It’s mid-winter. It’s cold and there’s still plenty of school left in the semester. How do we keep ourselves motivated to homeschool? I’ve been thinking about that a LOT lately. When working with the kids, it’s not just having the activities ready, the books out, worksheets printed out. It’s the smile and positive energy that really inspires our homeschool. In that regard, there are times when I’m not doing my job. Call it the winter blahs, the late nights focused on other things — whatever the excuse, I need the reminder to remain upbeat and enthusiastic.
But it’s one thing to say “be positive” and “have the right attitude,” it’s another to embody it, right?! So, I’m doing my best to maintain that level of enthusiasm. I use different techniques for keeping motivated and on track. What do we do on days when it’s hard even just to get started? I use a mixture of things to get us going… not every option works every day, so we truly mix things up.
There is something to be said for the cut and cry structure of my teaching days. First period started at 8:05am. That was the way it was, ready or not. GO! Here at the Homeschool Den that is definitely NOT the way it works. That is wonderful because it gives us flexibility to start later or to spend more time on certain subjects. How do we get around those mornings when we “just don’t feel like it” and when we’re dragging our feet? I find that I have a whole arsenal of tactics I use to keep us moving forward.
Start fun — I use this tactic most often right after a long break. We start off the day with fun, engaging activities that remind us just why homeschool is awesome! After that, we settle into other work for the day.
Get some exercise — Sometimes when it’s hard to get going, we’ll throw on our shoes and go for a walk. There are studies that show that after just twenty minutes of exercise, the brain is fired up! Read all about it in the fitness.gov article, Learning is a Moving Experience. Check out the composite picture of 10 year old’s brain taking a test after a 20 minute walk:
Picture courtesy of Fitness.gov
Start slow — When we’re all groggy and a bit out of sorts, I invite everyone to the couch in front of the wood stove. We either read our own books or we read a family novel together. Either way, we’re quiet, content, (warm!), and working on vocabulary, fluency, and all the other hidden benefits of reading!
Eat your veggies — So good nutrition is certainly important, but I was speaking metaphorically! When you were a kid did you eat your veggies just to get them out of the way? I think you know exactly what I mean, don’t you? Sometimes it feels good to get the basic subjects out of the way and to save our current favorite subjects (writing, science, history, math circles) for later. This is working particularly well for LD at the moment, so most of last week looked like that.
Expect the unexpected — Sometimes I spend days building mystery, suspense and anticipation about an upcoming activity. There are a number of teachers who have written some incredible books that capitalize on this technique. I recommend Kim Bearden’s book, Crash Course: The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me (affiliate link) — and Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator (also an affiliate link) by Dave Burgess as well if you want to be fired up as an educator. These teachers have taught me a lot about the importance of staying fresh and inspiring as an educator.
If… then — Of course, I don’t mean this in a punitive way, I mean “Hey, if we finish by 2pm, let’s make a cookies together” or “When we finish up with math, let’s go spend some time outside.” An afternoon play date can be just the motivator we need to get going first thing in the morning!
Eyes on the Prize — Remind yourself (and the kids) that there are amazing homeschool opportunities awaiting down the road… perhaps it’s a play a concert or a field trip… or perhaps it’s an amazing family vacation to look forward to. Sometimes that is just enough for us to see why we need to buckle down and work hard now.
Listen and watch — Sometimes I like having other experts pitch in! There are days when PBS documentaries or CDs like Story of the World are really inspiring.
Stay away from time suckers — If my motivation is low, it is very easy to waste time in front of the computer. Knowing this about myself, I will sometimes avoid turning on the computer in the morning and wait until we’ve gotten some work done.
Change of Scenery — Sometimes all it take for us to get a lot done is a change of scenery. Last week, the kids finished a lot of their work while we waited to get the oil changed on the car. I’m not saying the car repair shop is the ideal place to homeschool, but perhaps a couple hours at a library or a coffee shop might shake things up just enough to get things done.
And the bonus +1 suggestion (or perhaps just a reminder to myself as I finish the final touches on this post at 11:45pm) is to get enough sleep. Nothing kills motivation by not getting sleep!! So, I’ll sign off and hope that you have a fabulous homeschool (or teaching!) day! ~Liesl