Motivating Your Homeschooler
“I can assure you that all of those things that seem super important, like, “did you get through the math book by the end of May?”, actually, in the big picture, are not all that important. I would say some of the least important part about growing up is the academic side. The most important part is the adventures, and the breadth of knowledge and experience and of course above all the relationships and the spiritual enrichment, that is so much more easily facilitated when you’ve got the time and space and priority to do that.”
Yvette Hampton: Hey everyone, I am so excited about our guest today. Before we started the Schoolhouse Rocked podcast, we sent out a question to our Schoolhouse Rocked followers and just said, “Hey, we’re starting this podcast. Who do you want to hear on the podcast? What guest do you want, and what do you want us to talk about?” Of course, many of you wrote in and said, “Andrew Pudewa.” We saw his name over and over again, and so many of you are very excited about hearing him and wanted to hear more of him because those of you who have heard him speak know that he is just full of wisdom and knowledge and insight when it comes to homeschooling and family and education.
Yvette: We, of course, are really excited to have him as part of the Schoolhouse Rocked cast. Welcome, Andrew. We are really excited to have you on today.
Andrew Pudewa: Hey Yvette, it is great to be with you. Thanks for the invite.
Yvette: Sure. Tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and your family.
Andrew: Well, my wife and I have homeschooled all of our children. The oldest now is 39, and the youngest just got married at 18. That’s seven kids, six married, 11 grandchildren. I’ve been at this teaching business for a little over 30 years and the time has flown by. I have a little company called the Institute for Excellence in Writing. We publish video material as well as books and activity types of curriculum to help students with language arts, really to help teachers and homeschool parents help kids learn how to write better, but really, it encompasses all of the language arts, listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
Then of course, the result of good listening, speaking, reading and writing is better thinking, so a little tagline on our company. If you’re go to our website, iew.com, you’d see our little tagline. It’s listen, speak, read, write, think. It’s a good role. I’ve been at it full time for close to 20 years now, working with homeschoolers all over the world. I had the great privilege and pleasure of going with my wife to Russia for the Global Home Education Conference in St. Petersburg in Moscow, Russia last May. Then I went on an undercover trip over to China, I won’t even say where, to do a three-day conference for expat homeschooling families who live in China. We came back, finished up the summer, and then in August went to New Zealand and did a six-city tour of New Zealand to serve the homeschoolers over there. I’m looking forward to when that movie is out and ready and everyone in the world can stream it and see it.
Yvette: Well, we’ll have to, of course, translate it into Chinese obviously.
Andrew: I’d go for Russian first only because homeschooling in Russia is it’s exploding. I mean, it is going to grow so rapidly over there.
Yvette: That is amazing.
Andrew: The government evidently is either neutral or supportive about homeschoolers in almost all places. There are classical conversations, programs, I think. Many dozens of them. There may be as many as a hundred CC communities now across the huge country of Russia, and that’s just going to grow.
This transcript is generously provided by MakeCrate. MakeCrate provides your homeschooler with the STEM skills they need for the future! Fun, hands-on electronics kits paired with an online learning platform teach your middle or high schooler engineering and coding fundamentals right at home! No technical expertise is required. Order your MakeCrate today at MakeCrate.Club/SR.
Yvette: It’s been so encouraging to find out that when we started Schoolhouse Rocked, we, I think, had a very narrow vision of, “Well, this is for the United States because we were kind of in our little California bubble,” and that was what we knew. We didn’t realize that homeschooling is growing leaps and bounds across the entire world. It’s not just in America, and so it’s been really exciting and encouraging. Like you said, we really desire to get the movie out. We changed our focus. The movie is obviously filmed in the United States, and all of our cast members are from the U.S. but it has changed our focus to just say, “Wow, this is not just a movie that can change people’s hearts in the United States. It can change people’s hearts around the world.”
That is so exciting. I love that you’ve had the opportunity to go to all these different countries and talk about homeschooling. This is actually not the exact direction that I want the podcast interview to go because I have some questions for you, but can you tell us just in a nutshell what the flavor of homeschooling is? What are parents like in other parts of the country as you’ve gone there and talk to them about homeschooling?
