DIY Homeschooling – When Things Go Wrong

What to do when things go wrong

There will be times, as I say in the Breathing Lessons, when things go wrong. That perfect book you chose isn’t working, or that wonderful lesson plan falls quicker than Wile E. Coyote. or worse yet, the whole plan fails to produce the fun and exciting learning it promised. There’s no joy in Mudville when the mighty homeschooling strikes out. So, what do you do when things go wrong?

What to Do When Things Go Wrong

You really need to evaluate the situation first, to determine just what and how bad things are. Ask yourself the following:

How Wrong Are Things, Really?

Is it a bad day? A bit of a bad stretch? Or something worse? Sit down an see if you can pinpoint where things started going badly. If it was early on, then it probably is what you’re doing or how you’re going about doing it. If it is a fairly recent problem, then it may just be that you need to take some time off, regroup and try again later. (Later can be a day, a week, or an hour from now, by the way.) When things go wrong, and everything points to a specific point in time, maybe a little time off is all you need.

Is It Just Me?

You may have the biggest desire to use classic literature, or to study botany, or to teach your children the wonders of Gaugin’s art, but if they aren’t up for it, you’ll be fighting a losing battle from the start. You can sometimes win them over, but once a negative attitude rears its ugly head, it is often difficult to dislodge. If school, or certain lessons, have become a war zone every day, it may be time to rethink what you are doing or how. When things go wrong and everything points to an overeager teacher-parent, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate what you are teaching, how you are teaching it, and why you are teaching it.

Is It The Student?

Sometimes, your children simply aren’t ready to learn the subject at hand. I find this is most common in maths and science. They’re not ready mentally to tackle the more abstract and complicated thinking involved. Or they aren’t physically prepared – as can be the case with handwriting, art, music lessons and life skills – and so they are easily frustrated and flustered. This can lead to meltdowns, bad attitudes and a really bad day. When things go wrong and all the signs point to the student’s level of ability, it’s best to put the skill or concept on the back burner and let it go for a few months. Better late than early is often the case, as the later the learning comes, the better prepared the child will be, and the learning will happen quickly, easily and without problems.

Is It the “Stuff” You’re Using?

It may very well turn out that it is the books and/or other materials that you are using. A good way to test this is to try something else in its place for a while. If you’re using a classic text, try something a bit more modern. If you’re using nothing but texts, try something hands-on, or a field trip, or even a video. If you’ve been using nothing but non-fiction, no matter how literary, perhaps a bit of fiction or biography will do. If the new material is welcomed, and eagerly accepted, then you know where your problem lies. Now, how do you decide what to use instead? Here’s a few guidelines:


  • Does it cover the same topics/time period? – If yes, or if a partial yes, give it a try.
  • Is it age appropriate? – Again, if yes, or if easily adapted, give it a try.
  • Is it a living book? – DO NOT substitute a bad living book for a “good” textbook, please. If a living book isn’t getting the job done, a dry text, no matter how good, is probably not going to have any more success.
  • Does it fit your student’s learning style and your teaching style? – If yes, give it a try.


Finding an alternative can be as easy as a brief perusal of your library’s shelves. If you are desperate enough for something new, try the first thing you can get your hands on just to keep the learning moving forward. If things aren’t that bad yet, take your time and find a really good looking substitute. Many children, for example, don’t like This Country of Ours and I don’t blame them. I don’t like it, either. Personally, we used Helene Guerber’s two wonderful titles, The Story of the Thirteen Colonies and The Story of the Great Republic in place of TCOO. It takes about as long to read these two as most curriculum schedule TCOO for – 2 to 3 years, they cover the exact same time period, are for about the same age, and are also high-quality classic texts. We use them 6th and 7th, and then follow up with modern history in 8th grade. Now, you could read them aloud to younger children, and cover US history anytime in Years 2 through 4 with them. I just prefer to have them read these themselves, which is perfectly doable in the middle school years, as we use picture books for the most part, in those younger years.

Doing the Right Thing When Things Go Wrong

There’s really only one wrong thing to do when things go wrong – nothing. Doing nothing and allowing a bad situation to get worse is not an answer to anyone’s problems. Trying and failing is better. At least you tried. And by trying something new – be it a different time, a different book, a different approach – you may just hit upon the solution. Once you do that, you may have just the thing you need to avoid things going wrong in the future. Homeschooling when things go wrong is no picnic, but you can get rid of those pesky ants and bring life and light back into your homeschool with a little time, a little examination of the situation, and a little ingenuity!

Mom’s Day In ~ Family Resemblance


This post may be difficult to read for some. It  is somewhat difficult to write, but there have been several incidents in the past week or so that are weighing on my mind. And as usual when that happens, I turn to the page, the words, to help me ease the burden. Sometimes, easing my burden puts it onto others. Sometimes, I think the Holy Spirit may be whispering in my ear (alright, shouting at my head) telling me to just “put it out there” and this is one of those times. So be it. These are my somewhat disjointed, yet connected, thoughts and feelings.

