Thursday, October 15, 2009

Making Them Do It

Since this is the place to be honest, I’m going to confess that my kids didn’t always want to do their schoolwork. I’ll be a little surprised if there’s any homeschool mom who hasn’t faced this challenge. Sometimes I resorted to “because I said so.” As far as obedience goes, that’s one level of motivation, but it won’t carry them far.

I believe there are three other levels of motivation that will last longer, carry over into their adult lives, and potentially lead them to God’s purpose for their lives.

Level 1: “I want to learn this.” Our oldest son loves music and needs no pushing to get him to sit at the piano. He played the piano long after his practice time was over. The youngest son enjoyed hands-on science experiments with the test tubes, chemicals, and alcohol burner. Hey, we weren’t studying but just having fun blowing things up or turning clear liquids into bright pink.

This level of motivation is easy if they have a passion for the subject. But even if the subject is not their favorite, you can add a dash of fun to make them want it. None of my children were math wizards like their dad, but when they needed a little extra motivation to memorize their multiplication tables, we promised a trip to the ice cream parlor as soon as they could beat their father’s time in a page of one hundred facts. Suddenly the kids asked if they could take another test, and beating their dad was more of a reward than the ice cream.

Level 2: “I need to know this.” A teenage friend once complained to us about the value of studying algebra. Who ever used it anyway? Oh boy, he asked the wrong person that day! My husband showed him how engineers use algebra to design an airplane motor. Oh, but he wanted to be a doctor, not an engineer. Poor kid. He got a lesson in how he’d need the principles of algebra to balance a chemistry equation.

Our friend didn’t come to the point where he liked algebra, but he did come to an appreciation of his need to learn it. (Happy ending: that young man is now a dentist!)

Level 3: “God wants me to learn this.” Motivation can also be based on God’s will for our lives instead of our own wants or needs. Teaching our children to seek God’s purpose for their lives and then press on to the goal for His glory is certainly the highest level of motivation.
For instance, we may study a foreign language, not because we like it or need to know it, but in order to share God’s Word with others. The joy of seeking to motivate our children to study for the glory of God is that we serve a loving Master. His will for our lives includes not only all we need, but also a plan that is well-pleasing to God and to ourselves. I like to tell teenagers not to be afraid of God’s will for their lives, because they’re going to love it.

What about you? Do you ever struggle with getting them to do the work? What do you do to motivate them? Please share with us!

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