I’m getting ready to make a shocking statement. Are you ready? Are you sitting down? Okay, here goes: Every homeschooling day is not a bed of roses.
I know, I know. I can hear all the homeschool moms gasping in a collective shock of disbelief, but it’s true. Some homeschooling days are better than others and some homeschooling days just plain stink. So, how do you handle the bad days? Well, after nine years of homeschooling, I have had my share of bad days, so I’ve come up with a few tried and true ways of handling them.
1. Pray. I listed this as my first reason here because it’s not always my first reaction at home. It usually comes after fussing, yelling, or crying…or all three on a really bad day. When the thought to pray does cross my radar, though, I always wish I’d done it first and it always helps.
2. Call a friend. Thankfully, though all homeschool moms have had bad days, you can usually find someone who isn’t having a bad day on the same day you are. There’s nothing like the listening ear of someone who’s been there, done that, and knows exactly where you’re coming from. Sometimes just talking it out is all you need to regain a little perspective.
And, hey, if your friend is having a lousy day, too, you can commiserate together…or maybe you’ll find that your day isn’t as bad as you thought it was and end up encouraging your friend yourself. Either way, you’ll be glad you called.
3. Reassess. If you’re consistently having bad days, it may be time to reassess. If your child is just coming out of a more typical school setting, could he use some “deschooling” time? Are you expectations too high? Is your curriculum a good fit? Do you and your child have some teaching style/learning style differences that need to be addressed? Talk it out with your spouse or a trusted friend. Spend some time in prayer. Sometimes just a few tweaks or recognizing readiness and developmental discrepancies can make a world of difference.
4. Reconnect. Some bad days are caused by spending too much time in “teacher” mode and not enough time in “mommy” mode. Others are just caused by everyone getting off on the wrong foot in the morning. We have times where we’ve all stopped what we were doing and started over, greeting each other as if for the first time that day. It usually makes everyone at least smile. We sometimes even start a “hug circle” in which someone starts a hug and passes it around the circle. When it gets to the end, it gets passed back. Yes, teenagers can act like they’re too big for a hug circle…but, they’re not.
5. Take a field trip. Bad days are often caused by stress and burn-out, which can often be alleviated with a field trip. A change of scenery can do everyone a world of good and field trips are great because they meet that requirement without making you feel like you’ve lost a day of school. Some great spur-of-the-moment field trips include the zoo, a local museum, or a nature walk.
6. Take a day off. Sometimes it’s just a good idea to know when to throw in the towel. We all need a mental health day every so often, and homeschooling families are no exception. Homeschooling offers the flexibility to make up any state-required days at a later time, so don’t compound a really bad day by continuing to push everyone.
Another alternative to completely taking the day off is to turn it into a “life skills” day. I can’t stand clutter and sometimes that’s what’s causing my moodiness and stress, making it worth it to me to take a day off to clean up the house and catch up the laundry, something all kids need to learn to do before they leave the house. Baking cookies together certainly never hurt anything either.
7. Do a unit study. Are you noticing a pattern here? A lot of bad days can be caused by burnout. A surefire method to cure burnout is to take some time off the thing that’s causing it. If that thing happens to be your regular school work, spend a week or two on a fun, interest-led, but still educational unit study. Everyone is still learning, but also engaged in something that you might not have gotten around to in your regular curriculum, but that might just prove to be one of those really memorable moments in your school year.
8. Enjoy a Mom’s Night Out. Our local homeschool group has a Mom’s Night Out one night a month. We meet at a local restaurant for dinner, where we may or may not talk about homeschooling. It does typically come up since it’s such a huge part of our lives, but Mom’s Night Out is a chance to just get together, eat an entire uninterrupted meal that none of the moms has to cook or clean up, and recharge. I always come away feeling refreshed.
9. Call a family meeting. Maybe there are issues totally unrelated to school that are causing the stress, or maybe you just need to get your kids feedback on what’s causing the bad days. Sometimes kids need to be reminded of the expectations. Sometimes it’s not that our expectations are too high, but that theirs are two low. It often helps to get together as a family and talk through any ongoing problems that may be causing stressful school days, whether that be attitude problems, lack of initiative, irresponsible behavior, or a family crisis that has everyone out of sorts. This would also be a good time to take another look at number one.
10. Reflect. Many times just spending some time looking at where you’ve come from and where you are will improve a bad day. Is your child struggling with reading? Well, maybe last year he could sound out a CVC word, but was unable to blend them together, whereas, today he can blend them easily and it now working on sounding out multisyllable words. Maybe your daughter is struggling with fractions, but has mastered long division, which gave her a fit last year.
Sometimes progress is slow and difficult to see, but spending time looking at where you’ve been can bring it all back into focus.
We’ve all had bad days, but, hopefully, the good far outweigh the bad. I hope that the ten tips above will help put everything back into perspective the next time you’re having a bad day. I may need to print them off and keep them handy for my next bad day, too, since the tips sometimes escape me in the midst of the struggle.
How do you effectively handle the not-a-bed-of-roses days in your homeschool?