Tips to Get Through the Hard Days of Homeschooling
This probably goes without saying, but tough days homeschooling happen. They take many different forms, too. Somedays it’s excessive silliness and rowdiness. Somedays it’s frustration and pouting.
Those days happen in just good ol parenting too, but while homeschooling you might feel the added pressure of feeling like you need to get through a lesson or finish an assignment. It can feel like an internal struggle to choose between parenting with love and compassion or teaching with expectations and structure. Fortunately, the two can be blended. Here’s my best tips to get through the hard days of homeschooling, learned through plenty of personal trial and error!
Step back and access the situation. Are there contributing factors making today particularly difficult? Did you just get back from a weeklong vacation where everyone stayed up late? Are you going through some personal family struggles like the illness of a loved one?
If the pushback is rare and a hard day comes up, I usually press pause on school. Instead we play board games, get outside, cook something, read books, or do another activity that is fun and demands our focus.
However, if it’s just a whiny day and it begins the second they first sit down to tackle math, I typically have a little less empathy. It’s a hard balance wanting to create a loving and enchanted learning environment and making them understand that in life you have responsibilities that might not always be fun, but that you have to suck it up and accomplish anyway, especially once you get into grades where they aren’t babies anymore (in my mind that is roughly third grade and up). In these situations, I stick to my guns a bit more. Here’s what I do:
Push through. I usually give “the talk,” in a calm voice. I tell them I understand this isn’t what they’d choose to do right now, and that can feel frustrating, but that school work is important and their responsibility. I dig a little to find out if it’s laziness or lack of understanding, and will sit with them a bit longer to help them through the assignment if I sense that they are frustrated from lack of comprehension.
There are other ways to shake up a grumpy moment that I’ve found to work quite well.
Add a fun snack or treat. Sometimes math is a bit more bearable with a chocolate chip cookie to give you a quick sugar buzz. Sometimes read alouds are more enjoyable with a bowl of popcorn beside you and a blanket to cuddle with. While I don’t really promote setting up food as the ultimate comforter, it’s tough to argue with the good results you’ll get by occasionally offering a tasty option that’s out of the norm.
Light a candle and put on some calming music. A change in atmosphere can go a long way (for the kids, as well as me, too). A candle, a change in lighting, some background music, a change of location (the porch instead of the kitchen table) can really improve everyone’s attitude. Get them involved by asking if they’d prefer Mozart or Bach (no, my kids don’t know the difference, but they sure like having a say in creating the atmosphere).
Explore the topic through a different medium. History feeling dull and lifeless? Visit a local site or museum that ties into it! Stuck at home? Watch a documentary. Have young kids? Dress up and act out the scenes. Hungry? Cook a dish that ties into the unit. There are so many fun ways to bring subjects to life if we’re willing to get out of the “focus only on the text book for learning” trap.
Play a game. The other day we weren’t feeling our math textbooks. So we switched it up and played addition war (flip over two cards, add them together, winner takes all). Then we played Rumikub. Then chess. Games are great for the brain reasoning, strategy building, and early math skills, and most importantly, everyone is having fun. Whining be gone! Check out our favorite math games here.
Get outside. Whether it’s bringing the workbooks on the porch or hiking to a picnic spot with a read aloud, fresh air hasn’t failed me yet on improving a bad attitude, mine included.
Switch to art or music or movement. Sometimes it works for us to put aside the subject of the moment and find a mental release. My girls love to blast Pandora (Descendant’s and Zombies soundtrack lately…) and dance around the living (and jump on the couches). We sometimes to the family “brain breaks” on the Peleton app, which are 5-10 minute movement sequences even young kids can participate in. When they were younger, we did Cosmic Kids Yoga. Other times I’ll just pull out all the crafts and let them get creative with paints and scissors. After a good creative release, it’s usually easier to return to a subject with better attention spans.
Take the day off. If all of these don’t provide any relief from the whining, for goodness sake, we just take the day off. If everyone is truly miserable, then no learning is happening anyway. Watch a movie, take a nap, eat a snack, play some Barbies, and try again tomorrow.
Home is the most important aspect of homeschooling and I believe that homeschooling is just a natural extension of parenting. It’s one we aren’t accustomed to usually, so it can feel a little clunky at first, but give it time and you’ll find the right rhythm for you and yours. And if you’re just getting started, I highly recommend reading Julie Bogart’s The Brave Learner. I find it to be my main source of inspiration and return to it often when I need some encouragement.
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