Re-evaluating your homeschool when the going gets tough is one of the best ways to handle problems or discouragement.
There are tons of reasons why things sometimes go awry with homeschooling. We all have bad days – the kids and us moms. Most of the time, it’s best to just push through it, and other days it’s good to put everything down and come back to it again tomorrow.
But there sometimes are even bigger problems that can rear their ugly heads. Your child isn’t getting it. Your schedule isn’t working. You made a poor choice with curriculum and are having second thoughts.
You could get angry, rant on social media, even send your kid to public school. You could let these issues derail your entire plan for the year.
Please don’t do that.
Okay, go ahead and be mad for a bit and rant to your husband. Then take a deep breath, ask his opinion, and start evaluating how you can fix the problem at hand. These trials shall also pass, just like the minor ones, but with some extra effort on your part.
Identify the Problem
My six-year old has been struggling to learn to read. We are making good progress now, but it has been incredibly frustrating for both her and me. We have days when she does pretty well, and then the next day could be a total setback. This is common in homeshooling, since we teach to our child’s personal pace. We cannot proceed to the next level until they have mastered the current level. This is why we love homeschooling so much and part of why we chose it in the first place. But it can also be a source of frustration which, at times, has me feeling like I want to give up.
After a particularly challenging couple of days, I realized it’s almost like she blanks out and can’t focus on the page in front of her. I took a look at our environment, specifically at the times she had been experiencing this shutting down stuff, and had an epiphany. She is experiencing anxiety, and it was because her daddy was here. He is typically working while we do school, but had a couple of days off, and she felt some performance anxiety knowing he was in hearing distance.
The fix is easy – don’t do reading when Dad is around. The other subjects, she is mostly okay in if he’s here. But in reading, she is less confident so she was afraid of making errors and being embarrassed in front of her beloved papa.
Once you identify a problem, you can then act to solve it or at least change things up so the problem comes up less frequently. Not every solution is as simple as ours was in this example, so let’s look at some other ideas for re-evaluating when times get tough.
Break Lessons Down
I’ve noticed she experiences anxiety when doing a new type of work also, even when my husband is not around. If it looks complicated or intimidating, like the cursive program we recently tried (which ended up being really neat, and she enjoyed it), she shuts down and can’t even get out of the starting gate.
I have learned to help her cope with that by breaking those lessons into chunks. A lesson intended to span one day might be broken down into three or even four days. I don’t mind this at all – we are relaxed homeschoolers so my lesson plans are just “start on this page this week and do as much as she is able.”
Now that she knows I take this strategy, she is much more comfortable expressing her limits, and in a much more positive way. No more crying, yelling, or stomping off. Our communication is much improved and she doesn’t feel like she’s letting anybody down.
Give New Material a Fair Shot
On the flip side, sometimes you just have to keep going and push them a little. You know your child best, and as you gain experience with homeschooling, you’ll be better able to see when things aren’t working for them. A lot of times, they only struggle at the beginning and learn to like it or they start to understand why it’s necessary (like for reading or basic math).
Pushing through those initial moments of balking at new topics might be just what they need. It teaches resilience also. The same thing is true for extracurriculars that they want to try – they need to really try it before deciding they hate it and don’t want to go anymore.
Or maybe the opposite is true and you have to say no to an activity that is currently messing up your entire schedule. Consider making a deal with your child that he can try it again in a few months if you can find something that fits into the schedule better.
Send in the Reinforcements
In the case where your child just isn’t getting it, instead of walking away from that assignment or even an entire curriculum, see if they just need some reinforcement. If you can add something else to help them see it in a different way, that could be all they need. This is one reason I like unit studies so much; it approaches a single subject from multiple angles and with a variety of learning methods.
Back It Up
Another strategy for when times are tough in your homeschool is to either restart the lesson or back up a bit further and have them take notes as you show them how it should be done.
Research has shown that hand writing your notes from a lecture helps cement the material in your head, and there is no reason why that could not work for your homeschool. And backing up to start from scratch can help the brain get started on the right foot, so to speak.
Sometimes a blank slate is easier and less confusing.
Be Your Child’s Encourager
As always, stay positive. Even if it’s frustrating for you as the parent/teacher/facilitator, try not to let them see that. Switch into being the encourager, and give them the support they need. As moms we can lean on each other or our husbands and certainly on the Lord when times are tougher than we had hoped. Our children rely on us (and eventually, the Lord)!
Next time your child experiences a bigger-than-normal bump in the road, don’t think of it as failing (on your part or theirs), think of it as an invitation to make things work better for your child. You must learn from the bad days, not allow them to defeat you.
- What is the exact situation at hand and why is your child having a rough go of it?
- Are there environmental factors you can change?
- Is your child experiencing anxiety or a learning problem?
- Can you break down the work to be less overwhelming? Or maybe you need to drop an extracurricular that is upsetting the schedule.
- Do you think they should just push through and keep trying till they get it?
- Can you add something to supplement and present a new angle to the material?
- Can you back up and explain it again while they take notes?
- Do you simply need to be a better encourager for your child?
Above all else, continually pray for your child and your homeschool. Pray that you would be able to lead your children to a learning experience that is right for them, that you’d be in tune with their needs and be able to navigate problems that arise. Pray for their attitudes to be receptive to the material and to you as their teacher.
Ask God to help you see clearly so you can stay on top of changes you may need to make before problems come up in the first place. And lastly, pray that your homeschool would bring you together as a family and create a lifelong bond.
Andrea Townsley blogs at Townsley Times and is a Jesus-loving mom of four. She has been homeschooling for four years and writes on biblical homemaking, homeschooling, natural living, and raising children. For more homeschool encouragement, you can find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.