How to motivate kids struggling with remote schooling?

By Joseph McPhail

Many young people are struggling with remote learning. We know ... because we are ... as are many of the kids are work with through Makeshift Homeschool. Parents attempting to motivate their kids might find that their efforts backfire. School isn't easy under normal circumstances, and 2020 is anything but normal.


So we put together a three step process that you might find helpful.


  1. Acknowledge their reality ... remote school that requires staring at a teacher lecture four hours a day without much interaction with friends is very taxing.

  2. Ask them, "How can I help you?" ... this empowers them to think of creative solutions to help improve their situation.

  3. Apply solutions that achieve Goals over Process. The goal is to learn and prepare for college. Live stream lectures for several hours.a day may not be the best process to get there.


My kids are 11 and 8 ... but we have been using these strategies to great effect. Aila was complaining about school and for good reason. We could see it in her eyes. She was exhausted by 2PM every day from staring at lectures for 3-4 hours and very little interaction.


So we did the following...


1. Acknowledge her reality - We had several long chats about Aila about school. She explained the situation and lack of flexibility. We didn't tell her, "This is good for you" ... "Think positive" ... "You should be grateful". Instead we acknowledged her reality ... "Wow that sucks!".


2. How can we help you? - We asked her but she said she didn't know. We didn't know either. But we kept thinking about it...


3. Goals over Process - A couple weeks ago we asked Aila, "How would you learn most effectively if you could learn however you wanted?" That is when we hit pay dirt...


Aila's Solutions to Making Remote School work


Solution #1 - Optional Lectures ... Aila said that a lot of the time she didn't need to watch the lectures. Her homework is largely self-explanatory. When she doesn't know what to do she Googles it...and if that didn't work she asks Sumay.

Solution #2 - Daily Updates ... Aila was worried that her teacher may not recognize how hard she is working if she isn't always logged into class. So she started sending daily email updates with her progress.


Solution #3 - Demand flexibility ... Aila was worried that the school would not allow her this flexibility. We told her that the health of her eyes, her happiness, and achieving the goal of learning effectively were more important to us then the "process" set forth by the school. We explained as much to her teacher.


So far the results have been incredible.

  • She learning everything in school and getting her work done by noon with less screen time.

  • She is spending more remote time with friends ... not less and its higher quality time, not frustratingly short and controlled time like in school.

  • She has lots of energy and is using it to pursue her passions...like building solar cars and other hardware projects you can buy off Amazon.

  • She is writing about the things she loves to learn about from 12 - 4pm and putting it up on MakeshiftHomeschool.app ... Articles on how 3D printing works and the history of Australia.

  • She is getting a long great with Sumay and making hilarious videos after they get done with their homeschooling activities.

... in short ... she is on fire!


These are very challenging times for young people. They feel that they have no control to improve their situation. Many feel pressure from parents to simply make the best of it. "Think positive!" ... but there is a powerful learning opportunity here. Kids can either learn to ignore and hide their pain points with school, or learn to take control of their lives and solve problems.


Our world needs leaders and entrepreneurs who face reality, not hide from it, and find creative ways to solve real problems, not run from them. The sooner kids learn how to do that she sooner their desire to learn, create, and achieve their potential becomes unstoppable.


Sincerely, Joseph

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