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Practicing Patience in Your Homeschool

I have a confession to make.  I am not a very patient person.  I want long to be.  It would really help my kids out.  I get annoyed about ridiculous things.  If I ask you to do something and you take a millisecond longer than I think you should, I get annoyed.  If I explain something to you in small words and you don’t get it, I get annoyed.  If you ask me to remind you of something and I do and you still forget, I get annoyed.  If you talk to me before my first cup of coffee, I am likely to get mildly homicidal.  If you are late, if you make me late… It could get ugly.  At least inside my head.  A snappish ogre takes over me.  I see red.  It’s so… ugh! ridiculous.

Image from battlereporter.blogspot.com

Image from battlereporter.blogspot.com

I have to work at being patient and I do, all day every day.  I have to remind myself that kids are just little, that people are just people, that I am not the Master of the Timetable.  Doesn’t matter.  I have to literally stop myself from speaking, like reaching out with both fists to grab the speech-producing part of my brain and wrestling it down before I stamp on my tongue with one foot.  Most people have No Idea how impatient I am and absolutely No One knows how often I am impatient.  In fact, when I am feeling that ogre start to take over, I often talk more sweetly than normal, just counter her evil spell.  But not always.  Sometimes she wins.  People flinch away from her.  They run screaming in the streets.  The National Guard is called in. It’s pretty bad.

When we are homeschooling, I have to be even more careful.  See, my littles are here to learn from me.  The reason I decided to do this thing was to provide them a better learning environment.  So if I’m snapping at them all morning for not finding their pencils quickly enough, not understanding simple math, or not remembering the vocabulary word we Just Learned Yesterday, well, I am not giving them a good learning environment.  Ever literally bit your tongue to keep the words in?  I have.  Because, for me, that learning time is the golden time, the time we are all focused on each other, when our minds are expanding and the depths are being explored.  It is sacred.  And it should feel that way to all of us.

How do we practice patience in our homeschool when we have none?  I have some suggestions.

Know Your Triggers

I’ve already listed some of mine.  I know the others.  That’s the first step in practicing patience: recognizing it when it hits.  Know that your anger is arising from your own response rather than what others are doing.  If you are suffering from impatience as a homeschool teacher, sit down and make a list of the things that set you off.  It’s usually when something isn’t meeting your expectations or going your way, but a million things can stem from those two categories.  So make a list. This will make it easier to practice the other steps.

Recognize When It Takes You Over

Before wrestling the ogre, I have to realize it’s her I’m dealing with.  You might be telling yourself you’re angry for a reason.  Stop and think about it.  Is it a good reason?  If not so much, then you are simply being impatient.  And that is not the world’s problem.  It’s certainly not your littles’ problem.  It’s yours.  Just knowing how to recognize the signs in yourself is a big step toward controlling it.

Gauge How Your Reaction Will Affect the Situation

This is where the practice comes in.  Your child can’t find his supplies again?  Didn’t he just have All Of Them at the end of lessons yesterday?  Take a deep breath.  Psychology Today suggests that patience is an act of self-compassion.  You are empathizing with your feelings and treating them kindly.  It’s also (as we all know) a form of outward compassion.  Your kiddo didn’t lose his supplies on purpose.  Is your response going to make matters worse or better?  If you snap or lecture, your child is likely to get his feelings hurt or feel a little rebellious.  So that reaction is only going to make matters worse.  If you breathe, give yourself and your child a little love, then commence helping him look for the supplies, things are going to get better.  If your reaction is going to make things worse, and you feel out of control, walk away for a minute.  Give yourself time to think it out.  And try to keep the storm off your brow as you leave.  When you are back in control, go deal with the situation.

