Every homeschool family I spoke with agreed: Burnout happens but it’s not a hopeless situation. And just like any other crisis event, there are reasons why it occurs — and most of those reasons are caused by our own actions and expectations. Sometimes we overwork ourselves and our children, other times we expect perfection, and my downfall: I don’t like change.
And even though we’re a tough bunch and have taken on the awesome responsibility and burden to educate our children, we still have limits. The question is, how do we stop ourselves from reaching our limits and experiencing burnout? After doing some research, I found some things that work for me. I hope they work for you, too.
Don’t Aim for Perfection
We all want the best possible educational experience for our children. That doesn’t mean perfection is in our future. Things go wrong, that’s part of the homeschooling adventure. The imperfections and mistakes are what make us better and able to adapt, and then overcome new challenges. Think about it, perfection is probably boring! So, when things go wrong, take a deep breath, or take a break and remember, if you aim for perfection, you’ll miss it every time. As the director, writer and comedian Mel Brooks once said: “As long as the world is turning and spinning, we’re gonna be dizzy and we’re gonna make mistakes.”
Leave the Classroom
There’s a whole other classroom waiting outside your home. You could visit state parks, aquariums, planetariums or other top-flight exhibitions. Here’s something else: My friend found something in our town that was amazing — small, local museums. I couldn’t believe it, our small town has nine different “less visited” museums that have amazing educational experiences waiting for us. One is even housed in a former concrete ground water storage tank and the pump house of the original Melbourne Water Works. How crazy is that?!? Seriously, there are so many things you can discover: Go on a nature walk and take notes about the wildlife, volunteer, plant a garden, wash the cars, visit a business or just relax and read.
Change Things Up
One February it was clear my new schedule wasn’t working, but I wouldn’t budge. I told my children that “we would work it out.” I was wrong once again and burnout ensued. But this time would be the last time. After speaking with another homeschooling friend, I realized I could change. It didn’t make me a failure, it just made me correct a mistake and create a better schedule. You can do the same thing with any aspect of your homeschooling program. You make the rules, the guidelines and the decisions. If you need to adjust them, go ahead, you have the incredible flexibility that homeschooling offers.
Find a Curriculum that Lightens Your Workload
Most homeschoolers agree that there is no one perfect curriculum product. I use a mix of curricula programs but rely heavily on an online program. My reasoning is simple: It automatically grades lessons, tracks my children’s progress, keeps reports for our homeschool portfolio and provides activity planners and curriculum calculators that keep my kids focused and working independently. Those four things save me a ton of time and stress. As you know, we homeschoolers juggle enough tasks during the day. Having a few done for us, is nearly a life saver — or at least a sanity savior! As your children grow older, you may find that you’ll become more of their educational manager. You help them pick the tools and resources, and then manage their education as they learn more independently.
Make a To-Do List
This may seem counterintuitive, because when you’re burnt out or on the verge of burning out, the last thing you may want is a list of things to do! I honestly find it therapeutic. I give my kids a break and then sit quietly and list out some things we can accomplish. The things I put on paper aren’t necessarily academic. They’re mostly exercises in stress-busting. For instance:
- Morning walks with the kids and dog
- Visiting friends for some down/playtime
- Cooking a “gourmet” dinner
- Reading out loud at the local park
- Building model cars, practice pencil sketching (my daughter’s favorite)
The point here is that we’re still accomplishing things, but the daily pressure is off. Try making your own list sometime, it really does help.
Join a Homeschool Group
Find a homeschool group that shares your goals and thoughts on education. You’ll receive comfort there as you speak to your peers and realize that they are struggling with the same challenges: burnout, scheduling issues, curriculum problems, etc. You can study with other homeschoolers, go on field trips, share advice and give and receive all-around support. Your children will also have a great time socializing with other homeschooled kids. It’s a win/win for everyone involved.
Don’t Forget the Flexibility Factor
Think about it, we’re very lucky as homeschoolers and the number one reason is flexibility, (that’s my opinion). We can switch up our schedules, go on field trips, take a few days off, spend time with our children and 100 other things! The thing is, we often forget (at least, I do), that we have flexibility. Maybe it’s because we feel guilty that we’re not doing enough for our kid’s education and, as a result, we take on more instead of less. In reality though, we are doing everything possible for their education. So, do yourself a favor, (you’re allowed), and use the flexibility factor. It’s the winning ticket when you feel burnt out.
Listen to Our Podcast on Burnout
Join Jamie and Melanie a psychologist turned homeschool mom, as they chat about How to Avoid Homeschool Burnout!
As I stated earlier, we homeschoolers are a tough bunch but we’re not without limits. Keep that in mind when you’re doing everything in your power for your kids’ education. While you’re at it, be kind to yourself — you’re doing a great job!
Jamie Gaddy, B.S., M.Ed., Ed.D. has been a college education professor for over 17 years. Education has been an integral part of her life in both the classroom and as a principal. Six children later found her dissatisfied with traditional schooling and homeschooling became the better fit. She is also a pastor’s wife, remote project manager, and entrepreneur who now homeschools four of her six children (ages 11-17) in southern Georgia. Jamie loves to share about her homeschool experience and help other homeschoolers find success. Connect with her at [email protected]