Saturday, February 20, 2016

Homeschool: Tricks for Improving your Day

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Having one of those days?
How about a bad week?  Rough month?

Listen, I'm here to tell you it happens.
It happens to all of us. We are all human and humans have bad days. We have times when we can't live up to our own ideas about what our day should look like. We let little things add up. We simply can't get ourselves or anybody else motivated. We get into a slump. Public schools have gotten wise to this and they give teachers day-long Teacher Days and seminars and things to help them improve their approaches and attitudes every so often.

In a homeschooling family, somehow, it just feels worse because of that no-break-24/7 thing.

I know what your house looks like.

Laundry is everywhere, piles of clean, piles of dirty, piles you can't identify. Dishes are a few days behind. Nothing in the frig for dinner. Crabby kids. Crabby Mom. Tears? Shouting? And what's that smell?
It's normal and it happens in every single family.

How you act under these circumstances may very well become a lesson for your children. Should I freak out (that release might feel great and well-deserved, for a moment), take a nap (who can argue with the rest), or drive away in a huff (as I did recently)? Or should I sit down a moment, get myself together, and gather the troops?

How do we Reclaim our Zest?

When a slump happens (or a battle, or lethargy, or other challenges) it's usually because people are feeling bored or resistant. What is needed is a change of venue. A change of plan. A change of attitude. A chance to reconnect.

So let's look at some idea for how to change the way the day is going.
  • Get everyone together, grab a water bottle, and take a walk.
    Yes, it CAN be as simple as this. Walking stimulates the body to action. Walks can happen in the neighborhood, at the park, in the zoo, at the mall, down stairs in a pinch. Hold hands if you possibly can.

    Taking a walk in a familiar area can make a person feel a sense of belonging. (Look how orange those leaves have gotten!  What happened to this little garden?  There is that man walking the dog we always see!) Walking someplace new can be a wonderful activity of discovery. (What is this seed pod? What a surprise to find a creek here! Where does this little path lead?)

    Any age, little ones or big ones like mine, can find their attitude changed on a walk. We have done this many times.  I usually bring a camera when we do this: Crazy Photo Shoot Day. Crazy Home Video Day. Nature pics.
  • Put some music on and dance.
    Dance Moves

    Don't laugh! It's true! Music and dance get the body moving and lifts the spirits of even the downest teenager. Open the blinds, crank up the tunes, and dance together and apart. Make sure to add in some unfamiliar music for fun. Square dancing, Romanian folk music, 40s Swing music, the Foxtrot, Medieval music.

    Music tames and terrible twos (and twelves) and soothes all other ages as well. We have done this one so often that the kids will do it themselves with no prompting from me. Sometimes it only takes one song to change everything!
  • Grab a favorite book and start reading aloud.
    The kids can be doing other things, including sulking, while your voice brings everyone together and gives focus. We have often done this one with poetry where each person reads aloud from the poetry books. But Rick Riordan works well too! Cook books, map books, large table top books, riddle books.

    We have often done this silly reading game:  each person has their own book of choice. Each person reads, one at a time in a circle, one sentence from their book. Sometimes the funniest things happen!

    Take an entire week and read. Read at the park. Read in the backyard. Read at the coffee house. Read in bed. Read under in a fort. Read comics. Read joke books. Read the newspaper. Read National Geographic. Read favorite children's books to your teens.
  • Put the books away and sing, draw, or play board games.
    Talking on the bed
    Anytime I am in a rut, finding a place for creativity and play always brings delight and comfort. The same for my kids.  My son John recently asked for a sketch book so that he could entertain himself while being on a long road trip.

    But let's not forget the creation of new things. Make up your own songs. Create a new board game. Write a skit. These activities can keep you busy and can keep the creative juices flowing all day...all week!
  • Get in the car and go. 
    Where? Keep it simple. Try the library. Go to the next town's park. Visiting water is always right. Creeks, ponds, streams, rivers, oceans. There is so much life in the water and the discovery never ends. Short of water destinations, animals, are limited only by your imagination. Drive around the block twenty times...or just until the giggles start. Above all else, CHANGE what you are doing.
  • Pinterest and other online file sharing sources.

