It’s one of “those” days. You know the one. The one where it’s only 10am and everyone has been in tears at least once, the science experiment blew-up, math is taking four times as long as it should, when you asked your child write a brief summary of what you just read they look at you like you asked them to pluck out their eyebrows one hair at a time and you, of course, are out of chocolate. Yeah, that day. 

Any Mom that has home schooled for more than a week knows that day. The day when you look longingly at the school bus as it passes your house and you think, “I could put them all on that happy yellow bus and go get a latte, all by myself.” On one of those days several years ago, I met my hard-working husband at the door as he got home and said, “That’s it. I’m out. I started looking at schools today and maybe I can find one that will work…” Wisely, my dear husband gave me a hug, sighed and replied, “ Okay, I’ll take the homeschooling over. What are you going to do to support us?” Wait, what did he just say? He then went on to remind me, “We have goals for our kids and we decided that homeschooling was the best way to meet those goals. If you really can’t handle it, then I guess I’ll have to.” His reaction hit me like a ton of bricks. We had spent time and energy planning goals for our family and our kids. We felt strongly that homeschooling was our best option. Since there was no way I could compete with his software industry salary, nor did I want to, I had to figure out how to make those horrible days have minimal and short-term impact.
1. Have written goals and display them.
The first thing I figured out was to write down our goals and the reasons that we home school and prominently display them in our home. For years, our goals were on the side of the fridge where I would see them daily. One of my friends placed their goals on the inside of the pantry door. I needed to remember that homeschooling was not a spur of the moment decision and that there was a purpose and reason to all of this. When I focus on why we home school, I am able to see the big picture and stay calm and think through the emotions on those bad days.
2. “Can I fry you an egg?”
When I was growing up, my Dad would offer to “fry us an egg” when life seemed too hard or our emotions were getting ahead of us. He was a short order cook in his teens and apparently never got past that “feed people” gene. My mother-in-law asks if she can make a cup of tea when those around her are stressed. Either way, egg or tea, the intent is the same. Sometimes, we all may be cranky because of a physical need and we just need to take a break. When I find myself getting stressed or my kids are starting to fall apart, one of the first things the kids and I do is to take a break; have a snack, take a walk or sometimes if it’s absolutely necessary, take a nap. When my oldest son is struggling with a concept he’ll ask if he can take a jog to clear his head. My daughter usually needs a snack and her twin brother finds relief in kicking a ball around the yard. These can be day savers, costing only a few minutes with long-term benefits.  
3. Come at the Problem Another Way
There are times when I am teaching a new concept and no matter what I say, the kids just don’t seem to get it. Clearly, I seem to be speaking a different language. When that happens, I usually run to that old favorite: hands-on activities. I look around my house quickly to see if there is something I can use to make this concept more tangible. I recently explained a geometry concept to my high school son using pre-school toys. He was horrified when I pulled out the pre-school box but he got the concept! If I absolutely cannot figure out how to explain a concept, I send them for a snack and jump on the internet. A quick search can almost always help me find another way to explain a concept.
4. Know What You Absolutely Have to Have Done that Day
When everything fails, when you and the kids have had a snack, taken a walk, marched to the Nutcracker Suite, and nothing seems to be working, know what your absolutes are for that day. I make a mental note of our absolute, must get done items. When one of “those” days hits, and I know that it will, I minimize our workload and try to hit the “musts”. We do math and language arts almost year round so I know that we are generally fine on those subjects. I’ll have the kids watch a math video or play a math game instead of hammering out the entire lesson. Instead of having my kids write a full summary of our history, I’ll just have them tell me the most important point. To compensate, I’ll read an extra chapter of our read aloud to make time for the harder things we missed today and need to do tomorrow. We address the absolutes and call it a day. I do try and keep a note of how often we do this so that we don’t get behind. This option should be only used in extreme cases when nothing else works!
Every homeschooler has rough days. They are normal; not fun, but normal. Homeschooling can take a lot of personal energy and patience but the rewards are great and well worth the occasional bad day. We need to be realistic and pro-active in knowing how to handle these days. When we set up a plan of action, we can rescue our home school from the terrible, horrible, no good day.

Leave a Reply