We've all been there.
I've had times where I feel completely apathetic as to whether or not my kids do any of the schoolwork I set out for them.
I've had days (OK sometimes weeks) where I felt like I was just going through the motions.
Those times I am feeling burnt out, out of ideas, not caring, etc. are like warning signs flashing in my head to change things up and change them up quick.
Homeschooling isn't always easy!
I've wavered a time or two, wondering if sending them to public school wouldn't just be easier.
Usually when I'm starting to feel burnt out it means I need some time to do something for myself (preferably BY myself) or it's time to shake up our routine, schedule and curriculum.
Try to figure out what's causing the burnout!
- I often get so wrapped up in our day to day routine that months can go by without us taking a day off from school. It's one of the reasons we tried a more traditional approach to schooling this year and ditched our year round schooling schedule-- I never took time off!
Sometimes I know I'm feeling burnt out because I'm pushing the boys to use some curriculum book we bought even when I can tell it's not really a good fit.
There are various reasons for feeling burnt out and when I can look critically at WHY I'm feeling burnt out it's easier to come up with a solution.
There are times I have not been able to pinpoint one reason why I feel like I've reached the end of my rope and that's usually when I try a myriad of things to turn it all around again.
Here are some ways I try to deal with homeschool burnout:
- Talk to fellow homeschooling moms. When I tell them how I'm feeling I realize I'm not alone, they often have some advice, and even just venting usually helps. We were a good 6 months into our unschooling journey when we hit a wall; I was frustrated my boys were crying. I was threatening to send them back to public school, they were asking to go back to public school. We were all miserable. I remember writing a message to both my sister and my sister in law (fellow homeschoolers) telling them I had failed and that I was sending the boys back to school. They were my lifeline. They took time out of their busy days to sit and "chat" with me (via messages) and encouraged me to keep going, make changes, take a day to myself and remember why we were homeschooling to begin with. (You can read about my epiphany & how we turned it all around here). They were invaluable and I'm pretty sure any other veteran homeschooling mom would have been too. It can be such a supportive community and I don't think we all take advantage of it nearly as often as we should.
- Take a school break! It's hard to say how long of a break you might need but often when we're feeling burnt out we need some time off to reevaluate, look critically at what is & is not working, and find our way back to the joy of homeschooling. I find, for me, that a week is usually a good rule of thumb. I'll pile crafting supplies, board games, Lego sets, etc. on the table and just let the kids play. Then I sit back and watch and take time to just observe them learning, playing and having fun.
- If you're lucky enough take a break from the kids and the house. I find solace locking myself in the bathroom and soaking in the tub while reading a trashy romance or having a fun shopping day with my mother or my sisters. Time away helps me tremendously! Know what calms you and find a place to recharge; go to the beach, go kayaking, go to a movie alone or with a friend. Find time for yourself. It's OK to take time to recharge if it will make you a better mom, wife, and teacher when you return.
- Ditch the Curriculum! I'm not one to buy much in the way of curriculum books. We mostly only buy math books but I've definitely been guilty of pushing at least one boy or another through a workbook because it's there, it's the book we chose and it's math time. But I have found through the years that sometimes a new book is just what we need or I'll think about what that page in the book is trying to teach them and see if I can find a game that covers the same concept. If a book is going to lead to conflict, strife, and headache for us all; it's just not worth it.
- Go on a Field Trip! We're homeschoolers but we're not home bound. One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is having the time to explore the world outside around us. I find that I start to feel burnout when we're spending weeks upon weeks at the table working through reading, math and one or two other subjects day in and day out. When I'm really feeling burnt out we'll often take a few field trips a week for a few weeks and often find something new that we're all excited to dive into learning about.
- Find a New Schedule! We used to start school pretty early in the morning because we all wanted to finish school by lunch and have our afternoons to ourselves. Often the boys wanted me to play with them in the afternoon after school ended. I wanted to play with them but I was finding it impossible to squeeze in housework, 20-30 min. of exercise for me, and keeping the house organized. I was resenting the time schoolwork was taking away from all the things I wanted to get done during the day. I finally realized we needed a new schedule. We now start school closer to 10 and I have plenty of time in the morning to exercise and clean. It means we often don't finish school until 1 or 2 now but that's OK.
