Homeschooling is always an adventure and in my house an adventure with many different directions. I have three kids, 6-year old twins and a 4.5 year old who thinks he is 9- and the difference in their personalities and their styles of learning have me teaching in different directions. That is the wonderful freedom of homeschooling. (It is also one reason why each of us chose to homeschool but for some of us it is a little harder than for others.)
I have seen many writings on how to teach to the individual child, the individual learning style and even more about how to teach to a special needs child, but one thing I do not see often is how to teach when you yourself have “special needs”.
I put that in quotes because I do not really see my quirks as a special need so much as a challenge and another part of who I am. There are moms out there who have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), some who are depressive, some who are attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), just to name a few. Each is unique and at times a challenge (as with our children.)
On a good day a homeschool mom can channel her OCD into keeping the completed school work filed away neatly and records kept straight. On a bad day maybe she gets overwhelmed by the rolling art rack and has to take it apart and re-organize it so it is neat and perfect. That task takes 2 hours and then she realizes the bookshelves are not organized (5 hours)-and neither are the desks or the binders. Next thing she knows, dinner is late, school wasn’t done, and the kids are whiney and bored since the only direction they have had all day was to go play while mommy finished this one thing.
Taking that to the other end, a depressive or bipolar mom goes from being productive to not wanting to move. She’s tired and doesn’t get up until school is supposed to start at 10, morning chores drag her down into sleepiness just thinking about them and she gets as far as the couch where she curls up and zones out watching shows she is not really interested in. Nothing gets done and again the kids are fussy because while they love TV, they have been sitting still doing nothing all day and have too much energy to hear directions given in the evening.
So how do we continue homeschooling when we are having a down day, when we ourselves are not able to stay on task and focus? The same thing we do with our individual kid.
- Learn to recognize when you yourself are not having a good day.
- Redirect yourself to something productive and uplifting.
- Find what motivates you when you are at your worst.
- Pray- A Lot.
Now I know I said pray last but that one actually goes before everything else, in between everything else and despite everything else. After all, we can do all things through Him. Always pray.
Learning to recognize when you yourself are not having a good day sometimes can be easy for us but at the same time hard.
We are very hard on ourselves and so become critical of our short comings. This step is not to make you feel worse about yourself, but it is to help you learn about yourself. Just like knowing when it’s time for a crazy, screaming, running break for your active kid during school time, you have to know when you need to change it up for yourself.
Redirecting ourselves to something productive may not always be difficult (there is always laundry that needs to be done), but uplifting is in that step too.
What you do has to not only help you smile and feel better but also get something done so you do not feel guilty at the end of the day. If you are so down you can’t stand being in the house, go out. Don’t go out and do nothing, though. Go to the library and not only get the kids books, but one for yourself too.
Don’t just go for a walk, make it a nature hike and see who can find the oddest/prettiest/newest thing in nature that day.
Go to the zoo, the national park, the beach or a historical site. Whatever you do just make sure it is fun for you and fun for them.
You can also redirect in the home. Maybe your joy is cleaning, have the kids do a race to see who can get the windows clean first. Maybe your joy is a certain subject, start your day with an in-depth exploration of that subject. There are many different ways to redirect, but the goal is to get your mind off what has been on to something else, without feeling bad for it later.
The last step before praying is finding what motivates you.
This part is for the day when you have tried everything else, when you keep redirecting and redirecting and it’s just not working. This is your crazy, screaming, running break that you give your kids sometimes that you know they need, even if they fuss about it at first.
You need this. You have to do this one thing to pull you up and out of your non-stop reorganizing, or out of bed, or subject-hopping and circle-walking day that is driving your own kids crazy.
Paint something, read something, go for a bike ride, listen to loud music and sing off key just as loud, or go outside and scream and run alongside your kids.
The one thing that you think about and can’t help but smile about, you need to do it. It could be as simple as cuddling your kids, husband, dog or cat for a bit. Just something that helps center you and calm you.
There are going to be hard days where we ourselves cannot stay on task or focus or be in the best of moods. What we have to do is take care of ourselves and learn to help ourselves as we help our children. Then as an added bonus your children learn even more from watching you. They learn that you are human, they learn that others have feelings and need to be shown compassion and they learn to lean on God in good times and in hard times.
Homeschooling is a great journey and with constant prayer and God with you always, even your hard days can be not-so-hard.