Motivate the Unmotivated

How do we motivate the unmotivated student? We first need to clarify what we are actually meaning:

  • Is our child unmotivated to learn anything – they sit through their day not interested in anything around them?
  • Is our child unmotivated in the things we want to teach them?

yoghurt headfriction experiment upside down



It is important to know the difference. More often then not, when homeschool mums ask this question they mean the later. Most children have interest in something be it computers or motor bikes or fishing or horses – something. The challenge comes because mum has another set of ideas such as history, science and math!

I believe that God gave parents the responsibility to train their children. God gave parents age, experience and wisdom to be able to discern what a child needs to know. God also gave parents a heart for their child to be able to discern what makes their child tick. All of these elements need to come together in finding the educational material and method for each child. That is, we know what we want to teach our children and yet we take their individual bents and inclinations into account.

When we seriously consider the above point we need to ask our self what is my expectation on my so called unmotivated child? Have I considered his needs, his abilities, his interests, his bents? We must consider what battles are worth fighting over and we must have a “battle plan” so that we go forward rather than always being stalled at a stalemate.


Step 1 – Know what is important to you to teach
Focus on the most important thing. Let other things go, plan to get to them later. I am constantly revising my children’s learning plans as I ask myself what is the priority for this term (and if things are crazy I reduce that time frame to a month). My goals are simple stated, if we achieve our Bible focuses, plus one thing for each child then we have achieved. I also try and look at the average over the course of a month, rather than day by day, hour by hour.

Measure progress not success. This is a lesson I have learnt as we progress with Daniel and specialists. They don’t measure his success they measure his progress.


Step 2 – Have the right expectations
The Development of an Independent Learner Chart helps me assess what my focus should be with each child. Do I come from a Relationship/Character perspective, do I focus on exposing the world little bit by little bit, do I focus on study skills and slowly stretch them to learn by themselves, or are they truly able to be independent in this area?

If my child still has some focusing, some self control, some heart issues to work with (and these issues are often the case with the unmotivated child) then I need to cast aside my academic plans for this child and focus on relationship building – activities that will confront and give opportunities for this area of his life. There is no doubt that such activities will also expose him to the interesting things of the world but that will not be my goal.


Step 3 – Pursue Wisdom not knowledge
What is success? Is it knowledge? Is it riches? Is it recognition? Or is it knowing Jesus and helping others to know Him too? Is it walking in God’s ways and becoming more and more like Jesus. This is wisdom and we are to pursue it with all our hearts.

I define wisdom as practical application of knowing Jesus and we can teach our children to think this way. When you are discussing a movie your child saw, ask him if Jesus would have been happy with the way the main character acted? Why so? Why not? When you are listening to the news, afterwards ask your child what would God’s Word have to say about that situation?

Asking questions, getting your child to think in terms of character and principles will educate their heart.

But more than just educating their heart we want to capture their heart for Jesus, to build a relationship with him. While we struggle with an unmotivated learner we often forget this goal. But it needs to be our highest goal – introduce Jesus to our children, do all that we can to keep the soil of their hearts soft.


Further Reading:
Creating an Interest to Learn

What is Success?



Live life with your kids!