You may have picked the most wonderful curricula, created a beautiful learning space in your house and prayed for patience, but what if none of that is working to help your child be willing to learn? There is an old adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Such is teaching. The teacher has a bigger job than just picking curricula and/or presenting the subject matter. Her job is also to convey that knowledge INTO the student. (Notice I didn’t say “to” the student.) For some children this can be the hardest part of the job!
How do you help a child want to learn? Encourage. Have you ever been given a job too big for you? Something with too many unknown steps or too complicated to figure out? What was your first instinct? – find someone to help you? Ever been given a really big job and the person giving it to you says, “Don’t worry, I’ll help you.” You feel totally different under those conditions. You can tackle almost anything with someone working along beside you. A freshman working on their first big research paper is going to panic if you don’t set down and show them step-by-step what to do. This isn’t doing it for them. This is helping them learn how to do it. For the next paper they won’t need near as much help, and by the time they are seniors they won’t want your help at all (except maybe to check their grammar.)
A child struggling in math will love it if you set down and work the problems too. Are they competitive? Race them. Keep your own journal, narration notebook, timeline (whatever) just as they do. Show them what yours is looking like or how you’re laying yours out – it will inspire them and show them what theirs could look like without you doing it for them.
Admit you are learning too. The most fun learning experiences at our house happen when we “follow a rabbit trail” because I don’t know the answer to a question. As we search for the answer we may find pictures or videos which teach us all. Many times those experiences get us behind in the textbook, but in some ways we were learning better.
Acknowledge that it is hard for them to want to learn, and ask what it is they do like? What activities get them excited? If the answer is sports, then enroll them in sports and read about sports heroes and learn how to figure statistics. You won’t have to do this forever, but it’s a great way to get them learning. Have you tried mixing things up? Read aloud to them sometimes instead of them reading everything for themselves. Maybe they would rather free-write a narration instead of filling in the blanks of a worksheet. Maybe they would love measuring everything in your house instead of working a page of math problems.
Try never to discourage. Remember homeschoolers have the grand advantage of not being in a classroom where everyone is being compared to everyone else. Some of the beauty of homeschooling is that our students can fly ahead in the subjects that come easy and not be bored. But they can also hang out and work on the hard stuff until it makes sense. Don’t give in to the “grade” peer pressure yourself and hand it on to your child. A few of my kids read VERY late, but by high school they were awesome readers and scored extremely high in reading on their college entrance tests. They had learned to love to read, mainly because I read aloud to them so much through all the years, and I kept helping them learn to read and tried to pick out just the right books for their interests and reading level – not their grade in school. I taught reading to their ability not their grade.
So remember, “You can lead a horse to water – Then you can put it in an attractive container, add some ice, and drink some yourself, which might make him want to try it.” (Don’t worry, I’m not giving up homeschooling to become a writer of adages.)