How do you keep the enthusiasm for homeschooling rolling through the year? (February, I’m looking at you!) Read on for tips and tricks on avoiding homeschool burnout.
If you are a homeschooler, you have asked yourself the hard questions: “Is this working? Are we happy? Do I really want to keep doing this?” Some days, the answers are all no. If you have too many days like this in a row, you may be suffering from homeschool burnout.
So how did you get here? And how do you get out of it?
Homeschool Mom Burnout
Sometimes the kids are thriving with homeschooling, but you as the mom are exhausted and reluctant to continue.
Homeschooling takes enormous amounts of energy. Think about the staff a school has: academic teachers (often one per subject), art and music teachers, PE teachers, administrators, janitors, guidance counselors, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers. When you are a homeschooling mom, you are all of those roles in one.
That’s exhausting for anyone. Add all the responsibilities of parenting on top of that, plus a dose of self-doubt, and it’s no wonder that at times you reach the end of your rope.
Homeschool Kid Burnout
Kids can experience burnout as well. They whine and complain about even the simplest of school tasks. They drag their feet, procrastinate, and may even pepper you with comments about how much they hate homeschooling.
How do you distinguish burnout from a simple bad attitude? A bad attitude is a constant (there may be underlying causes to this–keep reading). Burnout is different in that your child loses enthusiasm, willingness, and diligence somewhere in the middle/end of the school year. In our house, it rears its head in February.
Homeschool Burnout: Depression
Sometimes we think that our feelings about homeschooling stem from the actual schooling, but the root of it may be deeper.
- Do you or your child have feelings of restlessness, edginess, worthlessness, persistent sadness or excessive guilt?
- Have your or your child felt fatigue, or experienced sleeplessness or changes in appetite?
- Have you or your child withdrawn from friends?
If the answer to even some of these questions is yes, check in with your doctor or your child’s pediatrician. It may be depression. Treating actual depression (and it is treatable!) may clear up the homeschool burnout.
Homeschool Burnout Causes and Coping Strategies
Homeschool burnout is not uniform. You need to investigate why you and/or your child are feeling this way, and try some different coping strategies. Be ready to try more than one strategy!
Cause: You (the mom) are doing too much.
Strategy: Remove some jobs from your plate.
You don’t need to be superwoman. You already are super. Sometimes we can’t keep all the plates spinning. It’s better to remove some plates than have them all come crashing down around you. Buy frozen dinners or serve scrambled egg sandwiches, cut down on the extracurricular activities (or get in a carpool) so you are driving less, get a tutor for a certain subject or subject swap with another homeschool mom (she teaches history and you teach science). Do less for this season. It’s okay.
Cause: You feel like being the teacher is straining your relationship with your child.
Strategy: Farm out the teaching.
You can hire a tutor, enroll your child in an online class, or join a co-op or hybrid school. You can move to a computerized math program like Teaching Textbooks or try Easy Peasy homeschool where your child self-manages his assignments on the computer. Take a little time to be more mom than teacher, build your relationship with quality time you both enjoy, and then return to a more prominent teaching role if you like.
Cause: Your child is struggling academically.
Strategy: Switch it up or slow it down.
If your child is crying every day in math, it’s time to switch math programs. Yes, her older brother soared through the same program, but every child is different. One great thing about homeschooling is that you have the flexibility to match your child with the program that works best for her. Another advantage is that you can proceed at your child’s pace of learning. If he needs more time with division or spelling, let him take it.
Cause: Everyone is low energy.
Strategy: Shake up the routine.
Doing the same thing every day for months can leave anyone bored. Shake up the routine! Do a daily nature walk, take a month to do a fun unit study, bake recipes from different countries each week, or buy watercolors and paint after dinner. One February we bought a fancy blender. It sounds ridiculous, but it got everyone out of their funk. Every day we were making a new smoothie, trying different flavor combinations, and making our own recipe book. That blender gave us the joy to beat the burnout. Be open to the power of small changes.
Cause: It’s been a while since you’ve had a break from school.
Strategy: Take a break!
Our brains need breaks. Our bodies need them too. If you have been going two or more months without a break, take a week off (or at least take a long weekend). Go somewhere, day trip, or have a real staycation (with movie nights, family games, pillow fights, or campfires).
Cause: You can’t settle back into a routine.
Strategy: You need a new routine (and grace).
Sometimes after a break, we have trouble transitioning to school mode. Start each day with intention. Introduce a family circle time with poems, prayers, yoga, a song, and/or a read-aloud. Make a giant color-coded daily schedule. Schedule fun breaks throughout the day. If this new effort at routine still meets resistance, give everyone a few days of grace. Eat healthy meals, get enough sleep, go on daily family walks, and introduce your school tasks in increments across a week. Sometimes your body and brain need a healthy reset.
Cause: The end of the school year is getting closer, but it’s not close enough.
Strategy: Make short-term goals to get you through.
If you focus only on the finish line, the last months of school can go in slow motion. Set goals along the way. Mark the math book ¾ of the way through and, when your child gets there, go out for ice cream! Start a bean jar where you put beans in a small jar for completing each subject. When the jar is full (aim for every two weeks), treat the family with something. Another idea? Switch to powering through one subject at a time. (e.g., Knock out history for the rest of the year by having a history week.)
Beating Homeschool Burnout
You can beat homeschool burnout! It is a valley–it does not define the totality of your homeschool. Be willing to problem solve and make some changes. Soon you’ll be feeling equipped and energized enough to close out the year.