Andrew: Well, I’ve been around a long time. I’ve been speaking at homeschool conferences really 20 years now, and so the demographic has changed, of course, as homeschooling has grown more and varied types of people have become interested in it. Well, I would say once upon a time, almost everyone was homeschooling for moral or religious reasons. Now, we’re meeting people who are coming into it through all different directions. Their primary reason may be academic. They just know they can do a better job teaching their kids one-on-one or three-on-one and in an individualized focus setting than any school and teacher no matter how good the teachers are just because of the nature of institutional education, again, people coming in from that side.
You’ve got people coming in with special needs and special circumstances saying, “this child has this thing going on”, and it could be health. It could be neurological. It could be some type of learning challenge. It could be giftedness. They’re just saying the schools are not equipped to maximize this child’s potential. I can do that better. They’re coming in on that side. Then there are other people that are just looking at the whole situation saying, “Well, there are so many things about that school I don’t like, and I can’t afford that option. And I’m not really sure that I want to homeschool, but I don’t see any better options.” I like that because they come in, and then hopefully, they begin to taste and see the goodness of the homeschool world and the culture and all the resources and opportunities that are available now that weren’t 20 years ago.
It truly is a case where I think more and more parents are realizing everyone homeschools. It’s just some people do it full time. Everyone has to teach their children at home. It’s just are you going to make that a primary part of your life, or are you going to do it on the side? We meet a lot of parents that are coming to conferences now saying, “Well, I don’t know. I don’t know if I can do this. Maybe I can, but I’m not sure I want to, but man, all the people here are so happy.”
Andrew Pudewa on School at Home
Yvette: Yes, and you see whole families together, which is really exciting. That’s one of my favorite parts of going to conventions is when you see mom and dad and kids walking around together and looking at curriculum and going to the different workshops. It’s really exciting just to see that dynamic of the entire family being together.
Andrew: Absolutely. The family is so under attack. In the western developed world all around the world, the family is under attack, so homeschooling seems to be on the vanguard of, “Let’s recapture. Let’s retain. Let’s rebuild. Let’s communicate to the world the great beauty of families functioning, learning, operating, growing together rather than being split apart by the busyness of life and technology. The institutions that can distract us.
Andrew Pudewa – Homeschooling Brings Growth
Yvette: I know for you, because you travel so much, you’re always on the road – I imagine it has allowed you to be able to have a really special kind of relationship with your kids because when you’re home, you’re able to be with them and instead of them being away at school. You actually get that time or got that time, because most of them are adults now. They’re all adults.
Andrew: It was a trade off because when you’re gone for three or four days, 30 weeks a year, that’s a lot of time to be gone. There’s mom feeling like having to do both sides of the parenting, but then when I’m home, I was always home. That was good. I could schedule classes and do things. Then a part of it, in our case because it was a family business rather than me working for other company, I would often take one or two kids with me. In the early days, I needed them. I needed their suitcase space to bring the books, I need them [inaudible 00:09:48] the booth.
Growing up in a family business, I think, it has its pluses and its challenges, but overall, I think all of them gained a lot of very practical, very memorable, positive and maybe a few bitter moments, but it certainly cultivated attitude of entrepreneurship that I can see in all of them now. They’re all grown up, and they’re all very entrepreneurial thinking, and a couple of them have started businesses on their own. It’s great to see. Great to see the… It’s wonderful, Yvette, to have adult children. You don’t have adult kids yet, do you?
Yvette: Not yet. Ours are still young.
Andrew: Well, one thing I would say to everyone who’s in that case of young children or in the thick of it with a teenager and a four-year-old all at the same time is it’s so great to have adult children because I can assure you that all of those things that seem super important, like, “did you get through the math book by the end of May?”, actually, in the big picture, are not all that important. I would say some of the least important part about growing up is the academic side. The most important part is the adventures, and the breadth of knowledge and experience and of course above all the relationships and the spiritual enrichment, that is so much more easily facilitated when you’ve got the time and space and priority to do that.
Although, it’s easy for us as homeschool parents to get caught up and worried about the academic side because we’re responsible for keeping the transcript and having grades and being sure that this kid is going to make it into college and get a good job someday. There’s that anxiety, so we’re always balancing that freedom along with that anxiety about academics.
