One of the best qualities of homeschooling is that any time is a good time for a new start. Whenever something is not working, you can take a moment and reassess what you are doing. Not only do you have the ability to change, but you can also help prevent the matter from occurring again.
But you do not have to wait until something goes awry before taking action. One of the ways I have found most helpful for me is to spend time thinking ahead of what could possibly go wrong. I know that sounds negative, but what I mean is sometimes as conscientious parents we walk that delicate line between optimism, or hoping for the best, yet, knowing the worst can happen, especially if your child is unpredictable. I work with a wide variety of learners and these suggestions are particularly applicable for some parents of neurodivergent learners.
For me, thinking ahead helps me to anticipate problems and seek solutions before I am stressed about a situation. I used to feel guilty about anticipating the worst, but I have learned I can plan more positive days with my child when I gain a strategy for dealing with negative behaviors. Each positive day goes a long way in building wonderful memories for my children and me. As I ready myself for whatever may occur because I want to have peaceful days, I can get thrown into hyper-planning mode. But there are a few steps that must be followed first.
First, while we must accomplish our academic goals, it is equally important that we have a neat and organized home. Therefore, I am marrying my academic goals to my household objectives. For instance, I am adding chores, or rather direct supervision thereof, to my homeschool schedule. The ability to follow directions and perform some simple household chores will help them (and ultimately me) to function better. We all perform better in an organized environment. We use a chart so that they remember to do their chores. I also integrate chores in-between schoolwork rather than always before or after schoolwork. For instance, after doing a math worksheet, they take turns sorting the laundry or cleaning their room. Over the years I have found leaving all the chores to before/ after schooling makes jobs more grievous, but if they are done in short bursts, they are less likely to be dreaded by my kids.
Second, to foster calm responses, especially from my very-active boys, I have created a space for calm. I am redesigning the calm down corner in my house where a child can go if he feels he is on the verge of becoming dysregulated. The place will have objects that foster calming down, such as stress balls to be squeezed. I also add plastic globes. I use Christmas scene winter globes because they are easiest to find.
You may use putty or almost anything a child can use in their hands. The calm down corner is also a place where anyone can go for quiet contemplation. As my kids are now preteens, they prefer making their own playlists of Christian songs and designing their own calm space. They also choose their own fidgets,
Third, distractions can happen a lot when your mom is a homeschool leader and work- at-home homeschool parent, so I anticipate attention being diverted during the day, at times. I provide privacy boards for my sons. You can purchase these at your local dollar store or make them yourself. Some of you make have used boards like this for science project boards. Although, I use the wide boards because these boards tend to stand up better on their own. These boards are also especially helpful for children with attention issues. These are simple I personalize the boards with letters, words and bible verses, math facts, etc. for each of the boys. Sometimes the boys like the idea of not seeing one another even though they may be only ten inches apart from one another. Conflict is diminished when each child has what they perceive to be their own space. For a child that is easily stimulated, you may want to use Velcro and black and white lettering. The lettering should be bold though, so it stands out to the child.
Fourth, waking my guys up in the morning, as they knock on the door of their teenage years can be frustrating. I used to find myself going upstairs a few times begging my guys to get up and start school. One of my sons always seemed to need a bit of prodding to get up while the other would wake up and then go back to sleep. Finally, I got an alarm clock with a bed vibrator and a large bright number display alarm. The bed vibrator is placed under the mattress (or you could place it under the child’s pillow) of our heavy sleeper who seems to need physical motivation to get up, while the other responds to the alarm sound. The large visual of the alarm clock is reinforcing to both of them. The movement, sound, and bright visual of the alarm gets the attention of my learners who feel empowered because they are waking up on their own.
Finally, I am anticipating my homeschool schedule changing, sometimes without notice. I have learned if my kids complete an assignment early, they deserve free time. I do not have to pile more work on them. Sometimes we can discourage our kids with endless assignments once they complete an assignment early. Schools do this when they give kids busy work. We, as homeschool moms and dads, do the same thing when we pile work on our learners just simply because they master a concept or complete a lesson quickly.
Cheryl Carter is a former special education teacher, parent, and work-at-home homeschooling mom. She enjoys sharing some of her home management strategies with other parents.