We are frequently asked “How do I motivate my child? He is simply not interested in his studies or doing his schoolwork!”
Most Catholic parents home school because we are motivated by spiritual values. We are unhappy with the secular cultural values that pervade our schools in one way or another. We want to become a better Catholic family, we want to practice our Catholic Faith as a family, and we want our children not only to be good Catholic children, but to keep the Faith throughout their lives.
For our children to be motivated, we need to talk with them about the spiritual reasons why we are home schooling and why they need to do their schoolwork. However, for them to listen, we need to prepare them spiritually to accept the message. That preparation should begin from the day the child is born.
Whether or not you started from day one, today is the time to start. Our Lord Jesus gave a parable about the ground being prepared for the seed to grow. He meant, of course, that souls need to be prepared for the Word of God. Seed won’t grow on rocky ground or on ground that is stomped on. We need to raise our children so that their souls are receptive to the message, which is learning and living the Word of God through home schooling.
To prepare our children, they need to learn their prayers early by hearing the prayers when they are newborn babies and every day following. When they are only one year old, they can repeat some of the words. By two years old, they recognize the Rosary prayers and can repeat some of the words. They know some of the words for their morning and evening prayers. They have heard some of the stories about Jesus, and some stories about the saints.
As the children grow up, begin to talk more about the Faith, about how you as a family live the Faith as well as about the sacrifices that the saints made in order to live their Faith. Mass and the prayers, the stories and the good example you give your children, graces from the sacraments, as well as teaching them how to treat each other—all these things develop children who will be receptive to the daily sacrifices they need to make in order to become educated in the Faith and in the other academic subjects which, at Seton, are integrated with the teachings of the Faith.
At the high school level, for motivation, students can be reminded about their future, their high school transcripts, and passing the college entrance tests, as well as the possibility of winning college scholarships. Students can have a daily half-hour class in studying for the SAT or ACT test. These include tests from previous years in the areas of vocabulary, math, and reading comprehension. The book How to Prepare for the SAT Tests not only strengthens the math and reading skills of the student, but also makes the student more aware of what is expected to enter college, and, as a side effect, motivates the student to work better at his studies.
Younger students may be more motivated to do their lessons if they can have supplemental materials to present more interesting details, to give curious trivia, or to inform about related events. These days, many interesting books, CDs, large size picture books, reference materials, educational computer software, interactive programs online, pictures and articles online, and so on, are available to help students be more motivated to learn their lessons.
Fathers can motivate children to learn if they take an interest in their studies and encourage the children to discuss what they are learning. A father’s interest and support is one of the strongest motivators for children. The Bible in the Book of Proverbs encourages fathers to motivate their children, and Pope John II spoke strongly about fathers sharing the responsibility for the upbringing of their children.
In addition, fathers should consider taking their older children to work with them whenever possible. Seeing father at work, using reading, writing, accounting, or other skills, motivates students to develop their own skills. Fathers might even encourage their high school children to help out at work.
Mothers and fathers should consider having their children work with them on hobbies or projects which show the need for skills or information which can be learned from their home schooling studies. Enthusiasm by the parents about what is being studied can be conveyed to the children which will motivate them to learn and perhaps even to investigate more on their own.
A younger child can be motivated when an older child listens to him read, or reads something supplemental, or reviews math problems. Sometimes an older child is unexpectedly motivated as he teaches a younger child and answers questions about the subject matter.
Grandparents motivate children. Children of all ages love their grandparents to be interested in their school lessons. There is a special bond between children and their grandparents. When Grandpa or Grandma wants to listen to the grandchild reading, a child is highly motivated. Sometimes grandparents talk about their childhood or some event in their lives of long ago, which motivates children to learn more about the event.
Another motivational technique is for the family to work on a project together, such as writing and acting out a play, doing a science project, or investigating an historical event. Working on a project with another home schooling family can be highly motivational.
Keep a positive outlook and stay focused on what is being accomplished. Praise your children continually for the good and positive things they are doing. Concentrate your remarks on their successes and their strengths.
The ability for your children to be successful in their studies is dependent on the love and encouragement you can give, as well as on consistency and determination to succeed, as well as on daily prayer. With God’s help, all these factors can help a child to be motivated to learn about God’s wonderful world and how to gain eternal life in the next world.