If you have children who are anything like mine, they didn’t care so much about their grades. I could tell them until I was blue in the face that their grades needed to improve, and yet, nothing improved.
It didn’t matter what I said, I just couldn’t get them to try any harder than they thought they already were. They would come up with excuses about how they didn’t understand. I believed them at first, I didn’t know any better.
They had been in public school and all I really knew was what was on the report cards and what their teachers had shared with me during parent teacher conferences. That’s one of the great things about homeschooling, you know immediately when your child is struggling or excelling, without having to wait.
So I tried, over and over and over again to help them “understand”. Still they continued to turn in substandard work, even after I had explained it more times than I could count and in every possible way.
Honestly, there for a while it made me feel insufficient, like I just couldn’t teach my kids. What was I doing wrong? But then I realized they just didn’t want to apply themselves. I had to come up with something that made them want to apply themselves.
Good Work Cards
The first thing I tried was what I called “Good Work Cards”.
Every day they would get punches (up to 5) for good things they had done on their work. Things like grades above a certain percentage, proper spelling, proper punctuation, using capital letters correctly, and good handwriting all got punches.
When the card was full they got another card worth 5 points, which they could save or trade in for a prize.
For prizes I purchased stuff form dollar stores, clearance toys from department stores, and good deals I found online. I never spent over $5 for anything that I purchased, but I found some pretty good stuff, worth well over $5, with a little searching.
I put stickers with amounts ranging from 5-35 points. Obviously the more elaborate the item, the more it cost in points. I put everything in a box and tried to arrange it so that the more “expensive” items were located toward the top, so to give them some incentive to work harder and earn points faster.
This system worked great for my younger son and my oldest tagged along for a little bit, but after a while his work started to get careless again. On top of that, we were moving, and in our new place we really didn’t have the room to have a box full of toys just hanging around.
I know these would have continued to work great for my younger son, since he responded so well to the incentives in this way. So if your child is like that, you should definitely consider giving something like this a try. Here is a download of my Good Work Punch Card. I printed them on a piece of colored cardstock.
Daily Average As a Form of Motivation
I racked my brain trying to come up with some sort of new way to get them to try harder. Then one day, as I was grading schoolwork (and yanking my hair out) my oldest came up to ask me if he could play his Nintendo DS.
In our house, we try to limit screen time to 2-3 hours per day (I’m not gonna lie though, sometimes I let them go a little longer so I can have some me time). The rules for screen time are that school and chores MUST be done and at LEAST 2 hours of “active” time MUST be completed before they are even allowed to ask if they can have screen time.
So, he asked. I did a quick over of his chores list, his school had been completed(not to the best of his ability, but it was done) and he’d been active for a while. I said yes. It was then that it hit me. Screen time is something that he enjoys a great deal, it’s something that he looks forward to every day. I had my incentive.
I had to figure out a plan. “Your schoolwork was AWFUL today, so you don’t get screen time!” was not gonna fly. I didn’t really feel like that would get the point across, and he would just think I was being mean.
I came up with the idea of doing what I call a “Daily Average”. I take all of the grades, add them, then divide them by the number of assignments (just like you would to get a monthly, quarterly, or semester average) to get an average percentage of the day’s grades.
This has turned out to be a great motivational tool. In order to have screen time, in addition to their chores and active time, they must have above a certain percentage on their “Daily Average”. I started at a lower percentage to coincide with their then current grades, but I have slowly brought it up over the months to challenge them as their work has improved.
They still have their days, and when they do happen to fall below their percentage they have been know to have a little bit of a tantrum, but they have been able to progress their work to a level I would have thought almost impossible not to long ago.
You could try a Daily Average with anything your child enjoys. I would stress that things like playing outside or doing something that is actually constructive not be used in this manner, though. In my opinion, take it as such, we have a generation on our hands that doesn’t really have much motivation to get up and about, so I try to encourage it as much as possible in our home. Things like video games, television, getting to go to an event of some sort (that happens regularly), friends getting to come over, telephone use, etc. could all be good tools to get your child motivated.
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