Roller Coaster Days: Dealing with the Highs and Lows of Homeschooling

Typically when we are having a day that starts off bad, I try really hard to turn it around.

We tend to skip schoolwork and focus on fun.

We'll go for a hike, find an art project or run a science experiment together.

However, on a day when we have a set schedule I'm often at a loss to what I should do when our day starts taking a nose dive; do we step back and try to turn it around or do we push through the work?

On days where we go from bad to good to bad and up and down and all around I feel like I am stuck on a roller coaster that I just can not get off of!

 The boys were all a bit grouchy this morning, grumbling when I reminded them to pick out some schoolwork for the car ride to karate, complaining when I asked them to help sweep the floors, sighing when we had to turn the movie off so we could get ready.

I didn't think much of it since these are the typical reactions I get when asking them to work, get ready, or help out; what can I say they're kids!  They'd much rather play with their toys, watch TV/movies, or play video games.  I understand that and just ignore the grumbling as long as they're moving and listening to me.

Picking Out Their Own Schoolwork:
Ian picked out two digger books to bring with us and read in the car.  He also chose to bring his math book and completed two more pages on measurement.  He rounded out his day with a color by number book and his markers.  He told me he was doing some art today and coloring in a page about Russia.  He was in a happy mood and completed all of his work in a timely manner by the time we arrived home for lunch.

Alec had picked out his math book but, when asked, decided he'd rather have another compute and color page.  So I photocopied a page on adding three digit numbers with re-grouping.  We did the first problem together before getting in the car in case he had any questions or needed any help.  He also brought his Guardians of Ga' Hoole book with him and ended up reading non- stop on the car ride there and back; forgetting completely about his math work.  I knew he could make up the work later so I wasn't worried about it.  We had plenty of time in the afternoon for him to finish up his math paper and he was in a great mood so I didn't worry about him.

Evan, *sigh*, he was the cause of our horrible morning commute to karate.  I thanked the other boys for staying silent and diligently working on their school work but I seriously questioned if I was the right person to be teaching Evan today.  I thought perhaps he needed an outside observer to motivate him or else a group of peers to egg him on in his learning.

It all started when he picked out his work:  

He wasn't happy that all of the "easy" math pages were completed in his 2nd grade Star Wars book and he wasn't confident he could do any of the other pages on his own.  We finally settled on a few pages working with the fractions 1/2 and 1/4, which he knows.  He sighed, rolled his eyes and told me he hated coloring.  I offered to work on another page with him but he said he'd complete the ones we picked out together.

He didn't like any of the pages left in his Star Wars reading book either so I offered to find him something on-line.  I quickly went to and looked up some word work sheets for him.  We agreed on a fill in the vowel page and Evan was so confident he didn't even want to look it over with me.

We no sooner got in the car than he started pitching a fit.  He hated school, he hated math, he hated reading and it was stupid.  He didn't need to learn any of this stuff anyway.  He hated karate, he wanted to quit and why was I making him go?  Karate was to hard and they were making him try to remember to much stuff.

For 15 minutes he alternately yelled or threw things; made for a very interesting car ride.  

I'm sure it didn't help that I kept reminding him that reading is important.  That he has been working with these same short vowel sounds for years and if he doesn't know them by now he should be practicing more.  I reminded him that no one forces him to take karate and he's free to quit at any time (though I did remind him that we just ordered him new foot pads last week because he promised me he wasn't going to quit at all).  I told him that for the next 24 hours no one is reading anything to him (other than our typical read aloud for school); we weren't going to help him read the words on the Wii, spell things for YouTube, or anything like that.  I tried to explain that I'm not doing this as a punishment but so that he can see how helpful and important reading is.

He was not a happy camper and I alternately felt sorry for him and angered by his laziness and refusal to work. 

 I felt deep in my gut that this was all an act.  

He's gotten very lazy about his schoolwork and often whines through it all assuming if he makes enough of a racket and a spectacle of himself we'll take pity on him and either do part of the work for him or else cut back on what he has to do.

