As a home-educating mother, motivation is oft on my mind. It's talked about at support meetings. Grumbled about in cyberspace. Moms. We worry about it all the time.
Maybe we worry too much. Maybe sometimes we take on burdens that don't belong to us.
"Pray, hope, and don't worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer."
-St. Pio of Pietrelcina
So what does that really mean? Just forget about it and let the child take care of himself? Of course not.
But sometimes home-educators... well, we micro-manage our kids. Sometimes, I said! And we lay awake at night thinking about college. When the oldest child under our roof is 3.
Accepting the responsibility to oversee a child's education can feel, at times, quite weighty. In fact, how a mother deals with that weight says a lot about her- about her attitude towards education, towards her children as people, towards God, even.
Home-educating mothers, on the whole, are women who care a lot about the intimate workings of their children's minds. They want to nurture. They want to help. But sometimes an over-eager gardener... well. We all know what happens to the plants of a gardener who can't leave well enough alone. And at our house, we all know what happens when the gardener leaves everything alone... for days on end.... (I am being literal here- I only ignore plants, never children!)
But back to motivation. I recently came across a book that, without much stretch of the imagination, is really perfect for the home-schooling parent.
This book, by Daniel H. Pink, was written for business men. But the ideas and tools he writes about are just as applicable in a homeschool setting.
"According to Pink (A Whole New Mind), everything we think we know about what motivates us is wrong. He pits the latest scientific discoveries about the mind against the outmoded wisdom that claims people can only be motivated by the hope of gain and the fear of loss. Pink cites a dizzying number of studies revealing that carrot and stick can actually significantly reduce the ability of workers to produce creative solutions to problems. What motivates us once our basic survival needs are met is the ability to grow and develop, to realize our fullest potential. Case studies of Google's 20 percent time (in which employees work on projects of their choosing one full day each week) and Best Buy's Results Only Work Environment (in which employees can work whenever and however they choose—as long as they meet specific goals) demonstrate growing endorsement for this approach. A series of appendixes include further reading and tips on applying this method to businesses, fitness and child-rearing. Drawing on research in psychology, economics and sociology, Pink's analysis—and new model—of motivation offers tremendous insight into our deepest nature."
The studies he cites are fascinating! And unlike John Holt, a theorist whose forward-thinking work was in its infancy when he died, Pink is citing many, many real-world, results-proven studies that could really give a boost of confidence to the mom thinking- 'NO way! I give that kid any academic freedom and he'll be using cling-on as his foreign language of choice!!!'
I'm definitely not a radical unschooler, not even an unschooler at all, really, but the concept of great freedom of choice within reasonable limits have been the basis of how I work with my children. (Who decides what reasonable limits are? A child's parents!) The Best Buy 20% stuff is really amazing, and, to me, shows the type of thinking any homeschooling family could incorporate into any 'type' of homeschooling.
It also works at the dinner table.
People usually assume I serve food and my kids gobble every delicious dish with smiles and compliments. People usually assume I never prod my kids to eat certain foods because you must only serve healthy foods and the child should be allowed to decide which foods and how much.
Well, yes and no. We don't prod MUCH but we do prod some. We (usually)only serve healthy foods, but the child who will eat nothing but bread- even organic whole wheat bread- is still gently, and firmly, encouraged to branch out and take at least a no-thank-you helping of any food on the table. Then we move on, and the focus is on conversation, not food.
The bottom line is that every family is different and every parent has a different tolerance for giving choices to their children. But any parent who has the goal of a self-motivated adult at the end of all this... could read and be helped- a lot- by this book.
I know I have. And I haven't even finished it yet. (Yes, I confess. But I was too excited to review it to wait till I'd finished!)
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”