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Motivating a Child in a 'Small Pond'

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    Motivating a Child in a 'Small Pond'

    How do you help motivate your child to work hard in school, but also teach them to be humble as they do so? My child is suffering from being the 'Big Fish' in the proverbial 'Small Pond'. In reality, my kiddo is going to have to work a LOT harder to stand out in the real world, but she thinks that we are doing a lot compared to other kids. Compared to the local public school, we expect a lot out of her. Compared to the rest of the world, she has it too easy. How can I help my child understand the reality of how much harder we need to work (and why), without encouraging arrogance (a trait I can't stand)? It is hard to make friends if you treat others like they are stupid and lazy. Ideas? We really need a reality check over here! TY!

    This is a difficult question! As far as motivating kids to work hard in school, my aim is to set high standards and be as consistent as possible in requiring the daily effort to meet those standards. In general, I find that my kids feel motivated by seeing their succes in meeting those standards. I praise hard work and effort, and I also praise good results, such as well-written papers, good reading aloud and recitations, artwork, and good scores on tests and quizzes. I ask my husband to check in from time to time and give his approval of things they are succeeding at. Dad's praise is less frequent and therefore more valuable! I know there's a school of thought that says kids should be entirely internally motivated, but I think honest positive feedback seems a natural part of my teaching and mothering job.

    Now as for avoiding arrogance when you have high standards, that's a harder proposition! I think it must start with us as parents, being careful over our own motivations and attitudes. I need to watch out for comparing my kids to others and putting others down in my own estimation. I need to watch out for putting too much emphasis on my kids' academic or athletic success and ignoring the cultivation of virtue (generosity, consideration of others, ability to admit mistakes and apologize). And then I think it's useful to put our kids in situations where they won't excel immediately but will learn something important. For example, one of my daughters is highly gifted academically. She is off the charts in all testing, excels in all her MP subjects, writes beautifully, and reads something like 10+ books per week. She knows a lot about a lot and sometimes acts like she knows everything! For the past 2 summers, I've had her participate in tennis camps at our local public school. At first she was pretty terrible, and had to play against younger kids. Although she was discouraged, she persevered and played hard and has been advanced to play with her own age group this year. It's been so good for her to have the experience of being bad at something and needing to expend lots of effort to improve, while seeing how easily it seems to come for other kids. It's better than any lecture I could give saying "just because you do so well in school does not mean everything in life will come easily." So I recommend finding something that your kid is not so wonderful at and using that as an arena to experience humility, perseverance, admiring others, and pushing into your limitations.

    Fall 2022:
    DS 14 9th
    DD 12 7th
    DS 10 5th
    DD 7 2nd
    DS 5 K
    DS 2


      Humility can be hard if you have a child is advanced. My youngest is ahead in math and it is hard to ignore grade levels on the cover of the textbook. I usually just say you get the material you need and remind him that it is not something we discuss with others. Sort of like not discussing money or politics I rarely discuss academic specifics with others. As it regards public schooling, the only comparisons I make to my children are regarding scheduling and some subject they enjoy that they would miss if they attended. When they aren’t focusing, I remind them how early they would have to get up every morning, how late they would have to stay, and how much homework they would still have after school and the activities they would then have to give up if they choose not to take their work seriously for me. Throw in a spring field trip while the school kids (and parent chaperones) are there behaving badly and they are reminded that they don’t want that option. I generally stress our scheduling and curriculum flexibility and efficiency, without making judgments about the individuals who attend or the quality of their education. I know without a doubt that there are things the public school does better than I can. They can make those judgements for themselves when they grow up.

      Plans for 2022-2023
      16th year homeschooling, 13th year with Memoria Press
      DD College Sophomore
      DS 11th grade - Lukeion Latin and Greek, Vita Beata, MPOA Divine Comedy
      DS 9th grade - Vita Beata Literature/Classical Studies
      DS 4th grade - 4A with Right Start F, Second Form Latin, AAS 5


        I had a related problem -- when my kid was in public school they were filling his head with talk about how smart and how great he was all the time. We took him out to homeschool him many years ago and wanted him to progress at his own pace without talk about giftedness or any other comparison. But he ended up feeling insecure about his intellectual abilities and started asking us if he was actually smart or not. I wanted him to have good self esteem but I also didn't want him to get a big head. It's a hard line to walk. I told him he was indeed very bright but that hard work etc etc, you know the drill. I am looking forward to him having an online group class with a different teacher (other than me) so he can learn something about how other teachers are.

        Personally I think life will eventually disabuse kids of the notion that they are the smartest in any room, even if it takes until grad school or med school. It's not the worst thing ever for a kid to just have a loving set of parents and a safe little pond. They will get the lesson soon enough! Lol.
        2022-2023: first year with MP cores

        DS - 12 MP 7
        DD - 9 MP 4
        DD - 7 MP 2
        DD - 5 MP K
        DD - 4
        DS - 2
        DD - new baby