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.

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