Monday, January 24, 2011

Avoiding Homeschool Burnout

The Homeschool Crew has been doing a weekly Blog Cruise where we all answer the same question.   I haven't participated in many of the Blog Cruises, but I did want to participate in this one because it's such an important question ... especially this time of year.

How do we overcome homeschool burnout?

I have been homeschooling officially for 11 years, and unofficially for a few years before that (preschool for my oldest).  I've faced burnout every single year, but it's never overwhelmed me to the point of giving up.   It helps that Steve and I are both certain that this is exactly what we are supposed to be doing.  Knowing God has called us to homeschool helps us persevere through the difficult times.

For me, when I am getting burned out there are many different things I do to recharge.   It helps to have an arsenal of ideas to draw from, because different things help at different times.

When I am burnt-out on homeschooling:

  • sometimes I take a day and read a fiction piece of fluff to simply relax

  • sometimes I pull one of my favorite homeschool encouragement books off the shelf to remind myself why I'm homeschooling

  • sometimes I start researching curriculum or planning for next year to spark a new fire of excitement in myself

  • sometimes we need to take a few days OFF from school completely and just enjoy some hands-on stuff

  • sometimes I need to organize the home better so the disorganization isn't frustrating me or nagging at the back of my mind

  • sometimes I make a list of all the good things we've learned or done together

  • sometimes (especially when the kids were younger) I'd pull out a new read-aloud book to enjoy with them

  • sometimes I pour my heart out to my husband and just tell him I need some extra love and encouragement

  • sometimes I reach out to other homeschool moms (online or in real life) for some "been there done that" encouragement

  • sometimes I just need to make a point to enjoy my children and my time with them instead of worrying about checking off all the assignments on the school and chore charts

Lately, I've been needing to spend more time with my husband and with other homeschool moms when I'm fighting burnout.  I've found myself asking my husband to take me on a mini-date or talk with me.  I've found myself asking other moms to go to coffee with me.  These are things that I really didn't focus on in the past, but they have become important to me lately.

But the main difference for me comes when I take the time to enjoy my children.  This can mean finding a board game to play for language arts or math (scrabble or yahtzee anyone) or just for family fun in the evening.  Sometimes it can mean enjoying a family movie or outing.  We may need to pull together to get some chores done, but I can turn on some music to make it fun instead of being a drill sergeant handing out orders.

Sometimes the best way to defeat burnout is to pay attention to the special moments in each day, reminding myself that THIS is why I homeschool:

  • Today my 9 yo son told me what he'd read about bees that day, and especially the queen bee.  I listened to him, and talked it over with him.  Inside, I was thankful he'd cared enough about what he read to actually want to tell me about it.

  • Today my 7 yo son and I shared our amazement over the fact that wild yaks are over 6 feet tall, and the smaller tame yak can weigh 1200 lbs.  Wild yaks are almost as big as elephants!  We giggled over people wearing yak hair wigs, too.   I'm so thankful for the Christian Liberty Nature Readers which help my elementary students combine reading practice with science, and learn about the world God created.

  • Today I listened as my 15 yo talked with me about what she's learning about Greek mythology, as well as her love of art, and her plans for the future.

  • I thanked my 11 yo when she did her breakfast dishes early, without being reminded.

  • I laughed with my 13 yo who was bemoaning all the reading she'd allowed to pile up.  I gently teased her about her procrastination, and made my point without nagging or lecturing her.  And then I pointed out to her which books were only to be skimmed, and which were to be thoroughly read.

  • I held my 4 yo on my lap when she was crying because her older brother won a race.  Instead of lecturing her about not throwing fits when we lose, I just held her for a few minutes and helped her calm down.  I did tell her that sometimes we win, and sometimes we lose.  That is life and we need to be calm about it.

  • I was home with my 2 yo and my newborn to hold them as they fell asleep ... even if they both fell asleep on my lap at the same time, trapping me in my desk chair until I could convince a teen to come take one of them away.  We laughed as the teens pretended they weren't going to help me get up.

  • Tonight when my husband comes home, I will try to smile and enjoy my time with him instead of greeting him with a list of complaints, bad news, or "honey-dos".

When it is life that is making me feel defeated or burnt-out, instead of homeschooling, it may be time to re-evaluate my commitments.  I can make a list of all the obligations piled up on me and take the list to God and to my husband for wisdom on what needs to go, and what is most important.

If I am feeling behind on chores, or household duties, I make a long list of chores and projects that need to be finished.  Posting it on the fridge helps me to relax.  I don't have to worry that I"ll forget that one project because it's on the list.  Crossing things off as they get done encourages me.   Occasionally, I re-make the list and throw out the old one.  And hanging it on the fridge lets others in the family know what is stressing Mom out ... sometimes they voluntarily pitch in and tackle projects for me.

There are many different causes of burn-out, and many different solutions.  Not everything will work for everyone, but hopefully something I shared can help you.  If not, you can check out what others on the Crew have to say when the Blog Cruise is posted tomorrow.

Persevering with you, through burn-out and chaos,
April E.


  1. Teaching my kids early to be self-directed learners has made a huge difference for me. I was exhausting myself in the early days of my homeschool because I was so over-invested and involved. There are certain seasons that require a great deal of my oversight and involvement (like encouraging a new reader or those first few weeks of Algebra) but otherwise, I'm more of the team coach and cheerleader than quarterback. 20 years down, 8 to go, I have much still to learn!

    Psst - When I make my daily list of "to do"s, sometimes I'll list things I've already done just to have something to cross off. It's quite motivating and freeing!

  2. I like how you said to focus on the special moments each day. It is so lovely when you do that, encouraging yourself AND the family.

  3. [...] April E. @ ElCloud Homeschool: Busy Minds, Busy Hands, Busy Feet has tips on Avoiding Homeschool Burnout. [...]


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