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  • Dr. Belinda van der Westhuizen and Ian Strydom

Motivating your home-schooled high school student – 5 tips to navigate the minefield




Concerned about your child’s lack of motivation when it comes to their schoolwork? Perhaps you’ve spent many a minute pondering how you can get your child to put as much effort into learning as they do into texting on their phones. You’re not alone. I’d venture a guess that there were even a few cavemothers back in the day who were probably just as concerned with their teen’s lack of motivation and seemingly rebellious attitude. Now here’s the thing that most articles like this one don’t tell you – there’s no silver bullet or magical motivation potion. Nothing you do or say will result in your child going to sleep a TikTok consuming zombie-bot one evening and waking up an industrious little Einstein the next. You cannot force a child to be motivated – they have to realize the importance of learning themselves. However, there are some steps that you can take to help your child discover –or rediscover – his or her motivational mojo. Homeschooling is definitely a great option.


1: Instill discipline and accountability in your child


There’s a very true quote – probably dreamt up by some self-help yogi on the internet, bless their wise soul – “You will never always be motivated, so you must learn to be disciplined”. Discipline is what sets people apart. A naturally athletic person might have raw talent, but if they don’t have the discipline to get up and train at the crack of dawn, all that raw talent won’t book them a spot at the Olympics. But, if your child follows the pattern of ‘panic, breakdown, cram, cry, cram-some-more’ every night before a big test, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are lazy or undisciplined. Perhaps he or she has trouble managing their time. This is where you can help. By creating a structured learning environment, developing a regular schedule and allowing sufficient time to prepare, you can help your child manage his or her time better. As with all seemingly mundane things in life – such as parking within the lines or making your coffee just the way you like it – time management is a skill learnt through trial and error, and by repeating it every day until you become an expert. Importantly, don’t over compensate for your child’s demotivated attitude by doing their work for them. This will only end up compounding the problem, because what you are actually telling them is that it’s okay not to hold up their end of a bargain, someone will always come to bail them out. Motivated kids are also accountable kids, who accept their responsibilities and plan accordingly.


PS. On that note, you’re not fooling the teacher anyways, they can smell a parent-done project from a mile away. Rather present your kid’s imperfectly charred choc-chip cookies at the entrepreneurial day than the perfectly textured cookies (which curiously look exactly like Woolworths shortbread) your child supposedly baked after watching one episode of Masterchef Junior. The confidence and pride you show in those homemade cookies will mean more to them than you realize.


Homeschooling can be tough, but using a great homeschooling curriculum provider can make things easier. Avoid online schools and platforms that tend to only provide information by online classes and textbooks. In today's day and age, a online school should be something interactive and much more than a traditional school online. Why homeschool then?


2: Be kind to your child, and to yourself


Your child’s lack of motivation is not necessarily a reflection on you as a parent. Positively reinforce development and when they make mistakes – when, not if – don’t lie awake obsessing about the future and how you are going to take care of your son when he’s 40 and still lives in your basement with just a mini fridge and video game console. Mistakes are par for the course; fall down ten times and get up eleven times – so cliché, but true. In a culture that is obsessed with perfection, we often do not teach our children that it’s okay to make mistakes. If Junior has been steadily putting in more work and improving his grades only to fail the next test, don’t act like it’s the end of the world, threaten to put a hit out on the teacher or tell your child that his brain is the size of a pea. Identify the root cause of the problem, and put strategies in place to prevent a similar scenario in the future. Your child will learn how to handle crisis and disappointment by witnessing your own response to it. Lead by example. And please, parents on Facebook, do not compare you or your child to the seemingly picture perfect families who supposedly has it all – the perfect house, perfect bodies, perfect high-performing kids. No family is perfect. When people come to visit your house, you put on a presentable face, instead of meeting them at the door in your grubby sweater and worn out slippers. Social media is pretty much the same. Remember that.


Homeschooling allows the freedom to explore. Enjoy imperfection by allowing you and your children to learn together inside and outside of the home. Use a homeschool curriculum provider that exposes you to new and engaging things. Avoid homeschooling solutions that repeat what a normal school would do only by taking it online.


3: Focus on development, not performance


Developing a motivated student takes time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t expect them to magically start burning the midnight oil and getting straight A’s just because they started attending a tutor session two weeks ago. Set realistic goals and positively reinforce improvements in behaviour or outcome, even if it’s small or slow. Perhaps more importantly, don’t force your own expectations on your child. Even if you secretly dream that your child will become an astronaut and be the first human to set foot on Mars, their strengths and academic interests might not align with that vision. And that’s okay. If they do well in another subject that you might regard as less important, praise them for that, because it might be important to them.


If there is ever a way to grow without being beaten down it is by enjoying homeschooling. Learn at tour own pace, enjoy flexibility and learn differently. Join a curriculum provider that allows you to learn the way you want to. Freely.


4: Encourage honest conversation


Oftentimes students become demotivated because they feel overwhelmed or stuck, and oftentimes these factors can be remedied. But you won’t know how to help your child, unless they talk to you about the problem. You cannot force your child to share his or her feelings, and the more you push, the more likely you are to receive a serious of grunts and sighs as a reply. However, you can let them know that you are there to talk, when they feel ready. When they do open up to you, validate your child’s feelings, even if you don’t agree with them on something. So for example, if Junior says “Mom, I hate mathematics, It just doesn’t make sense!”, don’t say something like “Nonsense sweetie, you were fine with math last year.” Listen to your child. Really listen. Let them know that their opinion matters and don’t put them down.


5: Get outside help


If your child is demotivated because he or she is struggling with a particular subject or subjects, consider getting outside help, such as a tutor. If this is not financially viable, maybe reach out to a university student in the family, or a subject-savvy aunt or uncle, or try to come to an agreement with a reputable tutoring company to let your child be instructed at a reduced rate. Make a plan. Do not stick your head in the sand and hope that the problem will resolve itself. One bad experience with a subject can create a lasting negative impression on a student if not mitigated properly.


There you have it – the 5 step program to a perfectly motivated student! Just kidding. Parenting is hard, and finding the right educational partner for your family can be even harder.


Why not let Wingu Academy help you out? At Wingu, we strive to deliver innovative content in a fun and engaging way – it’s what sets us apart. Here, we don’t just teach, we inspire students to take charge of their educational journey, whilst providing support through our dedicated teaching staff and tutors, every step of the way. Book a free consultation or trial with us today to find out more about our tailored education solutions, or connect with us through our social media platforms.

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