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11 yo Boy W/ No Motivation and Seems Lazy

Posted: Thu Feb 20, 2014 4:18 pm
by caligang
My oldest son, now 11 in grade 5, was born premature and I was told he would be behind his peers up until around age 8 or so. I firmly believe that his beginning in the world played a part in his educational delay, but that there is something else at play as well. As the years have progressed, I noticed his low motivation level and lack of enthusiasm in every area of life have remained the same. When going from a private school to deciding to homeschool beginning in 3rd grade, I figured that was the answer and that I could motivate him to do his studies because I know him best. While I believe I’ve helped him in more ways than the school ever could have, I still struggle daily with his motivation. He is not a bad child in any sense of the word. As a matter of fact, most people will tell me what a joy it is to talk with him. When it comes to doing the work that requires a paper and pencil, his mind seems to wander and he could sit in the same seat all day long, happy as a lark, just day dreaming or staring off into nothing. If you remind him to do his work, he will…for a minute or two. Then he’ll be back to staring off. It’s constant nagging, it feels, on my part, for him to finish his schoolwork. I have got to the point where I let him know I am available as a teacher on-duty until 2pm (we start at 9am typically), and after that point, I will not be sitting with him. If he has a question, he can ask, but I will not harp on him all day as I only have so much patience I can offer – and many other tasks to get done, not to mention two other younger brothers of his to school also. And yes, he can finish his work in that amount of time easily. After 2pm, I’m off duty, and any activities that happen after that he cannot participate in until his schoolwork is finished. That never seems to be motivation enough. If I allow him to have a break during the day (such as jumping on the trampoline, riding a bike, or getting up and away from his schoolwork), I pretty much lose his attention the rest of the day.

Many days he is still working on school up until bed time. I’ve had friends tell me he’s just being lazy and we need to punish him. We’ve tried punishments (such as losing activities), which I guess I would consider more consequences than punishments. We’ve tried taking things away but he doesn’t care. He could play with the fuzz on the carpet and turn it into one army of carpet fuzz against another…which shows his creativity when he wants to! He does like the hands-on learning style, however, in 5th grade, it is almost impractical to do math or English or reading as hands-on. I can do hands-on to a point, but there does come a time when you just have to write something down. I want school to be a fun learning experience, not one where we sit and write in a book all day. Our history and science lessons are all hands on and very little book work – and writing was (we ended up ending it) with a coop together once a week with homework to bring back the following week. We’ve tried rewards where if he gets his work done by a certain time of day (far more than it should take), he gets to go on a date with mom or dad – his choice. Every reward system we put in place will work for a week or two and then it loses steam and we’re back to the same un-motivation.

Let me explain a typical day and his personality. He is the sweetest child, can talk with anyone young or old, loves others and little children, and loves God. He has never seemed to have one passion/hobby/love. He dabbles in many things but has never stuck to one thing. He understands what he’s learning even though he says it’s hard, he CAN do his schoolwork quickly when he wants to (if I threaten to have him skip out of an activity because he’s not done), he’s careless when it comes to specifics (for example, in math, the answers WOULD be correct if he would line his numbers up correctly – which he does know how to do just doesn’t), and works slowly on any project given in schoolwork/chores/fun activities. He has a hard time figuring out main concepts, writing a paragraph, and organizing ideas. He has one speed and it’s slow. The only time I’ve seen him work fast is when he was going to lose a beloved activity (usually a sleepover that had been planned, or activity with his friends). He will go into a panic mode to get it done and then it’s done sloppy with many mistakes. He does play with his two younger brothers well, with their toys, and with his own toys. He likes legos, action figures, trading cards, going to P.E. with other homeschoolers, listening to music, and talking with and being around people. My words are typically along the lines of, “You need to concentrate on your work,â€

Posted: Fri Feb 21, 2014 10:03 am
by Theodore
This sounds like attention deficit a bit, which tends to be more present in bright kids whose minds are just not being challenged enough to prevent the unused parts of their brain from going off on tangents. This can probably be reduced by having him do some vigorous physical activity before studying - even if it's just running around the outside of your house five or ten times. More book reading will also help him to learn to focus, and if he's not terribly interested in books, get him comic novels. If all else fails, focus on something vocational and hands-on, like woodworking or car repair, or outdoorsy, like nature hikes or farming or landscaping. Not everyone is best suited to academics, and college is really quite overrated if you can get decent work.

Just FYI, I was born five weeks premature, and my parents were first told I wouldn't live, then that I'd never walk. Neither of those predictions turned out to be true. And I worked for years (mailroom work, programming web ites, etc.) before even having a high school diploma. Nobody cared, except of course Mom. I did finally get a college degree in my late 20's (with honors), but it hasn't been useful for much of anything except to prove I'm not a lazy moron. What I'm trying to say is that I could have been a high school drop-out and still been successful in my line of work (at this point, programming complex database-driven websites for $40-$50 an hour) I don't necessarily recommend that route, but it's a possibility if your son is only interested in non-academic settings.

One more thing - some children find it very hard to stay motivated in the absence of competition. Do you know if your son is a type-A personality, as is statistically more common in oldest children? I am a firstborn as well and quite competitive - I work hardest when there is something difficult to overcome, or stiff competition to beat.

Posted: Fri Feb 21, 2014 1:30 pm
by caligang
Thank you for your reply! These are interesting perceptions. I will most definitely try some of these ideas (physical activity BEFORE study, more book reading - which he doesn't exactly LOVE, but doesn't hate either, woodworking/constructing, etc.). I share your ideas on college, so retracting some from the academic world to work with a more hands-on approach to non-academics would not be a major problem for me to implement. We had been part of a homeschool coop where he was with his peers for two years, but it didn't make a difference with competition. He lacks the competitive gene typically found in first borns - it skipped him and went to my second oldest son. Difficulty, in academics anyway, overwhelms him and he gives up. All that to say, thank you and I will take your suggestions and run with them...I appreciate you sharing your personal experience and I'll keep plugging along until I find that perfect combination of things for him. He's a wonderful child, and a joy and pleasure to be around...I just need to feed his brain the way he needs it fed. :)