How to Keep on Keeping On: Ideas for Motivating Struggling Students and Tired Teachers

It's a beautiful day & I can't stop myself from smiling

The Day is nice. The sun is shining. Flowers are blooming. Summer is coming!  I am reminded of a poem by Richard Le Gallienne-

I meant to do my work today—
   But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
   And all the leaves were calling me. 

And the wind went sighing over the land,
   Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand—
   So what could I do but laugh and go?

Homeschooling is a marathon.  And while it is wonderfully flexible, able to bend and bow with life’s ebbs and flows and seasons, you also do have to actually do it.  Mostly every day.  Whether you (or your kids) feel like it or not.

I’ve been faced lately with many temptations to forget about school.  A couple of weeks ago, it was Easter and we had company.  The six weeks preceeding that, I was recovering from a C-section and caring for a newborn.  The few weeks before that I was dealing with preeclampsia and being nearly nine months pregnant.  And before that it was Christmas.  Now I have a 2 month old and with all the activity of the last few months, I am tired out.

With summer break just around the corner, it can be hard to be faithful to finish well.  It has been many months since the enthusiasm of beginning a new year has worn off.  With the end of the year in sight, it is a challenge to keep the motivation for doing school every day alive.

DSCN1755

So, how do we keep on keeping on when faced with chaos and fatigue and students who’d rather have full days of free time all of the time?

First of all, I pray.  I beg the Lord for strength and the motivation to keep going.  The Lord says in Isaiah, Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

After that it comes down to two principles:  change and choice.  Here are a few ways this plays out in my house:

  1.  A Little Scheduling Autonomy– My (schooled) kids are in 2nd and 3rd grades, young enough that I need to be involved in much of their schooling.  Most of the time, I order the day’s lessons.  This ensures that we are following Charlotte Mason’s very wise principle of short and varied lessons. However, when I just don’t have it in me to drag the kids from their own pursuits to do their lessons, I will list the children’s tasks and lessons for the day on a card or white board and put them in charge of fulfilling their tasks.  Some tasks are independent and some require me (to read to them), so with the latter, they must confer together and decide when they want to ask me to read the lesson.  I have found that when given the power of choice, their attitude and willingness is much improved. And then I am not in charge of initiating school and I have found that to be a very nice break.DSCN1753
  2. A Project- The other day for math, instead of doing workbook pages of review, I assigned X-man a project.  He was to look through the grocery store ads that came in the mail, cut out pictures of things he wanted to purchase and paste them on a piece of construction paper.  He had $100 and he needed to use it mostly up without going over.  I gave him a scrap paper to work out his sums, the ads, scissors, construction paper, and glue and he went at it enthusiastically.  He barely recognized that he was doing math.  In January, we did a flower dissection project.  The evening before, my husband had come home with flowers.  My kids asked what they were for and my response, “A project for tomorrow,” engendered much anticipation and cries to know what it was!  They were so excited. A project is a change of pace that fosters interest and therefore, motivation. So when I have the energy for it, it is a good thing for getting my kids excited.
    Math Project

    Math Project

    Flower Dissection & Pollen on the Nose

  3. A Craft or Creative Endeavor– Today when I was listing the day’s tasks, X-man sighed in discouragement.  The last task I listed said, “Craft or Something Creative.” Instantly he perked up- you could see it bodily and in his face.  He was intrigued as much by the idea of a project as by the fact that he could choose what to do.  We discussed options- building a lego creation, inventing something outside, making a game or a book of mazes for his siblings.  He ended up being intrigued during our history reading about the introduction of new numbers to Europe during the Middle Ages that made math easier to do (these were the Arabic numerals we still use today) that he decided to create his own set of numbers.

    Math in a Bucket

    Math in a Bucket

  4. A Change of Scenery- History reading on the trampoline, math on the back porch or in a bucket.  Reading while all snuggled up in bed.  A nature walk around the neighborhood.  A trip to the local park- maybe bring bikes or a ball and call it P.E., or just enjoy all enjoy the fresh air together.  A change of scenery- especially when it is outside- can be fun and refreshing and invigorating.

    Math Outside

    Math Outside

  5. A Change of Method- Similar to the idea of a project, using different methods than usual for your daily lessons can help add interest and motivation.  Using new manipulatives for math, an art print for history, a visual aid for science, or a movie, a puzzle or a board game in place of regular lessons can be very exciting for students.  Lately, we have been using new math manipulatives and we’ve been watching the Acts Visual Bible for our daily Bible lessons.  The kids have been really into Bible especially, begging to watch more every day.
    Pretty Math Manipulatives

    Pretty Math Manipulatives

    So change things up or give the kids some extra choices and see if that helps inject a little enthusiasm to keep on keeping on so you can finish out this school year strong. What other things do you do when your motivation is running low?

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