Joyful Homeschooling Through the Slump!
I don’t know about you, but it’s about time for the January doldrums to strike. The year’s half over, I’ve strayed so far from my plans I’m not sure there is really much purpose to keeping them around anymore and I am losing hope that we will get through everything by the end of the year.
And honestly? I’m as ready for a break as they are! But how do you bring back the joy to homeschooling, especially when you aren’t really feeling it?
Pull back and take a break.
I know most of us just came off of a holiday break. If you spent it socializing and celebrating, it may not have been the downtime you needed to rejuvenate your homeschool attitude. I have found that when I need time, I tend to strip our homeschool day down to what I think is important and leave out most of what my kids actually like to do. We get through the “important” stuff and leave out everything that makes learning enjoyable. That does not work for anyone and certainly runs counter to what I want our homeschool attitude to become. So I’ve started something different for those days I need a break or that are taken up by appointments. Instead of dropping the “extras” I choose one subject I feel like they can’t miss and one subject they enjoy and just leave the others. It’s hard at first to just skip grammar, for example, but think of it this way. If your family comes back to it in a week, refreshed and excited to learn, how much more productive will that time be than if they are still slumped in their chair, complaining about why they have to do this?
Remember why you decided to homeschool.
When the days are long and the progress is slow and the attitudes are at their worst, it can be difficult to remember why you signed up for this. Take the free time you created by shortening your school day to reflect on why you homeschool. If you haven’t written out your reasons, do so. List them in a series of statements and add them to a notebook. If your reasons have changed over the years, adjust what you have written and add your updated reasons. Make sure they are strong enough reasons to be worth the trials that come, even if your biggest trial is your own attitude.
Find your joy.
I know there is a lot of talk right now about whether taking care of yourself first is Biblical. It all really just depends on what you mean by that. When the disciples were overwhelmed, Jesus did not just tell them to “suck it up” or to manage their time more effectively. He took them away for a time to rest and just be with him. If you are feeling overwhelmed, find your “desert place.” Rejuvenate yourself in the Lord and you will be better equipped to lead your children there as well. Think through what you need to feel fulfilled, whether it is an empty laundry basket, time to read or a way to get away for awhile, make that more of a priority. Yes, we all make sacrifices for our families. Sometimes big ones. But taking time to take care of yourself can help with that sense of disillusionment and keep you focused on your purpose.
Adjust your morning routine.
This is different for every family, but I have found that part of our problem was when we started our school day. I like to start in the morning, right after chores. If we do, we can be done by 1 and I have the afternoon free. This motivates me but it does not motivate them. Experiment a little and find what works. And reconsider your first subject. As a Christian, I feel like the first thing should be our Bible time and devotionals, but this doesn’t always provide a good “lure” to transition from free time to school time. Think of a quick activity they enjoy. I bought Mindtrap at Goodwill. It is sort of a thinking puzzle game and I read one card every morning at the start of our school day. The kids love it and come running to see what their puzzle is for the day. It brings them to our school time with a positive attitude and provides the perfect transition from playtime to school time.
Carefully look at all your subjects.
What subjects do your children like? What activities do they enjoy? Are there things you could do to incorporate this into the subjects they don’t like? Our math time was revolutionized when I made math games a priority. I now have a stocked game closet and I have made playing them a priority. I have seen there math skills steadily improve and their distaste for math drop accordingly. None of my children love math, but they no longer throw themselves on the chair declaring how much they hate it every time I ask them to grab their book. The funny thing is, we actually do more math now than before. They just don’t notice it because so much of our practice looks like a game. Mad libs teach parts of speech. Writing comic strips practices writing. Even skills that just require repetition and practice can be “gamified” to make them more engaging. Whether it is a quiz bowl for historic facts or a new way to practice spelling, these kinds of activities help children learn while also increasing the joy in your homeschool.
Give yourself and your children grace.
Take a deep breath. Our children often react to our attitudes. They amplify our insecurities and reflect our frustration. Patience and grace can help get through those frustrating moments. When they get into the paint and make a mess, try to take part in the joy of exploration and creativity rather than the frustration of having to clean up the mess. When they struggle to learn a new concept, share how hard it was for you to learn something, how frustrated you got and how you eventually overcame it. And if you didn’t, share that. Children love learning from our experiences.Try to communicate a core message that effort and diligence yield results and are more important than whether they are “good” at something. And remember. Joyful is not the same as fun. Homeschooling doesn’t have to be “fun” all the time. Being joyful is about an overall attitude, not the attitude of any particular moment.
Dana Hanley homeschools her six children on her little slice of heaven in rural Nebraska. Join her at Life Led Homeschool for some encouragement to slow down, appreciate the little things and find resources to make this homeschool journey a little easier. And if you are facing more than “just a slump,” consider joining her group, Homeschooling When Your Heart Isn’t In It which she set up to encourage homeschoolers who are facing difficult seasons in their life.
Roscommon Acres, My little country homeschool on the prairie And on facebook And online @ http://roscommonacres.com
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