A bad homeschool day… we’ve all experienced it.
I don’t care how perfect their Instagram feed looks or how well-behaved their kids are at the grocery store. If you EVER think that another homeschool mom has it all together, you need to rid yourself of that delusion immediately.
Every single homeschool parent has bad homeschool days. If you haven’t had them yet, they will come.
It’s not always very pretty.
Moody kids, exasperated parents, no groceries in the fridge, a difficult math lesson, a teething, screaming baby, a big mess to clean up, repetitive noises that grate on mom’s nerves… There are a million and one situations that can spark a bad homeschool day.
I remember one particularly rough morning. I had been up most of the night with a fussy baby. I was exhausted, and also stressed out about work and some related responsibilities I had to attend to that day.
We got a late start to our schoolwork, which in my house, never works out well. One of my children greeted their first task of the day with a whining fit. We went head to head, me insisting that they did their work, they pushing back and refusing.
We were both crying within a few minutes. That’s when I knew that this day was not going anywhere good. I told them to please all go play and let Mama “reset.”
After they had played for a while and I had some quiet and a second cup of coffee, we were able to come back around the table with tea time and picture books. We did some videos from Art for Kids Hub. We all went outside for a little while and felt better. I think we even read some of our history book.
Was it a complete school day? Not by your typical standards. But did learning happen? Certainly. And more importantly, we were able to turn a morning disaster into a day full of connection and relationship building.
What should you do when a bad homeschool day hits?
Should you push through? Should you stop school for the day?
I’ve taken different routes, depending on the severity of the day’s mishaps. There’s no one right answer on any given day. I do love this advice from Simple Homeschool: “Don’t tackle ANYTHING that will make anyone cry, especially yourself.”
Over many years of homeschooling with plenty of bad homeschool days in the mix, I’ve found myself falling back on certain principles and courses of action that can really help. Here’s what I try to remember on a bad homeschool day. (Try being the key word- remember, no one is perfect!)
Take a break.
When the whole day is falling apart, it’s time to take a pause and calm down. Both kids and parents can benefit stepping back for a few minutes. We lovingly call this the “reset” button in our house. Really, who can learn well when emotions are running high?
Try to see things from your child’s perspective.
Why are they struggling right now? Are they tired, frustrated, or overwhelmed? What is causing those feelings? Are you as a parent bringing your frustrations or heightened tension into the homeschool day? Are they not getting the help they need? Do they need a nap, a snack, or a hug? Try to see through your child’s eyes to help you identify the problem and find solutions.
Speak the truth.
When you’re having a bad homeschool day, it’s easy to blame shift, yell, or get frustrated over things that aren’t really related to the problem. Try to gain some clarity and speak truth about the situation.
“I’m sorry, kiddo. Mama didn’t sleep well and is extra tired and irritable today. I’m snapping about things I shouldn’t be and I’m making school harder than it needs to be.” Or, “It sounds like your sister is really bothering you while you’re trying to do your handwriting. I can understand why you feel mad.”
Give a hug, look your child in the eye, talk with them, or sit quietly together for a few minutes, depending on what communicates best to them. Taking a moment of purposeful connection can really help to alleviate the stress of a bad homeschool day.
If everyone is at the end of their ropes, maybe it’s time to just make some hot chocolate and read a good book together, then call it a day. However, if you’re able to deflect the situation, calm down and reconnect, then you’ll find that you are often able to carry on and finish the work for the day.
When you have time, take a few minutes to reflect on what went wrong and how you can change things for the next time. Sometimes these answers will be clear; other times, you may be going through a hard season where you can’t see a simple solution. Either way, taking time to reflect on it will help you to find some clarity and brainstorm some attitude shifts, strategies, or moments of relationship building that will help you move forward.
How will you handle it?
When we have a bad start- or middle, or ending- to our day, I tend to lean towards calming everyone down, resetting, then finishing our work whenever possible. I think it makes us all feel more satisfied to know that we worked through something hard and still finished strong.
However, if your day reaches crash and burn status, it’s totally okay to put away the books. Really. The beauty of homeschooling is that you have the flexibility to do that.
Remember that relationship and connection with your child are the most important things. So if you ever find yourself going head to head at 8:30 in the morning, maybe it’s time to try something else instead- something nourishing. Something relaxing. Something fun.
After all, there’s always tomorrow.