    Lunch with Aunt Linda
    Look for a cool craft or science experiment and do it. Watch a documentary. TEDtalks. Google Earth. News sources. Online cams. Online magazines. The options are almost endless. Internet surf together and discuss all you see! If you have a PC, you have the world at your doorstep. Read the same news story on different news sources...very interesting.
  • Take a blanket outside and do lessons there. 
    Yes, just this simple movement can make all of the difference in the world.  There is something about clouds overhead, freedom to run, tickling grass, and sunshine that changes everything for the better! I have pulled this little trick out of my hat numerous times. The kids know, when I grab the blanket, their eyes light up and they start smiling...and so do I.
  • Teen and Tween girls and baths are always nice.
    (Moms love them too...and so do boys.) A little TLC, some soothing music, a colored and yummy-smelling additive, and even the crankiest tween/teen will feel comforted, loved, and energized.  This little trick has reset my daughter quite a few times...always with lovely results. It remind both of us that what we are doing is child-focused and that my goal is to give her what she needs.

    Want to improve it even more? Give her a hair wash or a back wash...and a kiss on the head. A book to read.
  • A pot of tea, a plate of cookies, and thou.
    Call a break in the procedures and sit down together. Talk about plans, vacations, fun things. Just let the frustration slide off of you by slowing things down and taking a break. A cuppa is always a nice habit to get into anyway. Taking a few minutes to shrug the stress off, enjoy sparkly cookies, sparkling conversation, jokes and riddles, and a laugh or two.
  • Boys appreciate activity. 

    Of course, girls too too. If possible, get them moving in any way possible. Slide down the stairs on their bottoms. Wash windows. Build a fort with cushions and sheets. Make a bowling alley with cups. Play "Mother May I."  Make an obstacle course. Create a highway for the Matchbox cars. Exercise. Add movement anytime in any way you can.  Can you say "tickle fight?" How about "Pillow fight!" Wash the car. Chalk lessons on the sidewalk. Jump rope with songs. Fitness trail Trivia Quiz. Garden. Look for insects. Help an elderly neighbor with chores. Your imagination is the limit.
  • Teens need contact with friends.
    Alot of contact with friends.
    Arrange visits with friends frequently. Allow your kids to IM, FB, and other social media sites. It is essential for them. Hand them your calendar and have them fill up a day or two with plans with their friends. Spend some time planning an event...maybe just a celebration dinner! Send out an SOS and an invite to other friends and family--and warm up the calendar with plans.
  • Invite someone over. 

    Visiting friends
    Even a visit from the neighbor can break up the rut of a day. In fact, as a kid, I remember going over to "help" neighbors with chores. But, even better, get on the phone and plan several play dates and fun events. Get the kids around the phone and get excited! Some other mother might be overjoyed to do a "kid swap" every so often. Because, remember, everyone has days like this...
  • Veg.
    Take the day off. Heck, take the week off. No one is watching. No one is grading you. No one is judging you. No one is comparing you to anyone else. (If they are, Ignore them!) Pop some popcorn, grab the coziest blanket, and watch a movie, TV, documentary, cartoons, or, in our case, Korean dramas for Elizabeth, Scrubs for John. Sometimes we all need to veg.

    Every single person on earth has days...several days sometimes...when they need to just VEG. If either Mom or child needs to take a break, remember, loving is far more important than lessons. Don't worry about comparisons, judgments, or mess. Somehow, you will find the vegging becomes quite productive when it leads to a happier day!  And...
  • Control/ALT/Delete  Everyone jump back into bed and start over!

Time Out
Didn't Work...

If none of these things work, maybe things are more serious and Mom needs more. If it's a bad day for Momma, getting away, getting rest, getting support is essential. Even if it's just getting a breather in your room with the door closed. The kids will learn that moms need time on their own to reflect, to rest, to regain composure, to read a book, and yes, just to breathe. When I need it, the kids know they can find me in my room reading...

Taking care of MOM is essential. This is for homeschooling families or any family. If Mom is feeling overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, or ill she needs some additional help. Don't be afraid to ask for help from friends and families. Nearly every homeschooling parent I know would be more than happy to lend me a hand if I needed to take a break. I hope you have that resource as well. If that's not enough, please seek help. No shame, no judging, just acceptance and strength. Because that is what it truly is: it is strength to know when to ask for help. Homeschool or not.

This is a piece I borrowed from a couple of years ago
and rewrote and added new pics.
It all still applies.

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