Well after the week we had last week, I realized that writing down my ideas on how we handle a meltdown may help me to remember what to do (instead of screaming) and maybe it would help you too. I will admit that as wonderful as everything looks here, in reality we have some days that are shockingly bad for everyone! Last week was a good example of all of that. We had come off a long, busy weekend, we had time change which always throws everyone off for a few days, and…well…I was feeling a bit emotional. All of this was a recipe for disaster and disaster it almost was! From Monday thru Thursday, everything with school was a fight. There were tears on all sides and some epic tantrums from the older of my darlings. It was a few days that left me thinking that something was really wrong and this homeschooling could not be working out well at all! Then I decided on Thursday morning that I need to rein things in and find a way to make this work. What we had going on was that Bunny hated all school work. Everything she could choose was boring, and hated it all! When told she needed to pick something other then coloring, there was yelling and tears. Pup was whiny and wouldn’t put anything away. She had things out everywhere! As I sat there looking at my crying daughter, work and materials out everywhere, and no productivity at all, the question was, What would Montessori Do? Seriously. Yelling and screaming didn’t help anyone, and clearly something needed to happen. So after a good nights rest (yes, we called it day on Wed), here is what we did to change things up a bit and make things run a bit smoother.
1. Choices are Limited: When things are getting crazy and everything is boring or not fun, offer a choice. Normally I will ask Bunny to choose a math work. But all that got me was tears and a long dicription of why she hated it and how she wished she was little again. So, come Thursday I changed what I said. I asked if she would like to do the bead frame or if she would like to work with fractions. Limiting her choice seems like you are taking the essence of Montessori away from her, but its really not. Maria Montessori says: To give a child liberty is not to abandon him to himself. Sometimes a child is more then capable of handeling complete freedom within the environment, sometime they are not and need to have help in managing it. This means that there are time when a child needs to be pulled close and offered a limited amount of choices. Often this will help to prevent a meltdown and start the work that a child finds enjoyable!
2. New is always fun: Another thing that I did was to pulled out some new work! I showed Bunny a new fraction work! New work will almost always stop whining, meltdowns, and well everything else. New means fun and exciting! So make a new tray, find something different, or pull out a whole presentation that they haven’t seen. With Pup, playdough with some new tools took care of a meltdown just a little bit ago! So think outside the box!
3. Start with Simple Work: Another thing that I have found works well, is to let them start with simple work! Practical Life trays, coloring, a puzzle, circle time…something that lets then start thinking without having to work really hard makes the transition into deeper work easier! I have a tendancy to jump right into the to do list, but then we all end stressed out. You have to warm up before working out, and I think kids need to warm their brain up before working it out too!
4. Take a Break: When things start to get stressful and you can see a meltdown start to happen, take a break! Have a snack, read a book, do a new presentation, play a game, or simply walk away for a few minutes. Do something that relieves the stress, then go back to what you were working on before! We all need to walk away when things seem too stressful and kids do too! We just need to remind them sometimes!
5. Get Active: Never underestimate a kids need to move! Even older kids get jumpy and have a hard time focusing. So plan some active learning into your day or even just take a break to do some! Head out for a nature walk, do some Yoga, walk the line, have a race, play a game, ride some bikes, what ever you know your kiddo needs! It will clear their head (and yours) to allow for better, more meaningful work!
6. Get Creative: Doing an art project or getting out some paint is a great way to change you are thinking! It is using a whole different part of the brain and that can make a huge difference! Just the other day, Pup was whining and getting mad about all her work, but then she asked to paint some cheetahs and I gave in. After that she wanted to work on a lot of other things! It calmed her down and set her to thinking! So don’t be afraid of paint and glitter! Make it washable and it can change attitudes quickly!
7. Know when to call it: Seriously, sometime its just not going to work and calling it a day is the only way you are going to save it. Learning should be fun and a place where both you and your child walk away hating every second of time in the school room is not going to end well in the long run! Maybe there is a trip to the library or a park or a movie that can watch instead. There are a million ways to learn and not all of them in the classroom! Sometimes its just not a school day!
Homeschooling is really hard and sometimes it just doesn’t look pretty. We all have those days (or that kind of week in this case) and it helps to have a list of things that can disfuse the situation. Meltdowns happen and sometimes you can do anything about it, but maybe there are moments where remembering a few tips can make all the difference! I know it does for me! If you have a tip that helps your family out in a meltdown, please share it in the comments! After all, we are here to help each other! Happy Schooling Everyone!