Schooling at Home: How to Motivate Your Kids

You’ve picked a curriculum and organized your space. You’re ready to start schooling at home, but how do you motivate your kids?

Most kids behave differently at home than at school. They know Mom loves them unconditionally, which is a wonderful thing. But sometimes it also means they don’t take directions as well. They may talk back or refuse to do their work.

Additionally, 2020 has been a stressful, emotional year. There may be a lot of feelings inside that manifest as otherwise unusual behavior.

I’ve put together some ways you can help motivate your kids in spite of all this. While mine aren’t teenagers yet,  some of these ideas can be tweaked to work for older children as well.

Here are some ideas for keeping your kiddos motivated:

Schooling at Home: How to Motivate Your Kids

Make Things Fun

Never start the day by grumpily saying, “We have to do school now.” Always try to make your tasks sound exciting and ask questions that pique interest. “Would you like to learn a really cool game?” It may help to start your day with your child’s favorite subject rather than something they struggle with or find boring.

Reward Work Well Done

Maybe they get a snack after certain subjects or screen time after school is complete for the day–any reward you’re comfortable giving that will motivate your child. This helps them do their work in an appropriate amount of time.

Pro Tip: don’t give unlimited rewards just for completing school. Rather than, “You may watch tv once your work is done,” say, “You may watch 30 minutes of tv once I have checked your work.” This keeps motivate your kids and keeps them from rushing through their work to get their reward.

Keep Things Positive

I have learned that my attitude makes all the difference in my child’s schooling. I recently had a huge mom fail. My daughter was doing a spelling test and I was looking over her shoulder. She missed a word that she had previously spelled correctly. I got frustrated with her and it was quite obvious. Then she missed another word, and another, and another. Finally, in my frustration, I asked why she was having a hard time. Her response? “Well I missed one and you got mad at me, so it made me nervous and I missed a bunch more.” I felt absolutely horrible. I apologized and we took a little break. I came up with a new rule for spelling: I don’t look at the test until it’s complete.

Unless you are a perfectly patient parent, you WILL get frustrated with your child. But if you want them to love learning and maintain motivation, I highly suggest remaining positive and taking a break when needed, especially if you find yourself becoming visibly frustrated.

Have a Set Schedule

This is helpful for certain personalities of both students and teachers. It doesn’t have to be an exact schedule–maybe just an outline. Also remember that your day may not (okay, most likely won’t) actually follow the schedule, and that’s okay.

I set our schedule to break up the day between sit-down work, outside play, song time, reading, free play, etc. I try not to make the kids sit for longer than is manageable for them. My preschooler has trouble sitting for 5 minutes, so I try to work with that instead of fighting it all day long.

It can also be helpful to have something special for transition times. It may be playing music, doing a little wiggle break, or anything else that will help your child move between activities without meltdowns or distractions.

Give Choices

We’ve found this to be very important with our preschooler in order to avoid power struggles. Give simple choices and never give options you’re not okay following through with. Sometimes you may just let your kid come up with an idea for how to learn. You can ask a question like, “What would be a good way to learn about money?” With some guidance, they may come up with a good idea like, “Playing store.” That’s a great way to learn about money and be motivated to do something they came up with on their own!

Do What Works for YOUR Family

Honestly, some of these ideas might be the opposite of what you need. Each parent and student have different personalities and learning styles, which affects what learning should look like. Your biggest job is to consider those variables, observe what does and doesn’t work, and then make changes as needed. This year is going to be crazy for everyone – it’s not a big deal if at some point you need to change course in order for your student to excel.

Please don’t forget rule #1 to HAVE FUN! I truly hope that you’ll enjoy the journey this year. Let me know if you have more ideas to motivate your kids!

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Marla Hoy
Marla is a lifelong Cedar Rapidian who met her husband, Shawn, at the local Dairy Queen in 2005 and married him in 2009. They have three beautiful daughters (6, 3, 9 months) who seem to take after their dad. Marla is a stay at home mom who spends very little time at home. She loves children and has spent the last five years doing in-home daycare and foster care. Marla is an adoptive parent, a homeschooling mom, and is currently the co-coordinator of a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group at her church here in Cedar Rapids. In whatever free time she can find, Marla enjoys reading a good love story or watching a chick flick.