How to Motivate Your Homeschool Child toward Curiosity & Independence

I’m going to declare it straight up: I don’t think you can motivate your homeschool child.

There I said it. So now you can move on to the next article or you can consider this: we may find ourselves trying to push our kids toward certain goals or activities, only to be met with resistance and disinterest.

Our homeschool kids might do what they’re told if their resistance and disinterest are met with your consequences, but it won’t internally motivate them. I believe true motivation comes from within, and our homeschool mother role lies in creating an environment that nurtures curiosity, independence, and a genuine desire to explore.

So can you motivate your homeschool child? In this post, we explore five key points that highlight the importance of allowing children the freedom to discover their own passions and develop intrinsic motivation on their own terms.

How can I motivate my child? (Or can I?)

Before I share my 5 thoughts to consider when you have a goal to motivate your homeschool child, I want you to know two things I believe about children.

  1. I believe children were born to be autonomous. They were meant to follow the beat of their internal drum.
  2. I believe children have a unique reason and purpose to be on the planet. We all would benefit when every human fully embraces their unique reasons and purposes for being on the planet.
  3. Additionally, I believe each of our kids has unique talents, skills, and aptitudes, and is meant to be in our homes for different reasons. We homeschool mamas are meant to learn about each of our kids and facilitate each of them to become more them so they can do the things they were meant to do.

How to motivate your child? I don't think you can intrinsically motivate your child. motivation comes from within.
If our goal is to encourage independence and curiosity, we need to practice getting out of their way.

My 5 thoughts to consider when you want to motivate your homeschool child.

1. If homeschool kids have large swaths of time to explore, they will. Eventually.

Recognize that kids previously schooled may have become bored and unmotivated because educational goals were forced upon them. Their lives were prescribed.

Consider entering a season of deschooling, allowing them to pursue their interests and observe what they naturally gravitate towards.

2. Homeschool mama, you can want your child to potty train, but you can’t make her pee.

You might be right: your child needs to learn “x”.

Perhaps, you might decide that they have to sit at a table and read ten pages from the Usborne History Encyclopedia, then narrate those pages into a two-paragraph summary, pull (& rewrite) ten spelling words from that two-paragraph summary, and put that historical event on a timeline.

Ta da. The educational deed is done. They “learned” all about a historical period.

  • But do they care?
  • Will they remember?
  • Did they just put in the time?

That’s not motivation. That’s checking educational boxes.

You can require your child to learn ancient history, but that doesn’t mean your child will learn about ancient history.

3. You can lead them to a book, but you can’t make them read.

Strew learning opportunities randomly around your home, such as books placed on the kitchen table, hallway floor, or living room table. By making these resources easily accessible, you increase the chances of sparking their curiosity and encouraging them to engage in reading.

But they still might not.

In fact, some older kids might sense your intentions: “Mom’s strewing again”. Sometimes strewing is a passive-aggressive form of attempting to harness our kids’ internal curiosity and motivation.

When we’re strewing because we like to have an education-rich environment, our kids might show interest.

Therefore, you can lead them to a book, and sometimes they will read.

How can we motivate our homeschool kids? We follow our rabbit trails of curiosity in front of our kids, let them see how we engage our internal curiosities.
How can you motivate your homeschool child?

4. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

When we homeschool mamas provide our kids a balance of social time, solitude, and meaningful eye-to-eye connection with each of our children, then our kids will likely be motivated to engage in meaningful activities.

So we need to give them the opportunity to share their thoughts and interests, then ask them what they want to do.

When we foster open communication and respect their autonomy, we empower them to discover their motivations.

Because horses need to drink too, they just don’t want to be told when and how.

5. You can’t make them motivated.

We can’t force a carrot in front of our kids and make them want to eat it. You can surely try. (I know I have tried.)

Many parents attempt to insist or force external motivation, but you won’t create internal motivation.

I do think there’s something to be said about creating screen time restrictions so that kids have an opportunity to be bored at times.

If we think it’s useful for our minds to take screen breaks, it obviously is good for our kids’ growing minds too.

Remove screens and create an environment where boredom sets in. When kids get bored, they will eventually seek out activities and get creative, potentially leading them to explore new interests.

Give yourself, and your kids, a lot of white space: solitude.

We all need occasional novelty. Our brains are built for this, so I’m NOT saying we shouldn’t provide an interesting life and opportunities for our kids, however, I think our culture assumes novelty is required every moment of every day.

How to motivate your homeschool child…(or not)

CAVEAT: Sometimes we can’t wait for them to be motivated, for various reasons, and sometimes doing something right now is non-negotiable.

And when this moment happens, we need to confidently ask and expect our child to follow through. However, if that child’s entire life is non-negotiable when you are determining every activity they engage in, how to do it, when to do it, where to do it, and with whom to do it, you are discouraging internal motivation.

Be an interested, curious, creative, and productive person yourself. Lead by example and cultivate your own passions. When your children see your enthusiasm and dedication, give them wide open spaces to explore their own, they will be more likely to be inspired and motivated to pursue their own interests too.

Want to book a free 20-minute chat to see if I can help you in your homeschool life? Contact me here.

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Teresa Wiedrick

I help homeschool mamas shed what’s not working in their homeschool & life, so they can show up authentically, purposefully, and confidently in their homeschool & life.