Friday, September 27, 2013

Homeschool Burnout

When You Want to Quit

I received a short, email from a friend last week that contained one long sentence – a plea for prayer for her homeschool.  In her exasperation she claimed that she was ready to put her kids in school and put on a business suit and some high heals.  The fact that she is a missionary in Africa and that there are no schools or job opportunities in her remote area of Uganda, illustrates how intense homeschool burnout can get!
All homeschools have good days and bad days.  Some days, things just seem to flow.  The kids are relatively agreeable, lessons are manageable, the house is a reasonable mess and mom is able to be flexible, letting go of the non-essentials and for the most part – it is a good day.  Some days just start bad and only get worse.  The kids are fussy or sick, you cannot remember how to get that pesky negative sign off of the X, you’re out of milk (again) and you’re afraid if someone drops by unexpectedly, they will call the health department because of the mess in your home.
The minor bumps and hiccups along the way are one thing.  Full fledged, persistant burn out is another.

Signs of Homeschool Burnout

  • feeling overwhelmed
  • feeling depressed – lack of hope
  • feeling irritable
  • considering putting children in school
  • feeling angry and resentful towards family members
  • fatigue
  • lack of confidence
  • feeling like your kids are behind or not learning enough

Causes of Homeschool Burnout

  • unrealistic expectations, trying to do too much
  • too busy with outside activities
  • too isolated, not enough outside interaction
  • parenting issues
  • not taking care of mama

Cures for Homeschool Burnout

After 17 years of homeschooling through all kinds of trials and temptations, I have had my share of days that I wanted to quit.  I am here to say that I am really glad that I did not quit.  The more experienced I become, the more able I am to achieve the balance in my homeschool that keeps me from becoming overwhelmed.  I can see when trouble is brewing and have learned some things that have been effective in getting our family through the tough times.
Pray:  Are you making time for the Lord and prayer?  I know how it can be at times.  There are times when that 15 minutes of time just seems better used in getting another load of wash in or real life takes over and the thought of doing a morning devotion completely eludes you until you collapse into bed late that night.  God has offered us a peace that surpasses all understanding and wisdom for all who ask.  No need to be some super hero of the faith.  Simple prayer for help and guidance can make a big difference in how the days goes.  If you are beyond the baby getting up in the night stage, consider getting up earlier than the rest of the family for some quiet time.
Revisit your schedule:  Every year, before the school year begins, I create a basic schedule for our homeschool.  By using creating a schedule using Post It Notes, I can switch things around as we test the schedule in real life.  Once we get going and the schedule becomes more habit, we tend to leave the chart and work off memory.  When things get crazy around our house and I can’t keep track of all the chores and assignments, I head back to the schedule.  I often write up a revised schedule for each kid so that they don’t have to rely on me to remind them, which is a sure way to drive a homeschooling mom of many into burnout status!
Plan some outside activities:  This serves two purposes.  Getting out of the house is great for resetting everyone’s clocks and getting the focus off of the floors, the spelling test and the sister that won’t share – and onto new ideas and scenes.  Also, I find that having something to look forward to gives everyone an added lift.
Restrict the outside activities:  On the other hand, if you are constantly out of the house and are finding it hard to catch up because you just aren’t home to homeschool, consider cutting some activities out.  What are your family goals?  Are the activities you are involved in leading your family in the right direction?  Cut the ones that aren’t.  If you can, organize car pools with other families to reduce your time out of the house.
Cut back on academics:  If you are new to homeschooling, this may come as a surprise to you, but taking a break from academics can be just the thing to remove the stress and anxiety that creates such a bad atmosphere in the home.  Find educational field trips.  Play educational games.  Just play.  Put the focus on your relationships and let go of expectations for a season.  The renewed energy and corrected attitudes that result from this will more than make up any lost time doing school work.
Spend time one on one with your husband: Homeschool burnout often comes when we are putting too much of ourselves into the homeschool.  Taking time to talk like a big girl about big girl things can do wonders for the perspective.  Husbands also tend to be more objective about the home life situation.  Listen to what he says and try out his suggestions – you may be surprised how simple changes can affect the whole family.
Talk to another homeschool mom:  Talking to another person who can relate and share your ups and downs can help to put it all into perspective.  Some of the best encouragement has come during our homeschool group’s bi-monthly park day.
Find time for yourself:  I hesitate to write this because of the ‘me time’ trap that I struggled with as a young mom.  I just knew if I could get some (more) time alone, everything would be better.  The trouble was that the more me-time I had, the more I wanted.  Me-time does not fix unruly kids or a disorganized home or tense relationships.  Make sure your alone time is not an escape as much as it is an opportunity to fill mom up.  Have coffee with a friend or go for a walk out side or go read for an hour at the library.  Find what ever it is that refreshes you and find a way to schedule it into your week.
Consider learning styles:  I could write a book on this subject but suffice to say that there are curriculums thatyou may find engaging and exciting that are the complete opposite of the way your child learns best.  Shake things up a bit.  Try reading aloud from History or Science and discuss thoughts and observations.  Do some hands on projects.  Find a You Tube video (with parental guidance, please!) that explains the subject.  Find some field trip to bring the subject to life.  Consider switching curriculums or changing the way you use the one you have.  Learn more about leaning styles in this post.  
Plan your meals:  This is an area that I am gradually improving in. As I do, I notice that the days just go better when I know what is for dinner by lunchtime.  Try to plan dinner in your morning quiet time or while you are preparing lunch.  Here is s hint:  cleaning your fridge so you can see what is in there is a huge help!
Personal health:  There are seasons in life where a lack of sufficient sleep is just a part of the deal.  If that is the case with you right now, know that it will improve.  Enjoy the days with your little ones for they surely do pass by quickly!  If your kids are sleeping through the night, be sure you are getting to bed early enough so that you are getting enough sleep.  Drink water, choose living foods, find a good vitamin. These are all things that, when done regularly, make a world of difference.  Read this post on my top 10 tips for having more energy.
In the end, you must know that you are not alone.  Homeschool burnout affects all of us from time to time.  Give yourself and your loved ones a break and let go of the things that you are striving for, at least for a time, and seek God.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Diaper Science