Make a Conscious Effort to Think Before You Speak

Once you’ve recognized that one of your triggers has set you off and given yourself time to think about it, put serious thought into what you are going to say in response.  In the above situation, snapping, “How do you manage to do this Every Day?  Can’t you learn to take care of your stuff?” is probably not the best thing to say, no matter how much you might want to say it.  Instead, try something like, “Well, let’s find your scissors then.  Maybe after class we can make you a new caddy to put everything in with a special place for your scissors.  Would that help you keep track of them better?”  See how much nicer that is?  Your little will respond to it better, and having him help find a solution will give him a sense of empowerment.  The other way?  He’ll feel belittled and small.  And you never want to be the cause of that feeling in your child, do you?

Change Your Perspective

One of the best tools I have for stemming impatience is to stop and look at the situation from the point of view of whomever I’m dealing with.  In this case, the little knows he should have put his scissors up yesterday before he went to have lunch or play.  He is already frustrated with himself for having lost them and he wants to get on with class as much as you do, and  to do that cool craft that requires scissors even more.  When you see things from his perspective instead of your own, it truly helps you let go of the ogre and respond with kindness.  And your day brightens.  And his day brightens.  And all manner of things will be well.

Remember Who You Love

Listen, there are always going to be times when impatience wins.  But here’s the thing.  Nothing is more precious than those littles you’re raising.  Nothing on this planet, in this universe, means as much to you.  They are the bright spark in your life, the joy in your laughter, the reason you breathe and never give up.  And sometimes impatience and a snap reaction makes you meaner than anything else can.  So remember who you’re dealing with.  Remember the learning environment you want for them.  And bite your tongue.  Literally, if you have to.

Love (and patience?) wins,

KT

 

Homeschooling through the Tough Times

image provide by contextualfeed.com

image provide by contextualfeed.com

A parent loses a job.  Someone close to the family passes away.  Love strikes a family member like lightning–a flash that is gone quicker than it came, leaving heartache and tears in its wake.  Wind blows the roof off the house.  Illness sneaks in.

Things happen.  Bad things.  But when we choose to homeschool our children, sometimes it is necessary to soldier on.  It is difficult.  Sometimes it feels impossible.  We just want to give up, give in, lay down, and let the world roll over us.  It’s hard to concentrate on teaching a lesson, which makes it hard for the littles to soak that lesson in.  Suddenly, your entire learning experience is in upheaval.  How do you handle it?

Prioritize

The first thing you should do, after an appropriate amount of time off to grieve, handle the stress, or get the job completed, is think about what is most important when you get back to the classroom (or dining table or blanket outside).  If your state has laws about what has to be done throughout your school day, figure out the bare minimum you can get by with and stick to that schedule for a few weeks or even months until you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Adding a bit of structure to your littles’ days will help them deal with the stress, too.  So none of you may be up to 4-8 hours of education right now.  Try to set aside 2 hours of a lighter load.  I’m a firm believer that littles should practice math daily.  Writing practice is also essential.  So if you are just too stressed or sad to teach in-depth lessons, print out some math worksheets for them to work on by themselves.  Find some copywork or notebooking pages for them to do.  Grab a list of writing prompts and give them their head.  Then read together.  Read Anything.  Fiction, nonfiction, comedy, adventure.  A lighter load can make such a difference in your healing process.  It can also take one less stress off your mind.  And remember, you can turn any moment into a teachable moment, so count those as part of your school day, too.  As long as your littles are still learning something, you are doing a fine job.

Here are some great sites to find those things:

Math worksheets

Reading comprehension

Writing prompts

Notebooking

Be Flexible

Especially if you’re grieving, it can be hard to make yourself get out of bed and do things.  On those days, take the day off.  If you have a bad Wednesday, make up for it on Saturday.  If you have a bad morning, make it up in the evening.  If you have a bad week, tack a week on to the end of your scheduled year.  I have actually done this, and it worked out just fine.  Sometimes life gets in the way.  We work around it.  The glorious thing about homeschooling is that we don’t have to do it from 8-3, Monday through Friday, August through June.  We can do it whenever we want.  Be flexible With Yourself.  Allow yourself to work through the crisis without adding more to it.

