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Behaviour Management Homeschool parenting

Motivate Homeschool Children Without Rewards

In a previous article, I described how a parent might go about setting up a reward system at home. The parents might decide to reward their child for behaving a certain way with something external like sweets, additional screen time, preferred activity or anything that would motivate them to cooperate. This is an effective way to increase desired behaviour but there are people out there that don’t enjoy the transactional concept of a reward system. They don’t like the mentality that their child will only learn if they get something they like in return. They want their child to want to learn. Well, if its ideas for this you are looking for, let me introduce you to a different kind of motivator.

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation can be explained as an inner motivation which is driven by the reward or enjoyment they get from doing the activity itself. Think about the child who practices a sport for hours or practices a musical instrument incessantly without any pressure from parents. This child is intrinsically motivated to engage with the activity. They do it because they enjoy doing it, the sense of achievement from doing it well and the feeling that they are improving at it.

As children pass through the school system, the dream can be that they make the shift from external motivators like praise, jellies and extra play time to this intrinsic motivation where they engage in learning because they love it.

How Can Parents Intrinsically Motivate Their Children?

Parents who don’t want to offer external rewards to their children to behave and learn, thankfully, have numerous options to help develop this self-motivation in their children. There is no magic formula but there are plenty of options:

Choice

As your child is being homeschooled, there is more opportunity to allow them to direct their learning. Allowing them to have partial (or total) say in how they learn over the next few weeks could provide that inner motivation they need to truly engage with tasks. Let them choose the books they read, let them choose the songs they learn, let them choose what countries they want to research. You can even let them choose when they want to learn completely. Giving the child ownership over their learning can be empowering and you may be surprised at how immersed in topics and activities they become.

Variety

If your child is not ready to choose their topics and schedule, variety is said to be the spice of life! Your child may be bored by the repetitive nature of the daily compulsory task which is dropping their motivation through the floor. Creativity is all that is needed to introduce variety. Instead of just demanding they read a book to you daily which results in a row, why don’t you record them reading and pretend your making a youtube video for other children? As opposed to learning about a country from a book, why don’t you encourage them to create a project or design a quiz about the country to give an adult later on? Your imagination is the limit on this one and, graciously, we also have the internet for a wealth of ideas.

Resources

Some children can loathe the idea of writing sentences in a copy, but when you give them a whiteboard and a marker, it can seem like Christmas. Providing attractive resources to engage in a task can bring a wonderful sense of joy to an activity. Children, suddenly, can take enormous pride in presenting their work when using different ranges of pencils, markers, chalks, pens, crayons and twistables or through using coloured card. If the goal is to learn about a country, does it matter if they write sentences in pencil or with marker? Absolutely not. You could even let them type their sentences if the act of writing isn’t the goal. 

Pursuit of Passions

One of the best ways of motivating children to behave and learn is facilitating the pursuit of their passions. During their homeschooling, there could be huge scope for allowing them to focus and learn about areas they are passionate about.

For example, the child who loves football could engage in his P.E through football, his reading could be about his favourite team, his maths could be adding up points in the premier league, his geography could be exploring which football teams belong to which country and his history could be about football during the world war. 

Facilitating their passions in this way could turn a stressful daily struggle to engage them in meaningful learning into an enteraining and educational process where you develop a closer bond with your child.

Intrinsically motivating children can be a tricky process of trial-and-error. It is impossible to know what will provide true inner motivation to drive them to want to engage for the love of the task and its results, but if parents are willing to put in the time thinking, planning and providing options for their child, they might just crack their magic formula for learning. 

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Categories
Homeschool parenting

Homeschooling and Coronavirus: A wonderful opportunity

Depending on what lenses you are wearing, what you think you see changes. If you are wearing sunglasses, the object appears dark. If you are wearing the wrong glasses, the object appears blurry. If you wear the correct prescription lenses, the object appears crystal clear. All the time, the object never changes, it’s just how it appears to you that changes.

The same can be said about how you view life events. If you view the world through a negative lens, life appears scary and worrying. If you view the world through a positive lens, life appears full of opportunity and optimism. All the time, the life event never changes, it’s just how it appears to you that changes.

I believe that we can change the way we view life like we can change our glasses. 

Homeschooling: A world of opportunity

We are not in normal times so parents trying to proceed with normal schooling of their children at home with English, maths and all that goes with it is admirable but perhaps a misguided priority. We are in a time where the environment for learning is unique and skills and attitudes that could stand them in good stead for life could be taught over the coming weeks. I see an abundance of digital resources being circulated which is a commendable effort by teachers to maintain control. We should also encourage parents, however, to model and teach the following three lessons as the top priority. This period of time in a child’s life could prove valuable in the long run if harnessed correctly.

Lesson 1: Altruism

This is a great time to teach our children to be altruistic through modelling it. Altruistic behaviour is any act which is selfless and done out of kindness and generosity for others. Imagine coming out of this crisis and knowing that you taught your child to be altruistic? Teaching this can be completed by modelling it and talking about it aloud. When talking about your shopping, talk about the importance of not stockpiling food as others may need more. Make a phone call to a grandparent or anyone who may be vulnerable and discuss how it is important to check in on those in need. Ask them can they think of anyone that they could ring. Discuss how you might buy a gift card for a local restaurant that you go to often because they may be struggling for business lately. Wonder out loud if any of your neighbours might need help at the minute and demonstrate how in times of crisis, it’s just as important to think of others less well off than yourself.

Lesson 2: Resilience 

I had the equivalent of my sunglasses on viewing life events at the end of last week. Everything seemed dark. I have taught myself strategies and habits that work for me, however, to build resilience and maintain calm in tough times and when I actioned these, I felt a lot better. As we are in the midst of a tough time, we have the opportunity to teach these skills to our children who may be worried also. Perhaps you have your own habits that you find useful to help you be calm and clinical in the face of adversity? Discuss them with your children with age-appropriate language. Talk about how if you’re stressed, there are things you can do to relieve and reset your mood. Depending on your and their tastes, this could be adding in something like exercise, meditation, yoga, journaling, fresh air, practicing a hobby, reading a book or removing something like excessive screen time, oversleeping or bad diet choices. If we could emerge from this stressful time with our children equipped with tools to build and maintain their resilience in tough times, wouldn’t that be a powerful impact for the rest of their lives?

Lesson 3: Critical Thinking

We are in the eye of a social media and general media storm. How many stories and rumours can we read or watch in a day if we wish? An infinite amount. The era of information means that news emerges 24:7 with breaking news and critical updates being circulated every minute. The problem is that not everything we read is true or valuable. A lot of it is fake, harmful and click-bait. We now have the time to teach our children how to think critically and filter between what is useful and reliable and what is rumours and speculation in the next few weeks with a bulk of content to use as examples. Impress on them that circulated text messages might not be the most trusted source but the WHO official social media channels might be better. Try to discuss how you might assess the trustworthiness of the content. The criteria could be: Who wrote it? When did they write it? Are they experts, or quoting experts, in the area that they are discussing? Begin by reading out material and discussing it with them and how you critique it. Then read it out and ask them to critique its worth. By the end, you may have a child enabled to search the internet and use it for the valuable source it can be. 

These are three lessons that we, as teachers, try to model and teach to children on a daily basis in schools. Parents, however, have far more impact in influencing how their children act and view the world. I suggest that you use this time valuably and try these three lessons over the coming weeks and then, watch your child grow into someone who can act generously, cope with adversity and think independently. What a wonderful job you will have done.

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