Andrew Pudewa – Homeschooling is Efficient
Yvette: That’s a real struggle of course for homeschool moms. Our oldest is in seventh grade this year. I’m now starting to think, “Oh gosh, she’s going to be in high school in two years, and I have to start keeping real transcripts for her.” They’re seriously… I mean, there can be a lot of anxiety that goes along with that. Like you said, it’s not about just the academics. I mean, those are important but it’s so much more. School is so much more than just academics. It’s about character building and family and relationships and stuff like you said.
It’s so exciting, but that doesn’t always take away the questions that the moms have. It’s a big responsibility that we put on ourselves and that God gives to us when we choose to take on this role of home educating our children, because it is an important thing in so many areas. I mean, it’s their whole life that you’re holding in your hands. Only by the grace of God can we get this done effectively.
Andrew: That’s what you realize is they were God’s kids all along.
Yvette: That’s right.
Andrew: You’re just helping out doing their best. Could I put in a little plug for the HSLDA, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association?
Yvette: Sure. Absolutely.
Andrew: I’m a big supporter of HSLDA. They, of course, are strongly behind the support for global home education freedom. In the early days, people would join HSLDA because they thought, “Oh no, if social services comes banging on my door, if the truant officer calls, what would I do? I want this insurance,” so they would join HSLDA for that purpose. I believe that we’ve become a bit complacent in the homeschool communities because we haven’t had too many huge legal problems in most dates. You and I both homeschooled in California for a while and that’s a very homeschool friendly state.
I’m in Oklahoma now. It’s probably the most homeschool friendly state, and even the less homeschool friendly states, which I will not name by name – You out there who live there, you know where you are. We take for granted now the freedoms that we have to do this, but honestly, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association does so much more than provide “legal representation” insurance in case you have a problem. I would just encourage everyone to join the HSLDA, not because you think you might need their services, but because what they’re doing is a tremendously good work and that is holding every single agency or government or office that interfaces with homeschoolers accountable in subtle ways.
Not just, “Is it legal or not,” but do homeschool graduates have the same opportunities and rights? Is someone infringing on that by saying, “No, no, your school diploma doesn’t count.” Then of course they provide some wonderful services. In fact, as having kids going to high school, you might want to look into their transcript service because they have a great little service. It’s not very expensive, and it will help you to stay organized for this next decade of having kids go through high school and all that. I wish everyone would join the HSLDA, because more than any other organization that I know of, they are standing on the front line of the right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children.
I fear that right, while we may be taking it for granted, could be not only infringed, but actually cut in many cases very quickly without us even noticing it.
Yvette: I appreciate that, and you’re welcome, HSLDA, for that commercial! That was not planned, but I love that. You and I, last month, I think it was, we were at the HSLDA national leaders conference in Washington, D.C. We’ve been members of HSLDA for many, many years. I guess, this is our eighth year of membership with them. We’re now actually lifetime members because we figured we’re going to do this forever, so may as well just go for the lifetime. I really didn’t know all the things that they offered, and we’ve been members for a long time. There’s so much stuff on their website, but they really are a fantastic organization.
The freedom that they have fought for and the freedom that they continue to fight for and protect for homeschool families is incredible. Like you said, I think we do take for granted that we have this freedom to homeschool. When we started, we really didn’t know all of the backstories that had gone on in all… I mean, there were parents just like you and I who were regular homeschool parents, who were threatened in big ways for choosing to take their kids out of school and saying we’re going to home educate them. They fought long, and they fought hard, and they fought tough to get these freedoms for us today.
Most people don’t know about that. The other thing that I really had my eyes up into two were state organizations. They don’t fall under the leadership of HSLDA, but I know they work very closely sometimes with HSLDA, but on their own, they really work hard to protect their freedoms and their individual states and then they’re there for their own state families to encourage them and equip them and to keep their own freedoms for their own individual states. I think a lot of people… We’re actually going to be doing an interview later this week with Rebecca Kocsis. She’s one of the state representatives for Chia, which is in California.
