Homeschooling: When to call it a day, push through or switch gears.

If only cuteness made homeschooling easy.

If only cuteness made homeschooling easy.

Every mom whether you homeschool or not has had one of those days where things just don’t go well. One of those Murphy’s Law kind of days. Welcome to my day today.

When you homeschool however, you know what it feels like to have the added stress of “But I’ve got to get school done.” Sometimes you manage to get things done anyway and sometimes it’s just not going to happen.

Here are my thoughts on how to tell when you should call it quits for the day, push on through or reboot your day with something new.

Let me start by giving you a summary of my day up to this point (this day was back in June). It actually began as a fairly regular day with the exception of morning instructions from mom about everyone trying not to burst into tears and melting into a puddle on the floor whenever something didn’t go their way (hint: can you guess what the previous day was like?). So, on we went. And somehow it ended up being 1:30 in the afternoon and the only thing that we had done that looked remotely like school was my son reading a book to himself on the couch. We did regular things today – breakfast, baths, getting dressed. Then, somewhere in the middle of the morning I realized that if I didn’t get the father’s day cards in the mailbox that morning that they wouldn’t get to the grandpas in time. So, we signed, addressed, stamped and drew lots of cute little pictures. Now comes the challenging part. It was raining. We live in NYC. We don’t have a mailbox on the street like suburban houses. Ours is a slot in our front door. And I couldn’t leave them in the slot because they would get wet. There is a mailbox on the corner, but I had already missed that pickup. So, that meant walking to the Post Office 3 blocks away which normally isn’t that big of a deal. But, it’s raining. So, here we go with shoes, caps, rain coats, umbrellas, etc. We never did find the baby’s hat and finally gave up. And then we were finally all downstairs, with our cards in hand walking out the front door, and the bottom drops out. It starts pouring. The kids start to walk out and stop. We turn around, go upstairs, and take everything off that we just spent half an hour putting on.

So, I sit down on the couch to nurse the baby while I try to decide what to do next. Then I realize that the baby is falling asleep. It’s too early for her nap. If she falls asleep now she’ll only take a cap nap and then either want to nap at dinner time or melt down the rest of the day. So, I start to try to wake her up. The only thing that gets her attention is going “bye-bye.” She toddles over and brings me her shoes with excitement on her face. And so here we go again. The rain has stopped by now and I can only get the big kids out the door with the promise of french fries from our corner diner on the way home. So, we put everything back on again and  head out. We grab an item from the grocery store, drop our letters at the Post Office and pick up our fries. Now, we’re headed back. We turn the corner to walk down our street and what do we see? The mailman. Right in front of our house. Oh the irony is not lost on me. But, I’m not so far removed from the situation that it causes me amusement yet either. Maybe that will come in a week or two.

So, now the question – what to do with the rest of our day? It’s already past lunchtime. Do I try to salvage it or give up?

Here are the options that I see before me:

1. Push on through and try to get school done in the afternoon.
2. Give up, call it a day and try again tomorrow.
3. Or be creative and come up with an “plan B” for the rest of day.

Here’s how to decide.

1. Examine everyone’s state of mind. Are you in a frame of mind to teach and are they in a frame of mind to listen and learn? If the answer is no, then go on to step two.

2. Find an activity that can reboot everyone. Naps, something special, a favorite story, playing a game. Think of something that will reset everyone’s mood.

3. Realisticly examine the amount of time that you have in the day to get something done. 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours, 4 hours?

4. Decide if you can fit the things that you had planned for that day into the time you have left.

5. If not, choose the most important (core subjects) or the ones that would be the hardest to catch up on if you get behind.

6. And if your reboot doesn’t work, or you can see that everyone is still too far gone to make a go of what you had scheduled for that day, then scrap your orginal plan and redeem your day with a “plan B.” Use your intuition here. Pick something short and simple that you feel like each child can accomplish given everyone’s mood and state of mind. Things such as making popcorn as an afternoon snack while you read from a chapter book, letting them draw pictures while listening to a book on tape, playing an educational game, etc. Something that has a low frustration level for everyone is in order here. You could also focus the rest of your day on skills that need extra practice. Review those phonics flash cards or math facts. Quiz each other on the states or have the kid that needs extra reading practice read a story with you. Or let them be the teachers. Give them three or four things that they can do independently with the older ones teaching the little ones. Maybe you can get a break and they can get some school done on their own.

7. And last but not least, if no one is up for the plan B, then call it good and make some cookies instead. Get a good night’s rest and start again tomorrow. Remember that no day is lost. There is learning in every day even if you can’t see it now. Some days are definitely harder than others, but there is always something learned in the struggle.

So, how did our day end up you ask?

Well, given that our morning was not stress free and we (mostly me) were all a on edge.  So, I opted for naps for our family reboot. I laid down with the baby, and the big kids went to their beds for quiet time. Soon the kids were all sleeping and I felt better after resting a bit (and writing this blog post). And now we are going to go with the plan B. I think I’m going to go with a combination a fun snack to wake everyone up from naptime, reading a couple of chapters in our latest book, and finishing off the afternoon with the kids being the teachers. Hopefully our day will end better than it started. If not, we’ll try snuggling in on the couch after dinner for a family movie night – probably with popcorn. 🙂