Monday, 17 February 2014

Staying Motivated Throughout the Homeschool Year: How to Survive

Homeschooling can be brutal. This has nothing to do with teaching, or learning, exploring or creating. This has to do with sleep. Or rather - where did all that lovely shut-eye go?

I have two wonderful children. One of them doesn't sleep. Granted, she's only two and a half years old. So that makes it, by my somewhat fuzzy calculations about 3 years now since I had at least 5 hours sleep in a row.  You know how they say 'babies start sleeping through at 6 weeks'? (And sleeping through is defined as 5 hours straight...) I'm still waiting, and my '6 week old' is now a rather bouncy, vocal toddler. Some weeks are more brutal than others, but if she only wakes 3 or 4 times a night, it's a good night. 8+ is a bad one. Sometimes we have weeks of bad ones.
And yet, homeschooling has to keep going. Motivation doesn't really enter into it - there really aren't a lot of alternatives that are good. I suppose that's one hell of a motivator right there. But if anyone has a phone number for a school in Australia that is able to handle kids who are doing university-level work with prep-level handwriting and typing skills, no tolerance for noise, no volume control, and the persistence and nagging abilities of an Olympic debater (is that a sport?). Let me know! I'm all ears. 
Today I'm not going to directly talk about motivation. I'm going to talk about surviving while keeping the good-ship homeschool afloat. It's a powerful motivator in this house.
Here's what I have found helps:
  • When I have time, I take notes. I keep a diary, which I update sporadically on what we do - sometimes daily, more often weekly or monthly. I miss out on entries, and I don't always write everything we do. But the act of thinking about what we covered during that time helps me remember the good bits - when learning happened, when C put forth extra effort. It helps to reassure me that we're on the right track. 
  • I talk about what we did at the end of the day with DH. It helps to remember the educational activities we did - what was talked about, played with, made, watched and learned.
  • We have set activities that need to be done. Sometimes being creative is too hard when I'm living on erratic sleep. Having a fixed activity gives focus for sleep-deprived minds. For example, C does maths with a tutor online twice a week. This is partly for maths, but also partly to give him a non-parent to talk with about maths ideas. And he needs to do the homework, usually 20 questions between lessons.  We also watch a lot of science videos - at the moment it's chemistry with coursera, but it has previously been Kahn Academy, Periodic Table of Videos, Minute PhysicsVSauce and Vi Hart videos. There are some really terrific YouTube channels out there. Many of them are inspirational.
  • We all take turns at picking TV shows to watch. Everyone gets one turn. J usually picks kids shows, C picks Mythbusters, or the occasional documentary, usually on science and engineering. And I get one pick as well. This is usually when I sneak in some educational content - cooking shows that are also tours of other countries and their cuisine, history or language documentaries, or building shows like 'Grand Designs'. It has to be something I enjoy watching, but if it also has an educational aspect - bonus! This often leads to more interest-based questions that we'll follow for the rest of the day.
  • I catch up on sleep on the weekend, when DH is home. Sometimes, the sleep-deprivation is so bad, the only thing to do is pass out when another adult can take over for an hour. 
  • I ration activities. If we wanted to, we could be out every day, exploring. That is not always possible. I've found that over 3 days of 'out' days is usually enough to bring one of us down sick. 
  • We have activities that can be done by someone other than myself - delegate and divide! C does Karate twice a week, and DH usually takes him. This gives DH a bit of time without the kids while not working, and I only have to deal with J - who sometimes naps during this time. Bonus!  He also sometimes takes both kids, and says it gives him the opportunity to have one-on-one playtime with J (as much as a noisy Dojo allows anyway). 
  • I would like to add we have quiet time. But that has never really worked in our house. There is  always something happening or about to happen. But I will often set up a table with craft things to do - playdoh is better than paints or crafts - they can't run out of playdoh. Though it can get messy, we have washable rugs that we put under the table that limits the chaos.
  • I set priorities with house-keeping. I don't try and do everything. One load of dishes and one load of clothes a day usually keeps our house ticking over. And I tend to prioritise hygiene-related activities over mere neatness. Untidy, I can handle. Mess that attracts creepy-crawlies, I can't. 
  • Strong tea and baked goods. Nothing beats freshly baked cakes and biscuits as a way to feel like you can keep going.
  • I keep in contact with other families of gifted and profoundly gifted kids, mostly online, and there are a few great face-to-face organisations. Many of them also homeschool. It really helps with the 'well, we'll just keep going' if I know other people are also walking the same walk.
  • I remember that this too shall pass, and one day I shall discover the wonders of sleep again.

So how do you motivate yourself to get through the bad days? What helps?

This blog post is part of the "Staying Motivated Throughout the Homeschool Year" blog hop. Check out the others at the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum!

11 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Wise advice. If I'm ever in your area and you're willing to share some of those gluten-free baked goods, please let me know! Yum!

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  2. I'll be really happy when you can get some good solid sleep. Cheering, though not to loudly. ;)

    Those periodic table videos are the best!

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    1. Thanks Jade. The videos are really awesome. So are Sixty Symbols if you haven't seen them yet. I forgot to add them!

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  3. I'm so glad that I'm not the only one who has "quiet-ish time." We've found with an older kiddo that LEGOs are great for that.

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    1. Lego is great for that - C has a huge Lego table in his bedroom. Not that it stays in there ;)

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  4. Quiet-ish time is great, I shove my kids outside when possible during the babies nap, so.lovely.
    And may solid sleep happen soon! My third was that toddler that slept awful, around 2.5 it got better.

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    1. Thanks Susanne, I'm looking forward to that magic time, lol.

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  5. My eldest was a non sleeper too until he wasa round 5 then it started to improve...he is still not a great sleeper....and yes non volume control! God...that resonates too well with me :) Can I say I am coming back to this blog for more! He is gluten free too...because of fructose malabsorption...

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    1. You bring me hope Ioveena :). Ah, frutose malabsorbtion ... that sucks that does. It does lend a kick in the pants to learning how to cook well. We have only 1 and a half takeaway places we can trust near us, so if I feel like something else, I have to make it myself :)

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  6. A lot of great strategies and interesting links - thank you for a great post!

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