Today I refused to take the bait at all.

He was doing the work, and all of it, period!

 After the first 10 minutes I finally told him I wasn't talking to him anymore until he was under control.  He apologized but said it rather grumpily and when asked why he was sorry he said "for nothing!" I finally just turned on the radio and concentrated on the songs and the road.

Then he flipped his attitude and behavior right around. Like a switch. 

We got to karate and he went inside, calm and quiet as could be and had a wonderful class.

  • I sat there wondering if I could have somehow headed off his melt down. 
  • I questioned if I was being to hard on him and expecting to much. 
  • I wondered and I worried and I wrestled with myself and what to do. 
 It's hard when there are no clear, easy answers.  I was prepared for a battle of a day.  This was one time I was determined not to back down and just give in.

Class ended and Evan got back into the car with smiles and excited chatter like our morning never even happened.  He asked for his paper and pencil back and finished all of his work on the car ride home.  He worked happily; suddenly knowing all the answers that he didn't know his morning.  Who was this kid and what caused the changes??  I have no idea but I was grateful.

 It looked like our day was turning itself around... but it really wasn't. 

Read Aloud Time:
We arrived home, prepared lunches and settled in to read together.  While waiting for all the boys to change and get ready to eat I looked over everyone's schoolwork and with the exception of Alec's math sheet everything was completed and done correctly. The boys were eager to listen the stories and we read three more chapters in the I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor.

We then started reading Luba: the Angel of the Bergen- Belson.  I only made it part way through before I stopped.  The boys were being so loud and after several stops and re-starts I finally tossed the book onto the floor and told them to finish it themselves.  They are often loud and start wrestling when I try to read and while I don't expect them to sit still, I do remind them often that they need to keep quiet enough that I don't have shout our story.  Sometimes it's much harder to ignore and I think after this morning I had just had enough today.

Our Day Once Again Started Taking a Nose Dive!

 Ian started sobbing that he couldn't read it (WRONG argument!) I reminded him that he was in middle school and should be easily able to read a picture book.  I told him in no uncertain terms that I was not finishing it but he was responsible for telling me about it later.  He sighed and settled down to read (with tears streaming), while Alec settled down to finish his math paper.

Alec often gets creative with his coloring
I pulled Evan into the other room and reminded him that after this morning's fiasco we're going to be working more on reading and reading skills.  We reviewed all of his sight word flashcards, reviewed the letters and sounds we've learned so far in his reading lessons book and them completed three more pages in his book.  We also read two more Dick and Jane stories.  He did amazing!

Ian reported to me on the ending of the book and as he did he worked on a drawing of a plow truck.  Once he was done he headed upstairs to watch a John Deere movie and used my computer to request a few more.  Alec was mostly done his math worksheet by then and took a break to read the ending of the Luba book. He too reported to me about what happened and then I settled down to read the ending of the book to Evan.  With all the schoolwork finally completed the younger two boys settled down to watch the rest of Inkheart.  We popped some popcorn and Ian came down to watch the rest of the movie with us too once his movie was over.

Our Day Had Once Again Turned Around and We Were Enjoying Our Time Together.

I was typing up my blog and the boys were all pretty quiet.  We were getting ready to take the cat to the vet's office in a while and the boys were all sitting at our table.  They had each pulled out a color by number book and were happily coloring away.  They invited me to join them and Evan asked me to help him color his peacock.  We were all happy and laughing and I couldn't help thinking what a roller coaster of a day we'd had.

The ups and downs, laughter and tears, highs and lows are all part of life, I know, but some days they're just exhausting!

Ian's Russia picture 

Alec's garden picture 
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  1. I could've written most of this myself today! After a few of Luke's meltdowns (like yesterday) I just looked at him and thought.....I'm not sure we're going to work well together, someone else may need to teach him or take him away after I teach him- he does the work just fine, it's the emotional roller coaster he's on all day! Same birth month- must be the personality type lol


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