All teachers reach a point where they feel they can no longer carry on. It’s a profession that drains you mentally and emotionally. Those of us who teach our children in the home are not impervious to this feeling, and we lovingly call it homeschool burnout. Luckily there are ways to combat the feeling, and to get back on track.
As homeschool families, we have a distinct advantage over our brick and mortar counterparts. Learning to recognize when you’ve reached the point of critical mass is important, but knowing what adjustments to make to remedy the problem is a matter of survival.
We’ll start with a widely known parenting factoid: your children behave better for other people. They are ultimately more comfortable with you, and they let it all hang out. On bad days, they can seem like pure hellspawn. But you drop them off at Grandma’s house and she brags about just how wonderful and peachy they were. It’s maddening, but it’s a fact of life.
Accepting this fact can help you understand the phenomenon of homeschool burnout. At times, they are going to whine, fuss, and cry over the simplest task. You will rush to the kitchen to refresh your coffee, and their papers will be scattered, pencil broken in half, and they may be dancing about naked shouting “I hate school.” You’re going to feel like you JUST WANT TO QUIT, BUT MUST CARRY ON. This is part of the game. And you’re the referee. Pushing them to continue on days like that is somewhat counterproductive. You can’t give in and let them take charge, but you can read their queues and make adjustments. Give them an hour or two of a break, regather yourself, and try again.
One amazing, yet daunting idea we use is HOMESCHOOLING YEAR ROUND. I know, it sounds like a terrible idea, but if you choose to school twelve months of the year, it takes the pressure off. You can take more of those much needed “free days” without biting your fingernails off over staying on schedule. Heck, we’ve taken weeks off at a time, knowing we can make that time up during the summer. Plus, we live in the sweltering inferno known as Florida. We love it here, but it gets ridiculously hot from May to September. We goto the park in the mornings, or go on bike rides, then head home for lunch. After their bellies are full, we knock out some homeschool during the intensely hot part of the day. Spreading a curriculum out over a period of twelve months gives you the freedom to throw your hands up and let them be wild monkeys when you feel burnout setting in.
There are plenty of us in the trenches, with tangled hair and bags under our eyes, looking for helpful ideas. Another useful tactic is to SEEK OUT HOMESCHOOL ENCOURAGEMENT from your fellow home educators. Sometimes your feeling of hopelessness is because the children are not responding to your lessons. Other times it’s because you are having trouble staying organized. The ideas on the web are amazing, even if they evoke a little (okay, a lot) of jealousy. There are those parents who have giant door hanging pocket organizers with assignments set up months in advance. They do crazy paper-mache activities, they take EPIC field trips, all with corresponding assignments. You don’t have to become the world’s most revered home educator to find ways to make it work for your family, but a little advice and some idea thievery can go a long way.
Homeschool burnout is real, and it has probably driven many to just give up. Sit back and watch your children play, and laugh, and beat each other senseless. Then remember why you chose to keep them home. It will inevitably bring you back to life, and breath some much needed oxygen into your teaching game. In the end, giving up may be one of the biggest regrets of your lifetime.