Motivating a Reluctant Learner

“I could never homeschool. I don’t have the patience for it. My kids would never get anything done!” If you are not a homeschooler, you have probably had thoughts like this. If you are a homeschooler, you have undoubtedly heard comments like this. And, truth be told, if you are a homeschooler, you still may have thoughts like this on a regular basis!

Not every day of homeschooling is great. Some days I am the slow one, lingering too long over my coffee and phone, or other obligations. Sometimes my kids are not in the school mood when they wake up. It can take a lot of energy and creativity to salvage a day that has gotten off to a bad start or has spiraled out of control. But even on the best days, we use a variety of strategies to keep us on track when reluctance threatens to derail our progress.

In our homeschool day, I prefer a routine over a schedule. We keep a few major touchpoints for our day, including a no-later-than 9:00 start time and 10:00 snack break, but we are otherwise unscheduled. I do not hold to a specific time for Math Class, or Reading, or Science. Each child (or group) has their assignments for the week in my binder, and they move through them at their own pace each day. I do not even require that they work through their subjects in any particular order. In my experience, this gives each child the opportunity to take ownership over their day. They can choose to get certain subjects out of the way first or ease into the day with a favorite subject. And they have the satisfaction of checking off their accomplishments in the binder.

We use a literature-based curriculum, so we have a lot of books. We have a bookshelf we refer to as our “Lockers” for storage of the books we need for a given week, but I find my more distractible children thrive not only on checking off their schedules, but in shrinking the stack of books they need that day. So our best days are always days were I have prepared by setting out stacks for each child that have all the books, notebooks, and work pages they need for just that day.

Our Assignments Binder and Stacks are ready for a good day!

With so many children trying to learn at once, it can get a little loud and distracting. Enter sound-dampening headphones! In the early years as a reader, many students need to read out loud to process and self-correct their reading. The headphones can be helpful for the child who is reading, as it allows them to hear themselves better, or for those around them, who may not want to hear about their sibling’s assignment while trying to complete their own. Headphones are sold as standard school supplies here in Germany, and I feel like that needs to become more universal!

Children are often motivated by rewards and positive natural consequences. They may benefit from reminders that once their school work is done, they have free time (or screen time, or a snack, or…). Especially if kids are used to having to wait for classmates to finish their work before they can move on, this revelation may take time to sink in. But once they realize the day is completed at their own pace, even the most reluctant child will be ready to face the day, even if only to get it over with. Some days are simply an exercise in endurance as you slog through the necessities, but every day, even the tough ones, can be stepping stones to a lifelong love of learning!

Published by K. Dunckhorst

As I was growing up, I never pictured myself as a stay-at-home mom. Thankfully, God had other plans. I am now a Homeschooling mother of an amazing handful of kids, most of whom were born at home as well! I am learning how to be purposeful with my time at home, and I hope to encourage others who are also seeking a purposeful home life.

One thought on “Motivating a Reluctant Learner

  1. You were made for this time. Thank you for sharing your experiences. This is wonderful and encouraging and relevant to so many! Well done, Kristal!

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