We have all been there...well, I think we all have. OK. Maybe it's just me. I've been there. Lots of times actually. We are on our fourth year of homeschooling, and well, some days are tough. And then there are tough weeks. And then there are tough months. What do you do when you are a homeschool mom and the last thing you want to do is school your kids???
This is very timely, because well, I was at this point recently. (ok, I may still be there).
We had a great August and a fantastic September. I even commented to my husband how we were having the greatest homeschool year yet! (I should have knocked on wood!) And then came October... When November wasn't getting any better I knew it was time to take a step back and regroup. I almost waited too long. You see the title of this post is "avoiding homeschool burnout." It is way easier to avoid homeschool burnout than recover from it!
After six rough weeks of schooling, I was d.o.n.e. Like really done. Like call my husband every day crying. Locked in the bathroom, sending S.O.S. texts DONE. And for the first time in four years I said to my wonderfully patient great listener counselor husband, "Either you help me figure out what is going on or they have to go to school!"
I was tired. The kids were acting out. The 8 year old forgot how to subtract (she is doing division), the 6 year old forgot about short vowels, and the 3 year old well... she was a whiny argumentative sassy (cute) mess on two little legs.
Yeah, burnout ahead!
It was time to step back and figure out WHY I was yelling everyday, and why my 6 year old would bring me a napkin when I told him to "turn off the light." Yeah, it was a mess and we needed to regroup!
A few things we did that helped:
Assess the situation
What is causing the burnout? Is it the curriculum? Unrealistic expectations? Kids behavior? Lack of sleep? Diet? Outside stressors? Will the stressor fix itself? (new baby, illness) or is it something you need to be proactive about fixing?
Address the Root issues
One of the main issues I had to deal with was the attitudes of my kids and me. We needed more sleep, more routine, less eating out and processed foods, less sleeping away from home, more family time, and more consistency. Sometimes mom just needs a break-- some "me" time. A chance to step away from my kids so I can miss them long enough to remember why I adore them.
What about extracurricular activities? Yours and theirs? Too many? Not enough? Make sure you have time for family.
A Fresh Perspective
Sometimes we just need a different set of eyes. I asked my husband to stay home one morning and just observe. Honestly, after he did, I realized I didn't need him to, just having him there opened my eyes to what he was seeing and ultimately what was happening. Talk to a homeschool mom friend or your spouse. Don't suffer alone.
Keep the Relationship First
No curriculum or academic pursuit is worth sacrificing your relationship with your child. Find a way to make it work where you are both happy, or find something else to do. The parent/child relationship usurps the homeschool mom/student relationship every time. Spend some time just being mom. Hug them, cuddle them, let them know you approve of them just because of who they are, not because of what they do academically.
Change of Routine
Sometimes a slight change in routine will do it-- dropping a stressful unit or reordering the subjects...Or sometimes dropping school altogether is needed. For a day, a few days, a week. Whatever is needed.
Find the joy of learning again. Pick a project, do art or music, or that science experiment you haven't gotten to. Some of our best days like this have been when the stress level is high and we take several entire days to build a Viking ship, or create a model of the Santa Maria. It's those projects we "just don't have time for" that usually spark the love of learning back into our kids...and it it lets us take some time to put our eyes back on our kids and off of the calendar. Some of the best days come from scrapping everything on the plan, staying in your pajamas and doing a day of read alouds on the couch. Is math the cause of the stress? Put the math book away. Maybe they need a break entirely from math, or maybe they will be thrilled playing math games with you and won't even realize they did math. Change your approach.
Change of Scenery
Sometimes we don't need major changes to avoid burnout. Sometimes a change of scenery is all that is needed. Last week we schooled at the park, and at a local restaurant (wifi and free refills oh the possibilities!) I leave the little one with Grandma and it is amazing what we can accomplish! And the kids love doing the "same" schoolwork somewhere "different." It's amazing how simply cleaning my school room can change the scenery and decrease the stress levels!
Heed the Warning Signs
Don't wait until you are officially burned out. It's harder to recover from that. If you wait, it may take months or a year to bounce back, but keep your eyes open. When you see the signs in you and your kids, head it off! Take a few days. Or a few weeks. Read some great books. Do a project. Go to the park. Watch a movie during school hours. Change it up.
Homeschooling is a wonderful privilege. Yet, it is hard! Take some time for you, enjoy the kids, take a break! Remember, this is a marathon not a sprint. If we despise teaching our children what good is it that they can translate Latin, do long division, and write a novel? We don't continue to do things that we hate, so if homeschooling is your calling...take time to remember why you do it, and take time to enjoy it.
Focus on relationship, being realistic about expectations, and being honest about reality avoid burnout.
Check out what the other Homeschool Help bloggers have to say about "Overload-- What to do when you run out of fuel?"