20 Nov 2013

The first day of school has come and gone, and your routine is well underway. Fall can be a time of waning excitement, and perhaps disappointment and discouragement have started to set in. You had a good start, but are realizing that you are only halfway to Christmas break, and there are many long days ahead before you reach the end of your school year. Thinking about it, you may feel like your head is barely staying above water. This can be an overwhelming time for teachers and for students. It’s time for some coping strategies!


Even though sometimes it defaults to last place, prayer should be our first go-to. It may seem unnecessary to point this out, but I frequently need a reminder. When I am in a tense situation and feel like the waves of stress are crashing on my face, I’m usually trying to survive—not stopping the madness to pray. Yet, prayer has the wonderful, inherent quality of infusing peace into every situation. It promotes peace in your home, school and relationships. Prayer also gives you a proper and realistic perspective of what is going on.

Try to approach your days and situations with patience. Knowing that this is easier said than done, do what it takes to get to a place that will actually foster patience. For me, this involves being somewhere alone—my bedroom, my car, my shower, the grocery store. Everyone has their sweet place to go into hiding. One of my favorite ways to escape is to put on my noise-canceling headphones, attach them to my IPod and crank the volume. (Not to a harmful level, of course.) I usually clean something when I do this. It’s a great way to escape while remaining at home. Find that place for yourself, and pray for peace, perspective and patience.

Get Out of Your Box

Sometimes all we need is a change of scenery: to get outside of our homeschool box. My husband and I live in the mountains of North Carolina. One out-of-the-box activity the kids and I did frequently was to pack up all our school books and head to the forest. We live about ten minutes from the Pisgah National Forest, so it was a short drive to freedom. We chose a picnic table near the edge of the road or by the river and set up shop on it. We always had a snack—which sometimes was purchased on the way and was never healthy. We could (and did) stay for hours, and we almost always turned from books to river and forest exploration. Those are great memories!

Another favorite out-of-the-box activity was what became known as Dairy Bar Day. The Dairy Bar is an ice cream stand that is only open in the summer months, and we always felt like we needed to take advantage of those months. Since it costs about four times as much to buy cones as it does to buy cartons of ice cream at the grocery store, we instituted a Dairy Bar jar. Into this jar went all the loose change that was found anywhere in the house, along with any extra money any of us wanted to contribute throughout the week. When we needed a break, or on Tuesdays, we emptied the jar and headed out. This put us outside in the sunshine, engaging in an activity near and dear to our hearts—eating ice cream. We realized that these activities, along with others, provided the escape that helped to change our perspectives. They refueled us, and we were always able to get back in the saddle with more vigor.

Find a Way to Serve Someone

Often, our perspective is wrapped up in the world of me. We start to feel a little discouraged, and then, suddenly, it becomes all about our situation, our problems, our challenges and so on. By no means is this a suggestion that your life demands are insignificant, but it is a suggestion that perhaps a break from thinking about those problems would do them, and you, a world of good.

The best way I have ever heard or experienced to get out of my “me, me, me” thought process, is to obtain a “you, you, you” focus. With your children, find someone who needs something done and do it for them without expectation of a return. There is no shortage of these cases, and you probably won’t have to look farther than your backyard. Listen to people around you. There are people who are really living difficult lives who need a break. Come up with something that would just be nice to do for someone. Take the initiative, don’t discuss it with anyone, and do it—either anonymously, or with their full knowledge.

Take a Short Trip to Somewhere New

You are probably within about thirty minutes of some place you’ve never been before. For us, it was easy to find a small mountain town or a museum or a national historic sight or even a store that we had never explored. Just the addition of new stimuli jumpstarted the creative process again in each of us. We were able to get back to work on our school tasks without the drudgery.

Have a Cooking Party with Your Family

I have a couple of children who like to cook. I have a lot of children who like to eat. And they like to be together. Cooking together is something we have done for many years now. Often, we have someone else come for dinner, too. Sometimes our guests are involved with the process and sometimes not. We have a couple of family favorites; homemade ravioli, grilled pizza, Mexican build-your-own-burrito bar. Each of these means significant prep time. We gather ingredients, make a plan and start early. There is plenty of time for fellowship and laughs, and we usually end up eating much later than we had planned, but it gives us an evening to regroup and strengthen our relationships.

Remember: your school is what you want it to be. It should be tailor-made for your family and its needs. And it should be fluid. It’s OK to take a day and leave the books behind. Part of what you are teaching your children is how to manage stress and difficult situations and how to rejuvenate when they need to. When they are adults, these practices will be vital and will help them function as valuable members of society.

Take a break!