- Get Help! My kids are no longer littles and they can help. This was such a revelation to me a year or so ago as I was struggling to get the house clean each week. I sat the kids down and explained that if they wanted to stay home with me and homeschool then they had to help out more. With us all home during the day there were that many more meals to prepare, that many more dishes being dirtied, and that many more chores to be done. They now help with vacuuming, dusting, cleaning toilets, making meals, etc. If you have little ones that can not help consider hiring help. Why not see if a homeschooling middle or high schooler would like to earn a little extra cash helping out here or there?
- Sacrifice some standards! The worse case of burnout I ever felt was when I was replicating school at home (or close to it!). We were trying to cover every subject every week and at least 4-5 subjects a day. I recall telling the boys to put away what they were working on so we could move onto the next subject in my plan book (even though they were happy, content, interested and learning). We were watching the clock and we were miserable. I used to try and clean the house from top to bottom every single week and usually in one day too. Now we rotate through a cleaning routine so the house is always presentable but never perfect. Oh, and those dishes?? Yeah, we switched to paper plates for every meal. I know it's not great for the environment but it's not forever either. It was something we needed to do for now to get through this season of life. Sometimes good enough is good enough. Find your good enough.
- Find the Joy in Your Children! Often when I'm feeling burnt out I feel disconnected with the kids and how sweet, funny and wonderful they are. If I'm not enjoying my kids & most of the time we're spending together it's going to be pretty hard to remember why I'm even doing all this. When we all feel discontent and disconnected our schoolwork suffers. So I'll focusing on finding some fun. We'll do something silly or special or new and try to "find our fun" again. Once we rediscover the joy of family it's easier to find the joy in our school day.
- Know it will pass! Sometimes I know exactly what is causing my burnout. Perhaps it a new and particularly awful stage in one of the boys developments that makes him nearly unbearable or perhaps it's outside stresses like a death in the family or a financial crisis. There are times when I know I'm just going through the motions but figure that I just need to hang on until the latest crisis passes. It's not an ideal way to teach but sometimes just knowing it will end and it will pass is enough.
- Research different homeschooling methods! We are most definitely eclectic homeschoolers. We've tried everything from schooling at home to complete unschooling. We've dabbled with Charlotte Mason methods, delight- directed learning, unit studies, and so much more. When things don't seem to be working for us anymore I look for new ways to change things up. Sometimes it's just one subject that's causing all our strife and finding a new method to follow often helps. As my boys grow and change, their needs, interests, and learning styles change too. Being flexible allows our homeschooling styles to grow and change right along with them.
- Pinterest to the Rescue! For me, a huge Pinterest addict, Pinterest has helped rescue us from the homeschool doldrums more than once. When I just feel like I am out of ideas and there is nothing left to teach the boys that seems new, exciting or fun I start to feel pretty disappointed in homeschooling. When I am unable to think of anything fun to do with the boys I often find some great ideas to try out by browsing through my various Pinterest boards or searching "science experiments" or "math games", etc.
- Ask the Kids! Often when I think perhaps our homeschooling journey has come to an end because it just doesn't seem to be working anymore I'll sit the boys down and ask for their input. What do they enjoy? What do they hate? What do they wish we could do? What would they like to learn about? They often have some pretty good ideas and that gives us a new direction to move towards.
- READ! I find reading books, blogs and articles about homeschooling helps me tremendously. Sometimes I read to find ideas of new ways to approach lessons, new routines to implement, or new ways to make our learning more hands on. Sometimes I'm reading for inspiration, for support, and for the knowledge that I'm not alone.
- Drown out the Voices in Your Head! I think often homeschool burnout stems from our inability to stop from worrying about how well we are doing, how much our kids are learning and how much more we THINK THEY SHOULD know. For me, this is pretty hard to do, but letting go of my fears while teaching the boys and trying to live in the moments has helped me to feel much less stressed about teaching my boys. I try not to worry about where their peers are, what other homeschool families are teaching their kids, and all that we have not yet covered and instead look to what my boys have learned and how far they have come. (You can read more about drowning out the What If's here).
Linking Up With: Coffee and Conversation,