This post was originally published in July 2011. It has been updated for accuracy and relevancy in October 2021.
Wondering how to help keep your elementary school student motivated as the new school year heads into fall? Losing motivation from time to time is common among all K-12 students, whether attending homeschool, virtual school, or traditional school—and it can be a source of stress and strain.
Over the years, many experienced homeschool parents and Connections Academy® Learning Coaches have shared their personal strategies for keeping students motivated for virtual learning. Now you can also combat difficult academic challenges, waning self-discipline, and slipping enthusiasm with their ways to motivate virtual school kids below.
How to Make Virtual School Fun
1. Use games to make virtual learning fun.
“Each day I post a ‘brain teaser’ question on the board that covers anything we’re studying. My son can guess at the answer even before he starts to work on it. It really draws him into the classroom and motivates him to get started on the school day,” one Learning Coach says.
Such questions can act as reviews before a quiz, or as introductions to new concepts to see what your student already knows and understands while keeping him or her interested and motivated to learn.
You can also adapt other classic games(opens in a new tab) as ways to motivate your child to learn classroom subject matter.
2. Track daily progress with marble jars.
One Learning Coach uses jars of marbles as her motivation system. Each student has his own jar filled with as many marbles as he has lessons scheduled that day. As a student finishes a lesson, they take a marble from the jar and put it in the family “completed” jar.
Each student can keep track of how much more they have to do that day. When a student’s jar is empty, their school day has been completed!
3. Connect learning to fun activities.
Here’s a challenge you may have faced: “My son was having a hard time learning spelling words in our classroom. He just wasn’t getting it. One evening he picked up the jump rope we use for PE, asked me a spelling word, and jumped as he spelled it out. So now his favorite way to learn spelling words is to go outside and jump rope. I sit in a chair with a stack of spelling cards and call them out to him. He spells out each word by jumping and saying each letter of the word.”
An alternative to jumping rope is to use a ball. You child might enjoy bouncing the ball along with spelling out each letter of their words. If you have two or more children of close enough age in homeschool programs, they can pass the ball back and forth as each says the next letter in the word. Listening for the other to add their letter will reinforce memory and learning.
4. Volunteer as part of learning.
A great idea any time of the year is volunteering in the community. Make it a reward for completing assignments. “Our children volunteer twice a week at a local veterinary clinic. (It’s) an experience they truly enjoy, but they may go only if schoolwork is done well and attitudes are appropriate,” one Learning Coach says.
In addition to the service it provides to the community, fun volunteering can:
- Motivate your student to complete schoolwork
- Serve as a reward for work well done
- Teach social interaction in a quality environment
- Develop the student’s maturity
- Provide a taste of work experience.
Motivate Students With Positive Feedback
5. Find a special place to display schoolwork.
Display your child’s schoolwork in your designated home school space, whether it’s art, handwriting, or a difficult test that went well. Reserve a place to hang work that your child’s teacher returns so your student can see that their teacher does look at his or her assignments and the rest of the family can see what he or she has been working on. This kind of recognition will give your student a big boost of confidence that could help them through a tough day.
6. Let your child see their progress.
Review where your child started a week, month, or year ago and compare it with his or her current abilities. It helps you see which goals have been met and develop new objectives. Help your student set goals appropriate for his or her growth, confidence, and happiness.
Virtual school teachers and counselors are here to support your student, so be sure to include them in your plan to reach those goals and measure progress. And remember to give your kids a chance to set their own goals. They’ll be more motivated, and it teaches them independence and responsibility. If you post your student’s goals in your homeschool area, they can check them off as they accomplish them, giving your child a continuous sense of achievement.
7. Implement a reward system.
Reward your child’s effort and persistence. Many students respond well to rewards that acknowledge academic progress, meeting deadlines, reaching specific goals, and maintaining good attitudes. Create a reward system that matches your child’s personality.
Once you get your student back on track with schoolwork this semester, keep them motivated and rolling along. Learn how to help your child become a self-motivated learner at any age, and watch the amazing transformation in your virtual school student.