My student doesn't want to do anything

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You bought all of this great curriculum ... the books hold great stories, the workbooks are colorful and appealing, and it's all organized for you ... but your 6 year old just sits at the table and stares out the window. As the days go by, you get further and further behind, and that just increases the frustration for both you and him.

Motivation is that nebulous quality that drives our desire for, and commitment to, reaching a goal. It has been said that we are never unmotivated, we are simply more motivated toward certain goals. So what motivates a 6 year old? Or any student, for that matter? Better yet, why is a 6 year old seemingly unmotivated when it comes to his education?

If this describes your student, here are some thoughts you may wish to consider. The answer to these simple questions may help you determine why motivation seems to be missing when it comes to school work.

  1. Is it possible that your student is bored? Perhaps the curriculum you've chosen is simply not challenging enough for your child.  (A content issue)
  2. Is it possible that your child is a "mover/shaker" (a kinesthetic learner) and having to sit still and do academics makes him shut down? (A delivery issue)
  3. Is it possible that this is a behavioral problem? In other words, how does your child behave in other areas of life when he is required to fulfill a task? (A heart issue)

Sometimes we get so focused on a child's age or grade, that we forget that learning needs to happen at a child's skill level. The end result may be that your student is bored with material that is too easy for him, or frustrated with content that is too difficult. Try to set aside any preconceived grade level, and instead, focus on what your child knows in each subject. Perhaps work on one subject at a time for a few days, so you can hone in on problem areas. Placement tests can be a useful tool as you evaluate materials. Listen to what your child says about what he is learning. Be willing to make changes, even if that means switching to materials that are at a level that do not match your child's age.

Delivery can be just as important as content. Sitting your child at a table with a workbook may not be the best way for your student to learn. Some children are simply not wired to sit still to be able to focus. Stretching out under the dining room table with a good book, or playing hopscotch while memorizing math facts may be a much better approach to use with a kinesthetic learner. Determining your child's learning style may go a long way in helping improve motivation for academics. Keep in mind ... learning does not only happen at a desk/table in a totally silent room. Look for ways to integrate learning into your everyday activities instead of trying to force an artificial learning environment.

Attitude may be the most challenging reason to address for lack of motivation. Concepts such as respect and recognizing authority are just as important to teach as math and phonics. One of the most valuable things we can teach our children is that life is full of things that aren't necessarily fun or enjoyable. Some days you have to memorize addition facts, even if you hate doing it, because mom knows that eventually you will need that skill. There are myriads of books, blog posts, and web sites out there on child training, so I won't belabor the point. But I would encourage you to be willing to see this as an area that may need some work.

Finally ... my attitude as a parent/teacher will go a long way toward encouraging motivation for learning in my student. Get excited about discovering new things with your child. Don't let school become something your student does for 4 hours every weekday morning. Instead, view learning as a lifestyle ... one that you and your child share.

Still on the journey ...
~Judy Wnuk

P.S. There's a lot to be said for letting a child be a child as long as possible. Perhaps 5 and 6 year old students aren't motivated for formal academics because they're busy learning what it means to be 5 or 6 and simply being amazed at the world around them. Don't stifle that inbred desire to investigate and discover or the need to move and be busy!


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