Homeschool Burnout is Real: Here’s What to Do About It
If you were to ask any veteran homeschooling mom what one of their biggest hurdles has been on the journey, they would likely tell you “try to avoid homeschool burnout”. Yes, it happens. Maybe not to every single homeschool mom, but certainly to most of us. Even if your kids love homeschooling and you’ve got the perfect curriculum and you get to take all the very best vacations, it can still happen. I’m not bringing it up to discourage you, especially if you’re already in that place. No, my goal is to encourage you instead!
We all want homeschooling to work out, and it surely will, but what about homeschool mom burnout? What is it? What causes it? And most importantly, how do we deal with it and move on? Well, that’s what I’d like to talk with you about for just a moment.
What is Homeschooling Burnout?
Homeschool burnout might go completely unrecognized for what it really is if you don’t even know it exists or what it is, exactly. It can be passed off as hormonal changes, exhaustion, or even depression. But the fact is, these are just some of the forms that burnout can take in your life. In reality, homeschooling burnout is simply when you’re investing far more energy (both mental and physical) than you really have to spare.
Some homeschool moms and I’ve been one of them, convince themselves “that’s just the way it is” and go on powering through and working through the pain. Like a good workout, they think no pain, no gain! And how much more important is homeschooling than exercise? Reasoning away homeschool burnout doesn’t help the problem, it actually makes it worse. You’ll begin to think you’re not cut out for this. You’ll start to believe that you’re doing more harm than good when it comes to your child’s education. And, you'll start to listen to those family members who happen to be homeschool naysayers. Before you know it, you’ll want to throw in the towel and just be done with it. But don’t do that! There’s hope!
Recognizing Homeschooling Burnout
It can be hard to recognize homeschool burnout for what it really is. For example, there are many signs, but they are so closely linked to some of the normal feelings we experience from time to time, both as homeschoolers and mothers, that you might just let it go. The difference is that the symptoms are far more severe and frequent when it’s actually burnout.
Feeling extremely overwhelmed, for instance, when you used to feel completely on top of everything. Experiencing hopelessness or depression. Irritability, anger, and resentment can begin to surface and interfere with the daily routine. You might become exceptionally tired or feel like no matter how hard you try, you just aren’t doing enough. And finally, you’ll think about putting your child back in school. And that is the final stage of burnout that I hope you never reach!
Sometimes, burnout can come on the heels of some major situations that we just simply do not have any control over. It might be an illness, the birth of a baby, starting a new job, moving or relocating, a change in routine that you cannot avoid, or a homeschool year that was less than ideal.
To make circumstances easier, focus on what you can control. Don’t overschedule anything, allow yourself room to deviate from a curriculum no matter how great it is, and make sure you don’t take on more commitments than you can feasibly handle. Try to set realistic expectations instead of aiming to be the perfect homeschooling mom on every single level. You’re not a supermom! And spoiler alert: neither are those amazing Pinterest and Instagram moms! What’s more, most will admit it!
Taking Control of Homeschooling Burnout
The truth is burnout can occur more than once. It’s not like chickenpox, where you get it once and are (usually) immune to it for the rest of your life. No, burnout can happen more than once, sometimes when your children change grade levels, and especially towards or during the high school years. In most cases, it happens because we have such a desire to see our children do well. Then we’ll push ourselves harder and harder until one day, we find ourselves sitting on the sofa at noon with a mug of coffee wondering, where did it all go wrong? Our full-time job as a mom, and homeschool mom, can lead us to exhaustion.
The good news is burnout isn’t always a bad thing! It can be the signal that lets you know you’re going to need to change something pretty quickly. All those signs I just mentioned can simply mean you need to cut back on the number of things you’re trying to accomplish and slow your pace a bit. Remember your homeschooling “why”. If we add stress to ourselves in what we carry on our shoulders, it will be observed by our children. And when they pick up on our stress, they’ll become stressed, and we don’t want that.
Put Faith First
In all of the things I’ve mentioned so far, they all have one thing in common. They are all the result of our trying to do all thing by ourselves when the Word clearly says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)
No matter what we do in our homeschool days, there is nothing more important than instilling the knowledge of Jesus into our children. And what better way to do that than by modeling the behaviors that are becoming of faithful followers of Him? When we allow all these things to stress us to the point of outward manifestations of an inner lack, something is off.
As homeschool parents, pray. You can start your day with your child in prayer. Tell them why you’re doing it and explain the verse above. Maybe even make it your motto! When you start putting this one habit into play, you might be surprised to find most others falling into place behind it.
If you aren’t even sure what or how to pray, then pray that! Remember that prayer is simply us talking to God and the Spirit intercedes for us when we don't know what to pray. No matter how simple or how off-the-cuff it seems, as long as you’re speaking directly to Him, from the heart, He will hear! Pour out your heart. Cry. Meditate. You’ll hear the answer when it comes.
Talk to Someone You Trust
The enemy will try to get us to isolate ourselves so that instead of hearing from someone who can encourage and uplift us, we wallow in the guilt and shame of feeling inadequate. Sure, you might not want anyone else to know you’re in a pit that could possibly be of your own making, but believe me, it’s better to find a listening ear than to reach the bottom of the proverbial barrel. Call someone who will pray with you and over you, go out to lunch, or set up a play date so your children can play while you visit and talk. It seems too simple… or sometimes too hard. But it works.
The first, and most important thing to avoid homeschool burnout, is to learn more about homeschooling. You can do this in so many ways. Of course, there are extensive resources on the web, through co-op or private groups, and groups on social media that focus on homeschooling and act as a support group if you don't have a local one. Still another way to learn a lot in a short period of time is to attend a Great Homeschool Convention. Go to the website to learn more and see what you stand to gain.
You can even "outsource" some of your schoolwork if that is what's causing you to feel burned out. Sites like Khan Academy, Time4Learning, and others can help you find ways to get help teaching the classes you want your homeschool student to take.
Make Room for Flexibility
Make up your mind, right now, that if something simply isn’t working, you’ll allow yourself to immediately try something different. That could relate to curriculum, activities, teaching methods, or scheduling. If a video lesson is causing extreme tension on both ends, try playing a game or read a good book together. If your child simply can’t pull themselves together in the morning, try starting the day with recess. Yes, that’s a thing you can do! Getting out all the wiggles right from the start is actually an amazing way to start the day. And you’ll find yourself much calmer when you have a child that’s ready to begin for real this time.
Don’t Try to Over-Socialize Your Child
Don’t fall prey to over-scheduling yourself and your child. A lot of homeschooling parents, in an attempt to shut up the naysayers, will schedule tremendous amounts of activities for “socializing” their children. In some cases, it may work well to schedule dance lessons, gymnastics, sports, music lessons, theater, and volunteer work at a local nursing home or soup kitchen. But really, you’re going to wind up wearing out both you and your child, for no good reason. This is especially true if you’re homeschooling an introvert. The result of trying to over-socialize a child with this type of personality can cause them to completely shut down, and I know this from experience. Yes, people will think they’re sheltered and maybe just a little weird, but guess what? At least they’re not in public school getting bullied to the point of self-hatred or worse! Giving your child the option truly to be themselves is a gift that will never stop giving!
This certainly isn’t the ultimate guide on homeschooling burnout, it’s causes, symptoms, and remedies. But I hope it’s been a good foundation on which you can build. If you’re experiencing burnout, consider some of these points, or use them as stepping stones to other, more personal ones. Under no circumstances is homeschooling burnout final. You can reverse it, along with any damage it may have caused, and go on to better and brighter homeschooling days, in your very near future.