Kids are a lot like us although we forget sometimes. Mood swings, motivation, and mastery of material makes a difference in how to get homeschooled kids to want to learn.
Understand How Homeschooled Kids Learn
Understanding those three mindsets will help you determine what is the cause and then how to change what you’re doing.
One last thing. Age makes a difference in how you determine a solution. What I used when I brought home my first son who was in public school Kindergarten and had lost his love for reading is not the same approach I used when he was in high school homeschooling many years later.
Look at each root cause and the tips.
Mood Swings DO Affect How Homeschooled Kids Learn
It’s easier to accept when a child has special needs that we have to adjust to his needs than it is to adjust when he does not have any.
However, the truth of it is we all have times when we feel like tackling weightier things. If a child is not motivated to learn, find the time of the day that is suited to his body’s rhythm. No, I’m not saying do school willy-nilly based on kids’ whims. I am saying that it takes a while to figure out a routine that you can stick to based on kids’ needs.
Many older kids like to be in their room and have some alone time to learn. My sons did too. However, there was part of the day when I did expect some interaction with me and the rest of their siblings. We are morning people and so that time worked well for us. The point in doing this is to try to allay any bad moods. Preparation is key to a good defense, right?
Looking back, I knew that when one kid was in a bad mood I would have him begin his day with me so I could try to soothe the irritation. Being prepared is key. It’s true sometimes a kid may just need alone time; I also taught him that his actions affect others.
It’s ultimately selfish to put the whole household in a foul mood because one member feels bad. I think today some parents are apprehensive about intervening with kids when they feel that way. But that is our job. You just have to be ready if your soothing is not met favorably.
Not wanting to add fire to a potentially explosive situation, I tried to not be sharp-tongued as a response to my child who is in a ready to fight mood. Preparation is key. It’s not easy by any stretch.
Some days I wished my kids would be more fearful of my bad moods and wrath, but they’re kids. Appreciating I have bad moods didn’t happen until they got older.
Mood swings can happen for a number of reasons and even adults have a hard time articulating why they feel off. If the moodiness is associated with a hormonal change, then we have little control of it. However, if the mood swing is a lack of a good diet, sleeping well, or getting time away from devices then we need to tackle that problem.
There is no way to completely avoid mood swings, but encouraging your kids to communicate with you when they feel that way is the first step to avoiding the fighting and fussing.
It doesn’t mean we have to have prolonged conversations when one of our kids feel bad, but not allowing kids to be disrespectful helps them to understand they are still responsible for their reactions.
Because it happens to all of us, here are some tried and true tips for moody learners.
- Allow a child his space like we want;
- Some time in the day be sure you have interaction with him to get a pulse on why he has the moodiness. Don’t allow silence to linger too long;
- If it’s just an off day, ask him what does he feel like doing today. We like to be treated like that, our kids do too; and
- Remember, it’s not coddling when we adjust the learning day to suit our kids.
Lack Luster Motivation in Homeschooled Kids
Lack of motivation is another reason kids don’t want to learn. True, it may be laziness, but how did they get that way? Again, I believe in addressing root causes instead of a temporary fix at the moment.
We’re homeschooling because we believe in an out of the box approach, but does your kid understand that? Or, have you resorted back to a public school approach? One that encourages a passive learner instead of a take charge learner.
It’s a chain reaction — if a child has control over what he learns, he has an intrinsic reason for being motivated. Hand assignments to him each day to be spoon-fed and he’ll do the same thing he has always done which is wait to be motivated.
Also, motivation may be disguised and is not genuine. Kids know that if they get school work done as quickly as possible the day is over. True, laziness may be flat out be an issue.
You’ll have to determine which of the scenarios above fits your child.
I believe laziness is a bit like catching a cold. It can be infectious to not only the person infected, but to those around him. It also makes a child or person have negative feelings about himself when you expect nothing. Immediate consequences have to be put in place for laziness.
I think more kids fall under this category of lack luster motivation because of how their learning journey may have been up to this point in their life.
Look at a few tried and true tips for lack of motivation:
- Remember, like us kids want to see immediate results while learning. So set short-term goals. If a child is young, it may be telling him that you’re working toward a short-term goal like reading a book of his choice which he has been struggling to read;
- If he is a preteen or teen with more attitude than motivation, then ask him to write out the schedule of how to do his work. Be willing to give his schedule a try to show you’re reasonable. Learning how to manage his time happens when he is with you. Failure is a great teacher. Motivation returns because learning is done on a kid’s terms. There is nothing wrong with that as long as he is learning;
- Choice matters when you’re dealing with an older learner. Within reason, allow him to pick his subjects. It doesn’t matter whether you study American history first or study ancient civilizations. You may have a plan of how you will teach a subject, but it’s more important that you win back your child’s desire to learn than it is to stick to a rigid plan;
- Get creative and make learning fun. There is absolutely NOTHING inspiring about learning in a rigid environment. Benjamin Franklin helped out as an apprentice in his brother’s print shop because of his love of writing. Where do your kids learn best and how? Do they want to be outside or do they want to stand up?
