There have certainly been times in our homeschooling journey where I have felt that it was not working. I have never felt like giving up but I have felt frustrated, exhausted and at a loss to know what to do next.
Though each one of us will have our own tipping points there are some similarities between why homeschool mums feel like it is just not working:
- We think we are not finishing enough work
- We are anxious because our children are ‘behind’ and have gaps in their learning
- Our children don’t want to learn and react to us trying to teach them
- There is no joy in our days, our children complain
- We feel like we live in a mess, can’t keep on top of housework
- We believe the criticism from family or close friends
- We feel inadequate
- We feel disappointed because it isn’t like how we thought it would be
Most of these issues have to do with the academics of our homeschooling and though we know in our hearts that we are teaching more than just the academics, this side of our homeschool life does put pressure on us. Sometimes we just need to put everything down and live life with our kids, build relationships and get our zing back!
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When these types of feelings start to overwhelm me I do two things:
- I take a break from academic instruction and
- I look for solutions: I look for what is really going on and how can I address it.
Taking a break gives us time get some balance:
- Time to rest and rejuvenate – we get so busy looking after everyone else’s needs that we often forget to look after our own. Sometimes we just need a day off or a week off. Sometimes we just need to be disciplined to snatch 30minutes throughout the day, pause, breathe and enjoy something. When we don’t do this regularly we burn out and relationships and responsibilities suffer.
- Time to focus on relationships – when we get overwhelmed with something relationships are often the first to go, which is unfortunate because it is our relationships that will help us through hard times.
- Time to focus on important family projects – sometimes there are family projects that are simply not getting done, and we may need to pause the academic instruction to give ourselves time to work on these other areas of family life: family life, medical appointments, renovations, mango picking, helping a family in need, etc. We need to give ourselves permission to focus on such a project for a season, and letting academic instruction go, knowing that our kids are learning and growing in their whole life.
- Time to think, assess and plan – this is the finding solutions aspect. To be honest, this aspect needs to come last – the other three, resting yourself, building relationships and allowing time for family projects, must happen before a review on your academic homeschooling happens.
During a break from instruction I would maintain a routine. I find that if I give my children (primary school age) complete freedom from sun-up to sun-down, then I have more messes to clean up – both physical stuff around the house as well as emotional/relational issues between them. Alternatively, when I help them through their day with variety and purpose they can focus, be creative and happily live together!
Our routine would depend on what I wanted to achieve for that day. Was our day going to include a fun activity out and about, or was it going to be about getting a particular project done? Was it about me thinking and planning or was it about us spending time together being creative or playing board games. A routine serves a purpose – helps us intentionally use our day, the hours we have, to achieve our goals.
For the times that I needed to focus myself, and have my children focus by themselves, I would use these types of activities to build our day:
- Personal responsibilities – and maybe an extra chore or so, if the housework is a part of feeling like homeschooling isn’t working.
- Outside play – depending on the season, whether this would be early in the day or later
- Table time – sitting up at the table focusing on an individual activity (for older kids this would be their regular study subjects, for younger kids it would be colouring in, playdough, stickers etc)
- Reading time – everyone on the couch reading – if kids aren’t reading chapter books, we select a pile of books that will last them the designated time
- Playing together time – my kids enjoyed board games but they could play anything as long as they were together
- TV or DVD time – on these types of days I would extend how much screen time my kids would have to include a movie length DVD
- Room time – individual time, in a quiet space. If they shared a room usually, only one would go there for room time, the other would go somewhere else in the house
My children had plenty of free play though this was usually after focus times. I would generally do my housework during their free play as I would be more accessible and keep my focus activities to the times where I knew they would be focused for a set time.
My kids could only do those activities independently, and without interrupting me, if they had been taught previously. If your children can’t work independently for 30min (4-5yo onwards) then I would take a break from homeschooling routine and teach that regardless of feeling overwhelmed and needing time to review. If they are younger then you need to adjust accordingly, maybe they can focus for 15minutes, maybe you need to intersperse time with them with time by themselves, maybe you can get older ones to play with the younger ones at certain times. Each family dynamic will be different – but we can train, in fact, we need to train our kids to be able to focus on an activity by themselves. It is an important skill building towards highschool learning – we cannot always be entertaining and involved in what our children are doing.
In order to get some focus time it would look like 5 minutes setting the kids up – 30min focus for them and me – 5 minutes packing up, 5 minutes getting set up for the next activity. It is frustrating to have to stop my thinking – and I remember dreaming of the days when I could focus for long periods of time – but that is not the season you are in when you need to review your homeschool! You get far more done if you stop and start, than if you just let your kids have free reign and constantly interrupt you.
If rearranging your day like this doesn’t work for you then I encourage you to find time to rest and review. You may be able to do it at night time, though I personally found that if I reviewed when I was tired, my thoughts were still coloured by my exhaustion. Your husband may be able to take the kids out of the house for a day, giving you some free thinking time, you may be able to do a child swap with another mum – giving each other some time to yourself. How you do it isn’t really important, that you do it is.
Part 2 is about the reviewing process, read here
Also sharing and linking with others:
Throughout the week I share with one, or more of these blogs (see more details on my Link Parties page)
Monday’s Musings, Thoughtful Spot, Hip Homeschool Moms Blog Hop, Titus 2 Tuesdays, Coffee and Conversation, Finishing Strong (Middle & Highschool years), Capture your Journey, Thriving Thursdays, Hearts for Home, A Little R & R, From House to Home, Fellowship Fridays, Homeschooling Highschool Linkup, Weekly Wrap-up, Collage Fridays