We’re going to talk with her about state organizations. I agree. It’s so important to stand behind those people who are standing in front of us and keeping those walls broken down so that we can continue to homeschool our kids. Anyway, so I have a couple of questions. You and I could talk all day long. When we interviewed you for Schoolhouse Rocked, I remember, I think I might’ve asked you maybe four questions, and your interview was two and a half hours long. It was awesome, and it was funny we came away from there. We said, “Well, goodness gracious, how do we pull the gold out of this?”
The way we do that of course is we’ve got the Schoolhouse Rocked Backstage Pass, and we will at some point have your full interview up on there that people can view, but I do have a couple of questions for you. Like I said, we had people write in and ask specific questions, and they wanted to know some things. There are a couple that I thought you would be just great at answering because I know you talk a lot about motivation in the homeschool day. One mom wrote in. She said, “How do you motivate the daydreamer to buckle down and complete their assignments quickly but well so that they can have more free time to pursue their passions? We’ve tried everything and even a scaled back assignment will take all day because she has no drive to finish. Do we just have to nag?”
How would you answer that mom? Help her out.
Andrew: It’s hard to give a specific answer to a specific question without knowing a few more details, but I would talk about principles of motivation, which I have studied extensively and talked about and written about. What I have come to understand over these decades is that there’s really four forms of motivation. One, I would call intrinsic, so something has intrinsic relevancy, right? If something is relevant, meaningful, interesting, engaging, applicable, useful to some degree, it’s easier to learn. Wouldn’t you agree?
Andrew: If something is not interesting, applicable, meaningful, useful in some way, it’s harder to learn.
Andrew: This tangible quality of relevancy when you can get it there, when it’s present, teaching and learning are easier, and when it’s less present or absent, teaching and learning are harder, so four forms of relevancy, I would mention here. If anybody wants to listen to this in more detail, there’s a 90-minute talk. You can get off our website called Teaching Boys and Other Kids Who Would Rather Be Making Forts All Day.
Yvette: I love that title.
Andrew: It’s a very popular talk.
There’s intrinsic relevancy. That’s when something is just so interesting that you are totally engaged. You want to learn about it. You lose your sense of time. You’re fascinated. You’re excited. You tell everybody what you’re learning and doing. That’s a super blessing when it happens, but unfortunately, it’s not something you can force. It sometimes happens more often with some kids than others. I mean, there are some kids who are just naturally more inquisitive and curious and will get excited and go pursue something and others who are just a little bit less so, a little more passive, wait around what to do.
To the degree that we as homeschoolers can find things that are intrinsically interesting to children and get them to do that, they’ll be motivated. They’ll use their time. They’ll use their time to be productive, but you may or may not find something that the problem usually comes between what mom believes would be useful learning and what the child believes is relevant and interesting. There could be a gap between those two.
Andrew: On the unschooling side of the philosophical spectrum is don’t ever tell kids what to do. Just let them pursue their interests all day, and they’ll learn and come out great in the end. That feels a little dangerous to most of us. Although, I have families that have done that, and there were schools actually around the world that are based on that principle. In many cases, the kid too seem to have come out pretty good on the other end.
Andrew: I think that total unschooling freedom idea is pretty – Most of us are a little bit, “Well, that’s too risky.” Then there’s things that people have to learn that maybe they’re not interested in intrinsically. The next form of relevancy to motivate with would be inspired relevancy. You may not be particularly interested in something but because someone whom you love or respect is interested in that thing. You hang out with them, and you catch vicariously a desire and interest to relevancy from that thing. I’ve seen this happen in any number of cases of parents who put kids in a class. The kid’s like, “I don’t want to do that class.”
Andrew Pudewa to Homeschool Dads, “Support and Encourage”
Then the teacher or one of their friends or they make a new friend, someone in that environment is so inspiring, but suddenly that kid likes that class and wants to go and want to read more, and wants to study and wants to become good. I would say probably the most frequent story I hear is the public speaking or speech and debate. Kids are very shy. I don’t want to do public speaking. I don’t want to stand in front of people. I don’t want to memorize the speech. I don’t want to do a debate. You just get them in there and do it for a while. Pretty soon, it’s the bug. The bug bites like the acting bug.