This was a really fun and simple science experiment we did this week.  We got there idea from here.

Checked out two dry diapers.

Added two and a half cups of water to see how much the diaper could absorb.

The wet diaper was a lot heavier than the dry one.

Then we cut open another unused dry diaper and removed the crystals from the cotton.

We added water and watched the cyrstals absorb water.

The crystals became jelly.

The looks on their faces tell what they thought of this experiment.

They wanted to play with the jelly longer so we went on the balcony to allow them to make more of a mess.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Science Wednesdays

Since were living in Malaysia where it rains a  lot (and mosoon season is around the corner), we have been talking a lot about the water cycle.  This week we reviewed and continued it from last week. Here are some of the things we did:

-We read the book 'Drop of Mercy'
-We watched Bill Nye's Water Cycle Episode, click here for link
- Also watched Magic School Bus, click here for link
-We did this experiment, click here
-A booklet on the water cycle, click here

Hot water in the bowl, a smaller container inside the bowl on top of the water, plastic wrap sealing the top, and frozen peas (we were out of ice) at the top to act as the atmosphere.

Water vapor


Language Tuesday

On Tuesday we focused on Language.
Our work boxes included the following, along with some other things such as Math, since I don't plan on completely sticking to one subject per day.

-Yusuf has a habit of writing all in capital letters so we reviewed the rules of capitals from this worksheet website.  I printed out the rules sheet and also one worksheet for him to practice
-Yusuf has an English workbook that I found here in Malaysia so he worked on that
-Ibby had a file folder activity to learn the Arabic colours
-Ibby had an alphabet puzzle
-Both boys worked on their reading logs where they are trying to read 50 books for Ibby and 100 books for Yusuf

Math Monday

On Monday we focused on Math.
Some of the activities we had in our workboxes were:

-Measuring Objects around the house (I made a list on a sheet of paper and Yusuf used a ruler to measure the things).  I also got him to find the difference of lengths between objects and add some together.
-Yusuf learned how to play Solitaire
-Ibby and I played Connect Four
-Ibby did number tracing
-We made patterns with shapes

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Back to (Home)School

September always makes me think.

