the question

"My biggest challenge is motivation. Getting my kids motivated to do the assignments that they don't like or that they think is hard.  I appreciate any help I can get.
  1. We live in Wisconsin.
  2. I have 3 children. My oldest son is in 4th/5th grades. My daughter is in 3rd grade (but if she were in public school, she'd be in 2nd grade.). My youngest son is 2 and I haven't been doing anything school-like with him. I just try to keep him out of trouble. :D
  3. I try to remind them of free time and if there are other 'fun' things we've planned to do later in the day. Sometimes I have them work on the 'hard' subject/assignment first so that it is done and out of the way, but this is met with lots and lots of resistance and gets drawn out far too long. I think one thing that may help but is really difficult to make happen is for me to actually sit with them and 'help' them (not do it for them) and give them my dedicated attention. This is very difficult to pull off, because of the 2yo.
  4. My son hates writing with a vengeance. He puts it off as much as possible. When I do try to help him, give him ideas, etc, he disagrees with every suggestion and gets really frustrated and upset. He also doesn't have any ideas of his own. Writing comes very easy for me. But I don't want to do it for him. The writing can be as little as as a paragraph or as much as a one-page report. I know it only increases in higher grades and want to help him develop a 'system' of how to do it.
  5. My daughter is a little bit more compliant, but gets distracted so easily. She is very creative and fun loving. She has some difficulty with math, not that it is hard but that she doesn't like it. She knows how to do it and the answers but she just doesn't want to do it unless it is in a game. She also gets bored easily with almost any subject except writing and English and art. I've tried giving her lots of little breaks, but then she doesn't want to come back to her lessons.
  6. For both of them we are using alpha omega curriculum online. So it's almost all on the computer.
  7. Any ideas for keeping the 2yo busy would be great too!" -Julia
the answer


I would encourage you to break out of your curricula.  Especially if you are experiencing this much loathing.  Right now you are in danger of creating apathetic learners.

I completely understand your fear of the later years and “what will happen.”  But I strongly urge you to put a pin in those thoughts for now and let’s look at what is happening in the moment.

1st step

Drop the “need to get it done to move on” mantra.

Do the fun now. 

Do the field trips, do the art projects, explode rockets in a field, create homemade firecrackers, bake cookies, get messy with paint, spend the day/week in museums, load up on documentaries and binge watch, load up on cool and interesting to them books without an agenda and spend hours reading them, looking at the pictures, letting them read.

all of these activities will help your children fall in love with learning.  These are experiences are more valid than “sit down” work.

2nd step

Children who are resistant and angry about learning fall into two categories:

  1. They are bored.
  1. They don’t understand a small part, and then start to build a serious lack of confidence that turns into anger.

These types always occur with “work learning”.

If you continue on with the status quo, you might be able to drive a little discipline in them for the future, but they will not go very far, and they will not give you their best.

However, if you stop now and do these radical changes, you will see radical changes in your children.  After all writing is easy to teach in an incredibly short time (we can help you with that, too) but creating a love for learning, a desire to do well . . .  that takes time.  (and may never be recovered if allowed to fester angry development past 11 years old.)

3rd step

Both of your children require more movement in their learning.  (if you want to understand this more, click here , read more on impact of linking movement to learning , learn to apply movement in your teaching)

Your daughter seems to be developing a pure conceptual understanding of how to apply math.  This is a true understanding.  She doesn’t want to go back to the computer lesson because it is boring.  She wants to create math.

Find art projects that exemplify what mathematical concepts you are wanting to teach and use those in lieu of what you are currently doing.

additional resources

Three things to try with the two year old:

  1. activity/explore boxes
  2. language cartoons (muzzy)
  3. direct teach older ones while little one is napping.
  4. Click here for more information on schooling with multiple ages


Let me know how things go, and any questions you have.

Looking forward to growing with you in your teaching,

Nathan and Nicole Bills


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