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Homeschooling and the Power of Praise

Praise is a powerful learning tool. Or, more accurately, it can be. 

For parents with homeschooled students, how we use this powerful tool is of great importance. 

Here are 6 tips for using praise correctly. 

Don’t Over Do It 

Early on, we want to praise children for just about everything. 

Taking their first step is a massive moment in their life, worthy of lots of praise. 

But always praising every step they take like their first step devalues the power of praise. 

The amount of praise used by parents and teachers should be considered carefully. Too much and the student will either become immune to it or realize they don’t have to try very hard to get it. 

Too Little 

On the other side of the coin, we have too little praise. 

When we give zero praise to our students, we shouldn’t be surprised when their motivation slips. 

Praise should be a genuine act. Praise real accomplishments for the person that did them. 

Go back to the example above about a child taking their first steps. If everyone else ignored it –  because walking is a very common thing to us – why would the child want to try and walk again? 

Don’t Praise Results 

What we praise will dramatically impact the student. 

Praising results can be really harmful. 

A student, having not studied, may take a test and accidentally get a decent grade. All praise they receive goes directly to them having not studied and getting away with it. 

Likewise, if a student tries really hard but gets a bad grade, they’ll receive no praise whatsoever, and they’ll be less likely to put that effort in again. 

Praise Effort

Praising effort can be challenging because sometimes it’s hard to see. 

Someone who isn’t very good at math will put in profound effort to answer a few questions slowly. From an outside perspective, it looks like they are putting in no effort. 

But, the better we understand the student’s skills and abilities, the better we can see the effort they put into the endeavor. 

Scaling Praise

To use praise as well as possible, we need to put it on a scale. 

A naturally organized student who gets praised for being organized (as we already discussed) won’t get a lot out of benefit out of it. In fact, it may backfire. 

But when a naturally unorganized student makes strides in fixing that behavior, they should be praised – even if they are still less organized than the other student. 

By scaling praise, we’re able to reward students in a way that makes improvement and growth flourish. 

Specific Praise

When you can, be specific about your praise. 

In the example above with the organized and disorganized student, the second student’s praise should be specific. 

Don’t praise them for being organized. Praise them on keeping all their homework together and where it belongs, for example. 

Praise can be a powerful learning tool when we use it correctly. 

No matter how you go about it, make sure that you’re genuine when you give out praise. Even young children can sense when the praise they are receiving isn’t completely real.