When talking about motivation in school, I like to start with reading for pleasure. Since schoolwork involves so much reading and writing, reading for pleasure is the biggest predictor of success at school.
· Does your child hate to read? If you’ve ever read a good book, you know that getting into another world can be relaxing and fun. If your child hates to read, it’s because he sees it not as fun, but as work. Talk to the teacher and try to find out if he is on grade level or below. If below, you will need to get extra support to help him catch up. Meanwhile, help him pick out attractive books that he can read easily. If they are at the right reading level, he will be more motivated to read them. Reading for pleasure is the best way to improve reading, writing, spelling, and grammar.
· Help your child find books that he likes. He can find out from his friends what they are reading and try different things. If he doesn’t like fiction, try nonfiction. The library has books for every area of interest.
Next, I like to see if the work is too hard or too overwhelming. The best way to figure this out is to sit down with your child and go through every assignment to see how easy or hard it is, and how much time it takes.
· If the work is too hard, find out why. Ask your child to try and narrow down the obstacles. Sometimes just getting extra help will improve motivation.
· If there is too much work, try breaking it down, especially long term assignments; you can also talk to the teacher about reducing the load. Particularly with math, some children take longer to do the problems than others, and they may learn just as much with fewer problems.
· In middle school and high school, a course load with too many honors and AP classes can overwhelm a student. When registering for next year’s classes, consider scaling back if appropriate.
Finally, some students need more structure. Is homework time a set time during the day? If your student has too much time on her hands, she may be prone to procrastination, especially if a parent isn’t home to help as needed.
· Try to have homework time scheduled for one 2-3 hour block or two 1-1.5 hour blocks each day for high school, and less for lower grades. Some of that time should be when a parent is available.
· Help your child plan a schedule, arrange for breaks in between subjects, and put the homework in a folder and in her backpack right away to make sure it gets handed in.
· Reward your child for doing a good job.
Remember, success leads to motivation. If you can work with your child’s teachers to set her up for success, she will work harder. If you think of the things she enjoys doing, they are probably things she is good at. With the right support, your child can become successful at school.