Organization, Motivation and Laziness
Posted in Craigs Keystone articles
What Is an Organizational Problem?
There are some students who have a lot of trouble in their studies because they are disorganized. These kids are said to have organizational problems. There are many different kinds of organizational problems. For example, some impulsive kids do everything too quickly and too carelessly. But there are two other common kinds of organizational problems: one has to do with space, and the other with time.
Students who have spatial organizational problems have a lot of trouble keeping track of things. They keep losing everything. They have trouble finding a pencil, a piece of paper, a place to sit when they want to do their homework. Pages keep falling out of their notebooks, which are a mess. They lose books, assignments, and personal possessions. They just can’t seem to remember where they left things. Plus, their bedrooms often look like dumps! One such school-boy described his school locker as a “black hole.” He said that nothing that’s gone into it has ever again come out!
Other students have trouble organizing time. They get mixed up about sequences and time. They are often late. They can’t remember when an assignment is due. They don’t know how much time to allow themselves to complete an assignment or job. They never are quite sure what to do first, what to do second, and what to do third when they write a report or work on a project. Time is just plain confusing for them. They can’t manage time, and this makes them disorganized.How Can You Fix Organizational Problems?
To fix an organizational problem, you need to understand that the child has the problem, which one it is, and then you need to design all kinds of tricks to help overcome the problem. A spatial problem may be helped by reducing clutter, reducing the number of choices available. You as parent/teacher may have to strictly limit how many projects are on the go at one time, what items are out and available for use on that project, right down to the number of pencils! Help the child keep track of these much fewer number of items by being strict about using them properly and tidying them away properly when finished. This means a much greater degree of supervisory commitment on your part. Hopefully the child will learn how to successfully manage these few things so you can then expand the number of items available giving the child the opportunity to learn to manage a larger number of items.
A similar technique may be used with managing time: strictly training the child to a timetable or some routine, teaching skills such as drawing up one’s own schedule, assigning priorities, estimating how long a project may take, how much time one should spend on this project at one stretch, etc. Now these techniques are not favoured by some for they are pretty much from the behaviourist school of psychology, Pavlov and Skinner, stimulus/response. Some say this approach demeans children, training them in exactly the same way one would train a dog. These techniques, like any techniques, will be limited in their effectiveness according to the nature of the problem. The child may have organic or physical conditions which must be addressed before effective learning can take place. Each child is unique, with a unique set of variables. This is the home educating parents’ challenge: to intently observe and constantly adjust the approach to the child’s makeup. This is also the vast advantage home educating parents have: they are able to observe and adjust, for they are tutoring/mentoring their own child, not a whole classroom filled with other peoples’ kids. This is not to say let the child’s needs dictate…. ultimately the parents are, under God, in charge, and the child must, under God, be subject to his parents. The Scriptures do not seem to give any leeway for organic or physical conditions.
What Do People Mean When They Say That a Child Is Poorly Motivated?
A lot of times when a student has learning disorders, people say he is “poorly motivated.” Often when a teacher or parent says this, he or she means that the student doesn’t try very hard or has given up completely. To be motivated toward something is to want very much to accomplish it or get it. Usually, students are motivated if there is a goal that they like. You might be motivated to learn algebra if you really like mathematics, especially if you think algebra is fun. You might be motivated to get good grades/comments about your home-school work if you enjoy success and if you like having your friends and relatives tell you how smart you are.
While it’s true that almost everybody would love to get good grades or compliments, there’s more to motivation than simply wanting them. You get motivated only if you think you really have a chance of getting what you want (like a finished project that is just the way you wanted it). If you think you have no chance of getting what you want, even if you try, you lose your motivation. Another part of motivation has to do with how hard it would be to get something. If you think that you could possibly do that project the way you envision it but that it would take superhuman effort — too many very hard long hours — you might lose your motivation because all that effort would not be worth it to you.
So a student can lose motivation because he doesn’t like a goal, because he feels he could never get that goal, or because the goal would be much too hard to get. You can see how a student with learning disorders might lose motivation a lot quicker than other students when it comes to getting a desired academic goal. Here is where the creative home schooling parent can help her student formulate goals that are very attractive (motivating) and definitely achievable. Observe your children: find out what motivates them, those things that they love doing, that really get them excited, into which they are willing to pour hours of time and tons of energy without even stopping to think about it. Then look for ways to tie these motivators into their curriculum so that it helps them learn. This can be as a reward for work that needs doing first or even better, incorporated as part of the learning process.
For example, we fostered and home educated an 8-year-old boy for a while who couldn’t sit still or concentrate but loved to show off. Yet he learned the location of every country in South America in two weeks! How? We got him tracing maps of South America, showing only the political boundaries. The maps stayed taped to the windows until he got the job done….he liked the tracing, but couldn’t stick at it for long, so would come and go. He made cards with the names of each country. He liked handling the cards and would match them up with the territory on the blank maps he’d drawn using the original map as a guide. We said he could show off to every visitor to our place once he had a few memorised. We also made a big deal of each one he could remember without reference to the original map. When he found that virtually no one else to whom he handed the cards could correctly match the countries’ name cards to their position on the blank map when he could, a “dumb” 8-year-old, his confidence and eagerness to learn more really grew.
How Do You Know If They’re Lazy?
There is probably no such thing as a lazy child. A child may look lazy if he or she has lost motivation. Some kids look lazy when they really have attentional difficulties that make it extremely hard for them to concentrate. A lot of other kinds of learning problems can make someone look lazy when really he isn’t. For example, a child may seem lazy because he hates getting started on homework. He has to be reminded about six times before he begins to do something like a report. His parents think he’s lazy, but he really has a fine motor problem that makes writing a huge chore, so he just dreads getting started. Once you discover a problem like this, back off. Get them doing writing they can do without it being such a difficult chore. Maybe you have to go back to the crayons and large sheets of paper, making one letter at a time.
(Some of the main ideas are from Keeping a Head in School: A Student’s Guide to Learning Abilities and Learning Disorders by Dr. Mel Levine, ISBN 0-8388-2069-7, Educators Publishing Service, Inc., 1990 31 Smith Place, Cambridge, MA 02138-1000.)
From Keystone Magazine
July 2000 , Vol. VI No. 4
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