That’s, “Wow! That was cool. I got to do that.” Not only do I want to do that. Again, I want to be good at it. I’m going to polish this speech. I’m going to practice this thing. I’m going to do extra research so I can be good. That speech and debate in my world, is the most obvious example of power of inspiring. For us as homeschoolers today, we have a lot more opportunities to help get our kids connected with people who love something. I personally don’t really like science very much. I’d never wanted to teach science.
If you said, “Here, you have to do biology or physics with your kid,” I’d say, “Well, let’s hurry up and pretend we did this so we could do something meaningful,” but now with coops and classes and programs like Aquinas learning, classical conversations, online classes, which are really very surprisingly interactive with experts, teachers, and many of these teachers now were homeschool kids themselves who are now adults teaching online classes and teaching coop classes for the next generation of homeschoolers. This is so exciting because of their enthusiasm.
I’m sure you’ve seen this.
Andrew: You go hear a speaker or a teacher, and you are so inspired to learn more.
“We must be a special creation from an infinite intelligence, because the things humans do, particularly this activity of writing, is so incredibly complex.”
Andrew: Kids are like that, but some things are just not interesting. A lot of work books that kids have to do, they don’t see the relevancy. “Why should I have to mark all the parts of speech in this grammar workbook? Why should I have to do all this math? Math is not part of my real life. I don’t use double digit multiplication in reality. It’s just a few exercises and futility that stresses me.” What could be like that? English spelling stuff, even in our world of teaching writing, a lot of kids don’t like having to stay in one spot and wrangle their brain around the process of thinking of something, saying it to themselves, hearing what they say to themselves, remembering what they say to themselves.
Find a few letters to make a word they might know how to spell and not forget all that while they’re doing it. I mean, I’ve been often about thinking about the writing process. It’s so phenomenally complicated. For me, it’s proof that humans could not possibly have evolved.
We must be a special creation from an infinite intelligence, because the things humans do, particularly this activity of writing, is so incredibly complex. Anyway, so how do we help kids with that stuff? Well, this is where we’d move into the third area, and I think this is most applicable to the person who asked that question. That is contrived relevancy. It’s not intrinsically interesting. Nobody’s thrilled about it. Nobody’s going to inspire you. Now, how do you get wanting to do something? That’s when we can try to change it into a game. Sometimes, it’s a very small shift from a chore to a challenge.
That’s the trick. If chores can shift the thing from being a chore to be procrastinated, avoided, done in slow motion, tedious, complaining, to a challenge, “I’ve got to get this done,” then we see really good success. I’ll give you an example of just the slightest little shift that makes a huge difference. Let’s say you have a grammar workbook kind of thing, and you turn the page, and it says, “Identify all the prepositional phrases in the paragraph below. Underline each prepositional phrase with a single underline, and the preposition itself with a double underlie.”
I mean, who wants to do it? I wouldn’t want to do it. You will write stupid. I mean, what’s the point? It has no relevancy, no bearing on reality, but we have to do it. Well, now here’s the shift. In the paragraph below are hidden 13 prepositional phrases. Find them all and you win.
Yvette: Let’s make it a game.
Andrew: That’s just different. For boys in particular, but also for a lot of girls, it’s like, “Oh, well, I like to win. Okay, great. I’ll play the game.” Now, at some point, just saying you won isn’t quite enough.
Yvette: There must be candy involved.
Andrew: Some kind of economic system.
Andrew: Whether you use pennies or points or pop charts or peanuts, the thing that’s interesting about that is that’s the physical manifestation of something of value to the child that communicates to the child, “Your efforts are valued. I appreciate your work.” Now, some people would say, “Well, you’re bribing the kid to do what he should do anyway.” Well, bribery’s when you pay someone to do something illegal or immoral. That’s neither. You’re creating a game. I love my job. I love working, and I love traveling around the world.
I love teaching, but I’m not sure I would do it quite so much if there wasn’t some kind of economic side to it. Children are… They’re preparing to be adults, boys in particular. If you can set up some type of system to say, “Hey, if you do this much of whatever in this amount of time, then you get these points or these chips or these whatever, and that has value.”
