When I was a classroom teacher in the late 1990’s, we had a lot of boring staff meetings after school. I don’t remember any of them. Except for one.
It was a meeting with a presentation about mental hygiene.
Mental hygiene? What on earth is that? That term cracked me up. Even when I say it to myself now, over 20 years later, I still chuckle. Who on earth came up with mental hygiene?
I guess nobody started using the phrase self-care until later.
In the meeting, the presenters talked about ways that us teachers could maintain our “mental hygiene” when we were especially stressed.
This tended to be the times of the year when kids were particularly misbehaved: when winter holidays or the end of the school year drew near. First year teachers were assumed to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown all year round.
The only mental hygiene tip I remember from that meeting was to listen to our favorite songs on the car stereo before we came into the building in the morning.
Fair enough! Done.
So I followed instructions and listened to my favorite Spice Girls songs as I drove myself to school in my Honda Civic every morning.
Did it help? Yes, but only for about 10 minutes. Singing to Spice Girls songs early every morning didn’t carry me through the day.
But, over the years, I came up with a few strategies of my own. Let me share them with you.
Holiday Survival tips for the Homeschool Mom While Homeschooling
1. Teach short units. These few weeks between Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas and New Year is the time for short learning units in your homeschool.
You don’t want to stop in the middle of a long, involved unit and try to pick it up again after a homeschooling break for winter holidays. It’s best to start with a fresh new curricular unit after the new year.
Depending on where you are on in your curriculum, you may not be able to plan a short unit right now. In that case, simply find a reasonable stopping point part way through.
It’s like when your kids are playing video games and it’s almost time for dinner. You give them their 15, 10, and 5-minute warnings that they’ll have to log off and come to the table. This gives them an opportunity to find a good stopping place where they can save their progress in the game and pick it up easily later.
2. If you finish your short units earlier than intended, plan enrichment activities. Enrichment activities dive further in depth with the content of a unit. Their goal is to deepen, reinforce, and cement learning.
Enrichment activities are memorable, creative, and fun. They’re a plus to your learning units all year round when you can make time for them.
Skits, role plays, or hands on projects like making a shadow box out of your old shoeboxes are excellent enrichment activities. It’s easy to add rigor to them with a writing component too. For example, you could instruct the kids to write a script for their role play first or add a written explanation of the shadow box on the back of it.
3. Block out your homeschooling days off in your planner and stick to them. No matter what. Don’t threaten fewer days off as a punishment for misbehavior.
Holiday season tends to be a hard time to keep kids focused on their work. They’re so excited about holiday fun! Aren’t you? Even if your holidays take a different shape because of the pandemic, expect your kids to be extra fidgety and easily distracted this time of year.
If you have to threaten one or several of your kids with a consequence to get them to do their school work, make sure that consequence doesn’t punish you and everyone else in your household.
Remember, consequences can be pretty simple. A punishment of one day of no Spongebob Squarepants cartoons delivered in your best stern voice can make the kids cower.
Consequences can also be productive. I’m sure there are lots of extra chores to do as preparations for the holidays move into full swing. How about giving them an extra chore to do? After all, isn’t your oven quite dirty from all the Thanksgiving cooking spill overs?
As I’ve mentioned in a past post, incentive plans for good behavior can be powerful. Kids love praise, and being a good helper is very praiseworthy.
4. Do a formative assessment in all subjects the first day back to homeschooling after a holiday break. Then, plan to spend a day or so of homeschool to review information they’ve forgotten.
Hint: The more enrichment activities you’re able to do, the less content material they’ll forget.
Now, let’s talk about ways to keep up your “mental hygiene” after homeschooling hours.
Holiday Survival Tips for the Homeschool Mom After Homeschooling for the Day (And During a Pandemic)
Let’s face it. While the holidays are fun, they’re also full of stress. There’s a lot of work and preparation involved. And I know you want to make everything perfect as possible for your family, especially this year.
But in this pandemic year, it’s more important than ever to manage your stress. This year, that takes priority over getting through your holiday to-do list. Your family needs you as happy and stress free as possible.
“Do the things you can do and don’t worry about the things you can’t do.” ~John Wooden
That’s your mantra this year. Your best isn’t going to look the same every day. Do what you can, and when you fail, give yourself grace.
1. Delegate, or don’t do it.
Don’t like roasting a turkey? Then don’t. Make something else for your holiday dinner or let your teenagers roast it. It’ll be a good learning experience for them, and they may take you less for granted.
Do you love to cook but hate the cleanup? Make everybody else clean up while you relax on the couch and have a second piece of pie.
Here’s a crazy idea: order the entire dinner online and use disposable plates!
2. Be honest about what you truly enjoy doing during the holidays and what’s just work. Discard the “just work” activities.
This applies to non-required holiday activities. For example, do you bake ten kinds of cookies for the cookie boxes you give out to your friends and neighbors every year? Only bake 5 kinds of cookies this year, and pick simple cookie recipes.
If the whole project fills you with dread, skip it.
3. Take time to do something you enjoy every day. Everybody needs something to look forward to, including you, mama.
If you’re like me and every married woman with children I know, you’re working all day long and into the evening while the rest of the family stops at dinnertime. You’re either working on your homeschool plan, organizing your household calendar, you name it.
Give yourself lots of credit for the work you do. Moms tend to get taken for granted, and we’re underpaid too.
Do your best to set your own quitting time for the day and stick to it. Better yet, get out of the house and your normal errand route. Shower, get dressed in some clean clothes, put on a little makeup under your mask and go somewhere different. Somewhere you’d like to go that’s not an errand.
4. Plan the Zoom calls with the family. Make time to connect with loved ones who lift your spirits, and give your kids the same opportunities.
This can be particularly important for the extroverts in the family who struggle more with the lack of social interaction than your introverts.
Talking to the people your life with whom you can be yourself, make you laugh, and feel whole are priceless.
5. Keep up with physical activity and exercise even though the days are shorter. Every day. Go outside and get that vitamin D. You send the kids outside for their health, don’t you? Make sure you do the same for yourself.
What are your holiday season survival strategies? Are you adjusting them this year? Tell me all about it!