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Dirty Little Secret

We have a dirty little secret.

Okay, I'm willing to admit that perhaps it's just my kids. I suspect that this is not the case though. We keep coming against an issue and I'm not quite sure how to handle it.

The issue?

I read about hard-working, diligent, willing to put their effort into anything homeschoolers.

Mine are not like that, and many others I know are not also. (Sorry if I offend any of my local friends! I promise I'm not calling your kids lazy! I'm not even calling my own lazy. ah ... just keep reading.)

I teach a 6/7/8 grade class in our homeschool co-op, and see some of the same attitudes in most of them that I see in my own children. It's not exactly laziness, it's more of a "what's the minimum I can get by with" attitude. Maybe that's all kids; my field of experience is pretty small here. It frustrates me though! Example: I tell them to write a paragraph on a concept. They ask "how long does it have to be?" I say five to eight sentences, enough to get the point across. "Well, what if I can answer that in three sentences?" It's not let's make a deal, people!

Today I watched my daughter face a tough concept. It was something that would be difficult for her. Rather than put her heart into it and try, she flopped around, made excuses, and didn't even make an effort. I guess she figured that trying and possibly failing was worse than not trying at all.


I do not want my kids to have this outlook on life! Many times now we've had writing projects. I listen to their plans and think "Awesome! They're putting effort into this and it's going to be a great paper!" And then it's time to actually write the paper and they give me four lines. When I ask what happened to the rest of the story, I get "well, it would have taken a long time to write all that, so I changed it." Um, whaaaaat?

I know everybody wants to take the easy way out whenever possible. I certainly do. I choose frozen pie crust over making it myself all the time. I get that. This is feeling like more than that to me though, like a pervasive minimal attitude, combined with much complaint if more is required of them.

I wonder if I've made school too easy. Or, if maybe my standards have been low and that I've somewhat encouraged a minimal attitude. Or maybe the opposite -are my standards too high? Am I asking too much? I *really* don't expect perfection from my kids. (Myself? yes. Kids? no.) I know that kids are kids, and I don't expect high school level work for a fourth grade level kid, or a seventh grade level kid for that matter. I really just want to see that they are not afraid to work hard, put effort into things. I'm not just talking about schoolwork here. I'm talking about anything that requires effort.

And please don't think I'm just running down my kids. I love my kids and I am very proud of them. I just want to prepare them for a life that isn't so compatible with "what's the minimum I can get by with?" Does that even make sense?

So, I'm seriously asking. How do you motivate your kids to do their best work? How do you teach them diligence and being willing to work hard, even at things at which they might fail?

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