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You’re tired. You’re burned out. You just want to quit. You’ve run out of coffee and forgot to restock the night before. You’ve already changed two biohazard level diapers, and it’s only 8AM. Welcome to homeschool hell.
As you reach to grab the blunt object that child number one is terrorizing child number two with, it hits you.
You retreat to your bedroom, leave the door a crack, and hide under a blanket.
Maybe they’ll just calm down, sit on the floor together, join hands and sing a happy song.
A few quiet moments go by, and you know something’s amiss.
Once you enter the kitchen, you detect a stomach churning smell. In the center of the floor is your little lovely, sitting cross legged. Just in front of him is a pile of unidentifiable substances. Upon closer inspection, you discover jelly, ketchup, mustard, pickle juice, peanut butter, and a smattering of margarine is being mashed into a fine paste with a large kitchen knife.
It’s only 9AM. Yes, you just want to quit.
You finally whip the house back up to livable condition, and the rigorous lessons you’ve planned loom heavily in your head. You must deliver the education they deserve. You kept them home to be with you, learn with you, laugh with you, and yes; cry with you. The wild homeschool choo-choo must continue down the tracks, and you are the engineer.
Here is how we manage to reach up, pull down the chord, and let the train horn blare–even on the days when there are many obstacles, distractions, and frustrations splayed across the tracks.
Remember why you chose the lifestyle – Even on your most impatient day, your beautiful little creations will gaze up into your flame-ridden eyes, and all of the doubt you have will dissolve. They could be stumbling all over the formative years with another adult in a more prominent position. What if they had an accident in their pants? What if they were scared? What if kids were mistreating them? All of those scenarios are far worse than your WORST day of homeschooling. You chose not to insert them into the system so that you could be the primary influencer–and that carries more weight than your self-doubt ever could.
Rework your curriculum or delivery – One technique that is widely used in public school is differentiated instruction, with accommodations and adaptations. All of those amount to teacher talk for “adjustments” to lessons and delivery. It also represents a fine-tuning of the lesson to meet the individual needs of a student, which includes learning disabilities and behavioral problems. Also, if a teacher has a large number of failing students, and low marks during evaluation periods, they are asked to rewrite and adjust their lessons. This is an extremely important strategy–even for homeschoolers. If something isn’t working, and the student is frustrated or reluctant, it isn’t always because they are being difficult. Sometimes tweaking a lesson to change around the style can be a lesson-saver. Convert math lessons into games, change reading lessons into projects, and refigure science lessons into experiments. Planning may become more difficult, but the results are usually stunning.
Take A Break…a REALLY Long One – Remember that even on your least productive day, you are giving them more direct instruction than they usually get during an entire day at brick and mortar schools. Most public school teachers spend the great majority of their time on “classroom management,” not curriculum delivery. As I like to say “If things aren’t gellin’, don’t start yellin’.” If your student is non-compliant, don’t force it. Children have so many things swirling around in their precious minds, and sometimes they just CAN’T focus. Put everything down, give them a peck on the forehead and say “we’ll try again tomorrow.” As long as you stay on track, get through the curriculum, and provide the appropriate number of days they are entitled to, you are in the green! We homeschool year-round for this exact reason. We have off days, and off weeks. If things aren’t working, they won’t learn anyway! So put it down, and regroup. It will help to prevent extreme burnout for you, and your student.
Reward the kids AND yourself – When you are feeling reluctant for reasons beyond the kids (life problems), sometimes you are the one who needs motivating. One great strategy is to plan something enjoyable for the whole family, and ONLY go if you make it through your weekly session of school. Be honest with yourself. Some year-round homeschoolers only do three days a week. If you complete the tasks and lessons for those three solid days, you deserve a pick-me-up. Plan something fun and silly, which doesn’t have to cost money. Make sure it’s something you (the parent or caregiver) enjoy, too. Make sure you tell them (and yourself) that the trip was earned, and that you must work hard in order to play hard. This tip will help to provide a dangling carrot throughout the process, and give you a chance to teach them a valuable life lesson.
These are just a few tips for the exasperated homeschooling parent/caregiver. There will always be days where nothing you can muster will work. This is also the case in regular school. The distinct advantage we homeschoolers have is that we can drop everything and wipe the slate clean. On those days when you just want to quit, keep your mind on the end game, and your heart firmly planted in the reasoning behind your choice to homeschool. You will prevail!