How are things going in your homeschool so far? Are you still enjoying it? Are the kids loving learning and having fun?
I hope things are going well for you and I hope that you and your children are embracing and enjoying the adventure of homeschooling.
If things aren’t going so well or if you’re starting to feel a bit restless, though, you are in good company.
I know from experience that we’re nearing that time of the year when everyone starts to feel just a little restless or burnt out.
This is the time of year when, as a new homeschooler, I started to question my methods or curriculum. I started getting on Amazon or Rainbow Resource trying to find the magic bullet that would fix all of the problems in my homeschool.
It’s not a product they sell- believe me, I looked!
If you’re looking for a quick fix and don’t have time to read the whole post, download my free guide 10 Ways to Inspire Curiosity in Your Homeschool.
New Homeschool Curriculum is Not the Answer
Looking back, I realize how much money I wasted looking for that magic bullet. If math was a struggle, I invested in a new math curriculum or manipulative. If the kids seemed bored, I bought more educational games. You get the picture.
I finally realized that buying something new does not fix the problem. Most of the time the curriculum or resource isn’t the problem.
So, What Is the Problem?
What we see is that our kids are complaining. We start to feel like things aren’t going well if our kids aren’t willingly doing school. They’re whining, complaining, and asking when they can be finished.
Maybe they don’t seem to be learning. They read a book one day, but don’t remember it the next. They do 20 math problems, but can’t remember the concept a week later. What is going on?
You might start to wonder if your child has a learning disability or if you’re just not a good teacher.
I’ve been there, believe me. Your child probably doesn’t have a learning disability. The problem is not that you can’t teach. You ARE able to be a great teacher!
The Problem May Be MOTIVATION
We’re all more motivated to learn if we have one of these 2 things:
- Curiosity about the subject.
- A reason to learn it- we know we’ll be applying this learning to something we want to do now or in the near future.
Very often those are missing from what we expect children to learn in school.
It’s not motivating for most children to hear that they will need to know this “someday.”
You can’t force a child to want to learn because “I said so.” They may learn something for a test, but this information is often quickly forgotten.
As any parent with a child who is looking forward to an upcoming birthday party knows, kids have no patience for “someday.” Even a few days away feels like an eternity. They need to see how this information can be useful now.
What Is the Solution?
The best way to revitalize your homeschool and get your children to stop whining and start wanting to learn, is to inspire their curiosity.
There are many ways to do that. Here are a few ideas that have worked well for us. If you’d like even more ideas, request my guide, 10 Ways to Inspire Curiosity in Your Homeschool.
Start With a Hook
All good books start with a hook. Movies have trailers that make us want to see more. Why not use the same technique to encourage your children to want to learn more?
Start with something that will inspire your children’s curiosity.
A Field Trip
We recently took a field trip to a historic plantation where my children were able to participate in an archaeological dig. They learned about the history of the property and the people who had lived there. After digging up some pieces of pottery, rusty nails, and other artifacts, the kids were much more interested in learning about the people who had used those items and the time period in which they lived.
An Interesting Story
A great story can also arouse curiosity. The story of the lost colony of Roanoke may create interest in learning more about the colonies, for example.
After I told my children this story, they were full of questions. Why were those people left there for so long? How long did it take to go to England and return? What did they need to survive and why didn’t they have it? Who else lived in that area?
This year, we’re using Mysteries in History books as one of the spines in our history program. History is not just dry, boring facts. It is filled with mysteries. These books highlight various mysteries from different places and time periods. You can also find documentaries and other resources for information on the many mysteries in history. Have fun with it!
A Surprising Fact
You can also start by presenting a fact that the children will find surprising. Then, encourage them to ask questions about it and research the answers together. For example, maybe you’re planning to study the women’s suffrage movement. Inform your children that white women in America didn’t get the right to vote until 1920. (And it was 1965 before black and Latinx people were allowed to vote!) This will, surely, bring up some questions about why that was the case and what it took to give women the right to vote.
This technique also works well for science. We bought a MEL Science kit subscription a few years back. I wasn’t thrilled with the educational aspect of the kits (most of the experiments were a little too complex for the kids to understand everything that was going on). I used a few of the kits and filed the rest away on a shelf. They are a great way to inspire curiosity, though. This year, we’ve been using the experiments to introduce various concepts in our chemistry program.
