Mom-to-Mom Support/My son doesn’t seem to be self-motivated at all

My son doesn’t seem to be self-motivated at all

Boy gets bored and distracted trying to do math


I am at a loss for a way to help my 13-year-old with math. It’s not so much that he doesn’t understand it, but that it takes him sooo long to finish an assignment. He has spent 4 hours on math some days, then gotten many wrong answers. I thought he didn’t understand it, but when I watched and discussed with him, he seems to get it.

Sometimes I think it’s more of a concentration problem. He gets easily distracted–even distracts himself with stories or daydreams. He doesn’t seem to be self-motivated at all, and now that I am also teaching two of our other children and trying to keep my toddler out of my kindergartner’s scissors and crayons, it seems hopeless.

He’s a good boy, but doesn’t know what to do for himself, and I don’t know how to help him learn to discipline himself in this area.

Dear Mom,

This seems to be a universal problem. When I say that it is universal I mean for all students. My daughter teaches 7th and 8th grade, and she often tells me of the struggles she has had with her students. Here is a suggestion that has worked for our family.

I give homework. If the child fully understands the lesson and is able to do the work unassisted, then it is important that they learn to do so. I give them 40 minutes to finish the assigned work. Then we move on to the next subject. If they have not finished the work in the allotted amount of time, then it is their responsibility to finish the work in the evening.

This is also true for work that is incorrect. The corrections will be made during homework time. This sometimes means that they may miss out on activities. Of course, you have to judge for your own family situation what is appropriate for your child.

In our situation, my husband takes over with homework. This serves a two-fold purpose. He can reinforce the importance of being timely with the completion of work; and if the student needs academic help, then he is available.

Being an independent learner is one of the most, if not the most, important skills academics should accomplish. Discipline in this area is up to the student. All of us have had to learn this important fact of life. It is a healthy and beneficial lesson. You will be amazed at the difference in your son when he realizes that he has changed a bad habit through discipline and perseverance.

Do not expect a change overnight. Start small and give generous amounts of praise and encouragement, but stick to your method. If you plan to homeschool through high school and you have the desire that your son attends college, then this vital lesson needs to be dealt with. This is really a more important lesson than anything he could ever learn in a book.

I admire your desire to understand your son and your willingness to work through this problem. This is the beauty of homeschool.

If you are not already doing so, start your homeschool day with prayer. Ask that the Holy Spirit empower your son to work in a timely and efficient manner.

Dearest Jesus, please be with this mom as she works through this challenge. Send the Holy Spirit to strengthen and enlighten her as she seeks Your guidance and grace. Amen.

Sending out a prayer,
Rita Munn

About Rita Munn

Rita Munn is a veteran homeschool mother of ten. For many years she was a popular speaker at Catholic homeschooling conferences. Writing has been a passion of hers for as long as she can remember, and she loves to use her writing skills to share her homeschooling experience with other parents. Her “family journal” reflections are featured in CHC’s Educating for Eternity e-newsletter.