The following is written by contributor Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy.
The older I get, the more aware I am that effective homeschool time management must include effective energy management.
Creating a schedule that really hums for our family requires more than just shifting blocks of time around in Google Calendar or the DayTimer. We also need to strategically take energy reserves, emotional needs, stress levels, and self-care into account.
The potential land mines that can blow up your homeschool day are many, for kids and for grown-ups.
Having an awareness of what punches your buttons—and scheduling accordingly—can mean the difference between a successful homeschool day (week/month/year) and one that goes up in smoke.
These are the land mines that blow up the most at my house. I’m sure you have your own list, and I’d love to hear about them in comments. Self-awareness makes all the difference, so let’s help open each other’s eyes.
1. The epic blood sugar meltdown.
When a person you love (of whatever age) suddenly turns into a complete and raving lunatic because they are starving, they are in the grips of an epic blood sugar meltdown. (I experienced more than my fair share of these during pregnancy, and became a much nicer person once I learned to keep a bag of trail mix within arm’s reach.)
How to recover: Give the poor kid (or poor parent!) a snack, pronto. The ideal snack contains protein, healthy fat, and carbs, and not too much sugar.
How to avoid it: Schedule a regular snack time (or breaks where snacks are optional) into the homeschool day. If you have a kid who forgets to eat, remind them to think about a snack before they reach meltdown territory. If you’re on the go a lot, stash snacks and drinks in the car.
2. The I-cannot-sit-still-for-one-more-second freakout.
For some kids, sitting for schoolwork is like holding a beach ball under water: they can do it, but it requires all their concentration. When they let go of the beach ball, it shoots into the air like a rocket.
How to recover: Send the kid outside, give them a trampoline, do pushups and planks and jumping jacks, as often as you need throughout the day. Walk, run, stretch.
How to avoid it: Build physical activity into your day. Schedule “recess.” Walk the dog around the block at lunch time. For our sensory-seeking child, we installed a swing in the house. (Worth it.)
3. Complete and utter fatigue.
We’re talking about those days when your schedule is full, your temper is short, and you start to question your competence as a human being. Or those days when you ask your child why he’s crying and he keeps saying I don’t know. Too-tired-to-function tired.
How to recover: Take a nap, if possible. (If you know this backfires for you or your kids, nevermind.) Grown-ups, pour yourself an extra cup of coffee and eat extra-clean for energy. Get some sunshine and fresh air. Go easy on yourself. And for goodness’ sake, get to bed on time tonight.
How to avoid it: I find this the most frustrating land mine because we may know exactly what to do, but that won’t stop the toddler from waking us up 4 times before morning.
As far as you can, go to bed on time, and help your child do the same. If you’re regularly exhausted, do some reading up on sleep hygiene, and consider checking in with your doctor.
4. Too much talking disease.
The introverts and highly sensitive among you are nodding understandingly. For some of us, talking all day requires enormous amounts of emotional energy and lots of recovery time.
When we don’t get it, bad things happen.
How to recover: Find a quiet place. Really.
How to avoid it: Learn to be aware of your daily “word budget,” and try to build in periods during the day where you aren’t talking nonstop as a teacher and parent. Try audiobooks instead of read-alouds. Implement charts and checklists. Embrace a daily quiet time.
Teaching your kids to recognize and (ideally) avoid or (more likely) recover from their personal land mines isn’t just a good homeschooling practice, it’s a life skill that will serve them well for years to come. I wish you well as you discover—and tackle—the land mines in your own homeschool day.
What are the big land mines in your own day-to-day, and how do you avoid/recover from them?