We started using Mr Q’s Chemistry this year. Like most kids, my kids really enjoy experiments. I was excited about this program because it had an experiment or hands-on activity each week.
As we got into it, though, it started to feel boring to the kids. The reason- it was laid out in a 3-day-a-week format. The first day, we were supposed to read the chapter. The second day, the kids had to answer questions about the chapter or do some activity. These often involved simply repeating back what they’d read the first day through crossword puzzles or by answering questions. The third day, we did experiments or activities that illustrated what they’d learned.
By the time we got to the third day, they were bored and the experiment was just more of the same.
So, I decided to flip it! The first day, we did an experiment that illustrated the concept for that week. The kids had no idea what to expect so they eagerly anticipated the outcome of the experiment.
Then, this experiment made them curious. Why did that happen? What was going on?
So, they were primed to learn more about it. They wanted to learn more about it!
Then, and only then, did we read about the concept. They asked questions and we looked up the answers if they weren’t included in the chapter. We discussed the topic because they were interested.
We didn’t have to buy an all new chemistry curriculum. We just had to flip it to increase the curiosity factor.
Apply the Knowledge
Another great way to engage children in learning is to let them apply what they’re learning. As adults, we most often choose to learn new skills or information if we need them for a task. It is motivating to have a need to learn.
Project-based learning (sometimes called Problem-based Learning) is one way that children can learn while applying the knowledge to an immediate problem. These problems can be made up as part of a project designed for this purpose. Royal Fireworks Press has some great PBL units that are designed specifically for homeschool use.
PBL can work well if your children enjoy pretend and get engaged in the projects. I’ve found that, sometimes, these types of contrived projects don’t work well, though. Children know they aren’t really solving a problem.
The best way to do this is to find a real-world problem they can solve. Ideally, this would be something they are passionate about (pets in need of homes, litter by the side of the road, protecting an endangered animal, etc.). You could work with them to design a project to figure out solutions to this problem. Projects have a way of crossing lines between subjects so that learning occurs in many areas.
Another great project is for a child to start a small business. This could be a lawn mowing or babysitting service, an Etsy shop, or any number of things. This type of project allows them to learn and apply all sorts of things- math, economics, possibly horticulture, psychology, reading, marketing, etc. It might also help them to make some extra money!
Teach Someone Else
Your child could apply what they’re learning by teaching a younger sibling or tutoring others. Teaching someone else is a great way to reinforce learning. If your child enjoys this kind of thing, it might also give them a sense of satisfaction and confidence that they are able to help others.
Play a Game
Especially for young children, applying what they’ve learned while playing a game can be a great motivator. There are so many wonderful educational games. These can be board games, card games, or even electronic games. The key is to find games that aren’t just an obvious cover for drill and kill practice. Many games are educational but still fun. For example, we have been enjoying Prime Climb and Dragon Times for multiplication practice lately.
If your child likes Minecraft, they can apply what they’re learning by making a model of it in Minecraft. If they’re reading a book, have them re-create a scene in Minecraft. If they are studying a topic in history, have them build something from that time period (a town, a boat, a building). If they are studying a concept in science, they can build a model of it in Minecraft. They could build model cells, plants, or animals and label the parts. They might even be able to illustrate physics concepts.
Math concepts can often be illustrated or even calculated in Minecraft. Blocks can be stacked in rows and columns for multiplication. Geometry concepts abound as children build in Minecraft.
Don’t Make it Difficult!
I know that you are tired. Homeschooling is not an easy job. You care more about your children than anyone else in the world. You want the best for them. You are working your butt off!
I am, absolutely, NOT trying to add work to your life! Don’t overthink this. Don’t make it complicated.
This Should Make Homeschooling Easier
If your children are interested and engaged, they will be more willing to learn what you’re trying to teach. They will be more focused and will pay attention. They will more easily remember what they learned.
Making learning engaging doesn’t have to be hard. There are resources out there to help. It’s often as simple as flipping the order in which things are presented. Inspire the curiosity first, then teach!
I’d love to help you find more ways to inspire curiosity and engagement in your homeschool. For more ideas to help you easily inspire curiosity and increase attention in your homeschool: request my FREE guide, 10 Ways to Inspire Curiosity in Your Homeschool.