You wake up refreshed from the weekend following a great homeschooling week. You are excited about what you have planned for the new homeschooling day with your child. Then the day starts, and you quickly realize that this will not be your favorite homeschooling day. It will probably not be your child’s favorite homeschooling day either. Whether you are a new homeschooler or have been homeschooling for years, these less-than-perfect homeschooling days do occur. Continue reading to find out why they occur and some ideas for getting through them!

Reasons You Might Have a Bad Homeschooling Day

What can make an ideal homeschooling day chaotic or frustrating? Well, there are several things. Think about a homeschooling day like a car ride you would take, running errands from language arts to math to music to science. Sometimes the journey is smooth and efficient and pleasant. Sometimes other factors get in the way. When you homeschool, unless perhaps you are part of a tight community of homeschoolers, there is no GPS. You are driving, and you need to accomplish as many of your stops as you can before you come back home. What can go wrong? Keeping with the car ride analogy, here are some possible causes for a rough ride:

  • Lessons Can Take a Detour: Whether you have purchased a full curriculum, are piecing together curriculum for a variety of subjects, or are planning every lesson yourself, a lesson can simply not go as planned. It may or may not be a well-designed lesson, but even seasoned teachers know that there is no such thing as a “perfect” lesson. You will know right away, though, when you find that a lesson is simply not going to work. As you go through it, you start to feel that there must be a better way to teach this material. Unfortunately, you and your child have both suffered through the part of the lesson that has already happened. This situation will require a detour in your day!
  • Learning Can Have Roadblocks: Similarly, your child may simply not be understanding certain content. You discover a knowledge gap from prior instruction (either with you or during traditional schooling), or you notice that your child needs to work on a particular skill or strategy. On other days, you and your child may go with the flow and adjust your speed or your path smoothly; however, today the barrier is larger. Your child’s learning is roadblocked, and you both are frustrated!
  • Your Child Can Have a Sluggish Engine: How many factors can cause your child to have a sluggish engine? Well, your child could have had a rough night sleeping last night or could be not feeling well. Perhaps events with family members or your child’s friends (or some other factors) are impacting your child’s focus. Regardless, your learning journey is slower today, and you both need some premium gas to get through the day!
  • You Can Be Running on Empty: Sometimes your child is perfectly ready for homeschooling, and you are running low on energy. Perhaps you are feeling tired or stressed, or maybe you have an important meeting or deadline for work soon (or that you have just finished). As a homeschool parent, you are juggling a lot whether you work or not. You may be able to sputter through to the end of the day, but you should have on your hazards!
  • Your Day Can Turn into a Traffic Jam: Sometimes due to what I call “sabotage,” you find that your homeschool day can get away from you. Unexpected phone calls or visits, scheduled appointments, or work responsibilities can really change the tone of a homeschool day when you can’t get done what you had planned. Others, knowing you are homeschooling, may assume that you have all the time in the world and may put extra obligations on you. When you have other events and tasks competing with your homeschooling time, you may be frustrated, but your child may also be frustrated and not want to get behind. What you need is your own personal traffic cop!

Regardless of the cause of the issues, homeschooling provides you with certain options you don’t have during traditional schooling. Whereas your child with a sluggish engine would have to push through the day in traditional schooling, your homeschooler can take advantage of some built-in flexibility!

Six Ways to Deal with a Bad Homeschooling Day

When your homeschool day takes a wrong turn, you can choose a number of paths. Here are just a few ways for you and your child to get beyond a bad day of homeschooling:

  1. Take a Short Break: The best way to immediately ease the tension or reduce frustration is to take a short break. Let your child choose what to do for 15 minutes or whatever, while you also stop for a moment, and then you can both return to the task at hand.
  2. Try Another Way: If the current task will not be a success, even with a short break, consider trying to teach and learn the material in a completely different way. For example, if you are reading in a text about Ancient Egyptians, scrap the planned lesson (at least for now) and find an appropriate documentary on the subject. Grab some popcorn and just cuddle and learn together. Draw some hieroglyphics, dress like Egyptians, or listen to an audio of Egyptian mythology. These are great opportunities to have fun and bond with your child while increasing both interest and motivation toward the subject.
  3. Change Direction: There are also times when you may want to choose ending the subject area altogether. Try a different subject, perhaps one in which your child is more successful or that your child particularly enjoys. You may want to shift to one of the special or elective subjects, one where the academics are not as challenging and the demands on you and your child are not as great.
  4. Do Something Silly/Relaxing: Sometimes continuing in the same subject or a different subject right away is not an option. You and your child may need a longer break, and you will benefit from adding some laughter and/or relaxation. Try playing a silly game of Simon Says or Follow the Leader with younger kids or use online dance/movement videos like those provided by Go Noodle! Kids of any age will enjoy a walk (maybe in the woods), some mindfulness activities, or some time to draw or build or participate in a hobby. This longer break will take time, but the result may be worth it!
  5. Call It a Half Day: There are times when simply continuing with the school day can do more harm than good. Know when to “call it a half day.” Celebrate what you have accomplished and postpone the remainder of the day’s work to another day or a weekend. Think about tackling a household project together (like organizing or painting a room, giving the pet a bath, or finishing some outside yard work). Run errands together or do something else productive, so you can use that time in the future to complete the work you postponed from today!
  6. Give Gameschooling a Try: Most kids, regardless of age, are always drawn to games. If your day is going from bad to worse and nothing seems to work, then let the games begin. If you have children, chances are you have board games. But whether you choose to go that route or head online, there are tons of games out there that are educational, fun, and will give everyone that much-needed escape to help turn the day around.

Regardless of the way you deal with a not-so-good homeschooling day, know that you are not alone. We all have those days! They are opportunities for us and our children to grow, and they can even be sources of great humor. My daughter and I once took a nice, long walk with the dogs as a longer break to turn around a rough day. On the walk, trying to be positive, I mentioned how great it was to be out in the sun. My daughter, noticing the clouds rolling in, said, “The Sun is gone.” We laughed about how much she sounded like Eeyore and “called it a half day.” Now we joke about it all the time.

Do you have any suggestions for how to deal with a bad homeschooling day? Share what has worked for you in the comments below. We all need ideas!

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