Prisma is the world’s most engaging virtual school that combines a fun, real-world curriculum with powerful mentorship from experienced coaches and a supportive peer community.
A student who sleepwalks through school, hands in blank test papers and claims the dog ate their homework. When red flags are raised and other issues (learning differences or disabilities, bullying, mental health struggles) ruled out, there’s a new label to consider: the unmotivated student.
It’s a broad category, and it often takes a group effort between parent, teacher and student to hone in on the specific problem. Lack of motivation boils down to a disconnect between a learner and their environment, but the source could be anything from a child’s lack of confidence to a curriculum that doesn’t excite their intellectual curiosity.
With so many variables, it’s hard to make blanket statements about successful techniques that work for “most unmotivated students.”
But as a general foundation, we will say: as frustrating as it can be, try to approach this challenge with curiosity and collaboration, involving your child in the conversation as much as possible. The last thing you want is to turn the question of student motivation into a power struggle.
Instead, if you look at the potential causes of your child’s lack of engagement with their teachers and them, you open the possibility to strengthen your relationship and figure out how to get them (re)connected to their interests.
A question this big can be overwhelming, so chunk it down into pieces. Here are some questions to consider — both through observation and conversation with the student and any trusted adults:
Gather information about when your child lights up and when they check out, and you’ll get closer to figuring out the reason for the disconnect and how to help them find their enthusiasm for learning.
Get a better sense of the root cause, and you’ll be closer to finding a workable solution. However, even if you’re left with more questions than answers, the following recommendations might help you get moving in the right direction. Test out each one, see how it goes, and every time you’ll know a little bit more about what motivates your child.
One of our foundational teaching strategies at Prisma is to let students lead the way. If you don't know what they are interested in: have they been exposed to a wide range of tools, topics, experiences, texts — the kinds of things that allow creativity to blossom?
Student-led learning means giving them choice whenever possible: If your child is reluctant to reluctant to read assigned texts in English class, see what happens when they choose their own books. If they’re reluctant to read anything, let them listen to podcasts or audiobooks (while following along with a physical copy), so that they build their literacy muscles.
Be patient if they don’t click with something right away, and emphasize effort over results. It’s a win when they dip their toe into something new or stick with something for a little longer than the last time they tried.
Sometimes “I don’t care about school,” actually means, “I don’t care about traditional subjects.” Encourage them to pursue any passion — and you’ll often find a way to connect it to a core skill: We’ve had reluctant writers author video game reviews and get hooked on writing all sorts of genres. We’ve had non-committal historians create historical models in Minecraft and watched them delight in acting as a tour guide.
If there’s a specific subject that makes them nod off, try incorporating it into an interdisciplinary project: get them excited about math by having them build a business; let them fall in love with urban planning on a trip to New York City. (Sometimes a kid who appears unmotivated is really a hands-on learner, just waiting to roll up their sleeves.)
Look at your child’s curriculum: Does your child know why they are learning certain skills? Do you? (If you don't know why the skills are important, why do you expect them to be important to your child?) Connect what they're learning in school to real-world jobs by having them speak with adults who use those skills in their work, like we do at Prisma through our expert guest series.
Or, even better, make the learning authentic by having them present their work to an audience of professionals: In our Collab Problem Solving workshop, students presented their plans to power a city with alternative energy sources to a panel of real energy experts. Or when kids designed their own video game, we invited game designers to Expo Day to give feedback. A great way to do this on your own is to encourage kids to submit their work to real competitions (for example, in our Wild Inventions theme, kids submit their inventions to a Youth Biomimicry competition).
Kids today can be over-scheduled. Between sports, arts, other activities, and family commitments, they may be missing out on that truly free time when they can be alone with their thoughts, figure out their priorities and passions, and get excited about their interests. Sometimes “checking out” during school time might feel like the only option. Offer more free time during their day (one of the many benefits of homeschooling!), and they might feel more motivated when they are doing work.
A powerful source of motivation is having an adult at school, like a learning coach, who knows your child well — what makes them clam up, and what makes them push full speed ahead.
Sometimes struggling students are simply overwhelmed with the amount of responsibilities, choices and new tasks being thrown at them. That’s where it can pay dividends to build relationships with mentors who know what foundational lessons and key processes a learner needs to master before adding layers of complexity. Our Prisma coaches work to strike a balance: On the one hand, they offer concrete, practical strategies to help kids learn to organize themselves; on the other, they foster a sense of ownership by letting learners plan their days, check off their own to-do lists, set their own goals, and choose their own projects.
Teacher-student relationships are one piece of the puzzle; another is having a supportive peer group with whom to celebrate achievements. It’s highly motivating to know that at the end of every project, there will be an audience of peers waiting to hear what you have to say. We’ve seen some of our shiest learners come into their own through the excitement of presenting at our regular end-of-cycle Expo Days.
Watching a child struggle with motivation can be incredibly frustrating. Sometimes, all it takes is a new approach or extra patience. But other times, there’s something more complicated at work that requires professional support. If none of these strategies work for your learner, they likely need a more serious intervention, whether through your school, a family physician, or a mental health professional.
Want to learn more about how Prisma can empower your child to thrive?Talk with us
With adolescent mental health in crisis, here’s how to support your high school student’s well-being.
At its core, creativity is the expression of our most essential human qualities: our curiosity, our inventiveness, and our desire to explore the unknown.
The concept of critical thinking can seem vast and abstract. But one of the most meaningful ways you can start to tackle it is by rethinking the role of the teacher.
Imagine your child exploring new countries, meeting people from different cultures, and gaining a deep understanding of the world in a way that simply isn't possible in traditional education.
Unstick your child’s creativity, stretch their thinking, and improve their writing skills with topics that tap into their passions.
I never expected to find a family within my child’s school, but the leadership, teachers, parents and kids have become friends for life
Homeschooling can be overwhelming for parents. Here's how to recognize the signs of burnout & concrete solutions.
What’s behind your child’s complaint — and what to do about it.
If building social skills has been a bumpy road for your kid, here’s how to help them form healthy friendships.
The homeschool day can be quite efficient, compared to a typical public school day. Then, their school work completed, kids have plenty of time for extracurriculars, hobbies, unstructured play and generally... fun.
Possibly. But here’s what to do first.
To instill life-long healthy eating habits, take a hands-on approach
Distance learning doesn’t have to be a drag. Here’s how Prisma creates a community-centered online learning environment.
Distance learning is gaining popularity. Here’s what you need to know about online learning for high school students.
A bridge into high school, middle school is the time to prepare for independent learning. Here’s how to set the stage.
ADHD is only one reason for a short attention span. Find the cause, then try these tips for helping your child focus.
There’s no roadmap to develop a true passion — but here are ways to make the journey more fruitful.
Kristen Shroff is an experienced educational leader who has been with Prisma from the very beginning, first as a Founding Curriculum Designer & then as Head of School. Now, as CEO, she will lead Prisma into its next stage of growth.
Meet Claire Cummings, our Head of Middle School. Claire started out as a beloved Learning Coach in our middle school program before transitioning to the Head of School role in January 2023! She is based in Detroit, Michigan.
From making a meal to balancing a budget, here’s how to help teens learn to thrive in the real world.
In our Meet the Team blog series, you’ll get to read more about the innovative thinkers behind Prisma. Next up is Emily Veno, one of Prisma's Founding Curriculum Designers. After two years focused on building Prisma's middle school curriculum, in her new role as Head of Learning Innovation she works across both the middle & high school programs.
In our Meet the Team blog series, you’ll get to read more about the innovative thinkers behind Prisma. Next up is Leena Williams, the Lead Coach & Curriculum Designer in our new high school program.
At Prisma, we believe the families and learners who like to call themselves Prismarians—are our ‘secret sauce’! Here we highlight one of our favorite stories from the Prisma community
From national parks to beach vacations, design an in-the-field learning experience the whole family will enjoy
Online learning takes many forms. Decide why you want to go remote — and the rest will fall into place.
Here’s how parents of ADHD children can set themselves up for successful learning at home.
Online learning doesn’t have to be distracting. These tips can prime your child to thrive at home.
From early childhood through high school, homeschooling provides the ideal setting to facilitate a gifted child’s learning. Here’s how.
And how can you support them in the classroom?
From fostering a love of learning to developing problem-solving skills, child-initiated learning is a pillar of a successful homeschooling journey. Here’s how to get started.
Focus on number sense and you’ll help your child add math skills to their toolkit.
Combine fun with a pinch of self-discipline, and you’ll be well on your way to a wellness routine your child wants to follow.
Kids need to develop their own world as they mature. But the stereotype of the zip-lipped pre-teen doesn’t have to be your reality.
It’s not easy to juggle full-time work and homeschooling — but it is possible. Here’s what we’ve learned about how to thrive.
Learning languages opens doors, offers connections and inspires new ways of thinking. Here’s some advice about which one(s) to pick.
Critical thinking matters for academics, work and relationships. Here’s how to lay the foundations at home.
Read about the hands-on learning opportunities one Prisma high schooler tackled in the Secrets of the Biosphere theme
Creative thinking is the key to problem-solving. Here’s how to foster creativity at home.
