It’s one thing to start the school year strong, but quite another to keep at it after the weeks start blurring together. Motivation to homeschool ebbs away, and we can’t wait for some natural, overwhelming incoming tide to return.
Instead of being tossed about on the waves of our emotions and hormones (which turn into tropical storms when they crash into the emotions and hormones of our children), we need to treat motivation like a garden and cultivate it. A garden has variety; it’s not made up of one thing. It’s the same with motivation. There are a number of things we can plant in our motivation garden that will keep it blooming and growing.
We need homeschool motivation because it’s our responsibility as the parent-teacher to educate our children. It’s not optional and we set the tone for the day and the standard for the behavior. If we can’t muster up the motivation to start the homeschool day, how can we expect our children to have the motivation to do their work? We must model ourselves what we expect from them.
Much of the time, what we call a lack of motivation is simply inertia. It’s hard to get started. It’s hard to get up and get moving. It’s hard to focus our attention and summon the energy.
Overcome inertia by making it easy to get started with an energetic, upbeat attitude.
These ten practices will increase your motivation for average homeschool days.
Have a morning routine.
Making decisions is fatiguing, and if we begin our days with the need to make a lot of decisions, we’ll be worn out and used up before lunch.
We are tempted to think that just “going with the flow” and putzing around is a leisurely morning that will keep us relaxed, but the reality is that going by “whim” will either mean doing nothing helpful or making too many decisions about what to do next.
Decide ahead of time what needs to be done in the morning to set up the day for a better rhythm. Write it out. Practice it. Your routine doesn’t have to be complicated or focused on maximum efficiency, it just needs to be decided ahead of time so you can go through the motions that will start your day off on the right foot.
There is no ideal or one perfect morning routine. Your morning routine can be suited to your personality type and your situation.
Homeschool motivation is increased when the tables are clear and clean, the books are at hand, the pencils are sharpened – when the day is ready to begin with the materials needed at hand, we don’t need as much energy to gin up the motivation to start.
So having a clear and simple and repeated morning routine will not only give you more motivation to start your homeschool day, it will reduce the total amount of energy and motivation you need overall.
Start with a song.
The first thing to spiral a homeschool day into conflict and confusion is trying to gather everyone to get started. After managing to get ourselves going, there comes the monumental task of convincing everyone else in the house that, yes, it is time to get started.
Enter: Morning Time Start Song. Choose a peppy song, establish with the crew that this song, blasting in the morning, means it’s time to wrap up what you’re doing and report to the table or living room for Morning Time. Then everyone has 3 minutes or so to make the transition and show up in a timely fashion. Plus, the song establishes a better tone and mood than mom shouting and calling.
Our homeschool motivation will increase not only with the upbeat music calling us to attention, but also with the ease of communication. Starting the homeschool day together, on the same page, helps each one feel in touch and on board.
Use a checklist.
If you have multiple students at home, it can be hard to keep track of what each one of them should be doing each day.
It can be tempting, especially when they’re younger, to just decide on the fly what each one should do today. However, this leads to inconsistency and only working when we feel like it. If that’s not how we want our kids to do their work, it needs to not be how we choose that work.
We want them to learn responsibility and work ethic, and that begins with giving them consistent work to do and following through with them on that work. Checklists are the best way to stay on the same page and get work done at a regular pace.
When we know what we ought to do and what work our children ought to do, it helps us buckle down and get to work. If we leave it to choose in the moment, we are less likely to choose wisely and more likely to fall prey to decision fatigue. A checklist gives both mom and kids a stepping stone to motivation.
Keep several favorite quotes in view.
It’s hard to keep sight of the big picture and our overarching purpose in the midst of the daily, mundane tasks. Petty details and squabbles prevent us from remembering why we chose this path.
We need encouragement, but not the simple, hollow ra-ra most frequently offered to moms. We need to keep our eyes focused on truth.
This is where alignment cards come in. These are short and visible quotes, thoughts, or verses we regularly review so we keep in mind what is truly important and why we’re doing what we’re doing.
When we keep our eyes ahead, without getting mired in the weeds of details, we stay motivated and encouraged to work at those details rather than getting discouraged and stuck in them.
All it takes is a single verse or motto on an index card. Read it and remember.
Smile at your kids.
We might be glad we’ve chosen to homeschool. We might actually enjoy it. However, do we let our kids see that?
