FOLLOW THEIR INTERESTS AND OFFER CHOICE
This is my VERY FAVORITE. I think kids’ enthusiasm for what they are interested in is why I have loved working with them so much. And as far as education in general goes: there is SO much energy we can leverage to allow kids to be the intrinsically motivated and enthusiastic learners they were born to be.
When I say ‘choice’ and ‘interest’ I am talking about interrelated ideas. Below I will clarify what I mean by each. When you start to employ these strategies you will see how they build on each other.
Choice: I have found THE most powerful motivator for students is allowing them to have some choice in how they approach an assignment, topic, or subject. The very LEAST motivated students, when given even a modicum of choice, become engaged and animated in the topic. (Sadly, I think that says quite a bit about how LITTLE choice they usually have in schooling.) I suppose giving choice can be as simple as offering your child the choice to do their math before their writing or vice versa. But that isn’t REALLY what I mean here. More authentically, choice is about a student having the option to have some real input in how they learn and demonstrate their learning. Can they choose what they read? Which foreign language they learn? The countries of their choice for comparative government? Where they do their school work? When in the day they do their school work? To give an oral presentation or write a short story to demonstrate their learning?
Interest: Every kid (every PERSON) has one or two (or more!) things that they are basically obsessed with. Maybe it’s dinosaurs, or drawing, or, as in the case of a colleague's son, drive-through car washes (kids are so great!). Never will you have to encourage this kid to learn more about their topic of interest. What you can do with this enthusiasm is teach nearly any subject via their interest. (Nearly any subject? Nah. Until proven otherwise I am going to say you can teach ANY subject via the interest of that kid). Remember to truly take into account the kid’s input about how they can ‘do’ History or Science or Art or English or Math or Music etc. related to their interest. They already know more than you about it.
I can’t wait to get more material up about these approaches to doing school! In the meantime, email me to tell me what your child is super interested in AND if you feel there is a subject they struggle with or are apathetic about - I’ll see if I can make a connection for you that might help!