My husband and I both grew up under this system. I am sure that many of you can relate. Reading meant pizza, good grades meant movies, and good behavior was rewarded with popcorn. And really, what did this communicate to a school full of learners? My mom would argue that it communicated that reading is a chore. I agree with her.
"The learning is the reward" is a lovely catch phrase for a teacher to adopt. However, without concrete examples, the phrase is meaningless. Here are a few ideas from my bag of tricks. Please leave a comment sharing ways that you remind your student(s) that the learning process is the reward.
- books are given as treats (vacation entertainment, Christmas presents, just because . . .)
- a map reading geography adventure
- handwriting practice becomes a letter exchange between friends
- increasing freedom in the kitchen (my oldest is often allowed to assemble simple recipes; math and reading; I suppose that one could argue that there is still an edible reward at the end of the process. I assure you that she enjoys the actual work involved. Most children are quite proud to help with the family meal.)
- casual dinner table discussions reviewing the week's history lessons (most recently my husband was explaining that in the 1600's many people came to America searching for religious freedom; "yes, that reminds me of reading about the Huguenots," was the reply. The "reward" for such detailed reading? A huge grin from dad.)
- saying things like, "oh, I love these kinds of problems" or "wow, this is a thinking question! You will feel great when you figure it out." That may sound cheesy, but you are the gauge by which your student will set his attitude. You can coach him towards the mindset that challenges are to be relished or towards the mindset that challenges are to be avoided. You can validate a student's sense that this problem looks tricky without bemoaning hard work.
My mom recently published her fourth book. In one of the chapters she offers suggestions for classroom teachers to build "intrinsic motivation." While the book is written for a teacher facing a room full of students, I think that teachers with only a hand full of students will find it thought provoking and motivating. Hopefully intrinsically so. After all, for any teacher, and especially for a homeschooling mother, the work is the reward.