By Dianne McLean
I believe all homeschoolers go through this at one point or another – kids aren't motivated, they sit for what seems like an eternity staring at the same math problem, they daydream, they throw fits when you try to get them to do their work, etc. Even if you tell them they can't go play with friends until they are done, they just don't seem to care.
We parents tend to believe that playing with friends is the problem. We feel our children "need" friends, when they are clearly telling us that family is more important to them because they aren't striving for the goal of being with friends. Even if you are constantly arguing and being with family is a negative experience due to their own lack of obedience, they are still with family.
So a 12 or 13 year old boy dragging his feet on his assignments and not caring whether he sees friends, should signal a big clue that the problem isn't your son, it's the relationship as well as a lack of accountability. So how do you ease the tension in the home and instill accountability in your child?
I went through the exact same situations with my kids when I first started homeschooling them. These are some of the things that I did:
With my daughter, she also loves to spend special time with her dad. So they would go have an ice cream cone, go see a movie, or go shopping (yes, he took her to Claire's, what a guy!) They tried to put her on a dirtbike, that didn't work out so well, she's quite girly. Sometimes they would just go and get haircuts together, go to the library, or paint a canvas of the sunset (yes, they did this too) anything to spend that extra time.
What about dinner time? Because our family is really big on having dinner together, on the days they had scheduled for their outing I would crockpot some meatballs for quick meatball subs, or some pulled pork for BBQ sandwiches. They would come in from loading up the truck, put a blessing on the food, and out the door they would run with their dinner in hand. It would be the FASTEST family dinner, but it was worth it. They had to stop riding when it got dark anyways, so we would always make up for it with family dessert.
And really it didn't take long before the conditional part was no longer an issue, my kids saw the fruits of their labor – because not only did they get the extra outing with mom or dad, they also had free time to do a lot of other things like go be with friends, explore personal interests, and just relax without mom breathing down their neck about their assignments. They saw what would happen if they just buckle down and do the work. We stopped having motivational issues – and arguments – once all of these things were in place. My husband came home to a happy wife, instead of a stressed out mess.
Spending time with their father one day a week, and having a pleasant outing with mom on Fridays, developed something in my kids that I presumed we might lose when they become teens – and that was a love for family time. It was extremely valuable and now that they are adults, they express how grateful they are that we instilled these family values in them and encouraged them to succeed.
If you don't have a father (or mother) in the home, is there a family member or a close friend you can lean on for support? What about other homeschoolers?
I hope this was helpful for you – and would love to hear your ideas and suggestions for motivating your tweens and teens while homeschooling them!