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Curb the Doldrums

At times during the school year we grow so accustomed to the expected regularity of our daily schedule that our momentum turns into moment-hum. Just the other day I did an overly-dramatic imitation for my students of what a few of them have been exuding lately when asking me for help with their schoolwork. I dragged my feet across the room, slouched my shoulders, squinted my eyes while feigning distress, wiped my weary brow with the back of my hand, and after plopping a textbook onto the table, promulgated to the world that I’m just soooo confused, but also too tired and too sick of it to even bear asking about it. We laughed about my dramatic exploit because alas, we recognized there was an element of truth to it! We had an epidemic of the doldrums starting to gain a foothold, and it was causing lackluster mental acuity and down-trodden emotional projections.

Mirriam Webster defines “doldrums” as 1.) a spell of low spirits, 2.) a part of the ocean near the equator known for its calms, or 3.) a state in which nothing seems to be going on. Has your homeschool ever experienced the doldrums? Sometimes all it takes is one person to feel doldrummy (yes, I made up that word), and it becomes contagious: suddenly everyone is either struck with the plight or negatively impacted by it. So what can be done about it? Here are several ways you can help curb the doldrums.

1. Make an epic fort and do school under it. Bring out your old sheets and drape them over a table or across a space in your room, securing the corners with clothes pins. You can even make a series of adjoining forts: one for math, one for watching a geography video, one for snack time…

2. Have a rubber band shooting contest frequently throughout the day. Every time someone finishes a subject, they get to attempt a bullseye and earn a piece of candy (or other reward). Truth be told, I sneak in my own rubber band shooting contests without (most of) my students knowing about it. (I have a lot of rubber-banded items near me practically begging me to shoot them!) From where I sit, I take aim at the hole in the foosball table where the foosballs get collected. After my shot, I nonchalantly wander over to pick up the rubber band and wait for my next sneaky opportunity. Maybe you could try it this way: see if your kids want to make it a game by getting three rubber bands every hour of school and sneaking a shot attempt into their designated target with no one else noticing. The most non-seen targets at the end of the school day wins!

3. Bring out the Legos or some puzzles and let your kids play with them while you read their textbook or literature book to them. Older kids get a kick out of doing this too. Periodically stop reading in the middle of a sentence and ask your students what word you just left off on. They will keep tuning in, and it makes the reading more fun.

4. Decide that your family will be speaking with an accent (or a few different accents) for school the entire day with a highly-coveted reward to anyone who accomplishes this until they’ve finished all their work. (Last year, one of my students challenged me with this, so I became

British for the day. Hey, it was well-worth the three pieces of homemade peanut butter fudge I earned, and the other students joined in the accent fun too.) You could also try accents like robot, Martian, and the enduring “Pig Latin.” (This accent-for-school business is especially fun if you get a knock at your door or an important phone call…)

5. Pitch a tent out in your yard and do school in it. Have the kids bring their sleeping bags, lanterns, and s’mores ingredients. Rainy day? Set up a school space in your garage just for fun. Bring out a card table and chairs, turn on some fun music, and take dance breaks as needed.

6. Plan to “skip school” on a random weekday and go to the park, the beach, a bowling alley, or some other place associated with fun. This gives everyone something to look forward to, especially if you build anticipation for it and let the kids have ownership in what they’ll be doing.

7. Head over to a coffee shop with your schoolwork and get most of it done there. We have a neighborhood coffee shop within walking distance and they love it when I bring the kids in to do school. (Now that I’m running a small private school, we need to call ahead!) They each bring in a couple bucks and buy a special drink (I limit it to only one caffeinated beverage for obvious reasons) and a cinnamon roll or a pretzel. On the way back, we stop at the park to release the caffeine, sugar, and the “I’ve-sat-and-behaved-so-well-for-so-long-in-public-I-need-to-run-around-like -crazy-now” bug (yes, the high schoolers too!). By the time we’re back, they’ve gotten school done, had loads of fun at the park, and are feeling great about their school day. (I hear, “When is our next coffee shop day?” frequently.)

8. Invest in a fitness ball (or several; the kids can each have their own or they can take turns), and have them sit on that to do school. Some kids can bounce all day long right at the table. Sometimes they’ll roll their backs onto the fitness ball to read a book. At other times they’ll drape their belly over it with their textbook on the floor. Sometimes we’ve taped our assignments to the bottom of a table and the kids rolled onto their backs on the ball to complete the assignment upside-down. The kids will get creative with it!

We all get the doldrums occasionally, but this highly contagious plight can be thwarted by breaking the monotony and choosing some random fun. What a great life lesson for our kids! Moment-hum can once again become momentum with a fresh perspective and a little creativity. “Doldrummy shmoldrummy!”

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