How to Reset a Bad Homeschooling Day - 25+ activities to take your day from disaster to success

I have a little secret to tell you – sometimes, you will have a Bad Homeschooling Day.

I know! Who’d have guessed that homeschooling isn’t all sunshine and lollipops and happy children studying enthusiastically?

Sometimes, bookwork just doesn’t happen smoothly. Maybe we’re tired, distracted, or simply not in the mood. No human performs on schedule, reliably, day in and day out.

Instead of beating yourself up about it, accept it. It happens to everyone. School kids and teachers also have days when things just don’t go well. But we have the flexibility to take a break, refresh, and reset our bad homeschooling days to better homeschooling days.

And there are many ways to do it that don’t involve mindless screen time (because that usually makes the mood worse), and most of these ways are actually educational. Read on!

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28 Way to Reset a Bad Homeschooling Day

Snuggle – Hugs fix everything, right?

Read aloud – This is my #1 calm activity. When I had 4 kids under 3 and the hysteria level was rising I’d pull out a few picture books and it would wave a magical wand of calm. It still works over a decade later.

Go outside – If the weather’s not awful (or even if it is) get outside and get some fresh air.

Listen to an audiobook – Don’t want to read aloud? Audiobooks are the next best thing. We love Epic! For Kids and most libraries provide access to free apps where you can borrow ebooks and audiobooks.

Play Lego – My kids can play Lego for DAYS. Actually, weeks. Literally. When we’ve moved house the Lego is always the first thing to be unpacked…which lets us get on with the less important stuff (you know, like food and bedding).

Boxes are still full, but the Lego is out #homeschoolpriorities

Look back at your achievements – When you’re having a single bad homechooling day it can be easy to think that they’re all bad. And that you suck at homeschooling. Instead of falling into that black hole look back at what you’ve achieved so far and the happier days you’ve had to remind yourself that this isn’t at all true.

Colour in – It’s calm and meditative, and keeps hands busy but allows chatting or listening to read alouds/audiobooks. We love anything by John Green and Bellerophon books.

Get active – You don’t have to run 5kms. Wrestle, have a lounge room dance party, play tag in the backyard – it will all help burn off excess energy and boost endorphins.

Eat – Hanger is real! Eating delicious and healthy food can boost moods instantly. Just skip the sugar and junk – you don’t want any more hyperactivity or mood slumps.

Do a hands-on activity – Crafty and creative stuff can be mentally absorbing, and producing something concrete is satisfying. I have lots of great ideas saved on Pinterest, and if you want ready-made kits we love Kiwi Crates – they provide hours of entertainment and we always learn something new.

Connect – Have you been focusing on doing stuff rather than hanging out with your kids? Sit down and do an activity with them, ask them about their favourite activities, or chat about nothing in particular.

World Heritage rainforest can fix any bad homeschooling day

Cook – Cooking together gives you a common goal, and something great to eat. Plus, licking the bowl makes everyone happy, right?

Clean – this is not my suggestion. Housework makes me more agitated. But the first thing my husband does when things are out of control is housework, to show himself that something is under his control. And I have to admit, a tidy house reduces my stress levels immensely.

Visit the beach/park/forest – Prescribe yourselves some ecotherapy. Walking in nature can have anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects, and there’s always lots of incidental stuff to see and do.

Meditate – Sitting down peacefully for ten minutes can help change the mood. We use the Headspace app, which has lots of guided programs, including meditations for children.

Do some art – Crack out the messy stuff and get creating! Artventure has fantastic tutorials, and Art History Kids has a brilliant free learning library.

Listen to music – Something boppy can help lift a mood and burn some energy, while classical can help calm things down.

Have a shower – It’s relaxing and you’ll feel fresher – and if you’re lucky it’s five minutes you’ll get to yourself.

Read quotes – I love quotes. Other people put ideas into words in ways that can reframe my thinking. I’ve collected over 100 of the best homeschooling and education quotes here for you. And me!

Phone a friend – Because sometimes you just need to chat to another adult.

Visit a museum/art gallery/historical site – Got an interesting local spot you can visit? Head there with no particular goal in mind. It doesn’t have to be big or fancy.

OK, the Verona amphitheatre is big. And fancy.

Hot chocolate and bikkies (biscuits) – Best when paired with a good book. Swap for juice with lots of ice in summer.

Watch a documentary – Become absorbed in an interesting topic. Like everyone else, we love anything with David Attenborough. We also enjoy any historical life documentaries, like Secrets of the Castle.

Board games – Most families love board games. But if nerves are frayed and tempers are flaring, don’t get out anything competitive. Monopoly can quickly turn into a bloodsport.

HIIT – Get active in a quick but intense way. There are lots of short HIIT workouts online – ten minutes will have most people gasping. My kids love nerding out with the role-play fitness programs at DareBee.

Have a Secret Activity Stash – When you see interesting craft and activity kits or colouring books, sneak them into a cupboard. Then when the bad homeschooling days hit you can pull them out, like the ninja homeschooler you are. Again, this is something Kiwi Crates are great for. I had six delivered while we were overseas, and they kept us going all through our jetlag/readjustment period, and then some. I actually still have two stashed in my wardrobe.

KiwiCo Eureka Crate – Mechanical Lock Box

Meet up with others – Call some other homeschoolers, friends, grandparents, whoever is available, and get out and get social!

Go to the library – We love wandering the stacks and browsing books, and when we get home we curl up with our books and read each other interesting snippets.

Read tips from other homeschoolers – lots of homeschoolers are happy to share their hard-earned advice (like here!), so take advantage of it. Read expert tips, tips for when life is crappy, or a great homeschooling book. Normalising your experience and getting fresh ideas always helps – just don’t get sucked down the rabbit hole.

Extra: What NOT to do on a bad homeschooling day

Because we all know there’s a lot of stuff we can do to make it worse, right?

I do, I’ve tried it all!

Push through – You can ignore the moods and push on, using sheer force to get your bookwork done. But it will be a disaster.

Get angry – Get frustrated, yell, stomp, slam your bedroom door – but only if you want your kids to freak out more, and learn that that’s how adults are meant to respond to stress.

Tell yourself you’re not cut out for homeschooling – Because one bad day cancels out all the good ones, right?

Social media – Just don’t start the mindless scrolling. The last thing you need is to see other people’s happy, well-organised homeschools, when yours is chaos. Plus, it’s an inherently empty and unsatisfying activity. You can do better.

Decide you’re lazy and actually not doing enough – Because more of the same will fix the problem, right?

Hide in the bathroom eating chocolate – OK, well….maybe this can work. Just a little bit though.

These suggestions are great if bad homeschooling days are an occasional thing – if they happen every now and again and you can usually find a reason for them, such as late nights.

But if you’re having bad days all the time it’s time to reassess whether you need to make bigger changes. I go through how to do a thorough assessment in Zero to Homeschool, my course that guides you through creating a homeschool that suits your family. If you don’t have access to the comprehensive guide in there, start with the basics.

  • Is the work too easy or too hard? Or just boring?
  • Are you or the kids burned out?
  • Have you got too much on your plate?

Remember, we have the freedom to change what we do to suit our families – take advantage of it and you’ll have many fewer bad homeschooling days!

And if you have any great tips on how you turn around your bad days, let me know in the comments – I’ll add them in.

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