The Simple Plan to Motivate Your Homeschooler to Get That Work Done
*****Please don’t miss the 2 updates at the bottom of the post about how I am continuing to motivate my homeschoolers.
Looking for some tips to get your homeschooler motivated?
We’ve all been there!
Child slumped in a chair with a dejected look.
A stack of work on the table and a pencil thrown to the side.
“I can’t do it!”
“This is so hard!”
Sound familiar? If you are not prepared for and expecting this moment to come – it would be easy to fall into a trap of dishing out consequences.
“If you don’t finish your spelling worksheet, no dessert tonight.” Or “Well, if you don’t finish your writing assignment, I guess you won’t have any time to watch TV either.” Insert smug parent look that says, “Gotcha!”
Congratulations! You just pushed the detonation button on your homeschool.
You just announced to your student that homeschool is the equivalent to eating vegetables – if you don’t do this – a consequence will be coming.
Don’t expect them to bounce to their chair tomorrow and write that paragraph with a smile.
Well, how do I motivate my homeschooler then???
If at all possible – before the above moment happens – have an incentive plan in place that is tailored to your homeschooler. (Don’t worry if you’ve already said the above things – me too – it is fixable!)
When I first started homeschooling, I figured out pretty quickly that my 1st grader would need some sort of incentive to keep her on task and motivated to work.
I found there were days when she just didn’t want to do it – don’t we all have those days?
Initially, I tried rewarding her hard work, with a sticker on her worksheets. She loved it! …for a couple of weeks.
I had to spend some more time thinking about what I thought would motivate her, drive her, and make her feel she was working toward something – not avoiding punishment – by doing her schoolwork.
Kids usually don’t understand (or care about) the long term pay off a solid education.
They need something in the short term that they can work towards in order to be motivated.
Here is what I came up with to track her positive incentive:
Pretty simple right!
(Psst! Download my fancy new free printable chart is at the bottom of this post!)
I drew a chart with 6 columns. Every day that she completes all of her work, she gets a sticker on the chart.
At the end of the week when she has 5 stickers – she gets $5. (There are many other things besides money that motivate kids. Scroll down the post for more ideas for your kids.
When I pay the money out to her, she gets a checkmark in the 6th column to show the money is paid out (I hold onto the money sometimes if she is saving for something online that would require a debit card to buy).
If you look closely, you can see previous charts taped underneath.
I know what you’re thinking…
“Oh, you bribed her to do her work, not very impressive.”
Well, there is more here than meets the eye
My 6-year-old does not get an allowance, so I decided that her schoolwork is her job and I should pay her for GOOD work.
Her school work also includes a daily chore around the house that is age-appropriate for her. These include emptying trash cans, wiping down sinks, dusting, and vacuuming.
If she doesn’t complete her work: no sticker.
If she has a bad attitude about doing work, I gently remind her that she is making a very expensive choice over writing some sentences.
That has always gotten her attention, she takes a break, and then goes back and completes the work.
This had been tremendous for me and my homeschool. I do not need to cross my arms, throw my hip out, and come up with some threat in order to keep her on track.
My face stays neutral as I remind her that she is going to miss out on a reward by her own choice.
Benefits of Positive Incentive vs. Punishment
It has been wonderful to have a mostly peaceful homeschool for the cost of only $5/week. Heck of a deal in my opinion! But there is much more!
My daughter has really learned the value of a dollar and the importance of saving the money she worked so hard to earn. She has had to learn to wait ($5 doesn’t buy much) for the things she really wants – delayed gratification – which is huge in our culture right now.
She has experienced the pride of buying something with her own hard-earned money.
We have had some basic conversations about spending within her budget. She is also sharpening the more basic skills of counting her money and the responsibility of keeping track of it in her wallet.
I’m actually saving money by the way
I have genuinely saved untold amounts of money by motivating my homeschooler this way.
Almost everything she asks for, I tell her she needs to spend her own money to get it. That usually shuts down the conversation pretty quickly and she walks away.
She either forgets about the purchase or starts to figure out how long it will take to earn the money she needs.
I have even done summer school with her so she can keep earning money every week – yes for extra math and writing!
What will motivate your homeschooler?
You may still be thinking, that there is something off about paying your kid to do their school work.
Or that you don’t have the budget to pay for what would motivate your kids.
Or that your kid is stubborn and won’t care about earning a reward.
I hear what you’re saying.
Use this simple sticker chart as a blueprint and tailor it to your kid and build from it.
The stickers could be used to represent extra screen time earned for the day or time with a special video game that can only be earned through schoolwork.
