We have been homeschooling for about 3.5 years now. Some days are good, some days great, but sometimes we encounter the HARD DAYS. You know the kind, where you are three seconds from losing your mind and if your child dawdles any longer you are going to look up the number for the nearest public school? As I type this my almost 7 year old is sitting next to me stalling, stalling, STALLING on what should be a very quick page. Did I mention that I have to keep chasing the toddler away and distracting her every three minutes, and I’ve only slept about an hour and fifteen minutes since 12:45 am? Deep breath, I can do this. And if I can do it, you can do it, too! So the question is, HOW do we do it?
Yep, you read it right, prayer. All too often I forget this. I get frustrated, and lose my cool, and snap at my kids, but I neglect to stop and ask God to help. This should be mine (and your) #1, go to it first, never forget it thing to do when we’re having a hard day. Go to God and ask for help! The first thing I always ask for in these moments is PATIENCE. Why? Because often me lacking patience is contributing just as much to the problem as any behaviors in my children. I also pray to be grace-filled, because as much as I know I need grace, I have a tendency to forget to show it to others. Not pretty or great, but true.
Then, pray specifically for your children. Today I prayed for my oldest to focus, because focus was definitely the problem. She wasn’t struggling with the work (literally got maybe 4 questions wrong in the whole time she was working, across all subjects), she wasn’t sick, she had slept plenty, she was just majorly distracted. Since once again I realized a shortcoming on my own part, I prayed that not only would she learn to focus, but that I would remember to TEACH her to focus. When you pray, pray as much for God to fix you as you do for Him to fix your kids, because in the end, it’s less about homeschooling issues and more about heart issues.
Take Frequent Breaks
Whether your hard day of homeschooling is due to an overactive toddler, a fussy baby, a distracted child, or a struggling learner, taking frequent breaks can seriously help. Stop for a minute or two and do something else. Around here, every time my oldest finishes a page she gets up to wander around, or dance, or wiggle, or catch a minute or two of a show with her siblings, while I look over her work. When I’m done checking it I call her back and we get back to work. This can help to prevent a lot of strife down the road. Today, when I could see my daughter lacking focus, I decided that after each question on her writing assignment I would have her stand up and shake her hands and legs. The work took a bit longer, but there was less conflict between us, so that is a win. Even if you aren’t homeschooling, this is great for everything from doing chores to homework time.
The breaks aren’t just for your kids, either. This is a chance for you to take a breather before you do or say something you will regret later. I remember when my oldest was a baby and had severe colic, our doctor told us that if we found ourselves on the edge of losing it, to put her somewhere safe and walk away. Take a few minutes to calm down and collect ourselves. At nearly 7 years old she’s obviously past the colic, but the same advice still applies. When your stress level is rising and you can sense that you are about to lose your cool, just walk away for a few minutes. Take a deep breath. Pray again. Have apiece of chocolate. Fix yourself a cup of coffee. Whatever it is you need to do in order to collect yourself, take a few minutes and do it, and let your kids have some free time while you do.
Stick to the Basics
In moments like this, I’ve seen many homeschoolers suggest going to bigger ‘fun’ activities, like experiments, cooking, and art projects. If that’s what works for you, fantastic, switch over to that. For me, those bring far more stress (I’m guessing I’m not alone in this, either). Switching over to something like that would likely result in tears, tantrums, yelling, and complete disaster for us. Instead, I have found that sticking to the bare basics works best for us.
On those days when getting ANYTHING done is a struggle, I pare down our normal plans. Instead of covering all of our planned subjects, I prioritize and pick the 2-3 MOST important subjects and do only those. Typically that will be reading, math, and Bible, but it can vary some based on if I feel we are a bit ‘behind’ in a particular subject. Whichever subjects I choose, I make a point of limiting the number of subjects as well as how involved our work is in each area.
Call It a Day
On the most dire of days, when things are going REALLY badly, I will call it a day and set school aside completely. More often than not these days are spent watching educational shows, having free play time, and wearing pajamas. I try not to resort to this, but sometimes it’s just plain old necessary. Don’t see this as a sign of defeat. Instead try to see it as prioritizing peace and relationships over academics. Obviously if you did this every day it would be a problem, but a day here and there isn’t going to hurt anyone. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can always make up your ‘school hours’ on another day if you have to.