By Crystal Ladwig
We don’t get to call in sick or take a personal day. We have crazy schedules involving multiple kids, multiple ages to teach, co-ops, sports, scouts, lessons, volunteering, church, managing the home and let’s not forget school. Many homeschooling parents also work outside the home. It’s no wonder that homeschool parents occasionally experience a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad year and feel burned out.
What does homeschool burnout look like?
Most of us remember those last days of the school year when we were kids. We were tired of school, dreading every last minute that seemed like an eternity as we anxiously awaited the beginning of summer. That’s burnout. Then there are those times when no break is in sight, yet we still felt that weariness and dread. That’s also burnout. For homeschooled children, burnout has some interesting comparisons. Yes, some homeschoolers may dread school work, be tired of the day to day routines, and anxiously await a break. Homeschool burnout also has relational factors as children and caregivers spend more time together doing school work and activities than some families typically do.
Homeschooling parents experiencing burnout may occasionally feel depressed but more often experience exasperation and exhaustion. New homeschooling parents often experience anxiety about being able to do it all, about choosing the right homeschooling approach or curricula, and about making sure their children learn all they need to. Veteran homeschooling parents may become tired and weary. Homeschooling mom Ana Willis from the blog “They Call Me Blessed” argues that the biggest cause of homeschool mom burnout is “the neglect of ourselves and the incapacity of saying no.”
With parents and their children spending as much time together as we do, it becomes vitally important that we address burnout quickly when it happens.
Before a parent can help their child overcome burnout, she has to take care of herself. Start by getting support. No one understands the joys and stress of homeschooling more than another homeschooling parent. At the same time be careful not to compare yourself to others. When you begin to feel the tell-tale chronic exhaustion of burnout, take time to rest and do something you enjoy. Perhaps most importantly and most difficult, learn to say no. Easing your schedule allows you and your children to relax, enjoy learning and experience life together. Remember, our children follow our lead.
One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is also among the most effective tools at overcoming burnout: flexibility. We are blessed to be able to choose a less stressful educational approach or to take a few days off of school when we or our kids begin to feel burned out. We can change the schedule and even the curriculum if we decide it’s not working.
Set aside the homeschool to-do list and focus on activities to break the cycle that contributed to burnout. Find fun activities to do with your children. Go on walks. Exercise together. Read aloud to them more. Play. Create. Watch a good movie. Focus on enjoying your children and your family. Gainesville homeschooling mom, Denise Holway, says that doing enjoyable things with her children helps the family to reboot and reminds her "that it’s not all about the book work, but heart work.”
Despite our best efforts, sometimes life experiences cause us to continue to feel burnout. Don’t be afraid to utilize outside resources if you find yourself in a stressful season. There are some great technology resources many homeschool families find helpful including websites such as Khan Academy, Udemy, Coursera, Curiosity Corner, and Brain Pop, as well as streaming videos of documentaries, movies based on literature, and academic reality shows. Remember, we all feel stress sometimes and that may rise to the level of burnout. Stop. Breathe. And remember why you chose to homeschool in the first place. Then adjust your schedule, have fun with your kids, and take time to regroup.