I’ve been thinking a bit about motivation recently. I have Home Ed friends who use tick sheets to mark off time spent on various educational tasks over the course of a week. Some translate those ticks into rewards, some are motivated simply by a nice full sheet of ticks. Some say they like to have a visual marker of what has been acheived, some want some nice hard evidence for the LA should they come calling. Many of my friends tell me *they* are lazy and need external motivation to do stuff and indeed our whole society is set up in this way really so for most people it’s a good tool for the future as well.

You often hear people ‘rewarding’ themselves. I see status updates on facebook of people listing all they had just done: shopping, tidying, cooking and finishing with their reward – a cup of tea, a sit down, a slice of cake.

We work, very often in jobs we don’t like or get fulfillment from for our pay packet, our 4 weeks holiday a year, our decent pension so we can enjoy our retirement.

We encourage our children to eat their vegetables at tea time, with the lure of pudding afterwards.

We tell them to be good so Father Christmas comes each Christmas and rewards them with a sackful of shiny wrapped presents.

We introduce the concept of pocket money, often giving the chance to earn it by doing tasks around the house and give them disposable income or talk of saving up for more expensive consumerism.

As I said for most this is perfect training for life. Our society is set up on the basis that if you do X, you will get Y. Work hard, revise, pass your exams, get pieces of paper to prove you are qualified which should translate into a better paid job. Work hard, work long get pieces of paper in exchange for your labour to enable you to buy stuff.

Does this work? I’m not entirely sure.

 It didn’t work for me. I worked quite hard at school, got my pieces of paper and went on to do A levels. I didn’t work quite as hard as I got distracted by shiny things πŸ˜‰ (insert your own ideas of what those shiny things might be ;)). I did get back on track and worked hard, got pieces of paper to buy stuff with a job title which meant nothing outside of the walls of where I worked but *everything* in there, but as I spent most of my time inside those walls anyway that was all that mattered. This time I didn’t get distracted by shiny things but I could feel that this was not the be all and end all it had been made out to be. I had different priorities, like a life! I then stepped off the carousel altogether and threw myself into my current life. A wife – no pieces of paper, no promotion prospects; a mother – no leaving certificate or graduation ceremony, various voluntary work or sponsored charity things, the odd piece of paper but to be passed on to someone else rather than exchanged for stuff to fill my life up with.


Does it work for others? I don’t know, you’d need to ask them that. But in the main I hear more gripes about Monday mornings than Friday evenings, more enthusiasm for time spent with family or friends than with workmates, more passion about leisure activities than paid for ones. Of course it is often those pieces of paper that pay for the enjoyed times, I do see that link. I just think we all too often have the balance wrong. We feel we *need* or *deserve* the things we use the money for to make up for how much we hate what we do in order to get the money. When you start to strip that away you wonder whether if we did less of the work we’d need less of the reward. I’m not saying no work and no reward but maybe you need to slide it all backwards a bit, maybe the reward is simply less of the work in the first place, maybe it’s about finding the joy in the act of the task itself and if there is no joy then maybe just not doing it.

We know ourselves and our children best, or we should. I think most Home Educators certainly are in touch with their children and understand them. I think knowing ourselves well enough to establish what we want and what is the best route of getting there. For us it’s predominantly paper-free πŸ™‚