Thursday, November 12, 2020

Recognizing and Remedying Homeschool Burnout

For those of us who follow a "traditional" schedule, the first week back to full time homeschooling, whether it's your first year or your tenth, can overwhelming, but fun. Everything is brand new, everything is fresh. New books. New units. New schedules. Maybe you've changed curriculum, and you get to see a subject through fresh eyes. As you move through the next few weeks, you'll have ups and downs, but for most of us, we'll settle into routine and things will proceed just as we hoped they would.

Then, just when you're on a roll, you may hit a wall. 


For me, burnout usually happens between week 10 and 12. The weather has changed, the days are shorter, and I'm just tired. I'm tired of filling out the agendas each week. I'm tired of prepping for spelling tests and writing units. I'm also tired of meal planning, laundry, and bugging kids to clean up after themselves. Overall, I'm just tired.

For some reason, it always takes me by surprise. I'm sure some homeschool moms or dads know when they're slowing down, but often, I'll be motivated at the end of one week and a lump by the start of the next. And when my motivation drops, the girls' drops too. If I'm sitting around in my bathrobe at 10:00 while playing on my phone, why should they push me to get started? 

Yet even though I'm completely susceptible to burnout, there are ways to get through it. No matter how tired I am, I always manage to come out the other side. Here are a few tips to manage homeschool burnout.

1. Acknowledge the Burnout

Whenever you have a long term project, whether it's homeschooling or budgeting or organizing or work, burnout happens. I was a public school teacher for ten years, and I can tell you that I would go through a few low points each year. I'd been pushing to get through a season, and I'd hit a wall. If I didn't acknowledge it and simply tried to push through, I often made things worse. Recognize that you've hit a wall.

Signs of burnout? Lack of patience, feeling like you're failing, falling behind on routine tasks, and even feeling envious of non-homeschooling parents. 

2. Consider the Cause

Did you try to do too much? Are you expecting too much of yourself? Are there other stresses in your life? Or is it just that you need a break?

Maybe there's a reason for your burnout. You need to adjust your expectations or routine. But maybe it's just that you need a moment to step back. 

Whatever the reason, remember that nearly every homeschooling parent has periods where they hit a low point. Most homeschoolers hit at least one of these moments every year. Don't blame yourself or shame yourself. 

3. Take a Day Off

Ok, this one was harder to do when I was teaching in public school, but it wasn't impossible. It doesn't necessarily mean taking a literal day off. Sometimes it just means that you decide to pause for the day - or even a week. Break the routine that burned you out. When I was teaching, I'd pull out a unit that was high interest for the kids but low effort for me. 

As a homeschooling mom, I can really take a day off from teaching if I need it. We might take a day and go somewhere - maybe somewhere "educational", but maybe the mall for some window shopping. We might take a day off and just read and relax. Maybe we take a week and do a few Outschool classes. Maybe we head to the playground. When I'm heading toward burnout, I may even suggest a day of "alone time". We all retreat to our own spaces and take a mental health day. 

This past week, I was incredibly frustrated with the fact that I was writing or teaching or cleaning or driving ALL the time and I wasn't reading the stack of books calling to me. I took a day off from all but the most necessary tasks and just read. Before long, the girls were curled up on the couch, reading their own books. 

Another time I realized that I was frustrated that things weren't tidy and organized and I just couldn't catch up. I had been struggling for weeks and never felt like I had my feet firmly under me. I was barely keeping up. I needed to get back to a baseline that I could maintain. So I gave the girls the day off from school, sent them to organize their rooms, and caught up on everything. When I started the next day with a clean table, a complete plan book, and supplies that I could find, I was in a much better headspace.

4. Consider Changes You Can Make

I am definitely not advocating to try to come out of a burnout by changing everything. That can cause more stress. However, I like to think of hitting a "reset" button. 

Is a curriculum not working? Scrap it. It is OK to dump something that isn't working for your family, no matter how much everyone else seems to love it. 

Is your schedule not working? Change it. You homeschool. There are no official "hours". You've had time to see when your kids do their best work. If it's early, see if you can get the bulk of your work done in the morning. If your kids are slow to get started each day, adjust your start time. 

For me, simply taking a step back for a day - or more if I need it - is usually all I need. I can reset my brain, remember why we homeschool, and find our balance again. 

Burnout happens. Sometimes a step back is all you need to find your way again.
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