- Some kids prefer learning only through hands-on while others don’t mind a hands-on idea as a jump start to reading about a topic in a book. Don’t quickly put off a hands-on idea simply because your child says he doesn’t want to learn that way. Hands-on learning can take many forms from simple to complicated. I am a proponent of easy hands-on learning because I know it makes learning stick. I don’t give kids the complete control, but I do work with them.
- Intense learning at home can be a shock for some kids and parents. Unlike the constant interruptions at public school, a few hours of studying at home without constant interruptions is rigorous. The point is to allow for a few breaks and understand that after two or three hours, a child can switch his focus to other passions for the day; and
- Speaking of passions, sprinkle them in the day as your child shows an interest in one or two. It will take a bit of time off the device so he knows what interests him. I’m not against device time, but if it tugs at your child’s time to paint or draw, pursue music, or spend time outdoors, it needs to be limited.
Mastery of Material or a Mystery?
Another reason that really dovetails with motivation is whether a child has truly mastered material or if the material feels like a mystery and learning all over.
A mistake even seasoned homeschoolers make is to think a new year equals a new grade level. It does not.
Just like my sons that have moved ahead two grade levels in material one year, we’ve equally had to stay at one grade level for almost two years. Although I felt like a failure at the time, I see now that it was just the way kids develop. It’s so easy to forget kids just don’t develop evenly.
You have to take the good progress with the seemingly bad too.
Lack of want to can be traced back to a real struggle. It’s like hitting a brick wall. We can keep butting our head on it or allow it to crumble meaning that we wait on our child’s maturity to catch up..
Look at some of these tried and true things that worked for me.
- Instead of redoing the same curriculum in the subject he has failed or not mastered, choose a completely different vendor and/or approach in the same grade level. I did this with one of my sons who struggled in spelling. We went from using Spelling Power which is excellent for my other children and a great spelling program to using All About Spelling which targeted the critical areas that were being overlooked. It was a win. He moved up two grade levels in one year after we used it. This move sideways accomplished two things. One was that we’re making progress albeit it was the same grade level, it was a change. And two we learned that he needed a different approach for that one subject; and
- Switching the focus is another solution. I’ve seen many perfectionist parents who think more of the same type of teaching will work. It won’t. It reminds me of when we lived in South America. My sons thought if we spoke faster or louder, it was going to help people who didn’t understand English to understand it. Learning is the same. You can be head strong and push your agenda and possibly have a child who is resistant with no change. I’ve learned that a shift in focus is the key to begin the process of watering dried up learning. I’ve learned to have an all day game day. I made sure to have some educational board games for days like that. Too, we would have an all day science project day or history day. Whatever seemed to do the trick to restore love for learning, I would do. Doing this helped me too because I would get unbalanced about our school day and not include the fun things. Having one day to do one science activity after another is so much fun. From exploding volcanoes, to shooting rockets, to cooking up some edible fudge, your kids have a reset and shift in their focus. Too, after times like this, I’ve been able to determine if my kids really struggled with mastery or if we just needed a break.
Stimulating kids as you can see is a learned art, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You only have to learn what is your child’s sweet spot.
While it’s true that you may have to barter with your kids regarding device time or completely taking it away until you get done what is important, try to find the reasonable point.
In today’s society, our kids are learning that devices are part of everyday essentials. That is another topic. The point is that communicating with your child at the right moment and in small measures when he is not feeling in the mood to learn teaches him that we all have bad days, but we’re accountable for actions.
Allow kids time to rest or change their circumstances like we want done for us when we’ve had a bad night up with a newborn or are just subject to hormones. I’ve learned too that it is better to be lenient and reasonable to begin with than to just dig in your heels and demand what is going to be done.
By not doing that, I always had a reasonable response to my sons if I did have to go there. They knew I tried to tackle the behavior several ways and I had included them.
When you treat your kids like that and as they grow, they will treat you the same way into adulthood. It takes a while for it to return to you, but it does. Don’t let them break the peace of your home or ruin their siblings day constantly.
You’ll love these other tips:
- 3 Wrong Ways to Homeschool a Hotheaded Child
- 3 Smart Tips to Avoiding Busywork in Homeschooling
- 24 Borderline Genius Ways To Relieve Language Arts Boredom
What do you do when you have a lack luster learner?
Hugs and love ya,