Wednesday, March 2, 2016

10 ways to rescue a rotten day

If you are having a rotten homeschool day, you are not alone.  Everyone has bad days.  They might not talk or write about them, but everyone has difficult, frustrating, no good very bad days.

There are several varieties of bad day and each comes with it's own triggers:
  • The kind you see coming ... a child is due for a blood test, it's the day after a late night, today is forecast to be a scorcher of a day, it's windy and there's bushfire smoke in the air.
  • The kind where things suddenly go really wrong ... a pet dying, illness, bad news on the phone.
  • The kind where plans can be derailed by a small trigger and before you know it things spiral out of control ... mozzie bites are SO itchy, a morning tea bike ride leaves everyone exhausted, or someone goes happily to do their work outside but gets stung by a wasp.
Now that we're all thoroughly depressed (and you probably have experiences to add to each variety), here are some possible solutions.  I'm sure there are many more and I'd love to hear your suggestions!

10 Ways to Rescue a Rotten Day:
  1. Switch off.  Just for a while, allow everyone to switch off.  Have a break and give everyone time to recover, recharge and regroup.  How long the break needs to be is determined by how bad the rotten day is, how exhausted you are and so many other factors.  
  2. Go with the flow.  When faced with an unexpected direction, don't be afraid to ditch the plan for the day and explore the rabbit trail in front of you.  For example, if everyone is distracted by local bush fires - not a direct threat that requires action - you might ease worried minds by explaining how far away the fire is, or if they are simply curious show them the RFS website, look on maps at the affected areas, teach your children to 'look for the people doing good' in any crisis, and practice your bushfire safety plan.
  3. Staff development day.  Teachers go on professional development days, why shouldn't we?  Whilst you probably still have the children at home, you might find time to research, complete paperwork and prepare future activities by delegating duties to educational shows on ABC iView, a basket full of new books and audiobooks from the library, or a box of toys reserved for such occasions.  Marble runs and dominoes work well for this at my place ... open ended, plentiful and lots of scope for creativity.
  4. Art.  Painting or modelling with clay can do wonders to calm ragged nerves and restore a peaceful mood.  Simply set it up, along with a nice snack, and start.  I mean you!  If the children join in, even better.  Alternatively, you could print some geometric patterns for anyone interested to colour, or simply sketch and doodle.
  5. Sensory play.  Like art, there are many soothing activities you can set up relatively easily, and they are a big hit with children of all ages.  Soap carving, weaving, French knitting, and Here are some ideas I have collected ... gooey things like bubble dough and oobleck.  Yes they are messy, but it will buy you an hour or two of peace and smooth everyone's rough edges.  Some of the ingredients will be things you have in the kitchen or bathroom.
  6. Choose your own adventure.  Don't forget, homeschool isn't school at home.  You have the freedom to mix things up.  The world is your classroom.  Learn outside the box.  Where can you go?  What can you do?  Think outside the box and be playful.  Walk in a different direction for a change, suggest writing using the wrong hand or by holding a texta between toes.  
  7. Change the scenery.  If things are going awry maybe it's worth a try.  If your children have been working indoors, suggest they move out to the patio or set up a tent as an office for the day.  If you need a big shake up, and if you have children who cope well with change, enlist their help in rearranging some of the furniture in a room.  
  8. Ask for help.  There are some great online home ed groups where people are free to vent their problems and other members almost always respond with encouragement.  "Me too," or "This is what worked for me ..."  Let me know if you need help finding groups to suit your needs.
  9. Play the glad game.  We read "Pollyanna" last year ... a beautiful story and there's a lot to be said for playing the 'glad game.'  There is almost always something to be grateful for, and deliberately talking with your children about what IS going well can help turn a sad day around, or at least take the edge off it.  
  10. Do the next right thing.  Nobody can see into the future, and sometimes we can't see far beyond the mess we're entangled in ... don't try to solve everything at once.  Just decide what is the next positive thing that you can do, and do that.  If that means 'have a nap', do it.  When you wake hopefully problems will seem smaller or your mind will have found a clever solution.
Move towards a graceful recovery (a personal story):

You need to decide when it's worth fighting a particular battle, and when it's time to change tack, either with a temporary detour or a major course correction.

My daughter has recently been diagnosed with Hashimotos Thyroiditis.  It's been causing such a brain fog that some of the work she normally enjoys is proving difficult and stressful.  I know from my own experience with this disease that this is temporary ... for months we have continued to work, but I try to make sure it is confidence boosting and not too taxing.  Copywork and familiar maths concepts are mostly ok ... tackling anything tricky is a recipe for a meltdown.

For a few weeks she has been incredibly tired, too tired to do almost anything, and feeling rotten in dozens of ways.  This week she finally started medication, but it will take a while to start working and she still isn't up to doing much.  If she attended 'drop off school' she would not be attending most days.  The rest of the family have stuff going on too, and it's a pretty challenging time all around.  With a relaxing pace, everyone is surviving and finding plenty to be thankful for.  Monday and Tuesday were well-spent on nurturing, and I declared the rest of the week "Creativity Week."  

The children and I always have creative things we're keen to do, and as soon as I announced it, eyes lit up and ideas tumbled out.  Plucking that simple title out of the air (or my heart) gave us permission to do special projects and engage in activities which inspire and restore us.  

Yesterday, that meant that Elijah designed and built a carry-cage for the front of his new bike.  Big enough for the all-important soccer ball.  Jasmine and I got to work on turning some plastic storage tubs into a cosy indoor rabbit hutch.  We discovered that sewing scissors cut through a plastic lid quite well, and we tossed around ideas about how to connect the two tubs with a tunnel.  Painting, cooking and Lego construction also happened, along with books, DVDs and outdoor play.  We found time to download photos from iPads and looked through old photos to see how much the children have grown.  

The rest of the week is blissfully free to finish what we have started.  Today we met new friends at a new park.  We will probably try some online art lessons, explore a new history website I subscribed to, play a new game and continue to enjoy our read-aloud books.

In hard times, give yourself permission to spontaneously declare a Project Week, Readathon, Nature Day or Baking Day.  Make it up and announce it with conviction!  Focus on being in the moment with your children, enjoy it and record it in your home ed journal.  Everyone will learn ... they will also learn how to handle adversity, and will return to routine when it's time with renewed energy.

It's not a holiday, but it's a lovely way to live, better than trudging along the same path with tired or fractious children, simply because you think you must, when what everyone needs is a lovely diversion, something new to think about and fun to do.

If you're having a rotten day, I hope some of these tips help you.
All the best, Vanessa

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