When I was growing up, I did my schoolwork in my parents’ bedroom, sitting at a cheap desk whose fake wood-grain pattern I can still remember today. Once I was past the early grades, I watched my video classes, did the reading, and completed assignments mostly on my own with some help from my mom if I needed it. When I reached college, it wasn’t a problem for me to prioritize time to read, study, and complete papers because I had already mastered the art of self-motivated learning. My mother inspired my siblings and me to enjoy learning on our own, and that eagerness for education has stayed with all of us to this day.
When kids are little, they are naturally eager to learn. Every part of their being is learning, whether they’re playing, running, jumping, reading, or helping around the house. As children get older, other things begin to compete for their attention. How can a parent keep this early motivation from slipping away? And once your child has lost that motivation for learning, is there a way to bring it back?
One way to develop motivated children is to present lots of opportunities for learning in various settings. I’m not talking about Mom serving as the chauffeur, dropping everyone off at different places for different pursuits, but about the kind of activity that involves the whole family, with everyone participating together at church, serving in the community, or just having fun.
A Listening Lifestyle
Motivation thrives in a home where the parents listen attentively to their children. Having regular family gatherings gives everyone time to present feelings or problems and share possible solutions. Talking together frequently as a family generates an atmosphere of trust and openness that gives kids the confidence they need for self-motivated learning.
Every parent wants his or her child to excel, but if a parent sets the expectations too high, the child may become discouraged and give up altogether. High expectations are good, but unattainable expectations are more harmful than helpful. When you let your children know that you believe in them and love them unconditionally, you may find that they’re more likely to take risks and push themselves harder to achieve their goals.
Work as Fun
Do you enjoy work? Maybe not, but there are ways that you can add in the fun factor, especially when you’re doing work with your kids. By your example, they will learn that work is essential but that it can also be exciting and rewarding. You want them to know the joy of completing a hard task because that sense of accomplishment is a key ingredient for future motivation.
Time management and organizational skills are vital tools for motivating your children. You’re helping them succeed by setting expectations, creating deadlines and schedules, providing organized materials, and supplying opportunities for interactive learning. Learning can happen anywhere, but in the homeschool setting it should be well planned and enjoyable rather than chaotic and frustrating. Especially during the early years, kids need structure and direction to give them a foundation for self-control and independence later on.
How do you know that your children are motivated learners? When they ask you thoughtful questions, when they seek out answers on their own, or when they come to you with beaming faces to show off a completed project, you’ll know that the love of learning has taken root.
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Rebecca is a work-at-home freelance writer, novelist, wife, and the mom of two bright-eyed little ones. She credits her success in writing and her love of books to her own mom, who homeschooled three kids from pre-K through high school.