging them to critique their own work, analyze their strengths and work on their weaknesses.
Difficulty level - Ensure opportunities for your child’s success by assigning tasks that are neither too easy nor too difficult.
Enthusiasm - An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in a student’s motivation to learn. If you act bored or apathetic, your children will too. Challenge yourself to think of the most exciting way to present the material to your children.
Fast feedback - Give your child feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a child’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good. Giving frequent, early, positive feedback will support a student’s belief that they can do well.
Fun - Kids love sports because they are fun, exciting, sometimes thrilling and highly emotional. Learning experiences for kids can and should provide just as much enjoyment and satisfaction as do sports. We sometimes think that some learning tasks are by necessity, boring (like memorization of definitions, grammar, vocabulary or spelling), but this might just reflect a lack of creativity on our part. Use your imagination and you can make learning fun for your child.
High expectations - Hold high but realistic expectations for your students. Research has shown that a teacher’s expectations have a powerful effect on a student’s performance. If you act as though you expect your students to be motivated, hardworking and interested in the material, they are more likely to be so.
Increase difficulty progressively - Ensure that the task is of an appropriate level of challenge for your child’s age and ability level. If it is too easy, the student will be bored and unmotivated. A level of difficulty above the student’s ability could lead to frustration and giving up. Give your child opportunities to succeed at the beginning of the year. Once students feel they can succeed, you can gradually increase the difficulty level. If assignments and exams include easy and hard questions, your child will have a chance to experience success as well as challenge.
Outside the classroom - It has been said that most learning takes place outside the classroom. This is good news for home schoolers. We still need to remember to prime our children to continue learning after they’re done with their formal schoolwork, to prepare them to be aware and to ask them to apply concepts in their lives as they go about their day.
Positive atmosphere - Create an atmosphere that is open and positive.
Reward success - Praise builds your children’s self-confidence, competence and self-esteem. Recognize sincere efforts from your child even if the product is less than stellar. Use praise liberally. Reward for effort and improvement and not just for the outcome. When kids play sports, the game provides a constant flow of accomplishments and the enjoyment of those accomplishments. Even the sports team that ultimately loses enjoys an occasional strikeout, a base hit or a well-caught fly ball. Home schooling parents should try to replicate this stream of small but constant ego rewards in their child’s lessons. Breaking learning into small pieces that can be mastered and that will produce a feeling of accomplishment and success will help motivate students to go forward, even through very difficult material.
Strengths and interests - The task should be meaningful and relevant to the learner. Students often comment, “Why do I have to learn about…? I’ll never use this when I grow up!?” Find out what your children are interested in and how they feel about the subject matter. Be sure to tailor their lessons so that your child will be able to fully explore the subjects that interest them most. Also, be sure to explain how the content of their schoolwork will help them to achieve their educational, professional or personal goals.
Student choices - Students will be more motivated to engage in a task if they have some say in what the task is, how it is to be carried out and presented. The less controlling the teacher, the more motivation to learn the student will have. When possible, let students have some say in choosing what will be studied. Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let students decide between two locations for the field trip, or have them select which topics to explore in greater depth.
Teamwork - People are generally sociable and like being around each other. Kids usually enjoy working as a team, yet often the learning activities we assign call for individual effort. By working on some team projects with our children, we can take advantage of the benefits of teamwork, where the younger students will learn by having the older ones help. And, of course, since teaching someone something is the best way to learn, the students who teach each other will learn better than if they were learning alone.
Valued - Help students feel that they are valued members of a learning community. Again, this is very easy to do while home schooling as you are teaching your own children, whom you highly value.
Vary activities - Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the material and their motivation. Break up the routine by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods in your course: role playing, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies or small group work. Teachers should strive to make learning always at least mentally active and often physically active as well. The students should be responsible for producing something, rather than just sitting passively, soaking up the presentation.
Teachers definitely have the ability to increase the motivation to learn in their students. Many of these behaviors come naturally for home schooling parents; however, if you find your child lacking motivation, be sure to give some of these suggestions a try!
Michelle is a home schooling mom, and the author of several home schooling publications including Learn & Grow: Hands-On Lessons for Active Preschoolers, Teach Me About God: Hands-On Bible Lessons for Active Preschoolers and Time Capsule: Medieval England. For more information about these books, visit her website, www.homeschool-your-boys.com.
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