Are you worried about maintaining your motivation for the school year ahead? I think I can help with a Principle named “Goldilocks”. The Goldilocks Principle states that, “humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right.” 1.
First of all you’ll need to make an honest assessment of where your kids are at…
Why? Because humans love mastering a skill just beyond their current abilities. In order to set academic tasks just there, you need to know what their current abilities are. Make sense?
Secondly, you need to set your kids’ tasks right at the edge of their capacity. Humans, big and small, love a good challenge. They want to be pushed. But not so much that the task seems unattainable.
Your kids are no different. They want tasks that don’t condescend to them by seeming too easy. They also don’t want to be given tasks that seem insurmountable and overwhelming. Constantly demanding that they work outside of their comfort zone will frustrate and demotivate them.
In order to really understand where your kids are at so that you can give them tasks and classes that are motivating, rather than demotivating, you are going to want to assess and evaluate your children so you can set better goals.
Listen to The Goldilocks Story Online
Understanding how to evaluate what your student already knows, setting attainable but challenging goals, based on the Goldilocks Principle, can help everyone stay motivated, regardless of what challenges come up this year!
— Lisa Nehring, True North Homeschool Academy Director
Here are some simple steps to take advantage of this powerful concept in your homeschool:
- Make an honest assessment of where your kids are at. Humans love mastering a skill just beyond their current abilities. In order to set academic tasks just there, you need to know what your students current abilities are. The simplest way to asses is to observe your kids and understand their abilities.
- Set yourself the challenge of gaining a good understanding of ages and stages. Resources such as The Way They Learn, or Ages and Stages are a good place to start. Get clear about human and academic development, realize there can be wide variances in what is “normal” and get to know your child at a deeper level!
- Set your kids’ tasks right at the edge of their current abilities. They don’t always want “fun.” Sometimes they want to overcome something really tough. Motivate them with charts, stickers, rewards and time spent with you. It’s not bribery. It’s reward for a job well done.
- Customize your child’s learning. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can do just that. What will motivate one child will discourage another. By setting tasks for each child, particular to them, you are able to motivate each student.
- Don’t neglect the teacher! One of the ways I’ve maintained homeschool motivation over the past 25+ years is to set challenges before me. How can I streamline the laundry cycle, eat healthier on a budget, learn Latin with multiple kids and demands? In other words, don’t settle for status-quo.
Assess or Test?
There is a difference between assessment and testing.
Assessment Is the systematic process of “documenting and using empirical data on the knowledge, skills, attitudes and beliefs” 2. with the goal to improve student’s performance.
A test is used to evaluate someone’s knowledge of something. It measures the skills or knowledge that have already been attained.
Both can be useful tools when it comes to understand how to motivate your homeschooled students. What do they know already and what is considered normal and attainable for this age and stage.
Of course, the beauty of homeschooling is that a parent can truly customize the child’s learning.
Understanding how to evaluate what your student already knows and setting attainable but challenging goals, based on the Goldilocks Principle, can help everyone stay motivated, regardless of what challenges come up this year (and c’ mon, isn’t that more normal than not?).
Understanding this powerful principle can change your homeschool for the better!
Utilizing the Goldilocks Principle for even one subject- say the most difficult one- can change your homeschool day, bringing motivation to the otherwise discouraged!
I’d love to hear what you think of the Goldilocks Principle!
Lisa Nehring has been married for over 30 years, has five children, 2 graduate degrees and a black belt in homeschooling. She has homeschooled since 1991 and wrote a Master’s Thesis on Why Parent’s Homeschool, including A History of Education in America. She is motivated by good books, strong coffee and finding God’s purpose. She is the director of the True North Homeschool Academy.