The Homeschool Meltdown

“What just happened?  School was going really well and suddenly my child is in a puddle on the floor.”

If you have been homeschooling for a bit, you’ve probably experienced this drastic turnaround. Your child is frustrated; you are frustrated.  What can you do now?

Find the Source of the Frustration

Before reacting to an outburst, first take a moment to think about what could be the cause of the frustration.

  • Frustration over a behavior flaw:
    Were they in trouble earlier in the day or a moment ago?  Is it a subject they don’t like, so they refuse to participate without some form of contention?  
  • Frustration over a lack of understanding:
    Is the subject you are working on right now the problem?  Is it possible they were frustrated earlier, and now any tiny thing sets them off?  Were they frustrated with this subject yesterday, and now the thought of the topic comes with a bad feeling?
  • Frustration over too much seat work
    Have they been sitting for too long?  Or has the lesson gone on longer than it should?
  • Frustration over a larger problem
    Maybe your child is experiencing so much change that a little frustration can erupt into a giant blow-up because of an underlying issue.  

Keep the Lessons Short

For younger kids, an extended lesson will likely end poorly, no matter how engaging the topic is.  Here is a suggested chart for the length of lessons per age category:

  • 10 – 15 minutes for elementary
  • 30 – 45 minutes for middle school
  • 45 minutes – 1 hour for high school

Go Back to the Beginning

Make sure your child understands all the parts of the topic.  If he understood things and suddenly is frustrated, something may have been missed without either one of you noticing it.  Nothing breeds frustration like a missing piece of the puzzle.  It might seem boring to you to repeat things they’ve learned over and over, but there is beauty in repetition (think poetry), and repetition over time helps them remember what’s been learned over the long term.

Give Lots of Grace and Encouragement

Your attitude should not reflect your child’s reaction.  In other words, don’t have a meltdown yourself.  Easier said than done, right?  Stay calm and maintain a grace-filled attitude to help them through this challenging issue. 

If you have already lost your cool, don’t worry, we’ve been there, too.  Just apologize.  Encourage them that even though they might not understand it right now that you will both work together to understand the topic.  

Take a Step Back from the Topic for a Time

Communicate to your child that you know this is a frustrating topic.  If you’ve worked to identify the source and still they are having trouble, let them know you will take a short break from it.  Don’t completely abandon the subject or topic.  The idea is to double back, rethink your strategy, and present the material in a different light. 

It could very well be that your child is too young for the subject, and a short reprieve from the topic altogether may allow time for maturity.  This will give you time to research curricula or read articles other homeschool families have to share about moving forward with the issue. 

Prevent Further Meltdowns

There is no guarantee you can prevent a meltdown in the future. However, knowing your child’s frustrations can help you look for ways to work around the problem.  Talk with your child.  Help them to communicate their frustrations to you before the meltdown phase, if they are old enough.  If they don’t have enough words to communicate their problem to you, consider waiting to teach the topic until they are older.  Research other curricula that might be a better fit for your family.  Keep encouraging your child that they are smart and capable of learning, and let them know that it’s ok not to get it!

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