From the doorway of her daughter's bedroom, Stephanie took inventory. Activity desk. Play kitchen. Shelves packed with picture books and preschool materials. A fully populated and furnished dollhouse. Cash the Daschund, wagging his tail on the daybed.
Stephanie scratched behind the dog's ears while she waffled with how to address Kennedy's frustration.
Reasons for boredom are as varied as our children's personalities. If claiming boredom gets our attention, some kids may take the position to see us scramble. In Kennedy's case, she simply hasn't learned how to entertain herself yet.
A certain amount of boredom is not only inevitable, but perfectly normal, said Teresa Belton, a researcher for the School of Education and Lifelong Learning at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom.
"[Boredom] is a common human experience, and in reasonable doses, and with a constructive response, it can help a child to develop self-reliance, creativity, imagination, thoughtfulness, and observational skills," Belton said in a research article titled "Boredom and schooling: a cross-disciplinary exploration," which was published in the Cambridge Journal of Education.
While Stephanie waffled with how to address her four-year-old's frustration, Kennedy grew bored with being bored and, just as Belton theorized, the idle child's imagination kicked in. An impromptu puppet show appealed to Kennedy's fondness for telling silly stories, and the plot took half a dozen directions by the time Dad arrived home to watch a girl with yellow yarn hair ride a moose named Cash to a grocery store on the moon for pizza.
While some children become bored with no clear agenda, others are restless because they're not challenged intellectually. If you're homeschooling a student who seems bored with lessons, consider taking the interest-led approach, or self-directed learning. Homeschooling has the freedom for students to work ahead or delve deeper into whatever fascinates them, be it the history of baseball, the human anatomy, or British lit. As long as you're content that your student is still getting enough core material, let him loose to learn what he or she loves.
Still others may be bored because school isn't challenging. Rather than getting frustrated over your child's lack of motivation, take a moment to re-evaluate your homeschool curriculum. You may need to switch gears and change to more hands-on lessons or a different homeschooling approach that better meets your child's learning style.
If you suspect some courses may be a grade level or two below what can be handled, get a gauge by watching your student work through lessons, quizzes, and tests in each subject and review his or her grade reports. If you see patterns of consistently high scores, your student's boredom may be because he or she should be taking more advanced courses. Asking questions like, "Do spelling and English feel a little too easy to you?" can help you determine whether or not you need to look into a change. In addition, AOP's free placement tests can accurately measure your child's true grade level.
In order to combat boredom, children of all ages need to look for ways in which to challenge themselves beyond the lesson plan or playground. Whichever strategy you choose to bust their boredom, remember to mix it up and work in a few surprises along the way. Lastly, don't dodge an opportunity to improve your teaching. As Ignacio Estrada suggested, "If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn."
What methods do you use to keep your student engaged?