What motivates your kids? Inspires their excitement? Gives them the push they need to get through something they don’t enjoy? If your kid is anything like mine…

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Your child isn’t just like mine. In fact, my kids aren’t just like each other. What motivates one child might not mean anything to another one. It’s part of the art of homeschooling to pinpoint what that motivation is.

Before I go on, I want to pause for a quick refresher on who the Jones family is. It’s easy to lose track of other people’s kids, especially how old they are (which changes every year, darn it). Darren and I have four kids, which I refer to by their blog names:

Bookgirl, 17, senior

Gamerboy, 16, sophomore

Sparkler, 12, 7th grade

Ranger, 9, 4th grade.

So there you have the cast of characters. Back to our regularly-scheduled blog post.

As homeschooling parents, Darren and I put a lot of time and thought into teaching our kids; but that’s really only half our job. The other part is cultivating their ability to teach themselves. And that means we have to understand what motivates them to learn.

Last year, our oldest three children were given a big memory challenge for church. Their grandparents generously offered a cash reward if they completed it. For Gamerboy and Sparkler, that money kept them going. They both wanted expensive electronics, and this was one way to earn money for it.

Bookgirl, however, found the cash itself much less inspiring. She doesn’t want big electronics and, to be honest, doesn’t care all that much about having money. But then I pointed out that if she has money at her disposal, she can contribute to the independent artists and writers that she follows online. The motivation kicked in. She was eager for her own means of supporting what she loved.

They all three smashed the challenge. And it got me to noticing exactly what motivates which kid.

Both Bookgirl and Gamerboy prefer to have their daily assignments given to them, and then be left to complete them at their own pace. Two exceptions are biology (which Gamerboy doesn’t really enjoy) and Shakespeare (which he enjoys a lot). So Darren and I make time to do those subjects with him.

Sparkler, on the other hand, thrives on discussion and interaction. We’ve had to figure out a balance between encouraging her to work on her own, and spending time in discussion and interaction to keep her interest alive. And it does make the school day more engaging when we pause earth science or history to look up rock formations or lists of Anglo-Saxon names.

Ranger, the youngest, still does most of his lessons with me. Grammar just goes better if he can give me the answers orally (while sitting upside-down on the couch). Unlike any of his siblings, he enjoys quizzes and timed challenges to see how much he knows; for the first time in thirteen years of homeschooling, I’m creating end-of-unit tests upon request.

Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list of my children’s motivations. Just last night, Darren told Gamerboy to finish up some school, “and then you can get back on the computer and post dumb memes.” But just these few examples showed me how we vary our approaches with each child.

Although it takes a lot of thought, and even more trial and error, I enjoy figuring out what motivates each of my children. I want them to learn how to accomplish big tasks on their own. At the same time, I get to see their passion for what really interests them. That, more than anything else, keeps me motivated as a homeschooling parent.


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