11 Sure-Fire Ways to Salvage a Bad Homeschool Day

Bored father and son working at table
Chris Ryan / Getty Images

With homeschooling, as with parenting in general, bad days are inevitable. You can be proactive and take some simple steps to ensure a smoother homeschool day, but eventually, you’re going to come face to face with bad attitudes and grumpy students (or their teacher).

When that happens, there are a few tried-and-true ways to salvage a bad homeschool day.

1. Call a restart.

Some days you just want a do-over – so take one!

I remember one day when my children were young (early elementary age and younger) and our day got off to an incredibly rocky start. I finally called everyone to the middle of the room and explained that the fact that we were all grumpy told me that we each needed a hug. So, we passed a hug around our little circle of four until everyone was giggling.

I’ve heard of families making everyone get back in bed so that they can try getting out on the “right side” the second go around.

Granted, those ideas might not work as well with older kids, but even teens can understand that we all have bad days. If I’m the cause, I apologize to my teens, and we go from there.

If they’re the cause, I point out (nicely) that they’re being grumpy and hope that they’re feeling mature enough to reel it in, and dealing with it using appropriate consequences when necessary. (I've noted that with teens, attitudes often improve after a meal and some time to wake up.)

2. Get outside.

Fresh air and sunshine can make a world of difference in sour attitudes, no matter the age of the kids (or their parents!). The cure for a bad homeschool day is often a walk around the block or some free play time in the backyard.

A grumpy homeschool day may be the perfect time for some nature study.

Taking some time off from your regular routine for a nature study day allows you to reset the bad attitudes while still getting in science, journaling, and art (assuming everyone keeps a nature journal).

3. Take an impromptu field trip.

A change of scenery can be the perfect antidote for a bad homeschool day, especially if the bad day is the result of the winter blues or cabin fever. If bad attitudes reign or the day is just not going according to plan, sometimes it’s wise to throw in the towel and look for educational alternatives to seatwork – and field trips can be the ideal solution!

Head to the zoo just to explore, with a camera to photo journal, or with a simple scavenger hunt (such as: find a mammal from Australia, find a member of Class Aves, find a reptile). Visit a museum to admire the paintings. If you have young children and a nearby children’s museum, the family membership may be the best money you spend all year! 

4. Read.

Put the textbooks and worksheets aside for the day and learn through captivating literature, engaging biographies, and exciting historical fiction, or even just "brain candy."

It’s a win-win situation because everyone is getting in reading practice and they're learning.

Even if your kids choose just-for-fun books, they’re being exposed to new vocabulary and exercising their imaginations picturing the events about which they’re reading. And no one can bicker and read at the same time, especially if everyone retreats to his or her own room or reading spot.

5. Watch documentaries.

A bad homeschool day doesn’t mean learning has to stop. Turn to an educational TV channel, YouTube, Netflix, or similar source for documentaries. Choose those related to your current topic of study or just go with what captures your interest. I’ll never forget spending a couple of hours watching a documentary on bees with my husband before we had kids. You never know what might catch your (or your kids') attention.

Sometimes documentaries bring an otherwise boring subject to life in a way that textbooks can’t.

My children don’t always share my love for American history, but my youngest daughter had to admit that the DVD series loaned to us by a friend is fascinating, and she willingly watches it. 

6. Change things up.

You may be shocked to discover that the smallest changes can frequently yield surprising results. One of the most effortless ways to reset a bad homeschool day is by simply changing the order of the day's assignments.

If you usually do math first, start with something more creative. If you usually start with reading, see what your kids think about knocking math out of the way first thing. Getting hands-on with a history or science activity can be a welcome change of pace from seatwork. 

7. Visit the library.

A trip to the library can be a terrific way to break the monotony of a bad homeschool day (provided you don’t have babies and toddlers who may wreak more havoc at the library than at home). Head to the library to choose new books or DVDs for school or pleasure.

Take advantage of Story Time or other activities for kids, or bring your school books along. Sometimes working in a different environment may be all the change you need. (Coffee shops may yield similar results, particularly with teenagers.)

8. Take a power nap.

The best way to salvage a bad homeschool day may be to go back to bed to rest for a bit rather than symbolically getting up on the right side of it. A 20-30 minute power nap may be just what you need to reset everyone's equilibrium.

9. Phone a friend.

Let’s face it, moms (and dads).

Sometimes we’re the source of a bad homeschool day. Whether we’re stressed, worried, or just in a bad mood, talking things over with a friend or loved one can help us put the day (or our worries) into perspective and get us back to a more positive frame of mind.

10. Compromise.

A bad homeschool day may be the result of a student feeling overwhelmed. If his stress seems valid, consider a compromise. Perhaps he need only complete the odd-numbered problems in his math workbook. (I used to love when my teachers would do that!)

Maybe the assigned book really is boring or difficult to understand. Would she get the same results from choosing a more engaging title, listening to an audio book, or reading the abridged version? Maybe you could take turns reading aloud together – your student reading one page and you reading the next.

11. Power through.

Sometimes a bad school day is the result of nothing more than a good, old-fashioned bad mood (yours or your children’s) that doesn’t need to be “rewarded” with compromise or a change of scenery. Those are the days in which you grab a second cup of coffee or tea or break into your hidden stash of chocolate and power through – with the sincere hope that tomorrow is a better day.

There are many practical steps that you can take to salvage a bad homeschool day, however many consecutive bad days may mean it’s time for a change. You may need to consider tweaking your homeschool curriculum or changing it altogether if less-than-stellar days have become the norm.


mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Bales, Kris. "11 Sure-Fire Ways to Salvage a Bad Homeschool Day." ThoughtCo, Oct. 12, 2016, thoughtco.com/sure-fire-ways-to-salvage-a-bad-homeschool-day-4101413. Bales, Kris. (2016, October 12). 11 Sure-Fire Ways to Salvage a Bad Homeschool Day. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/sure-fire-ways-to-salvage-a-bad-homeschool-day-4101413 Bales, Kris. "11 Sure-Fire Ways to Salvage a Bad Homeschool Day." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/sure-fire-ways-to-salvage-a-bad-homeschool-day-4101413 (accessed November 20, 2017).