Almost a week ago, Heidi said she wanted to play “School.” I jumped at the chance to mimic a traditional homeschool day, and wrote out for her a list of assignments.

math page, handwriting page, read fairy book, draw a picture, play the piano, recess, lunch

She got right to work.

heidi working at a desk with books nearby page of math and child drawing

And worked until lunch.

Successful day?

No. After reading a little while from her fairy book, she said, “I read a chapter! Does that count?”

Later, she did less of the piano practicing than usual, and asked if that counted. She went up and down the slide once or twice, then asked if that counted. She drew a quick picture she’s already drawn and asked if that counted.

It killed me. When you require and reward learning, you destroy intrinsic motivation. When I am paid to do something, I’m motivated to do that thing. And when I’m not paid for that thing anymore? Why on earth would I do it? Check out Drive, by Daniel Pink, and Punished by Rewards, by Alfie Kohn. Careful with those books… they will make you want to homeschool.

Pizza Hut’s reading program got a lot of kids to read books- until they cashed in for pizza. After the incentive program was over, kids read less than they did before. My library has a summer reading program and I deliberately avoid it.

The part that hurts me the most is that I haven’t seen Heidi pick up a fairy book in five days–ever since I gave her a reading assignment.