Oh boy, you guys. There are some days when the whining almost drives me to the brink! And, lately, I’m finding the predictable whining to be the worst. The whining that you know is about to occur as soon as you say something that you need to say.
For example, my 7-year-old takes piano lessons. This child sings, or whistles, or hums, from sun up until sun down. His piano teacher is amazing! He loves her! He loves going to lessons! But… asking him to practice?
This is how it all goes down, every single day:
Just remember that you still need to practice piano.
Upon hearing these words, which he hears every single day, my son collapses, either on a surface or the floor.
Muuuuuuuum!!! Come! Onnnnnnnn!!! I don’t want to praaaactice!!!! Ahhhhhh!!! Ohhhh boooooy!!!
I wish I were kidding, but that’s what he sounds like, except loud. Very, very loud.
This is predictable whining because I know, as soon as I say the word practice, he’ll whine.
But here’s the interesting tidbit: he enjoys playing. In fact, once those little fingers touch the keys he’s singing and smiling and practicing and making up songs.
The tricky party is getting the fingers to touch the keys. Until then? Endless whining.
Recently, I’ve stumbled onto a strategy. I call it Dangling a Homeschool Carrot, and it goes something like this…
Each day, I try to accomplish the following in our homeschool: reading, math, a little writing, piano (for my oldest), outside time, and play. I refer to these things as our “must-dos”. When things run smoothly, the reading, math, writing, and piano are accomplished before lunch. That leaves us with the entire afternoon to devote to other subjects, extracurriculars, or nothing at all.
My oldest loves those extracurriculars: science experiments, geography and history exploration, art projects, writing stories, board games, baking/cooking, music study, hikes, monthly subscription kits… he loves hands-on fun.
Every evening, once the kids are asleep, I take a moment to plan the following day. It’s nothing crazy or super-involved. In fact, it’s usually just a to-do list on the back of a piece of paper I pull from our recycling bin. It’s more of a morning wish list than a to-do list, actually. I make a little list of the things I’d love, in an ideal situation, for us to accomplish. Then, I research a homeschool carrot. I try to keep things interesting, so if we’ve been doing oodles of doodles in the afternoons, I research a fun science experiment or I pull out a loved game that we haven’t played in a while. And by “research” I mean I head over to Pinterest and see what looks especially enticing. Then, I pick two things that I know my son will love because kids love choices.
Then, the next morning, when the kids and I discuss the plan for the day, I dangle the carrot.
If we finish everything today, I was thinking we could do some kitchen science or maybe pull out a Tinker Crate!
This never fails to elicit a smile and is usually a fantastic motivator. Later, when I mention the word practice, the predictable whining still happens, but I am able to dangle the carrot to stop it in its tracks.
Just remember, if you bang your must-dos out of the park, we’re going to do some animal tracking!
Now, I’m not about to sit here and tell you that the homeschooling carrot works miracles. It doesn’t. But, it works enough that I’m going to keep on doing it until I find that miracle!
Tips for finding the perfect homeschool carrot:
In some ways, the homeschool carrot is plain, old-fashioned bribery. But, it can be more than that too. The trick is to find a homeschool carrot that works for both of you.
- Have you been light on history lately? Why not suggest creating a family time capsule together and bury it in the backyard or stash it in the attic.
- Do you want to work more on life skills? Why not suggest that the kids create a restaurant, complete with a menu (meal planning), purchases (budgeting, math), design (writing, art), and execution (cooking, clean-up)?
- Do your kids balk at the thought of writing? Two words: Brave Writer.
- Slacking in math? Don’t call it math! Suggest an afternoon filled with board games or a book-palooza with these story books.
- Need to do more science? Why not suggest making potions or pull out a Groovy Lab in the Box!
Our most recent homeschool carrot success:
Just last week, my son was whining about – you guessed it!- piano practice. Fortunately, a friend had posted a link to my Facebook timeline. I had seen it before, and I’m sure you have too! Each time I’ve seen this online, I’ve thought to myself:
We need to try this!
But then life happens and I don’t get around to it. Well, on this particular morning I was searching, frantically, for a carrot. And then my friend posted Teach Beside Me’s amazing Periodic Table Battleship and there it was: our carrot.
Quickly, I turned my laptop so that my son could see it and said:
This looks fun, doesn’t it? All we need to do is to print and laminate the tables and we could play it this afternoon, after you’re done with your must-dos.
My son, who has been on a chemistry kick since the summer, abruptly stopped his whining and shouted:
That! Looks! Awesome!!!
And then, quick as a wink, he ran to the keyboard. He banged his homeschooling must-dos clear out of the park. And, later, that afternoon, we had some fun.
Tell me, folks: Do you dangle homeschool carrots? What has motivated your children lately? Share here!
Cait co-hosts The Homeschool Sisters Podcast and is co-founder of Raising Poppies, a community for parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children. Cait is also founder of the Family Book Club at My Little Poppies, a fantastic community of book-loving parents and the Gameschool Community at My Little Poppies, a vibrant community of gameschoolers.
Cait is a contributing writer for Simple Homeschool and GeekMom. Her work has also appeared on The Huffington Post, The Mighty, and Scary Mommy. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram
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