Burnout is inevitable, so plan for it.

Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom

I know I may shock some of you by mentioning this, but not every homeschool day looks like Little House on the Prairie.

Some days look more like Nightmare on Elm Street.

Instead of hardworking kids listening to Mom, it could be that you reach a season where your days consist more of policing sibling squabbles and just trying to have everyone make it through until bedtime. I speak from personal experience!
I do not believe that homeschooling is the right choice for every family in every season. But it does make me feel saddened when I see a mom stop purely because of burnout. Equally sad is when families continue on, but without any of the joy they once had.

I remember when I was first considering homeschooling it was the 24/7ness of the prospect that I found most daunting. Years later I still feel that way. I find that the kids’ educations don’t worry me nearly as much as the burnout that can result from this type of lifestyle.
This pace isn’t sustainable long-term without experiencing burnout at some point along the way. Kris’s recent post attests to that. This is why we need to have a plan in place to manage when it occurs.

I felt validated and encouraged on this topic when I came across the book A Mother’s Rule of Life. It’s written by homeschooling mother of five, Holly Pierlot.

In this passage she explains why she developed a “Mother’s Sabbath” :

“So many times over my years as a mother, I had felt tired, overwhelmed, and worn out. So often I felt I couldn’t get any personal space to think, what with the continual onslaught of “Mummy! Mummy!” coming from the children, or the work that I hadn’t finished staring me in the face.

I needed quiet time alone.”

Moms need time away from our children in the same way that office workers need time away from the office. It’s not about not loving our families enough; it’s about the ability to maintain perspective and joy in all we’re doing.

We won’t get that if we don’t plan for it.

At the very least, plan quiet rest time in your day no matter how old your kids are—even when they outgrow naptime. I also have a sitter that comes once a week for five hours. You may need a mother’s helper, maybe you live close to family, or just have another mom friend you can switch with. Another idea is taking off every other Saturday while your husband is home–this is what Holly Pierlot did for her Mother’s Sabbath.

If we recognize that burnout will sometimes creep up on us, we’ll be prepared. If we never expect it, it can totally throw us and lead to unhappiness, depression, and putting kids in school even when that isn’t really our heart’s desire.

We need to realize that burnout is inevitable, so we can plan for it.

Have you experienced burnout as a homeschool mom? How do you plan for it?

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.


  1. I don’t have burn out per se… but I take lots of breaks just for me!!! I never do school preparation when we aren’t busy with school, because there were years when I spent more time preparing, long into the night, than we actually did on school. While my kids are busy with their work I can do the necessary preparation. Also the days when I start to fall apart are days when we have something scheduled in – haircuts, appointments , whatever… accept those days we call them bare minimum days when we do just the skeleton of a school day: two pages of math and the reading for the day. My husband pointed out to me that kids sometimes miss things in school on outing days… they might miss art or music and it is okay… It really is okay to just sometimes have a low maintenance day… and if we have a new baby in the house or a family emergency then those days can be weeks… and that is still okay. Because your children will be learning the basics and then exploring and learning a whole heap of other stuff that may not be “traditional” education… but it is education and they are learning from life… I think as homeschool moms we think we have to do it all. We don’t… we have to do enough and often that is a whole lot less than our “pie-in-the-sky” idea of everything.
    se7en’s latest post: Happy Birthday Katherine Marie…

  2. Naps. A lot of afternoons I will lay down for about 30-45 minutes. I’ll have my daughter watch a show and set the timer on the stove to come get me when it goes off. She likes the responsibility of that. Yesterday I even took about a 2 hour nap while my older son played with my little two. Many Saturdays my husband takes my rambunctious one for a few hours to go bowling or to eat lunch or run errands. He knows that mentally I just need some down time. It makes a world of difference!
    Nicole @ Journey 2 Excellence’s latest post: Science Sunday ~ Thumps and Gurgles

    • Oh, I wish I could nap! I am one of those people that just can’t sleep for only 30-45 minutes, so I envy you.But I totally get the ‘take the kid out so I have some space’. So when my husband is around, he is the one who takes our son to Rugby practice on a Sunday. Might only happen one week out of every three, but it helps!
      Natalia’s latest post: Fungi hunters

