This blog post might seem a little premature. At the start of the school year, I doubt anyone is feeling burnout. Hopefully we are all excited about a fresh new school year and anticipating the wonderful things we will learn.
But we all know that burnout often happens at some point. Maybe thinking about preventing burnout a little bit at the beginning of the year can make it easier to avoid in the final stretch of the school year.
Here are some ways to hopefully avoid burnout.
1) Know what is essential. I think most of us have been inspired at homeschool conventions. We see the endless possibilities of things to teach and do with our kids! We also get lots of good ideas from our homeschool friends. Although we should set high goals and try to do extra stuff when we can, when burnout rears its ugly head, we should remember to stick with the essentials and do those things first and do those things well (cumulative subjects, like math). It’s okay to let the other stuff go for a while.
2) Avoid over-scheduling. I am writing this as an admonishment to myself. When we don’t have downtime (personally and as a family), it’s easier to burn out. I have learned to protect my mornings and to also try to leave some evenings in our week to just be home. Don’t over-schedule. “Just say no.” This is easier said than done, for sure.
3) Make it fun. Feel free to take a Mental Health Day when you are feeling burned out! Play chess, paint pictures, go creek-stomping, or spend the day reading fun books out loud or individually. Sometimes you need shake up the routine a little bit to re-charge. Give yourself permission to do this. Your kids will still be learning, even though you are not strictly following your lesson plans for the day.
4) Don’t feel guilty. I have heard homeschool moms talk about the guilt they feel because they are at the end of the school year and they only have 178 days of school logged instead of 180. I talked to a lot of homeschool moms as a part of my job at one point. Shortly after talking with these moms, God blessed me by allowing me to attend a Bible study that just happened to be full of public school teachers. I was amazed to learn what they considered to be a “school day,” especially toward the end of the school year after standardized testing was finished. They would have whole days of just playing at the park—field days—and they would also have days where the kids would play video games for the lion’s share of the day. These days counted toward the 180-day requirement. Once I learned this, I wished I could go back and tell those worried moms about it.
If you have a day of baking with your kids where you are encouraging them to be creative and maybe talking about fractions on the side, then that is great. Don’t feel guilty!
5) Get help. One way to avoid burnout is to seek help from other people (this way you can work smarter, not harder!). Here are a few ideas from some of my friends:
My friend Elise hires a tutor one day a week and splits the cost with two other families to make it more affordable. This allows her to have one day all to herself, to get stuff done, and have a break. My friends Lisa and Anna have older kids who are the same ages/grades and they have partnered up for many years, planning out the school year in advance and each taking half the subjects to teach. They get together once or twice a week to co-teach. This cuts the load in half and also provides accountability and community. In our family, we have outsourced some of the work by using a part-time classical school. This has helped us stay on track and has given me a little respite.
I know not every family can utilize these things, but I love seeing the creative ideas parents have for getting the help they need to stay sane! If one of these ideas doesn’t work for you, hopefully you can find a way (maybe bringing in a grandparent?) to get some time in your week to recoup and avoid burnout.
One final tip for avoiding burnout, from an experienced homeschool mom of nine kids, Mona Lisa Harding: “Don’t be predictable. Change up what you teach and when you teach. … Use the great outdoors as the best classroom possible. If I start to feel bored or burned out, we go on a field trip, a walk, or a play date with some friends. We know that there is so much learning that goes on just when your kids are talking to you while you visit a museum, you walk around the zoo together, or they interact with kids of different ages and backgrounds. Library visits always give us a new spark because the kids can spend a day just reading. This gives me some quiet time so I can clear my own mind.”
Photo Credit: Graphic design by Anna Soltis. Other images courtesy of author.