I’ve been trying to think of ways to make this year more fun, ways to keep Steven engaged and motivate him to keep trying instead of getting frustrated and arguing with us all the time (which happened a lot last school year, first with home schooling and then with the distance learning provided by the school). Motivating him has been hard over the years. He willingly tries everything, but if he doesn’t get it right away he often gives up. Sometimes he’ll get really into something and he’ll get past the “I’m not good at this” stage and start to improve, but then he reaches a harder part and gives up. We all do this sometimes, and we’ve talked about how this is normal and you just can’t give up, but often it ends in arguing.
When I think of times that he has been motivated and gone above and beyond expectations, the first thing that comes to mind is Scout Popcorn selling last year. I admit, I get a little over excited about anything to do with scouts. I was a scout the first year girls were allowed in, and I loved it. I dove into the history of it all and the survival skills and got so many badges and became a sixer and took on all the responsibility they were willing to give me at 10. So when Steven joined scouts last year, I was more than ready to help with everything. I think I was often more excited than he was.
BUT I hate selling door. So when popcorn came around I was like “what do you want to do?” thinking he’d definitely be like “idk, text family members and see if they give me enough to get a prize?” But he was actually like “$3000 is the big prize? I can probably sell $3000, that’s only like this many of that thing, or that many of the other thing [insert lengthy rant as he mathed out every possible way to make $3000]”.
So I gave him all the knowledge I could to help him make a quick sale, based on my retail experience. And gave him every trick I could remember to make a sale just because he’s cute, because you’ve gotta leverage that while you can. And we went door to door, and he did all the selling. I just did the writing part so it would be legible. And I swear some of those people just gave us money because they were impressed that he was selling, not me, and none of them could possibly have been more impressed than me. I was filled with pride every time we walked up to one of those doors.
But I think what really motivated him was the goals. When he said he wanted that big prize, I drew up a classic thermometer goal chart. And every time we came home we’d count up the new sales and add them. And every time he’d be like “Only this much to the next goal, we can do that”. And he did. He sold over $3000 worth of popcorn. This kid earned himself a scholarship his first year of cubs. And he’ll be able to add more to it every year if he keeps selling popcorn.
So, I was thinking about that this week. And trying to figure out how to apply it to homeschooling. And I mentioned it to Steven and Liam thinking that we’d make another chart and there’d be prizes of some sort maybe as we checked off units throughout the year. I asked Steven what kind of rewards he’d want, thinking he’d say toys or something… and apparently what he really wants as a reward for doing school is to not have to do school!
One of the best things about homeschooling is that the schedule is flexible. Normally you get PA days and holidays and March Break and Winter Break and Summer Break, but when you’re home all that is optional. You can take breaks or not take breaks whenever as long as the work gets done.
So, there are 86 units to check off our list this year, therefore there are 86 days Steven can earn to take off whenever he wants. I turned a motivational quite into a “chart” of sorts. He can colour in a letter when he finishes a unit, and colour in the blob (it’s actually an asterisk, the font is just weird) beside it when he “spends” the day off. The days could be use to have an extra long birthday weekend, or go to his grandparents’ house without a homework book, or just take a random day off because he wants to.
Lets hope this works as well with school as it did with popcorn.
Let me know what you think! How do you keep your kids motivated to do their school work? I’m always open to ideas. Maybe even a little desperate for them…