We certainly love our kids. We’re grateful for the chance to live life alongside them during their childhood, instructing and loving them all day every day. However, do we let our kids know that?
When you turn and see your child has entered the room, what is your facial response? What is your posture toward him? How do you look at her?
Let’s make it with a smile. Let’s have our faces tell them, without the need for words, that we enjoy them, like them, want them.
The surprising effect of smiling more at our kids is that our motivation to work alongside them will also be increased. Our attitude toward them and about our work for them will improve – all by simply choosing to smile more.
Listen to encouraging podcasts.
Especially when all the children are little and social interactions with friends are limited, we can easily become starved for adult conversation and wider ideas than dinner and laundry.
Enter, the podcast. Sure, there are some great homeschool encouragement podcasts out there, but if we need motivation and more interest in life as a whole, then add a podcast or two that has nothing to do with homeschooling or homemaking to your playlist. Learn about history or economics or theology. Listen to a podcast about reading good books and maybe read along with the show.
We will be better and more motivated homeschool moms if we keep our brains engaged and our interests alive.
My favorite podcasts:
- Scholé Sisters
- What Have You
- Classical Stuff You Should Know
- Your Morning Basket
- Literary Life
- Mortification of Spin
Get everything ready to go the night before.
When we start the day scurrying to get ready and unsure if we have the books or supplies we need, or if we’re unsure what is even on the calendar for the day and what needs to be done, we’re asking for stress and weariness – too many days like that and we’ll find our motivation sapped away.
However, if we take a moment after dinner or after the kids go to bed to look at our lists and calendar for the day ahead, if we make sure we have our books and pencils, if we know where our purse and keys are and when we’ll need them, then when we wake up we’re more motivated to follow through on those plans.
When we’ve taken the time to prepare the night before we’re increasing our homeschool motivation not only by reducing the stress of flying by the seat of our pants, but also by giving ourselves a head start on the day.
Starting is always the hardest part of any worthwhile activity, homeschooling included. The easier we make it on ourselves to start, the more motivated we will be to just begin.
Share learning with your kids.
Sometimes it’s easy to get stuck in task master mode. Our job is to teach and to make sure kids get their work done – without being too sloppy. Not only do they become demoralized under this regime – so do we.
To combat the fatigue, we need to take an active interest not only in our children, but also in the vast world of knowledge we’re introducing them to. It’s not only that we ought to be models of lifelong learning for them.
The truth is that learning makes life interesting and fun. It prevents us from being bored and boring. Gaining more and new knowledge is revitalizing.
If our homeschool needs a jolt of motivation, let’s start by increasing our own motivation to learn about the world. It will make us more effective teachers, but it will also make us more interesting and interested people. That, in turn, will increase our motivation to start each homeschool day with goodwill.
Live life alongside your kids.
Homeschool is about much more than the math worksheets and history books.
We can see our role not merely as teacher, imparting information and managing work, but as master, apprenticing our children in life.
That means doing life well ourselves, enjoying it as we go. Then, bringing our children alongside us as we live out a full and joyful life.
Life – all of life – is a part of the curriculum. When we recognize the importance of the whole big picture, we’re less likely to get obsessed with whether or not we finished or whether or not we need to test.
Remember that our kids are people. Remember that we as moms are people. And education is more about discipleship as we go along the way than about filling buckets with data or memorizing math facts.
If we need more motivation in our homeschool, maybe what we need first of all is a surprise day off, taken not to laze about, but to go out into the world with one another and enjoy life and the world as a family, in relationship.
Ask what they learned or read at dinner.
Sometimes we aren’t sure that what we read and talk about during school hours has actually stuck. Sometimes we aren’t sure how to many our dinner tables a time of fellowship and enjoyment of one another’s company. Sometimes we don’t have time in the day for making those connections between studies that we’d love to make room for.
Dinner time conversation holds the key to all these concerns. Move the learning out of school duties and connect it not only between subjects, but also with everyday life. At dinner, ask what people read. Follow rabbit trails. Let children make proclamations of opinion and ask them questions to make them think it through.
It sounds complicated, but it can be just as home style and comforting as Mac and cheese on the table while you do it.
By blurring those lines between school and life, by seeing the kids make connections between books or experiences, by sharing these conversations with your husband, your motivation during work and reading will be spurred on.