  3. As a homeschooling family who has literally just started the journey (September 15!) I appreciate the lovely truth in this message. Of all the many topics to think about and process, burnout is one of those “what if” subjects that linger in the back of my mind. When I experience that first twinge of burnout, I’ll think back to this post (which is now bookmarked in homeschooling favorites under the “let’s get real” file, lol) and remember that the hurdle isn’t a sign to second guess our choices or jump ship, its a good time to balance out and regulate for self. *Thank you* for this post. Us newbies appreciate it! 🙂

  4. I refer to “A Mother’s Rule…” for encouragement and direction when I’m feeling parenting burnout : ) I posted about my personal remedies for when I’m afflicted with that burnout feeling: http://mariasblogofthisandthat.blogspot.com/2011/03/homeschool-burnout.html

    I’m a suscriber and I love all the contributions that come in my email! I find the homeschool blogs, and the encouragement they provide, such as this one, give a those needed lifts on difficult days.

    Maria’s latest post: 2011-2012, week 3

  5. Several years ago, my family started a school schedule of 4 weeks on and 1 week off. This has been wonderful for all of us. It not only allows me to get a break but the children as well. They look forward to that week off as do I. I spend 2 days getting caught up on cleaning and school planning. Then the rest of the time I use to do things I have been wanting to do. Read a book, sew, bake, work in the garden, watch a movie, or visit with family and friends.

  6. Great post! In our 10 years of homeschooling there have been times I would say I was on burnout, often when my husband was away for an extended time. Finaly just this year I have learned the blessing of just hireing a babysiter even though it is “just for me” and not a “date night”! My husband has also learned to reconize when I am about to go off the deep end and has made it a priority for me to get some quiet. I still feel like this is something I need to be more aware of to preserve our family’s ability to continue on this wonderfuly hard journey!

  7. Good word! I needed to hear this today. Thank you. =)
    Nichola’s latest post: How I Shop For Groceries/Supplies

  8. Jamie,

    I posted this sentence in my journal:

    “It’s not about not loving our families enough; it’s about the ability to maintain perspective and joy in all we’re doing.”

    Thank you for stating so succinctly the exact reason why I need my quiet time every, single day. When I remind myself of your quote, I won’t have to anxiously justify to others (or myself) why I am “checking out” for a bit. Nor will I need to waste any more time feeling guilty for this time either. Besides, this quiet time often leads to journaling…which leads to working through mothering/homeschooling problems…and with enough quiet with pen and paper, I usually walk away feeling inspired and joyful once again.

    P.S.Thanks for the work you do here, Jamie. It is a pleasure and inspiration to visit this site–and I sometimes spend my quiet time right in this space!

  9. Thank you for addressing the need to take breaks. When burn-out and/or exhaustion begin to wear on me, I take my own self-appointed “lunch breaks.” I figure everyone out in the “working world” gets a lunch break everyday and no one blinks an eye. My lunch breaks just look different. I go up to the quiet solitude of my room, crawl under the covers, read for about 15 min. until I doze off. I then wake about 1/2 hour later and am ready to resume contact with other people. I don’t have a boss making sure I get a break, so it’s up to me to give it to myself. I think it is perfectly appropriate given 18 hr workdays!

  10. This is my 3rd week of homeschooling my kindergartener. Things are going really well, and I love the fact that he’s showing more interest and his attention span is growing. I have decided to do the Maximize Your Mornings Challenge created by the blog writer on Inspired to Action. This has greatly changed my attitude and demeanor towards my two children (plus one on the way in December). I am also planning on a 6 weeks on, 1 week off school schedule to reduce burn out. When baby 3 arrives, we are taking off that whole month to get adjusted. I also have been pairing up with a friend of mine to watch each others kids once a month. This is a great experience! Oh, and getting out of the house to go on a field trip, a walk with the kids and dog, or gathering with my MOPS group helps with the burnout too.