World Vision – The whole thing with World Vision and gay marriage and flip-flopping decisions has left me heartbroken and feeling discouraged. I could care less what World Vision US does with their company policies. I’m not, nor have ever been, involved with World Vision, but I do know what they do, mainly, is to feed hungry kids and help lift families out of poverty. I applaud anyone who takes on that task, whatever their religious background or moral philosophies. And for an organization dedicated to helping others, it only made sense that they should decide to allow tolerance and acceptance to be their guiding policy for their employees. I was somewhat surprised, but not totally shocked, at the outraged conservative Christian community’s response. (I can’t bring myself to call these people by the term the main stream media uses – evangelicals. They, in no way, in my mind, are spreading the Gospel.) I wasn’t really shocked by World Vision’s flip flop later in the week, reversing their policy. I did find it heart breaking that once again an entire portion of the human community has been deemed “not good enough” by so-called Christians. I have gay friends, many of them Christians, and I’ve seen this time and time again. It hurts them, and because they are my friends, it hurts me, too. Most of them hide the pain with false bravado – “We don’t need them anyway!” “We didn’t ask for their acceptance!” “Wouldn’t work for them if they paid me a million bucks!” But the pain is real, it’s evident, and it’s unnecessary. Here’s something about World Vision that didn’t make the news, much. Their counterparts in place like the UK and Canada don’t have ANY policies regarding marriage or sexual orientation of employees on the books. None. Not one way or the other. Apparently, they don’t deem the issue of what happens in an employee’s bedroom noteworthy. Christian employees are good enough for them. I guess you don’t really have to be a heterosexual to love on and care for starving people after all. But what really left me hurting and heartbroken was the news that 10,000 people dropped their sponsorships. 10,000 people. How many hungry children does that equate? How many families will go without because American Christians decided that they weren’t, in essence, good enough either?

Homeschool Groups – I’ve belonged to a couple of “real life” homeschooling groups and many Internet homeschooling groups over the years. I even moderate my own little HSOTC group on Facebook. I’ve seen them rise and fall. I’ve outgrown some, been thrown out of one, and been driven out of several others – both real and virtual – because I wasn’t “good enough” in one way or other and so made to feel very unwelcome and unwanted. And once again, this week, on a Charlotte Mason Facebook group, I saw another mom turned on because she held an opinion and dared to express it. In response to a request for opinions. In a group supposedly devoted to just such a thing. Her opinion was deemed unpopular by several members of the group, (not, by the way, the lady who made the original request) and they in no uncertain terms let her know it. Hurtful things were said, publicly, for all the group to see. And who knows what was communicated behind the scenes in private messages, email and Facebook chat. And it left me heartbroken and hurting. Hurting for her. Hurting for us. I don’t know her personally, and we’ve never “connected” online, but I know the pain and anger and feelings of betrayal that sort of reaction can cause. I’ve been there, in her shoes, behind her keyboard. And it hurts.

3 Bunnies and a Fake Mustache – Last week at church, my kids were in a skit. The skit was for our annual Easter dinner grocery drive. We collect groceries to complete a family’s holiday dinner. Things like instant potatoes, canned vegetables, candy for the kids, and a dessert for the adults. We take them to the local mission, who then adds a ham or roasting chicken, and delivers them to needy families throughout our community. The skit was to “kick off” this year’s “grocery getting.” It involved 3 assistant Easter bunnies being interviewed by our “roving reporter.” Kelsie was the reporter, fake mustache and all, and Taylor was the “grocery getting” bunny. It was humorous, but carried a serious message – help was needed to see that all in our community had a special dinner come Easter Sunday. And I was very proud of my kids and the other youth. Not for their acting abilities, and certainly not for the fake mustache, but for the fact that they get it. They really get it. They get it that there are those who need our love, our support, our help. They get that it doesn’t matter if your skin is a different color, or you go to a different church, or no church at all. It doesn’t matter what goes on in your bedroom or who you are married to. It simply doesn’t matter. Because help shouldn’t come with strings attached if its really needed. And different isn’t wrong, it’s just different. And that leaves me astounded and amazed and in awe because they are teens – that age when being different isn’t cool, or easily accepted.

And it leaves me heartbroken that so many adults can’t see what these young people see – that we are all children of God. All of us. We are all worthy of love and respect and charity and kindness and mercy and grace. And as His children, we are to show all those and more to everyone we meet. I have to wonder about those 10,000 former World Vision supporters and that handful of homeschool moms. What do they see when they encounter “different”? Do they see a threat, an unworthiness, a “wrong”? Because I’m pretty sure they don’t see a fellow child of God……