As you probably have already noticed, the smell of pencils, markers, and notebooks are wafting through the isles of just about every store. This must mean just one thing. Back-to-school is upon us once again. For most parents, this means a much needed break from the chaos that summer boredom has created. But, what if our kids aren’t going to a brick-and-mortar school? What if they are remaining with us? This can bring a lot of concern for parents who may be questioning if they can really pull off schooling at home – especially when there are special needs to consider. So how do you stay motivated when you homeschool with special needs? The answers are way simpler than you might think…
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A wise admiral once said, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” The truth is that most of us don’t want to change the world. We simply want to get through our day and feel like we have accomplished something. Well, it may seem simplistic, but the best way to get something accomplished is to “do something.” Take for instance “making your bed.” It’s a pretty mundane task all by itself. But what if it is the first of many seemingly mundane tasks that lead to other more important things?
One of the best ways to get motivated is to do something seemingly small. Maybe you spent the night with a child that won’t sleep to save his life. You are tired, and the last thing you can imagine is a math lesson today. I get it! All of us who have been there get it. Maybe you don’t need to start with a math lesson. In fact, maybe you don’t even have to tackle math today at all – at least in the typical sense.
What if today you just play a matching game and call it math? This could change the mood and lighten the tension, so that you can begin to tackle other learning objectives as the day progresses. In the end, one bad day, one bad week or even one tough month does not have to define your homeschool experience, and surely will not prevent your child from achieving their full potential.
Being flexible just might be the biggest tool in the homeschooling tool belt. For most of us, it is a huge reason why we started to homeschool in the first place. This is why it is sort of funny how we can sometimes forget to be flexible with our kids. As special needs parents, we know better than anyone how difficult a day can be. Plans have been made, and everything is perfectly in order, and then something happens, right? For some, anxiety has consumed the day, and for others, concentration and focus have bounced out the window as if they were Tigger.
If you build flexibility into your day, things will of course go that much more smoothly. It may even work better if you allow your child to plan their own day. I know that I am way more motivated if I have some say in how I get my work done, and our kids really are no different. By giving your students the flexibility to organize their learning, you have also given them the freedom to change things up as needed. This can help to lesson any anxiety surrounding their learning, as well as help them to work when they are more focused and motivated.
Keep A Routine Framework…
Remaining flexible, however, does not mean that you don’t keep a routine framework. You see a routine framework is actually quite different from a schedule or a regular routine. The word routine implies that the program is fixed, and this simply does not work for most special needs families. However, if your children are anything like mine, they need some sort of structure. This is where a routine framework comes into play.
With a routine framework, there is a structure put into place, but this structure has some give. Think earthquake resistant. The newer buildings are created with the idea that they must have some play and give in them to withstand the tremors and earthquakes that happen from time to time. Without this give, the whole structure can come crumbling down. The same goes for special needs homeschooling families. The routine framework needs to have solid structure with some give, so that it can withstand the earthquakes that enter our daily lives without completely crumbling.
Have An Open-Mind…
When I first started schooling at home, I had some very unrealistic ideas of how things would go. My vision of homeschooling was using a boxed curriculum (preferably an online one) that would meet all of my children’s educational needs. And of course there would be rainbows and sunshine and happy little learners too. Needless to say that did not work, and everyone was miserable.
Fast forward to today, and you will see that every child in my home has their own learning path, and no two paths look anything alike. Guess what? It works! Keeping my mind open to other methods, and realizing that the reason I began schooling at home in the first place was to be creative and flexible, really opened up the learning options. Having more than one option sets up some freedoms and allows for a backup when something fails.
Perfection Is A Lie…
As parents, it is so easy to fall into the perfection trap. If our child is failing at something, we have a tendency to blame ourselves. What if I told you that our child’s failures and successes really have little to do with us? It’s true! Yes, we are here to guide them to become the best adults they can be, but that really is where our involvement ends. Our children will fail, and for many, many reasons. It could be a lack of motivation on their part, or it could be that they can’t see the future quite as clearly as we can. And, the one most of us don’t really like to hear is they may not have the abilities to do what we are asking of them.
At any rate, perfection does not exist, and the sooner we accept this fact, the sooner we can really enjoy the people that our children are becoming. I have three grown children and none of them are doing what I envisioned when they were little. All of them are doing what makes them happy and doing so successfully. Did it always look pretty while they were getting there? Of course not. The path to success is messy and perfectly imperfect. Remembering this will save you lots of time and a huge amount of sanity.
Give Yourself A Break…
The special needs life is hard. Making the choice to homeschool doesn’t make that any easier either. There will be times that you need a break. Please don’t feel guilty for taking them. We have had a couple of seasons plagued with major surgeries. We took lots of breaks for sure. Like I said earlier, even a tough month does not have to take over. Sometimes a break is necessary for everyone’s sanity and well being. Trust me. When the break is over, and everyone is working to their full potential, you will gain any lost ground.
If you are finding that you have lost your motivation to homeschool, don’t give up. We have all been there a a time or two. Use these tricks to stay motivated when you homeschool with special needs. If you would like a bit more motivation today, why not check out some of the other posts from the Review Crew? To do just that, simply click the link below.
Here are some of the blogs who are participating in the 5 Days of Homeschool Encouragement this year!
Amanda @ Hopkins Homeschool
Angie @ Run Ran Family Adventures & Learning
Annette @ A Net in Time
Ashley @ Gift of Chaos
Betty @ Let’s Get Real
Brenda @ Counting Pinecones
Carol @ Home Sweet Life
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses