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Updated: 18 hours 19 min ago

Motivation - Computers and Movies

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 02:40
For general motivation, we have found that it helps to hold computer time and movie-watching until they have performed a certain amount of work. I decide how much work must be done to earn these privileges according to the age and maturity of the child (and sometimes just what kind of day we're having!)

contributed by Alicia from Wisconsin

Motivation - What Students Say

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 02:39
I am motivated by a lot of things. I like to learn, and generally find what I am studying to be interesting. I might not use all the same books if I were investigating a topic on my own, but my parents and I plan my course work each year and try to use as few textbooks and as many primary sources as possible. I am interested in what I am studying.

I also know that I won't get to do anything else (outside activities) until my core school work is finished. If I'm finding the topic boring, I work hard to complete my work so that I can move on to the things I like more. If it's interesting, I work hard because I like what I'm studying. I am also motivated by contests and tests because I like to see how I do compared to other kids my age. I usually do well, but when I don't, it gives me something else to work on!

contributed by Lauren, age 15

Some Random Thoughts on Sparks and Poetry

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 01:50

It seems to me that one of the "jobs" of homeschool parents (and parents in general) is helping spark their children's interest in good and worthwhile things. I've noticed with my own children (and from working with others) that effective sparks are accomplished in different ways for different children. Often it is providing access to yourself and/or sharing your enthusiasm that spark the interest of children.

[note: you have to read down a bit on both of the above links to find the intended material]

On a related thought - learning is more enjoyable when we don't force mastery the first time we encounter something new. Progress and accomplishment is good, but sometimes I think we're in too much of a hurry to have children master something and wish to skip the in-between steps. It often helps me to break things up into smaller steps - like introducing children to a new thing. Then (even at a different time) let them get acquainted, explore that or enjoy it for awhile, etc. This is something that Montessori, in particular, helped me understand.

Anyway, one thing I'm thinking of is poetry. First a little background - although we played around with Haiku a little when I was in 7th grade (which didn't really develop any interest on my part - partly because the project was writing poetry - cold - they didn't share any with us first to help us enjoy or appreciate it), I was basically a poetry dunce all my life. I remember specifically having an entrance exam for Kolbe Academy when I transferred there from Our Lady of the Rosary School before my Sophomore year of high school. I aced the Algebra section, but was completely, utterly clueless about the poetry portion (even though I had fallen in love with Shakespeare my Freshman year).

In any case, it wasn't until recently, when sharing poetry with my children that I started to develop an appreciation - something which is giving my children an edge I never had. But the thing that struck me was that conventional wisdom seems to think that poetry is hard to understand and should be saved until we are mature enough to understand it. Also, it should always be studied carefully in order to be appreciated. Works like The Ballad of the White Horse, Lepanto and Evangeline, which I've read aloud to my children just this year, (I would even say that the poems "begged" to be read aloud - this wasn't something I carefully planned ahead of time) have helped me see that mastery isn't a prerequisite of appreciation. My children don't fully appreciate or understand these works, but they are fascinated by them, they enjoy them and (in some cases) even are learning to love them. It's okay to start with them simply enjoying the sound of the words such as:

When God put man in a garden He girt him with a sword, And sent him forth a free knight That might betray his lord; "He brake Him and betrayed Him, And fast and far he fell, Till you and I may stretch our necks And burn our beards in hell."(Ballad of the White Horse by G.K. Chesterton)

Stiff flags straining in the night-blasts cold In the gloom black-purple, in the glint old-gold, Torchlight crimson on the copper kettle-drums, Then the tuckets, then the trumpets, then the cannon, and he comes." (Lepanto by G.K. Chesterton)

Of course now I also see that one of the neat things about poetry is that it's the sort of thing you get more and more out of every time you go back to it. A lot of important things in life are kind of like that. It is good to help our children learn to love them. And sometimes that "spark" is all they need to start burning with enthusiasm for something good and true and beautiful.

Isn't their relationship with God a little bit like that too?

contributed by Alicia from Wisconsin

Handling Spring Fever

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 01:00
February and March can be tough months in our family (we live in Wisconsin). The weather's cold, but Christmas is long over and the snow has lost some of its early-winter excitement. This can be especially hard on homeschoolers who don't have the advantage of a school gym to get some of their energy out.

Here are a few things that have been helpful to us...


Making room in the basement for roller blading and "scootering" - When motivation is especially hard, I'll allow the children to put their roller blades on and trade off between a few problems of Math and a little bit of roller blading. Some of them even like to read a chapter book while slowly roller-blading back and forth. Not only does this help get some of their nervous energy out, but it's also a chance for them to prove their trust by being honest with the system.


Starting on a new special project (like a family study of geography or a particular era of history) or a reading list with an "extra credit" incentive - (This has helped us revive our lagging studies on a few occasions which tends to spread into other subjects as well.) Extra credit prizes we've used at various times include: purchasing a favorite movie, a meal or treat at a restaurant, a new book, a favorite board game, etc. Working toward an extra credit has often been a good opportunity for me to test what a particular child is capable of, thus giving me a better sense of what I can plan for in other areas of school as well.


Getting out of the house more often to break up the regular routine - These tough months of late winter and early spring also coincide with the season of Lent. Getting out of the house and attending daily Mass, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, etc. can be a very helpful break - of the very best sort - for everyone.


Adjusting the Curriculum for a fresh change - One thing has worked itself into the rhythm of our family and homeschool life is a pattern that takes place over the year. My ten year old, in particular, has worked her way ahead in some of the "textbook" subjects (like Math and Grammar) in the Fall when our momentum is strong. This has allowed me to shift directions slightly during the "doldrum" months and emphasize subjects that tend to be a little more fun and engaging for us - like History and Science.

contributed by Alicia from Wisconsin

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