Homeschooling six kids means I can't sit down with every single child for every single lesson each day. The kids get slighted because I rush to finish so I can get everything done, and I get NOTHING done for me or the house. Just school.
That's why I started looking for low-impact homeschooling systems early on. It's easier for me to create the whole curriculum for each kid than to teach them one day at a time, one lesson at a time, myself. Especially since the kids refuse to sit and read a textbook (and I don't blame them).
So we finally got settled on a free, low-impact homeschool system.
Then the problem became getting the kids to do it. They are not particularly motivated to stop what they are doing to do what's on the list. I totally understand this. How many times have I preferred to sit writing my novel to getting up and folding laundry?
But school is not optional. (I guess laundry isn't really, either).
The problem is, I have an unschooler streak in me--I have a really hard time telling the kids, "Stop writing that song for your computer game you're designing. I need you to take another timed multiplication test." It's not that I think multiplication tests are worthless--I try not to put things on the kids' curricula that are worthless. It's that I can also see the immense value in kids pursuing their interests and developing their talents. (For the record, I have no problem saying, "Shut down that computer game and do school.")
So I was searching for motivators. They have no trouble whatsoever finishing and staying on task once they get started (I created really good, interesting, engaging "school" for them, so they don't have to get bored or learn that learning is dumb.). I just had to find a way to get them started.
I tried reasoning with them. They understood, but it didn't motivate.
I tried threatening them ("School is mandatory by law, so if you don't do it here, I'll have to send you to public school!"). It didn't work. I don't think they believed the threats.
I tried getting them started with me doing it with them. They just walked away to let me do it alone.
I tried forcing them. They sat there, but they didn't engage. Clicking through pages with your brain turned off is a waste of time.
I tried making a rule: You have to do school first, before you start anything else, so you don't get distracted . Nice try.
So I tried bribing them. "If you finish all your lessons for the year, you get to pick a bag of candy at the store. and when you finish the math book, you get another bag of candy from the store."
They were excited about that, but it didn't motivate them.
I needed something more immediate. So I tried weekly bribes: If everyone does school every day, they can play nintendo on Saturday.
That sort of worked, but not enough. So we started daily small bribes.
That worked. Sort of.
The specific bribe was "If you finish school, you get to choose a single treat from the candy bin." (Like one small tootsie roll). That worked. For 2 weeks. Then they started putting it off until bedtime, which really messed up our sleep schedule even worse--I was constantly being forced to decide between the value of sleeping on time and the value of getting school done.
So I added a bribe. You can have a treat if you finish school AND you can have another treat if you finish before it gets dark outside.
That sort of worked. But I was still having to harass, threaten, plead, beg, cajole, nag people to get doing school. They just didn't remember until after the sun went down, and then they weren't motivated because they missed the reward.
So I added one more bribe: If you start school without me reminding you or telling you to, you get a treat. That's a total of three potential treats per day of school finished (and the kids can do extra "days" of school if they want) if they do it without being asked before the sun goes down.
This was magic. The kids get up and race to do school before I get a chance to remind them so they will get their three treats.
I hope it lasts!