Andrew: You can exchange those for some privilege or benefit. Then just be sure the privilege or benefit is something that you would want for the child anyway.
Yvette: Sure. Well, if you think about that even in life, whether you’re an entrepreneur or have a job where you’re employed by someone else, you do the work and then you get paid for that work that you do, and so you’re still getting something in return. You’re not just going and doing the job just for the sake of doing the job. That’s life. That’s actually a life skill that they’re learning, that you do this because it’s going to produce this result or you’re going to get this in return.
Andrew: If you don’t go that route, then you are stuck going the last… get down to the worst and least effective form of relevancy, which I have termed enforced. Enforced relevancy is when you say you will learn this or you will do this or you will suffer some penalty. I’m not talking about discipline. I am saying, of course, there are things that we all have to do we don’t want to do, and the consequences for not doing them are negative and children need that, but in terms of learning, what happens when you use that type of forced relevancy is you most likely to get the appearance of learning or a very temporary.
I’ll do everything on this page, but when I turn the page, I’m not even going to remember it. I’ll study for the test. As soon as I pass the test, I can forget all that stuff because it wasn’t really important. I really never cared. I just didn’t want to suffer the consequences of getting a bad grade or whatever.
Andrew: Sometimes, we resort to that. I mean, I would be the first person to say… I have said things like, “You’re going to have that math finished or you’re not going to eat ever.” I don’t have an easy solution to that person who asked that question, but I think by contemplating some of these basically principles of motivation, and like I said, I don’t know the specifics. My guess is that this person who has a fairly young child who is probably easily distracted. Maybe as young as six or seven. I don’t know. Maybe as old as eight or nine, but it’s possible that she’s taking kind of this let’s do school at home approach, and here’s the pile of books with the number on the cover, and you have to do x number of pages in each of these things every day.
“Some kids read and do math grade at five or six, but as the schools have pushed the academics lower and lower, we in the homeschool look at that and say, “Oh no, we have to do that. We have to start pre-k curriculum, which to me is the most ridiculous, oxymoronic thing you could ever say.”
Andrew: “So we stay on schedule and get done by the end of the year. And if we don’t do all that, then we can’t do other learning activities or anything else.” Sometimes, people start there, but then, I think, they come to maybe a little bit more organic understanding, especially, of younger children. I think, we start school too young.
Yvette: Yes, I agree.
Andrew: We try to press your kids at five and six years old into reading and doing abstract math when they’re not ready for it. Now, some kids are.
Andrew: Some kids read and do math grade at five or six, but as the schools have pushed the academics lower and lower, we in the homeschool look at that and say, “Oh no, we have to do that. We have to start pre-k curriculum, which to me is the most ridiculous, oxymoronic thing you could ever say.
Yvette: Sure. That’s the stage where kids still need to wiggle and move around. That’s one of the things I have heard you say several times about read-alouds and audio books and things like that is it’s okay for your kids to be flipping around on the ground or playing with Legos or doing whatever it is they do as long as there is moving, because in a classroom, we expect our children to sit still. They have to sit in their chair. They have to sit on their carpet and crisscross their legs and put their hands in their lap and be still.
Well, many kids can’t learn that. They are physically incapable of learning that way effectively. They need to move. They need to explore. They need to be able to do things with their hands and draw pictures. I mean, my 12 almost 13-year-old, she still is like that, and she’s not a real high energy person. She’s pretty mellow, but she still needs, even in church, I mean, she’s always drawing. She has to draw. If she doesn’t doodle on her paper, she’s not going to hear anything that the pastor is saying.
You can find Andrew Pudewa and IEW online at IEW.com.
Andrew Pudewa recommends the following resources in his interview.
Homeschool Legal Defense Association: HSLDA
IEW Recommended Book List (Books for Boys & Other Children Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day)
Read Aloud Revival with Schoolhouse Rocked cast member, Sarah Mackenzie.
However Imperfectly by Andrew Pudewa
IEW Book List: Timeline of Classics
Center for Lit: Reading Roadmaps
Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt
Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know by E.D. Hirsch Jr.
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss