How do you deal with children who don’t seem interested or who don’t seem to want to learn?
First of all, I have learned, that some kids need to move to remain alert. It’s almost as if they just can’t get their brain to focus. They can be sitting, looking at something you know they know how to do, and yet it seems that although they are physically present, their brain is just not in gear. I think of one of my boys in particular. With him, he just needed to get up and move. He’d ask me if he could go jump on the trampoline to wake up his brain, and it really did work! Especially boys just seem to need to move, and when kept sitting still for long periods of time, they click into zombie mode. Several times during the course of a morning, he would go outside and run or jump on the trampoline, come back in and be able to focus again. I noticed with him also, when spelling his words out loud (which worked much better than writing them for him), he could think better if he was moving, climbing on the couch or scooting around on the floor. If you have one like that, let him move. When he is older, he will be able to sit and concentrate for longer periods of time, but don’t rush it when he is young.
Another thing I have learned from one of my struggling learners is that unless some children want to learn, they just won’t apply themselves to do it. Unless they have a desire to learn something, it’s extremely hard for some of them to be able to concentrate and focus. Some kids are motivated to know what they have to do, set their own goals, and get it done. Others, however, need to understand why it’s important to know- in order to apply themselves to learn it. If you have a child like this, learn to study them and see what matters to them. Then, try to find a way to apply what you are trying to teach them, to something they care about. For instance, if you are trying to teach handwriting skills and they just don’t care if they write neatly, let them write something that matters, like a letter to the editor. Letters to the editor are one of the most highly read sections of the newspaper, and we found editors love to publish letters written by kids, because it’s so unusual to have a child care enough to write. Have them read about an issue and write a letter to be read by thousands of people they can potentially influence. Suddenly, they will care about handwriting, grammar, spelling and communication skills. If they struggle with math, find a use for that skill you are trying to teach them. For example, if you are teaching percentages, take them to a sale, let them figure out how much off you are getting on deals; or let them bake a pie and cut it up to learn fractions; make a recipe, and double the measurements. For a boy who loves to build, buy him some wood and let him use measurement to build a bookcase or birdhouse. If your child is interested in airplanes, but not in geometry, let them see the plans the Wright brothers drew up to make their first glider. These examples are things I have actually done with my kids.
Find creative ways to apply what you teach, by connecting them with your kids passions, and see if that doesn’t make a huge difference in how they learn. If you are teaching the skills of writing a paper, let them choose the topic, whether it is about the Tuskegee Airmen or hunting White-tailed Deer (another two topics some of my kids chose.) Let them make bread and sell it, raise chickens, sell eggs and learn about accounting and small business. This is the beauty of home education- being able to customize your teaching to your unique child! I admit, it takes some reprogramming on the part of mom, because we do things the way we’ve seen them done- the way they were taught to us in school. But remember, if there is a better way for your child to learn, climb out the box and learn to enjoy learning with him/her!
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