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14 Ways to Reset a Tough Homeschool Day


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Written by Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things.

We have had a really rough week here. The laundry is piled up in every single room. The kitchen needs a good scrub. My children are arguing an average of 17,000 times a day.

Every homeschool lesson was met with some resistance. (Some lessons were downright boycotted.)

You know…one of those weeks. It felt like one of those days, every single day.

They happen to all of us at one point or another.

A bad day, a bad week, a bad month – it’s part of living and schooling with real-life human beings. I know this, so why do I act so surprised when it happens?

We have been homeschooling for more than seven years now. I have lost count of how many times we have struggled through a tough day. I have also lost count of how many times I have blamed myself, my children, and/or my curriculum for our tough day.

Not helpful.

This past week, I started to feel like we were sliding down a muddy hill with nothing to grab onto. Instead of daydreaming about what it would be like to enroll my children in the school down the street (yes, seven years later, I still have moments where I fleetingly consider it), I decided to be a bit more proactive.

Knowing that a bad day can and will happen again and again, why not plan for it?

14 Ways to Reset a Tough Homeschool Day

Turn On An Audiobook

One of the easiest ways I know to calm things down around here is to turn on an audiobook. For my boys, Harry Potter is always a winner.  I turn it on, and within minutes, our home feels more peaceful.

Get In The Car

Even better than playing an audiobook in the house, turning it on in the car and going for a drive will instantly change the tone of our homeschool day. Add in an ice cream stop or hot chocolate from the Starbucks drive-thru can turn a rough day around in no time.

Go Outside

No matter what, getting fresh air, moving our bodies, and going outside is a quick solution for a rough homeschool day. The whining usually lessens and the mood becomes more playful.

Make It Hands-On

If my youngest son is struggling with school work for the day, one way to get him engaged and learning again is to incorporate a hands-on activity. I usually have one or two ideas and supplies ready each week for when the need arises.

Impromptu Field Trip

We are fortunate enough to live in an area that offers an aquarium, botanical gardens, history museum, zoo, and science center. I have found that sometimes just piling in the car and heading out for an impromptu field trip re-sets all of our temperaments for the day. It also helps gets us back on track for the week.

Have A Mom Stash

Anytime I find an interesting kids’ activity kit online (for a reasonable price) I order it. When it arrives, I hide it in my closet to be pulled out on the day that we really need it. Some of the best are less than $10.00 and include fossil and gemstone digs and simple all-in-one science kits.

Time For Art

While I try to incorporate art into our lessons, the truth is, my kids, enjoy the freedom to create what they want, when they want. A bad day is a perfect time to encourage them to pull out the paints, use our airbrush kit, and get messy with chalk pastels. It is so much easier to clean up an art project than it is to force our way through a tough day.

Add A Little Movement

My youngest son rarely sits still. It’s one of the reasons why homeschool works best for us. When he is having a tough day, another way to get him engaged and back on track is to incorporate movement into his lesson. We have used painter’s tape to make history timelines in the backyard, used our Twister game to practice sight words, and Nerf guns to shoot the right answers to his quiz. It’s more fun for him, and we are still on track with our learning.

Practice Life Skills

I can always coax my oldest into the kitchen. While he bakes something for us, my youngest and I set a timer and do a quick pick-up of the house. Sometimes, a bad day is the best day to practice life skills instead of traditional book learning.

Screen Time

While a lousy day has the potential to spiral into me letting my son watch SpongeBob all afternoon, screens are a great way to keep learning on even the toughest day. Turing on Brave Wilderness on YouTube or 72 Deadliest Creatures on Netflix opens up all kinds of conversations about science and geography.

Go To The Library

When my boys were younger, we went to the library every Wednesday afternoon. Now that they are older, our visits are a bit more sporadic. I find a tough day is a perfect day to head to the bookshelves and get lost in all the titles.

Phone A Friend

On the worst days, I have been known to call my friend and ask if she wants to bring her son over. The boys play, she and I talk, and I can say that we are combating the socialization myth in homeschooling.

Don’t Give Up

A bad day can be so defeating. Honestly, there are so many days I want to throw in the towel and hide in the bathroom until my husband gets home. But it doesn’t really help me or my children feel better. I have to encourage myself just to take the next step and keep going.

Give Up

Some days, no matter how hard you try, the only thing left to do is throw in the towel. Let the kids play Minecraft, make yourself a cup of coffee and relax a bit. Tomorrow is another day.

What are your best tips and tricks to turn around a tough homeschool day?

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Author profile

Shawna Wingert is a special education teacher turned writer, speaker and consultant. She is also a homeschooling mom of two brilliant boys with differences and special needs. Shawna has written four books for parents of special needs – Everyday Autism, Special Education at Home, Parenting Chaos and her latest, Homeschooling Your Child With Special Needs. She has also been featured in special needs discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, The Huffington Post and Autism Speaks. You can find her online at DifferentByDesignLearning.com. You can follow Shawna and Different By Design Learning on Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.

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4 Comments

  1. I love all your ideas! Sometimes I realize the resistance is to a particular book and because we read so many, I just ask, “Do you want to skip this one?” He feels like he’s getting away with something and we start fresh with something new. If the trouble is a writing meltdown (which it often is), I will let him narrate and be his scribe….the thoughts get recorded faster and it’s only a rough draft. Also, a new environment (with snacks of course) is a great way to save a day: school at the local cafe, coffee shop or even Grandmas’s house where root beer and a swimming pool await when work is done!

  2. I find that homeschooling year round helps us be flexible about how we spend our days. We always end up doing more days than the sate requires. When an opportunity, illness, chance to serve comes along, we are always free to take advantage of it. And the Notgrass Record of a Learning Lifestyle, makes it easy to document how regular life counts as school.

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