A few years ago my then teenage son and I would have long conversations about the nature of motivation. Basically, both of us were struggling with having to do things we didn't want to do, but had to do. You know, the daily chores - washing the dishes, hanging out the clothes, sweeping the floors, etc. Boring, mundane and what we considered to be very unrewarding tasks! Sometimes something would come along that was completely unpleasant but needed to be done. We agreed that such tasks meant that after hours or days - even weeks! - of procrastination, we'd finally drag our heavy bodies and reluctant minds to heel and get the task done.
What we discovered was that afterwards we'd feel really great, and wonder why we'd made such a fuss in the first place!
One tip I've learned to manage handling these tasks is to plan ahead. One, to make sure I have left enough time to procrastinate a satisfying amount of time, but mostly so that I can complete the task when I'm in a better mood or state of mind. Two, planning helps me select the time of day I'm more likely to be in that mood. For instance, we leave the dishes after dinner as we relax after eating and doing the dishes is work. Problem is, the dishes are there in the morning - ugh! Instead of beating myself up, I happily leave them until about 4pm, when my mind turns to preparing the evening meal. As I'm in the kitchen then (I usually spend most of my day either at my computer or in the garden) I'm happy to knock over the job of doing the dishes, while I dream up a yummy meal.
We can do the same with homeschooling. Once we've spent some time observing our children and getting to know their learning styles we're in a much better position to know when they are at their best, most awake, most imaginative, receptive, happy, eager to learn, etc. I knew that my children were most interested first thing in the morning, so if there was something I really wanted them to learn, like the 4x tables, I'd schedule a lesson in at around about 8 am, minutes after they'd woken up - just before they picked up a box of LEGO to play with!
Munching on the muesli and playing with the times table cards and counters didn't seem so much of a chore then, to them or me! Finish breakfast off with a quick listen to the skip-counting tape and that's that: maths lesson done for the day. (Not really, that was just the thing I wanted them to learn that day!)
After lunch their energy would wane somewhat - this was the ideal time to slip a taped documentary into the video player, or leave some books scattered on the rug in the living room. This was and still is a good time for us to check our emails, muck about in Facebook, play computer games - anything that didn't require problem solving or making decisions.
Knowing when to take advantage of our state or mind and moods can really help avoid motivation problems.
© Beverley Paine
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