We’ve all been there. A deadline approaches, yet there's no motivation to get the project done. The laundry piles up... until there's nothing clean to wear. Faced with a long to-do list, we feel the urgent need to paint, take a nap, or do anything but the things we need to do.
Procrastination is a human phenomenon which happens to everyone at some point, even our children. When it rears its head, it’s best to figure out the underlying cause and find solutions for it, rather than simply trudging through the work. There are three primary reasons for procrastination:
A task does not seem meaningful.
A task is unstructured.
A task seems too difficult.
When Homeschooling Is Not Meaningful
At times, our homeschool lessons cover topics our children need to know, but they don't consider meaningful to their lives. An example that comes to mind is algebra. Many children feel this branch of math isn’t relevant to their lives.
“I’ll never use this in real life,” they may argue.
At times like these, we are wise to empower them to figure out ways to make the work more meaningful to them, even if they don’t yet see the value in the content.
We need to help them consider the work on a deeper level. Instead of seeing algebra as problems on a worksheet, show them its applications in the real world.
- If you know someone who is in the financial industry, have them leverage their expertise to explain the connections.
- Or chat with your child about his goals. Does he plan to attend college? If so, algebra is necessary regardless of his course of study.
- Talk with him about your own experience with algebra. Did you struggle too? Don’t be afraid to admit it.
- Explain that exercising both sides of the brain is important to being well-educated.
When Homeschooling Is Unstructured
Having a lofty long-term goal is daunting, even to the most organized adult. It's even more so to a child, who may also feel he has no choice in the matter. If they are unable to imagine the step-by-step progression needed to achieve the outcome, they may not have the will-power or know-how to invest in the work. The result? Procrastination.
- When working on something that has no set time-limit, it can be easy to procrastinate because there’s no sense of urgency. Make sure to provide deadlines and due dates.
- If an assignment is large and somewhat nebulous, it's helpful to break it down into smaller, measurable steps that can be checked off a list. Chunking the work into parts gives your child the ability to see progress, even if they aren’t close to the finish line yet. And it provides direction for what should happen next.
When Homeschooling Is Difficult
When it comes to work, there are few things that can deflate motivation more than feeling like you’re going to fail. We all want to feel successful. So when work seems too difficult, we avoid it. Who wants to flail about, drowning in a sea of blunders?
My suggestion for very difficult tasks is to set a timer. Your child works on the difficult task until the time is up, and then they need not concern themselves with it until the next session. Having a set amount of time can make a difficult task seem less intimidating.
Your child will have times when they want to procrastinate. They’re human. The key is to not let the procrastination paralyze progress. Children are always evolving as learners and it is a good idea to reflect on where they are mentally and energetically, as well as academically. By keeping communication open and schedules flexible, you can help your children get past the procrastination and on track for success.
About the Author
Resa Brandenburg is a former teacher who is now passionate about unschooling her daughter. She lives with her husband in an old farmhouse by the river in Kentucky. Her favorite thing to do is spend the afternoon with her family, including her grown sons and two grandchildren. Her hobbies include traveling, reading, and quilting.