Written by Tammy Sorensen.
Have you ever had one of those days where you needed to eat half a box of donuts and drink three cups of coffee, because without the extra boost of sugar and caffeine, the thought of facing another homeschool day just seemed impossible!? No? Then I guess that was just me.
Well hopefully, I’m not alone.
But what do you do when the thought of all you have planned for your homeschool day or week just makes you want to stay in bed and hide under the covers?
Homeschool burnout is real.
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I know because I’ve been there inhaling the donuts and gulping cup after cup of coffee trying to pep-talk myself into doing another day of school work. But over the nine years that I have been homeschooling my daughter, I’ve begun to notice the warning signs of burnout. When this happens, I've learned to ask myself four simple questions in order to help me make some much-needed changes to our days.
Is God’s Word top priority in our personal lives as well as in our school time?
Honestly, I usually don’t have to go much further than this one...my personal time with the Lord. How much time have I spent in God’s Word? When was the last time I spent more than five minutes muttering a quick “Thank you Jesus...Help me Jesus” kind of prayer?
And what about the Bible time my daughter and I do together? Have I been viewing it as a subject to just check off a list...something that we’ve completed for the day? Have we been starting our homeschool time being thankful to the One who matters most in our day, and most certainly in our lives?
So, when I find our time with the Lord lacking, what do I do about it?
I get up and spend time in God’s word. I make sure my daughter is cracking open her Bible too. I also try to ensure that we start our school time together with Christ at the center of it. These are small changes, but ones that make a huge difference.
I find that if time with the Lord is put on the back-burner and not front-and-center in my life and in my homeschool, eventually that burnout-feeling rears its ugly head. I can not do this alone. I need the strength and encouragement that the Lord gives. And so do you.
Is our curriculum and schedule working for us?
Re-evaluating the subjects we’re doing and the schedule we’re keeping can make a big difference in how our day goes. Is there a new subject we just started that’s just not going well? Is our history curriculum getting a little dry and boring? It can be hard to throw in the towel on a curriculum I just purchased, but sometimes setting it aside for a time or tweaking it to make it more usable, can make a big difference.
Sometimes adding in a topic that my daughter is currently interested in or beginning a mini-unit about a culturally-relevant event such as an election, the Olympics, Thanksgiving or Veteran’s Day, helps give us a break from our regular curriculum. A break like that allows us enough of a diversion from our regular day-to-day, that when we pick that history book back up, it isn’t as dry as we once thought.
And then there’s the issue of the schedule. I have to ask myself, am I trying to fit too many subjects into one day? Is our schedule too ambitious for what we can actually get done each day? Should I make more wiggle room for doctor appointments, sports activities, music lessons, church functions and family get togethers? Life can get pretty busy and hectic for a bunch of homeschoolers who do nothing but sit at home all day! (grin)
I have to remind myself of some of the greatest benefits of homeschooling; the freedom and flexibility to make learning personal to my daughter and doable in my home. We can do a science experiment after supper. We can do our read aloud books as a family before bedtime. No one said learning can’t happen on a Saturday. I am not limited by an 8am to 3pm schedule, but merely by my own creativity for “scheduling” the learning.
Have we been outside these four walls lately?
A good way we can shake things up a bit is to take a field trip. It can be as simple as heading out to a museum for the afternoon, or spending the day at a local park taking a nature walk or doing some nature journaling. My daughter likes photography, so we do photo nature walks. Sometimes we join up with some other homeschool families to take a tour of a local business. The possibilities are endless. The point is, occasionally, we just need to get out and seek learning from somewhere other than the four walls of our home.
Is it time for a break?
Sometimes the best thing I can do is to just simply take a break. We will often just take a day off from our regularly scheduled day. We find some good documentaries to watch on Netflix, or we search YouTube for tutorials that teach us a new hobby or skill. We grab our favorite books, some snacks, and head outside to read the afternoon away, or we go outside and set up a mini obstacle course that lets us, all, burn off some excess energy, myself included. We spend the day however we want...because that's ok.
A final word
Homeschool burnout happens, but there are always ways to deal with it...that don’t include eating a dozen donuts and drinking a pot of coffee in your pajamas camped out under your covers. (That last part is included as a personal reminder to myself.)
We are not on this journey alone. We have other homeschool moms, friends, family and even those we have met on social media to support and encourage us along the way. But most importantly, we have Jesus, who is more than enough for all that we need. When the days get long, remember these hopeful words...
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” ESV (Mat. 11:28-30)
“You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” ESV (Psalm 16:11)
“The eternal God is your dwelling place,
and underneath are the everlasting arms…” ESV (Deut. 33:27)
Need more encouragement when you feel burn-out coming?
Tammy has been a wife for 25 years and a homeschool mama for nine of those. She enjoys running, photography, sewing and her quiet time in the early hours of the morning. If you had asked Tammy at her high school graduation what she sees herself doing in the future, being a pastor’s wife and homeschool mama would probably have been the last two things to come out of her mouth. But when Christ comes into your life and changes your heart, you find out life is a grand adventure as you follow hard after Him.