Nothing drains the energy out of a day like a sulky child. No matter how optimistic I feel at the start of the day, no matter how much coffee I consume, no matter how many Scriptures I quote to myself—pouty, sulky, unmotivated kids are rough to homeschool. So, how do I keep a good attitude? How do I stay motivated to homeschool when my kids are not? There’s no easy answer, but I try to keep 3 things in mind when I’m tempted to throw in the towel.
It’s not my fault.
This is such an easy trap to fall into. Maybe I haven’t made school enjoyable enough. Maybe I have the wrong curriculum. Maybe I’m teaching this wrong. Maybe I’m a terrible teacher. Maybe I’m failing at this. It’s such a vicious trail of defeat and lies. But it’s so easy to assume it’s my role to make everyone happy and my fault if they aren’t. It is my job to put learning materials and opportunities in front of them. And I do try very hard to match their learning styles and make school “fun.” But in the end, whether or not they enjoy it is their choice, not my fault. Some days, my kids are just bound and determined to not enjoy anything. I don’t prefer it that way, but their choice does not make me the “mean mom.” It doesn’t make me a failure. It just makes me the mom of a bunch of unmotivated kids having a bad day.
It is not my responsibility to keep them happy.
It’s my responsibility to keep them healthy, to protect them, to provide learning opportunities for them. But to keep them in a constant state of happiness and contentment is not my responsibility. I fight this constantly. We can wear ourselves out looking for the next best thing, feeling as though it is our responsibility to make them love every moment of their education. I’m so guilty of this! And I have to reign myself back after some time on Pinterest and say, “You know, it’s okay that we haven’t used all of these super cool Lego Learning ideas. And it’s okay that I don’t have a cool acronym and song for everything we memorize.” My responsibility is to teach; it is their responsibility to learn. I have to consciously cast that back onto them: “I’m sorry you feel that way. That must be miserable. I would much prefer that we choose to do things this way, but I can’t be apart of your choice to….” Bottom line, my kids can choose to love learning (and I do try hard to encourage that), or they can choose to hate it all. But in the end, it is their choice. My favorite line in these moments: “If it were me, I’d prefer to enjoy learning. But if you’d rather be miserable, I’ll let you.” Most of the time, after they’ve calmed down those BIG feelings of theirs, they decide they’d rather enjoy it with me.
It is my choice.
Just like my child has a choice about his or her attitude, I have a choice about mine too. It is not my child’s fault if I join his pity party. It stinks when kids are unmotivated or in a bad mood. All the negativity can be very draining, which is why it is ultra-important (and not a bit selfish) to do some self-care.
- Step away (even if it’s to the bathroom). I make a point to let my kids know that I need a time-out to control my attitude and reactions. It teaches them, by example, that this is the correct way to handle those BIG FEELINGS, and it teaches them to respect others feelings. I also let them know the consequences. “I may become a Momster, and I don’t want to act that way. So I’m taking a time out.” Some times, they still don’t get the point, and I have to be a little more specific: “I feel like I’m going to either cry or scream, and I don’t want to do either. So I need you to be completely quiet all the way home.” (And unfortunately, they know I mean it. Because, yeah, I’ve done both.)
- Supply your time-out space with what you need to regroup—an inspiring devotional, some battle verses, a cup of coffee, some chocolate, whatever it takes! I have a playlist of “Battle Songs” that I use for times when my emotions need to be redirected. I keep my Paul David Tripp devotional handy. And yes, there are times I take chocolate with me.
- Do something shocking. Think of a car that has a dead battery. It doesn’t need a gentle nudge; it needs a giant shock! Sometimes my day needs a shock, too. Mondays tend to be our horrible, terrible, no good, very bad days. To shock our week into action, I’m trying a couple of different things: (1). taking school to a different location or (2). canceling our normal schedule to do a big learning project that we’ve been meaning to get to. Other times we’ve gone on a nature hike, watched educational movies, or taken an impromptu field trip. Make the kids do their schoolwork under the table, in a tree, or in a pillow fort. SHOCK THEM! And maybe even shock yourself. Most of the time, the thing I feel least like doing (leaving the house) is absolutely the thing we need most.
In the end, for my kids and myself, it’s a heart issue. And these days take lots of prayer—for my kids, with my kids, over my kids. I have my kids pray for me. And then we inch forward, in the Lord’s strength and sufficient grace. Because most days, when I’m unmotivated and losing momentum, it’s because I’m doing it in my own strength. I’m not enough for this job, even on a good day. But He is. Thank God, He is!