Well the holidays are practically here. Some have even come and gone. This is the time when those of us that have children in traditional schools are getting ready to have them home for a season. My daughter's college is out for 6 weeks! Eee Gads, now there is some adjusting going to need to take place in OUR home. I'll bet the same is true for yours! Between the holiday cooking, the guests visiting and throwing schedules, the traditional school students on break and the positive and negative stresses that come with all of the above, you probably have a lot on your plate! I am not sure I am going to make your plate any cleaner, but I might be able to offer a few ideas about navigating the madness of having all your children home for an extended period of time.
I often get questions from my newer homeschooling moms asking me about things like "how am I going to deal with my clingy child EVERY day, when I am used to having her in a more traditional setting to give her socialization time and give myself some 'me' time?" This is simply a variation that I get from traditional school parents who ask - "what WILL I do all Summer/ Winter break/ Spring Break, etc.) And the question is perfectly legitimate.
If you have students in any traditional school environment, they have, for the most part, been advised what to do every minute of every day. The time that they come home for an 8 hour day becomes very challenging for them. They are used to (5 days a week) being entertained and directed. If you have an ONLY child and are homeschooling (or your other students are in a more traditional setting) that child may be expecting YOU to be their entertainment director. You may have gotten in the habit of being that director without thinking about it.
Think about this, your child comes up to you and tells you "I'm bored". You have a variety of ways to deal with it. 1) "Go find something to do", 2)"Here, let me put on this video for you.", 3) "Go bother Daddy, sister, brother, etc."., and 4) "Okay, let's play a game". (and no, you can't do hide and seek where you hide somewhere NO ONE can find you! ). Within reason, each of these answers have their moments. Most of these answers won't help you ward off the next time though.
One thing that I had to learn to do when my children were younger was use a timer - a LOT! Each time they came to me when I was doing something I deemed more critical than entertaining them at that moment, I would set a timer and tell them when I would be available to be with them. This made me accountable to them and they realized that I wasn't putting them off forever, but just for a few minutes. When I was playing with them, if I had a busy day, sometimes I still set the timer and told them I could only play with them until the timer beeped and then I had to go on to whatever. The children learned that there were times for fun and times for other things. My children knew that there would always be fun times, and that was an important lesson.
As my children got older, we did some other things. Once they could write, I would have them do an "I"m bored jar" the first time they came and complained about being bored. Since they obviously really didn't feel like doing anything in their repertoire of things to do, I made sure that they knew they didn't HAVE to do anything (this time) that was in the jar. Some children will decorate the jar or can or whatever and some will just want to make it and walk away, but either way, it gave them a relatively self-directed activity that took them some time to do. Then I would tell them: Take this piece of paper and list (in no particular order) things that you CAN do when you are bored. Remember we aren't going to DO any of them, but list all the things we can do. They would list inside and outside activities. A sample list would include: riding my bike, coloring in my Cartoon Coloring Book, playing with my Barbies, playing Nintendo, etc. We had a rule that no one could watch TV until after 3 so that was not included in the list. For your family, that may be different. Then I added some items to the jar: clean the bathroom, sweep the kitchen floor, practice your multiplication tables, whatever. All the items went in the jar. Then the jar went to the child's room. We had this agreement. If the child came to me "bored" again, then he had to pick an item out of the I'm bored jar and do it - no matter what the event was. My children spent hours designing and writing their bored jar items, but only actually had to be sent to it one time. They remembered all the fun things IN it and didn't want to catch one of the less fun things. That ended the I'm bored for elementary grades.
Older grades are more challenging. If your students are at home all the time, they can probably play board games with their siblings, help or completely prepare a meal (or plan one), play card games or board games with you. They also can make up board games for the younger ones. ("Mary, little David is having trouble with his times tables, can you make up a game that will help him with that?") Some teens blossom with those opportunities.
Of course, with more folks in the house more often, there is also an increase of cleaning and home responsibilities that need to be done. Each child can help on their level for those items. A job chart is a terrific way to make sure that everything gets done with no nagging. That's a discussion for another day, but each home has their own plan for those kinds of charts. Having one and consistently following it can make a huge difference in how smoothly your home runs during this time.
My hope is that you will be able to ENJOY your holidays and ENJOY your family, even if it does take a little getting used to having everyone there. No one else could have made your family the way it is. Holidays should be an opportunity to celebrate them as well as other WONDERFUL events!
This article was originally published in Homeschooler's Notebook, a free newsletter created by veteran homeschooler Lynn Hogan. Lynn also hosts Unit Study Helps, a website full of helpful resources and information including a message board, a free e-mail homeschooling newsletter, a frequently asked questions page and more. You can sign up for Lynn's newsletter directly by sending a blank e-mail to email@example.com or by visiting Unit Study Helps.