Homeschool Motivation: 22 tips from Student Support Advisors

By DeVry University

E-learning. For some parents it can be sensitive topic – and keeping kids engaged can be a challenging task. Whether they're struggling to focus or simply uninterested in a specific topic, finding the right way to pique their interest can be tricky. You're getting a glimpse at what it might be like to homeschool your children and maybe you’re recognizing that it’s more difficult than you thought.

That's why we went straight to our very own motivation gurus for their advice. Our Student Support Advisors here at DeVry University and our Keller Graduate School of Management work with college students on a daily basis to help them succeed as they pursue their education. Read on for some of their most helpful motivation tips that can be applied to any grade level:

1. Set a Schedule.

Creating a schedule is a great way to set expectations for the day. Stefanie Cruise explains: “Having a set schedule displayed in a visual way can help all family members stay motivated and accountable.”

“Consider scheduling smaller blocks for study time mixed with larger blocks for creativity, fun and movement,” adds Dawn Etchason.

2. Create a Learning Space.

Much like how you might have an impromptu or formal area for working from home, it can be helpful to try to dedicate a space specifically for homeschooling purposes. “Create a school-only area such as a desk or table in their bedroom, the home office or basement,” says Teresa Weringa. “This will help shift their mindset and improve their focus.”

3. Be Positive.

“Positivity can go a long way,” says Hailey McNamara. “The ability to consistently look on the bright side is a key factor I have noticed in my students that frequently results in success.”

4. Highlight Their Successes.

When students struggle with homeschool motivation it’s easy for them to lose sight of how far they’ve already come. “I always try to find something positive that they’ve accomplished to give them a little boost,” says Allison De La Garza. “Whether it’s a great job in another class, a great effort in this one or a specific struggle they've overcome, getting them to see the successes that they have had sometimes motivates them through the challenges they are facing.”

5. Make Learning Fun.

Schoolwork doesn’t have to be tedious. With a little creativity and imagination, you can help make learning fun. Here are a few of our favorite suggestions:

  • “Turn assignments into games,” says Louis Mills. “This is huge for my three kids. For example, if they have to learn shapes or colors, we’ll all go outside on a treasure hunt and try and find the answers. It keeps them entertained and motivated to learn more.”
  • “Have each family member choose a fun or silly picture to add to your learning space,” says Peter Tureson.
  • “Create flash cards from homework questions,” says Constance Sarullo. “Then use the cards to create your own trivia game with the question on one side and the answer on the other.”
  • “Start a family competition of ‘who can get their work done first," says Weringa. “You can even offer a small reward, like letting the winner choose what game to play on family night.”

6. Set Daily Goals.

“Try to incorporate recognition or set goals on a daily basis,” advises Erika Perez. Your children might be more motivated to complete their work if they understand the rewards that lie ahead – such as playing their favorite game or earning some screen time.

“Keeping goals fresh in their mind can be a great motivator,” adds Kyle Slack.

7. Use Available Tools.

If you want your child to feel equipped to do their best work, “take advantage of all the resources their school has available,” suggests Jacklyn Verros.

Michelle Penton adds, “Try to think of what would be helpful to you if you were in their shoes. For example, tools like digital libraries are one way to help make research fun and easy.”

8. Leverage Online Resources.

“Explore online homeschool resources or virtual museum tours ,” says Aysha Qureshi. “I do this with my own kids as it’s helpful to give them different activities and experiences to engage in.”

9. Spark Their Interest.

Sometimes creating a personal connection can go a long way to increase homeschool motivation. Mills explains: “Determine what your child is struggling with in their assignments, and then consider what they like to do for hobbies. Now see if you can find a way to incorporate both in their studies.”

10. Cultivate Curiosity.

“A curious student is a student who is open to learning,” says Demitri Palios. Encourage curiosity with at-home art, science and imaginative play activities.

11. Work on Time Management.

“Try to work with your child on a time management plan – as this tends to ease stress,” explains Weringa.

Sara Nuzbach suggests students “map out a weekly schedule along with the amount of time they’ll be devoting to their schoolwork each day. This also helps them so they don’t feel like they’re scrambling at the last minute.”

12. Take a Day Off.

When things start to get overwhelming for your child, “consider planning a day off during the week,” says Etchason. “Bake cookies, watch movies or just spend time together. Having a day off to look forward to will help the regular school activities seem more interesting.”

13. Break it Down.

If your kids are struggling to manage their workload, “try breaking down tasks into more specific objectives or smaller tasks. This can help develop a sense of accountability,” explains Cruise.

Tureson agrees: “Set a series of small goals so they can see their progress. Then have checkpoints where they can reward themselves. If they’re working on a large assignment, break it up into smaller pieces. Once they reach a checkpoint, give them a break to grab a snack or stretch their legs.”

14. Connect with Teachers and Peers.

Most students are used to learning in classrooms with their peers, so trying to restore a bit of that connection can go a long way. Qureshi says, “My sixth grader stays connected through regular Zoom meetings with her friends and music teacher.”

Jennifer Druck echoes this concept: “I help my first grader stay motivated by using Google Classroom to engage with his teachers and classmates. Reaching out and staying connected to my child's teacher is helpful for me as a parent, too.”

15. Listen.

“Many times, the best thing to do is to say nothing!” exclaims Palios. “Just listen. This shows them that they have your attention and that you care about their well-being.”

“Sometimes they just need someone to hear them out,” echoes Mills. “Once they’ve had a chance to voice their concerns, you’ll have a better idea of how to help them manage their workload.”

16. Validate Their Feelings.

Change can be difficult. “It's not unusual for students to have some days or weeks where they just aren't feeling it,” says Etchason. Reassure your child that you’re in this together, and that their feelings and emotions about COVID-19, school closures and missing their friends are completely normal.

17. Be Relatable.

We’ve all had moments where we’ve struggled to stay motivated in school. “Try to relate your child’s situation to a specific time in your life. It will help them to know that they are not alone,” says Weringa. “Then talk about the things that helped you get out of that rut – maybe they can apply some of those ideas to their own situation.”

18. Find Solutions.

Sometimes even the simplest solutions can help kids get motivated and back on track with their studies. “It really comes down to understanding what’s causing them difficulties and using the tools you have to resolve the situation,” explains Tureson. “Are they losing track of time? Older kids can use their smart phone to set reminders for themselves throughout the week. Stuck on a topic? Help them set up a time to connect with their teacher. Are they stressed? Talk about it. Sometimes just letting your child vent without providing any advice can help, too.”

19. Encourage Self-Evaluation.

“Teach your child to be honest with themselves,” advises Palios. “It can be easy to trick ourselves into thinking that we are giving 110% when we actually are not. Blaming others, making excuses and putting things off are often tied to a lack of motivation.”

20. Talk About Career Goals.

If your children are in high school, achieving good grades can be critical if they plan to pursue a college education. “Try to help them connect their career and personal goals with the material they are studying,” says Cruise.

“Sometimes just reminding students of their passion is a good trigger to spark some sort of motivation!” adds Weringa.

21. Take it One Day at a Time.

“Since the onset of COVID-19, some students are just taking things one day at a time – and that's okay,” says Etchason. “What is your child’s biggest stress right now? What stress do they feel is the smallest or most manageable?” she recommends asking. Understanding their concerns and setting expectations accordingly can be a good first step towards getting them back on track.

“It also helps to remind them of how close they are to reaching their goal,” adds Sarullo. Help your children understand that the end of their school year is quickly approaching and summer vacation will be here before they know it.

22. Remember That It's Only Temporary.

In unprecedented times like these, it’s easy to feel like this “new normal” might last forever. “Remind your children that this is just a phase and it’s only temporary,” says Aaron Hernandez.

A little reassurance can go a long way.

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