  11. Thanks for this post. I have hit the wall in the past. It happens in the winter when we are all inside much more than other times of the year. I have been thinking of ways we can all get a break from the close quarters of winter living when we ALL need some space in our tiny house. My thoughts so far…
    ~Developing more independent projects for the kids. Getting them involved with something they can do on their own while I do my own “work”… or just be.
    ~Organizing “places” for us all. Somewhere to call our own (they share a room.) Space is a hot commodity in our house so I am trying to get creative… a corner sectioned off with bookshelves, under a desk with a curtian around it, etc… Little nooks to work, play, create.
    My mom is coming from far away for a visit (2 weeks)… while I am looking forward to visiting with her I am also looking forward to giving her some time with the kids ALONE while I gather my thoughts somewhere quite, hopefully with a latte in hand.
    Dawn Suzette’s latest post: Wood

  12. The answer is YES!!! I have home schooled my children for 12 years and I may be in a burn out as I type this! What I am trying to do is to remember why I began home schooling in the first place (Jesus) and to pray for guidance and wisdom from the Lord. Also, I feel I need to change it up a bit. Throw in some fun stuff and not take myself so serious! Smile and enjoy my children that God has blessed me with!
    Kim’s latest post: 365-257

  13. Yes, after 11 years of home education, I can assure you that burn out will happen. It is just a matter of when. Being prepared in advance is a great idea. We can take care of ourselves each day in an effort to keep the burn out small. I like to get off and ride my bike. Other’s I know enjoy a cup of tea each to refuel.
    Savannah@HammockTracks’s latest post: The Motorcycle, Things I Collected, and Books I Read as a Child

  14. Homeschooling is a like a job, and like all jobs you need to take a break once in a while in order to not get burned out.
    Emily’s latest post: Wanted: Guest Bloggers

  15. Thank you for the much needed reminder about taking breaks for myself!
    Wendy’s latest post: Vulnerability gone bad

  16. Maria de la Cruz says:

    Thank you for this post.

    Today I just met with other homeschool moms. Meeting with these extraordinary women who know how fun and labor intensive homeschooling is just recharged me. I know I can continue this wonderful journey!!!

  17. It’s a good idea to figure out your temperment- if you are an introvert, you won’t feel ‘built back up’ by being in a crowd of people- you need quiet time by yourself.

    I think I am just going to have to NOT sleep in until 8 on Saturdays and Sundays- I should wake up at my normal time (6:45) and take myself out for coffee.
    priest’s wife’s latest post: PrettyHappyFunnyReal- yesterday & yesterday’s feast

  18. This is absolutely true! We women are so focused on others whether we homeschool or not and burnout is very real! Please take care of yourself and do all you can to prevent it from happening. And if it does, be kind to yourself and take a break, your children will survive, mine did!
    Successful Woman’s Resource Center’s latest post: 10 ways to naturally boost your energy

  19. Burnout comes on so unexpectedly and without warning for me. I am just now learning to give myself weekly breaks whether I want to take them or not. I’m grateful my husband will support me when at the last minute I say that I have got to get away for a bit.

    It’s good to hear that I’m not alone in this.
    karina palmer’s latest post: Can’t stop talking

  20. Since you asked, I have written a page on my blog about avoiding homeschool burnout. It is posted here – http://www.homeschool-how-to.com/avoiding-homeschool-burnout.html These are the tips that I have found that have worked over the years. I hope it helps someone.
    Heidi’s latest post: Homeschool Reviews – Curriculum and Books

  21. No burnout yet, as this is my first year homeschooling my oldest, in 6th grade. I really like it so far, except for math! We both struggle to work well together and i lack the patience needed. I hope this will come with time. 🙂
    For a break in the week, we do a co-op school, once a week, where i work in the preschool with my youngest. My 6th grader also takes one day of elective classes per week at a charter school. This gives us both a break from the books.
    I do hope that the time management part gets better, but I am still liking it.

  22. I have started to realize my need for alone time. So now I don’t volunteer at church for awana. I drop my girls off and go read a book. Every Wednesday. Some days, I’ll use it for a date with my husband or to plan for school, but most days will be for pleasure reading. My heart skips a beat to think about it. 🙂
    Crystal Heavrin’s latest post: Recipe binder

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