Tag Archives: Delight-directed

Unschooling Unmotivated Kids

Motivation for an Unschooler

I had a great question posed on the Back to Unschool post, and when I realized that I was answering with a book of information, I figured that everyone might be better served by a brand new entry. :)

KK asked {in part}: …the highschooler isn’t getting it when I give her permission to follow her interests. she just doesn’t have the motivation and is afraid she wouldn’t be doing school , yet at the same time she struggles to do school. can you make suggestions here.

This is such an area where I have struggled as well – I did a lot of googling on the subject!

Unschooling Unmotivated Kids

One article especially made an impression on me. It asked “Do they sit around all day staring at the ceiling?” Or, do they have motivation to do the things that interest them…. and for me, I realized that I somehow wanted my daughter to have internal motivation to do MY goals – not her own. Unfortunately, I can’t find that article again, but the Homeschool News Network has one about how unschooling leads to self-motivated learning.

After explaining that they would be allowed to use computer time, watch TV, etc… they were both excited. Then my son went to his schedule so that he could finish school and get to those things. So, I realized that I needed to do something that made it clear that things were going to be different – in order to release the pressure, both on them and me (and to stop hubby’s inquiries about what we did for school each day), I made an announcement.

We are on Vacation.

I told them very honestly that I was having trouble with letting go as well, so I decided that we would not be doing anything schoolish at least until after Christmas. I called it an experiment. (The result of that experiment is that we will not be going back to how it was before.) This gave them the freedom to pursue what they were interested in without feeling guilty about not doing school.

{Side note on hubby: he is starting to see that they are accomplishing things on their own – not “schooly” stuff – but amazing stuff, instead!}

Another thing that is helping us is that I am actively pursuing my own interests for a change. For example, I had gotten us a documentary that looked interesting. I asked the kids if they wanted to watch it with me, and I allowed them the freedom to say No. But, here’s where the change kicked in – instead of waiting to watch it until later – until they were ready to watch with me – I watched it MYSELF. I think this also sent the message that I was truly interested in it and not just trying to force them to learn something.

I am also putting books on hold at the library for me again. Books on subjects that I am interested in learning more about: how to be more creative, plays to read, trigger point therapy. And, I am sitting down to read them in the middle of the day – when the kids can see me. I am learning to untangle our interests. It’s ok if we are not intrigued by the same stuff…God made us different from each other.

I’ll be honest, I still watch the time that they are playing games, and I worry: Is it ok that they are on the computer most of the day. But, then I noticed that my daughter is not playing games. She is creating a piece of music – with Japanese lyrics – to be her harmony during the talent show later this year. And, my son plays lots of different games. I stand and watch him occasionally, and there are strategic/logic games, creative games, and historical games – with dates and everything! So, even during deschooling, they are not choosing passive activities – these games make them think!

I’ve even started playing math games to improve my skills in that arena. I am loving Manga High (not just for highschool math) and can easily get sucked in for a long time trying to be the various games.

And, if it turns out that your daughter truly is motivated to do traditional schoolwork, and that is what interests her, then Why not? If that is what she wants to do, it will be her goal; her motivation to accomplish it will be her own. And, she still has the freedom to go off on rabbit trails if she wants to learn more. If she has a great desire to go to college, then she will be motivated from within to get there.

For us, we are still kind of at the beginning of this unschool journey, but I have realized more each day, that it is me who needs to change: my expectations, my worrying, my pushing. I’m a Type A driven person, and I need to be ok with letting my Type B laid back daughter do things in her own time. {My son is much easier to get to go along with anything that I want to do.}

I also do not leave them completely alone either. I find opportunities, and I put books on hold for them. I guess I am participating in Strewing – but I have always done this – the difference is that they have the freedom to accept or reject what is being offered, hopefully without me getting all bent out of shape. I say hopefully because this momma is definitely still a work in progress!

Here are some sites that have helped with my ideas of motivation, self- motivation, and the lack there-of. I don’t necessarily agree with everything in each of these pages, but it has challenged me to pin-point my thoughts – and why I think them.

I have no doubt that I will still become too pushy at times, and I will still worry, but for us, for now, I am happy with how our experiment is developing. I hope you’re able to find these resources helpful in your journey as well.

I would love to hear your stories. How did you deschool? How long did it take? How do you judge success? Please tell me about your experiences in the comments!

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Making clothes for Dino

Back to Unschool

When the kids were younger, we had a very laid back learning style. We read books together, checked out books from the library on a multitude of subjects, visited forts and parks, and pursuing self-created projects and experiments {in addition to the ones mom found}.

Monkey was making a dress for her Build-a-Dino.

Over the last few years, however, something very odd began happening. Even though we have been successful – indicated not only by their high test scores {required by the state} but also with their ability to delight others in conversation when we were out and about – I have started sliding into “school at home.” I was trying to schedule all of their subjects and direct what they were supposed to study – I began “teaching to the test” of college admission. And the result of my hard work? The kids gradually losing their innate desire to learn….there has to be a better way!

This was an amazing field trip, but they were pretty much ready to go when we got there.

I started thinking about what has worked in the past, and what caused my change. I realized that is was FEAR. I was afraid that the kids would not be able to succeed after high school, and although I would not have called us unschoolers, I began researching how unschoolers get to college.

I discovered a lot of articles and websites that helped to alleviate my fear and reaffirm that we can continue to pursue our path and have college success – not to mention, the possibility that college is not necessarily a requirement for adult success. Want some examples of what I found?

I also came to the realization that every amazing thing they have accomplished – from tasting all of the spices to committing large chunks of time to art – have been due to their own passions. They have been motivated to learn them – they are unmotivated to learn something just because some arbitrary person says that they need to. But, on the flip side, if it turns out that they do need to learn it in order to accomplish their own goals {ie college}, then I have no doubt that they will succeed.

Sitting and reading with their cousins.

Now I am embracing the Unschool philosophy, and we are in a period of deschooling right now to encourage them to reignite their love of learning for themselves, and it is going pretty well. I’m learning to say “Yes!” more often, and they are learning to be excited by the possibilities again.

But, I’m sure you’re asking, “But, Gidget – what about that beautiful planner you were just telling us about?” Well, I am happy to report that I have found a way to use it for my own record-keeping. Instead of using the squares to write out what I want to do – I am using it to record what they have done. I’m also continuing the lists of books and field trips. This will help me when I write my end of year review {required, once again, by the state} and when I help them create college portfolios….assuming that is the path where God takes them.

I believe that every family has to find the path of homeschooling that fits them best, and I am so happy to have found our way back to ours.

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