It makes me think about the what ifs, it makes me think about the whys and it makes me think about what homeschooling means to me as a mother, and us as a family.
I remember last year, I was really down, as other Moms giggled with glee as they waved their children off to school.  I craved a distance between my kids and I....a moment where I could go to the washroom without being followed.  I wanted a few hours to myself everyday... just for the house to be quite and clean and kid free for a bit!  But alhamdulillah I had a very close friend, and an awesome community around me to pull me out of my slump and I remembered all the reasons why I choose to homeschool and told myself everything will be ok.  And alhamdulillah it was.

This year, being thousands of miles away from that very close friend and amazing homeschooling community, Id think Id be super depressed.  Ill admit I've had my fair share of tears and heartache, but I am surprised to say, I think this is one of the most refreshing and energizing September / back to (home)school season I've had. There were moments I have considered putting the boys in school here due to the guilt of taking them away from their Canadian friends, and frustration of not finding any 'replacements.'  But alhamdulillah through the power of dua and help of Allah SWT I am hanging on, rediscovering myself, and enjoying my family in a way I never have before. I feel I was always 'good' at keeping the kids busy, but I always knew deep down inside that I was not good at connecting with them as I wanted to.  Indeed with difficulty there is ease, as Allah has promised. And with the difficulty of moving, Allah has truly sent me ease in ways that I would have never expected.

Alhamdulillah, there is a community centre which is attached to our building and the boys have begun soccer classes there as of this week.  There are also two families who have begun homeschooling in our area who both have sons Yusuf's age.  And perhaps the biggest bonus of them all, Naani (my mom) is inshaAllah arriving in two weeks for a whole three months! We are very excited!  MashaAllah were so happy the cousins came to visit earlier in the summer, but their visit was much shorter therefore we were rushed and obviously since the kids had other kids to play with, homeschooling was put aside.  InshaAllah with Naani around I have confidence well be able to stay on track and be productive.  But I do know well slow down here n there to have some pretty exciting adventures with her!

Im not very strict with the whole Sept- June school routine.  We kind of just go with the flow.  But like I said, September always makes me think.  And recently I have been doing some self evaluation and come to realize I need to be a little more organized than I think I did.  In Canada it was very easy for me to wing it so to say. We were out a lot and quite a few subjects were outsourced.  The kids were also younger, and, less in number.  Summaiya is one now mashallah and that goes without saying, she adds a little more to Momma's workload. I still cringe at the idea of having a super rigid schedule, but I'm finding more routine helps me and the kids stay more productive... and happier.

I've mentioned workboxes before and I cant say how much they help me! I like structure and the feeling of accomplishment to a degree, but I have to be balanced.  I need flexibility in my routine if I've had a rough night with the baby, or if we were out the night before and the house is messy, or if I just need a mental break etc etc.  So we do our workboxes pretty much every day, but we take them out when we've eaten a good breakfast, tidied and freshened up, maybe played a game or two, or read some books or spoken to family on Skype.  And I find this way, it keeps the idea of workboxes exciting for the kids.  They enjoy doing them, I enjoy preparing them... so alhamdulilah its a win/win.

I used to prep the work boxes the night before and think of activities on the spot.  However, with a teething baby, and a bigger house to take care of, I find the hours of the night go by way too quickly.  So I've begun roughly planning the week on the weekend before, I don't make the workboxes for the entire week, I just jot down ideas for each day.  I'm trying to have a focus subject each day and prepare the activities based on that subject.  For example, Mondays is math so most of the math stuff gets done on Monday but I make it fun and try to have a variety of things.  This week we played connect four, and I taught Yusuf how to play Solitaire.  We still cover different subjects or may repeat some things on a different day on the same week, but this just gives me a better idea of how to plan.

Ive said it before and Ill say it again.... inshaAllah I plan on blogging more regularly.
Now that Ramadan is over, and were pretty much settled into our new home and routine, inshaAllah it will be easier for me to do so.
Ive received some emails recently from 'secret' followers and honestly it means a lot to me that I have encouraged or inspired people to homeschool or continue homeschooling, or helped spark some ideas.  I pray Allah swt gives me sincerity and that this blog serves as a beneficial reminder.

Please keep us in your duas.
And as always, feel free to comment, Id love to hear from you.