But Be Consistent

Your littles, as I said before, need a sense of normalcy and a certain amount of structure will help with that.  If you let things drift too much or for too long, you are leaving your littles without an anchor.  Math every day.  Not too hard to accomplish.  Even when your patience is at an end, you can put together a basket of busywork and tell them to get to work.  Explain to them how you’re feeling (don’t try to hide it; kids are so much smarter than we think they are, and they See Everything), let them know it’s going to be a work-by-yourself day, whatever you have to do.  Just don’t leave them dangling for too long, wondering if they will ever have ‘school’ again.

Practice Patience

And I do mean practice.  Especially when we’re dealing with financial crises, our patience seems to have run out before we wake in the mornings.  It becomes easier to snap at people who have done nothing wrong.  Everything makes us angry.  This is the time when we have to learn to leave the room before we use our voices.  Walk away, take a breath, allow yourself a minute to think about what’s really bothering you.  Then take another breath.  Decide if what just made your temper snap really deserved the tongue-lashing that wanted to leap from your mouth.  Remember, they’re just little.  They have no intention of trying your patience during this difficult time.  Also, be patient with yourself.  We are so hard on ourselves.  We want to hurry up and get over this so we can move on.  But it doesn’t work that way.  Hard times have their own timetable and our desire to make them end sooner doesn’t change it one whit.  So don’t be disappointed when you are still sad after a couple of weeks, still stressed even after the roof has been fixed, still wondering where you’re going to come up with the money.  Be patient.  As my neighbor says, they can’t eat you.  It really will work out in its own time.

Seek Inspiration

Whether it be spiritual or just support from other homeschoolers.  Connect with peers, with blogs you love, your pastor, whoever will make you feel that spark again that got you homeschooling in the first place.  When I’m feeling blah, I like to go to my favorite craft sites and find something new to try with the Littles.  Whatever works for you, find that inspiration and soak it up.  You don’t even have to do anything with it.  Just reading about it might help you be better prepared to face tomorrow.  For spiritual inspiration, try Alive to Grace.  For spiritual homeschool inspiration, try A Homeschool Mom. To remember why you love being a parent, check out Mom Life Now. For a good belly laugh about parenting and homeschooling, go to Stories of Our Boys.  For really awesome craft ideas, look at The Crafty Classroom.  Come here.  Email me.  I promise to be here for you.  You never know when I might need you in return.

Take a break

At a homeschooling seminar I spoke at this year, a lovely young woman approached me and asked what to do about her preschool-age daughter, who seemed to balk at all of her lessons.  After sitting down with her for a while, I learned they had lost two very close loved ones that year, and there had been an inordinate amount of upheaval in their lives.  My advice to her was to stop pushing.  Her daughter was grieving.  She was grieving.  She needed to give them space to do that.  No one would expect that sweet little girl to care about learning her ABCs or handwriting just them.  The mother was worried she was failing in some way.  I told her to take a break.  Don’t push her daughter to do ‘schoolwork.’ Read with her, sing the alphabet with her, buy some of those great bath paints and let her make letters with her fingers.  I told her she would be surprised at the end of a couple of months how much her daughter had learned without scheduled, paper schoolwork.  If you have older littles and you decide to take a break, set some parameters.  Tell your kids you’re going to take a break, when you will be picking back up, and what you expect from them during the break.  That way they still have that sense of consistency.

Sometimes whatever the tough times are, they are just too tough.  Don’t push yourself or your littles to achieve a grand school year during those times.  Do what you can.  Give your family a break.  But do soldier on.  Don’t give up.  Don’t let the world roll over you.  There will be sunshine again, and you will be glad you didn’t send your kids back to school or shut down completely.  Because

Love wins,

KT

P.S.  My series 25 Days of Lit in Your Homeschool will pick up Monday with Day Four: Insects. 🙂