Traditional four-year college is only one option. Here’s how to inform your decision.
The Montessori approach focuses on early childhood. Here’s how the popular pedagogical method can lend itself to home-based learning for all ages.
Here’s what parents need to know about the popular social media network.
Here’s what every parent should know about facilitating a routine that works for the whole family.
Hands-on learning benefits all students. Here’s how to incorporate it into your homeschooling.
There’s no evidence to confirm the validity of these popular labels. But here’s how auditory learning strategies can benefit everyone.
Although no studies link these popular labels to academic achievement, here’s how visual learning helps everyone.
Here’s what parents need to know about the free, popular chat app.
Incorporate these reading tips into your routine, and you’ll be on your way to fostering a love of reading in your child.
Ready to Deck the Halls? Here are projects to engage kids of all ages—and tackle your seasonal shopping with DIY keepsakes.
More than just asking questions in the classroom, the Socratic Method helps learners test their own ideas in a real-life context.
Here are some guidelines to help sift through the infinite options.
When students set the conditions of their learning experience, they show more creativity, passion and sticktuitiveness.
With built-in lesson plans, educational tools, and endless problem-solving opportunities, Minecraft: Education Edition can help motivate kids in coding, science, language arts, and more.
Get into the spirit of gratitude with these easy Thanksgiving crafts for kids.
Teach children gratitude and they’ll experience better mental health, well being and social connection.
8 tips to ensure learning disabilities don’t get in the way of building reading skills.
Why does your child dread Mondays? Once you know, take these steps to help them (re)discover their spark.
To stop bullying behavior, educate yourselves and your children.
Bullying is about a power dynamic between peers. To interrupt it, first understand why it happens.
Children’s Mental Health is in Crisis. Here’s How to Help Develop Your Child’s Self-Esteem.
To reach their high potential, twice-exceptional children benefit from a flexible learning environment.
The holiday season is the time to get your hands dirty with these Halloween craft ideas - candy corn optional.
Dyslexic kids often lose their love of learning. Here’s how parents can help them rediscover it.
The challenges of adolescence can be magnified for LGBTQ kids. Here’s how to help them thrive.
From bullying to finding a safe bathroom, LGBTQ students navigate a tough landscape at school.
What we know about the relationship between ‘hard fun’ and learning. (Hint: It’s not about playing games in between worksheets.)
Here’s what we mean by ‘success’ at Prisma - and how we use it to help kids thrive.
What parents need to know about socialization in—and out of—the classroom to help your homeschooler thrive.
Child entrepreneurship is trending. Here are three steps to developing an innovative business that stands out from the crowd.
A hands-on approach to develop real-world skills, resiliency and a love of learning — here’s how we practice it at Prisma.
A Shared Name and Diverse Strengths Led Two Bens to Build an AI Writing Business.
When traditional public school isn’t the best option, consider these alternatives.
Five ways parents can help their kids see themselves as a work in progress.
Gifted kids face unique challenges when it comes to burnout. Here’s how parents can help.
For travel-hungry families dreaming of school vacation, there’s much to celebrate about shifts in the way we live, work and educate our children.
To create a customized education for your child takes more than a checklist. This three-stage framework can help you get started.
If you’re homeschool-curious, here’s what 100 families have to say about the biggest advantages and disadvantages of homeschooling.
With homeschooling, the sky’s the limit – and there’s a lot on your plate. Learn about how to make this growing trend work for your family.
Learning how to use the internet safely, smartly, and creatively is one of the most essential skills for success in our hyper-connected world. Prisma learners just wrapped up their Cyber Citizens learning
A live learning platform purpose-built for kids. It's a new, fun and engaging way for kids to learn and collaborate together virtually.
Technology has completely revolutionized how we shop, communicate, entertain ourselves, and even how we work, but no such revolution has happened in education.
We’ve officially wrapped up our first ever fall session at Prisma and are excited to share our learnings and observations with you.
Starting today, families can apply to join Prisma from anywhere in the USA. Here’s how it will work. You can still apply to any of our five founding cohort hubs (Chicago, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, or Tampa) if you live nearby.
Over the past week, as millions of parents have realized that traditional in-person schooling may not be safe or available come September, a new twist on an old phenomenon has emerged.
We're excited to announce the rollout of Prisma cohorts in 5 US cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Tampa and Salt Lake City.
We’re Prisma, and today we’re announcing the world’s first Connected Learning Network, a whole new category in education. We’re not a school in the conventional sense; we’re a locally-rooted, globally connected at-home learning network that gives kids the tools to live their optimal life, starting today.
First-time Poet Wins “Games for Change Student Challenge” with “Poem of PvZ”.