I teach violin to a couple of unschooled kids including a 12-year-old boy. My younger dd, now 10, is also unschooled and has been struggling with her motivation to practice violin. She is in a master class (sort of a shared private lesson) with the 12-year-old and another boy, and last week I initiated a conversation amongst the kids about motivation for practicing. "Do you sometimes find it a struggle to practice consistently?" I asked, inviting comments and suggestions and commiseration from amongst the kids.
Amidst the conversation that followed, the 12-year-old said "Violin is no problem for me. But math, I have a curriculum for that that I want to do, but I really have trouble staying motivated."
"My mom makes me do math if I don't feel like it," said my dd. Which is sort of the truth. She asked me to make sure she does math three times a week, because she has a specific goal that she wants to complete this year and because she loves the sense of accomplishment she gets from progressing. So if she hasn't fit that in and there's no good reason (eg. illness, travel) to bail on her own expectations for the week, I sometimes initiate a session with her by suggesting a couple of times that would fit into the day and asking her to choose between them. I don't "make her" do it with bribes and punishments. I just say "Okay, you should do some math today. When do you want to do it?"
And the 12-year-old reacted to that by asking his dad "Why don't you make me do math? I told you I want to do it, but I just don't always feel like it. You should make me anyway, so I don't get down on myself for leaving it."
His dad responded by saying that "making" a child do schoolwork is what led him to hate learning as a child, so he wasn't going to do that to his own children. He said "I want your learning to be motivated by you."
Which really got me thinking. Clearly that dad and I have different interpretations of the idea of self-motivated learning. We both want our kids' learning to be self-motivated. But I consider it to be self-motivated if my child says "I would like you to hold me accountable so that I actually follow through on these goals I have for myself. " I consider structuring and initiating what my child has asked for (and admits she still wants, in the long-term scheme of things, if not necessarily while she's in the midst of watching a sitcom episode on the computer) to be supporting her self-motivated desires. The other kid's dad considers what I do to be over-riding the child's self-motivated desires.
Where do you fall on this issue? Have you faced situations like this, where your child has asked you for help staying accountable, following through, sticking with something through the bumps? How did you react?