Maybe your child would be motivated by being able to stay up 30 minutes later at the end of the week and watch a special show with you.
Perhaps after a certain number of stickers you’ll take them for a fast food lunch at a place you don’t often go.
Maybe an undisclosed surprise at the end of a certain amount of stickers is what they are working for.
Maybe they will be motivated with a chance to pick a Redbox, Amazon, or Netflix movie to watch.
I know of one mom who ordered a special pizza lunch at the end of the week to reward her students who had completed their work. If you didn’t finish your work on time – you ate a normal lunch out of the fridge.
My daughter was very motivated when she attended a public school kindergarten with a Friday ice cream policy. If all her school work was completed and she had not been a behavior problem – she got icecream with her lunch.
Update for Younger Homeschoolers – 8/19/2019
I now have a kindergartener and preschooler joining my homeschool mix, and I wanted to update this post with how we are still using positive motivation to keep the little ones on track.
I printed them out their own chart (see printable at bottom of post) and let them color it at the beginning of the school year.
I also let them pick out their own stickers for the chart, which was a huge hit with a 5 and 3 year old!
They are loving putting a sticker on their chart everyday after school and working towards their prize at the end of a week – a pick in my treasure chest!
This is an inexpensive and very effective option to help keep your homeschooler engaged and motivated.
I can hardly contain them on Friday afternoon when they know it is time to pop the treasure chest open and get their prize for all their hard work!
This is the treasure chest I bought and here is the toy pack I picked up from Amazon (lots of stickers are included for your chart!).
Your kids are going to love it!
***Also use stickers liberally on any and all worksheets for extra motivation!
I came back to this post to let you all know that we are STILL using our positive incentive chart and it still works! We are in the 8th week of our 4th year of homeschool and I could not be happier with how my kids are doing!
My kids have had a great attitude about school and I have had very minimal issues with getting them to finish their work.
The positive incentive that is working best to motivate ALL of my three homeschoolers (4th grade, 1st grade, and Pre-K) is a well-stocked “treat box”.
I keep a good-sized box in the pantry full of things that I don’t normally let my girls eat. On Friday they are allowed to pick one thing from the treat box if they have completed all their work for the week (with a good attitude).
I have also started making a big show about naming the “Star of the Week” and letting that kid have first pick from the box.
Star of the Week is whoever worked the hardest, had a huge accomplishment, or had the best attitude. It is a big deal to my girls and they can’t wait to hear who I pick every week!
Recap + Free Printable
You know your kid. Think about what motivates them.
What lights their fire.
Give them something to work towards. Something to motivate them when the going gets tough.
If your students are motivated by the love of learning – awesome!
But I would recommend you have something up your sleeve.
Be prepared to work towards a reward as you homeschool, not avoid consequences.
Since writing this post, I have actually developed a “Getting that Work Done!” printable to make it even easier for you to get started with this!
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I’ve got 4 children, all ages 1st – 8th. I think a chart with a payout on day 6 can work but: If a child doesn’t earn a ‘sticker’ on Day 2 for example, their motivation for the rest of the week is nill correct? I have children who then say, “What’s the point?” Do you couple this with your bookend philosophy so that there is still a daily motivation?
Also, how many times do you gently say, “You are making a costly decision..” before stating they have lost the day’s award? My problem is again, once that decision is made, the rest of the day is gone. What advice can you give? Thank you!!
Excellent question, Sabrina. The key to making this work is that they need to believe that you mean what you say. You may have to lose a few days in order to have the larger payoff. Once they see that you will do what you say AND they see their siblings receiving rewards, that will go a long way for most children. Yes, I do couple a short term reward with a long term reward. Many kids need that instant gratification as well as a looming goal at the end of the week. On a deeper note, I would have a continuous dialogue with the kids about self discipline, consistency, and putting forth effort. Make sure that they know you are still cheering for them, even if the miss the mark that day. Lay a boundary for what attitude is acceptable and what is not. If they cross the boundary, follow through. This might look different for each child and you will learn as you go. I hope that helps!
Hi! What do you do when a kid earns for sticker on Monday? Then the rest of the week is “pointless” how do you deal with that?
Hey Carolyn, Thanks for the question! A child needs to earn 5 stickers (or however many days of school you do in a week) in order to earn a prize at the end of the week. Just picking out the sticker and putting it on their chart is exciting for some kids, but other kids may need more incentive. If your child is trying to push the edges of the boundaries with you, I recommend a “bookend” philosophy. You can read more about that in this post – When Your Child Refuses to Do School Work