Friday, January 30, 2009

Yellow Bus Blues

Yes, folks ... it's almost February. And as anyone whose been homeschooling for any length of time already knows, February is The Month When It All Falls Apart.

At least, that's what it feels like. Consider what your average homeschooling mom deals with on any given day in February:

  • Kids who would rather bicker with each other than listen to a read-aloud.
  • A telephone that is far more tempting than the scheduled science project (which is probably missing key ingredients, anyhow).
  • A laundry pile that has somehow begun to double overnight and is now threatening to take over the kitchen.
  • An AWANA calendar that cheerfully reminds you that you have only 8 weeks left to help your T&Ter through the last oh, five Discoveries.
  • A son who hates his co-op classes.
  • A toddler who suddenly thinks that napping is boring.
  • A daughter that runs screaming when she hears the words "math worksheet."
  • Cabin fever, thanks to crummy weather and snotty noses.
  • And that legendary homeschooling mother creativity? Well ... it took a spur of the moment trip to the Bahamas, and invited its buddy motivation along for the ride.

This is Yellow Bus Blues season, guys. You know exactly what I mean--the time of year when you watch the big yellow bus drive happily down your street each morning, stopping at each knot of huddled children, whisking them off to be educated far away from their own kitchen tables. You see the beautifully coiffed mothers of these children, walking away from the bus stop in their jogging pants with contented smiles, good friends and plans for meeting up at Starbucks later after some intense Facebook time. And you? Well, you've got a week's backlog of math lessons and phonics reader waiting in the wings. And did I mention that the breakfast dishes are still in the sink?

Yellow Bus Blues, I'm telling you. It's enough to make even a dedicated homeschooling momma throw her hands up in the air and admit defeat.

I've already fielded three phone calls from desperate moms in my support group who are feeling the sheer desperation of knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this isn't what they signed up for after all. They are failures. Their well-intentioned plans didn't stick. Their children aren't interested in learning. Their houses are a wreck. And, at the end of the day, there are woefully few shiny, happy moments to revel in.

Take courage, homeschooling moms. You are not alone.

Over the years, I've come up with a handful of tools to combat my own bouts of Yellow Bus Blues. I'll share a few of them here in the hopes that they might inspire someone to hang in there. After all ... spring is just right around the corner.

  1. Mix it up. Ditch the usual routine for a week and try a unit study. There are hundreds available online, and it won't cost you a dime. For maximum effect (ie, cooperation from your children) ask them to come up with an idea of what to study.
  2. Try a new schedule. Sometimes all it takes is some discipline. Buckle down and charge ahead. Before you know it, the season has passed.
  3. Tour your local public school. No, I'm not joking. There is nothing that will remind you quite as clearly why you chose a different path than peeking in an institutionalized classroom.
  4. Take a field trip. For that matter, take two. Don't let the weather stop you.
  5. Waste an afternoon with a webquest. All the better if you have no idea what I'm talking about. Your kids will enjoy learning along with you.
  6. Add a new element to your homeschooling. If you've never done a lapbook before, give it a try. Listen to an audiobook together instead of reading aloud (hey, you can do something with your hands now, too!)
  7. Get some support. Talk to someone who has BTDT and get a little empathy.
  8. Schedule a Valentine's party with another homeschooling family. If your house is trashed and you don't want to host, take the pressure off of both of you and meet at a McDonald's Playplace. Bring your craft supplies and set up shop. Seriously ... as long as you're buying something and cleaning up the glitter, what do they care what you're doing at the table?

So what about you? What's your favorite way to beat Yellow Bus Blues? Leave your ideas in a comment and inspire someone in the trenches!


blessedmomto7 said...

I love being able to call and get support from a friend ESPECIALLY with so many NAYSAYERS our there AND changing up the schedule like you said AND EVEN THINKING about what they would go through in public school is enough to get me back on track. ALSO just playing around, playing games and CHILLIN' with the kids! The beauty-YOU ARE THE TEACHER-there's NO PRESSURE-do what YOU want :)

Heather said...

cute post! it's funny because i'm at the stage right now of decided to homeschool or not and your post while a little scary, is exactly what i needed to read! i want the honest to goodness truth about homeschooling.. all the ups AND downs! atleast then i can go into it being somewhat prepared as to emotions, stress, etc. I think that will help on some sort of level once I'm in for the count! LOL. Thanks!!

Mama JJ said...

Some more suggestions: Skip school work all together and declare a week long holiday/cleaning party/bake fest/etc. Or, go visit family for several days. Or, if you're fortunate to have other homeschooling friends/family close by, arrange a childcare swap and take a break. Or leave the kids with hubby for several hours and run into town for some computer time at a coffee shop or a long walk...

Obviously, you have hit on something that I think about and deal with quite often!


Vix said...

Thank you for the webquest link!!!!

SmallWorld at Home said...

Excellent ideas! I have a post on my blog called "Combating the January Blahs" here:

Sandi (aka Mrs. M) said...

I have had day dreams of my kids riding the big yellow bus since my baby was born 3 months ago. :o)

Having a group for support has always helped me.
And accepting that the only guy who gets his TO DO list finished each day is God himself.

Beth said...

I stumbled across your blog on the RLC site, and so glad I did! I am a newbie homeschooling mom (my oldest son 5), and we are also fostering to adopt our almost 8 month old foster son. I also have a 4 year old and 2 year old daughter.

I'm in good ol' North Carolina (although I hail from Maryland originally). I'll be adding you to my blog role and look forward to gaining bits of wisdom :-)

I have two blogs, one that focuses on family life, and one that focuses on our adoption journey. Feel free to stop by!


Rhonda said...

Great post! We have never tried a lap book so this my just what we need. I am also ordering All About Spelling.

Kristin said...

This is great. If you need a place for listening to good quality books, check out We just listened to Understood Betsy. These are all books in the public domain read by volunteers. They are all excellent.

Frazzled Mom said...

For us, it hits in January right after all the fun of Christmas. I sent out a pre-emptive strike e-mail to our local homeschool group warning about this phenomenon and assuring them that they weren't losing their minds. Here is my blog all about burnout and another blogging friend in the same group posted these tips

Lovingmyamazinglife said...

Thats a great post,lots of good ideas.

Karen (KayKay) said...

Wonderful post! I'm sort of past those days with only one at home, but I remember them all too well. Great suggestions, many of which we actually used to do.

Robin's Reports said...

Wow, you must have been following the treat on the Homeschool Library. A mom there was just talking about the yellow bus.

Timely and relevent!!

Thanks always for your insight and creativity.
Robin of FL (no snow but it's cold and all I wanted to do today was read a book)

Benny said...

I think you had some great ideas. I also tend to bake more goodies when we're feeling like we're in a rut.

So, uh... Hey, do you want to get together and have a Valentine's craft party? ;o) I'm happy to host, that way you won't have red paper scraps on the floor for any realtor showings.


Liz said...

oh yes this is SO the case! thanks for this

Luke said...

I completely agree: Going back and walking the halls of a public school would be a great reminder of why happily dropping your children off at the bus stop is not the whole truth of the matter [smile].