Overcoming Homeschool Mom Burn-Out

Written by contributor Kris of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Homeschool mom burn-out. It’s a horrible feeling. I’ve had bouts with it off and on over the course of our nine-going-on-ten years homeschooling, but never as bad as this last year.

I was done. Wiped out. The last few weeks of our 2010-2011 school year can only be described as “muddling through.”

My kids will all tell you that this summer was the most boring ever. And, they’re probably right. We didn’t do anything remotely educational. We didn’t do much that was even especially fun. There was entirely too much video-game-playing, TV-watching, and Internet-surfing.

And, I can only muster up the tiniest bit of guilt over that because I needed it. I needed a couple of months to decompress.

I didn’t think I would be excited to start school this year. In fact, I was dreading it. However, when the first day started getting close, I was surprised to find that I was excited.

There were three things that I think helped me bounce back:

Taking Some Guilt-Free Time Off

I didn’t let myself feel guilty (much) about holing our family up at home this summer and indulging in too much mindless activity. I knew that continuing to push myself was only going to exacerbate the problem.

Just as when a person has reached physical exhaustion and has to rest, a person who has reached mental exhaustion needs to allow the mind time to rest and recuperate.

Reconnecting with My Kids

After taking some time off to let my mind rest, I knew I needed to reconnect with my kids in a capacity other than teacher, household manager, and disciplinarian.

Wii sports, board games, and cards were played. Ice cream treats were enjoyed. Movies were watched.

Photo by Yougendra174

Finding Something to be Excited About

It wasn’t until just a couple of weeks before school that I finally decided on a new history program. Who knew that the prospect of brand-new curriculum to be explored could penetrate the haze of tedium?

Whether it’s new curriculum, a fun family project, or a great field trip, find something that you can get enthused about because enthusiasm is contagious.

Now that I am past the burn-out stage, I plan on taking a few steps to avoid miring down in that quicksand again this year.

Plan More Breaks

This school year, we’ve started a little early, but planned in more breaks. About once every six weeks, we’ll have a long weekend or a week off (and three weeks at Christmas).

I especially wanted to make sure that I’d planned a long weekend for mid-February after reading something last year about the winter doldrums being the reason that public schools plan a break about that time.

By mid-winter, everyone is getting a little case of cabin fever. Christmas break is over and spring break seems so far away. Why continue to push through the long winter days when a little break might do everyone a world of good?

Include More Fun

This year, I am committed to planning more field trips and social outings. Those field trips that we haven’t done for a few years because we already did them when my oldest was in elementary school? We’re doing them again because my younger two don’t really remember them and they’re fun.

I’m also planning to organize a “lunch and a movie” outing at least once every two or three months. We’ll plan a place to meet for lunch and pick a movie at the local $1 theater and invite all our homeschool friends to join us.

We’ll probably pick a movie for the teens to enjoy as a group, while the moms and younger kids enjoy a kid-friendly option. Even my teenager has admitted that this will be fun.

Photo by bizmac

Take Mental Health Breaks As Needed

Despite all my best efforts, I’m sure there are going to be unplanned days when we all just need a break. The beauty of homeschooling is that we can take those from time to time. We don’t have to break from learning entirely to enjoy the benefits of a mental health day, but sometimes it’s in everyone’s best interests to put the formal learning aside for awhile.

Need some ideas? Check out 15 Ideas for a Mental Health Day.

Have you ever suffered a really bad case of homeschool mom burn-out? How did you bounce back?

About Kris

Kris Bales is the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest voice behind Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She and her husband of over 25 years are parents to two amazing teens and a homeschool grad. Kris has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. She also seems intent on becoming the crazy cat lady long before she's old and alone.


  1. Love it!! We go year-round… BUT. We’re taking the whole month of December off, a week in April, a week in November (for birthdays), and another whole month off in February/March. I planned our vacation-do-no-school-or-no-planned-school-at-least for the most gorgeous or most fun parts of the year on purpose. Of course, I can’t talk about burnout… I’ve only got a first grader and kindergartener. 🙂
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  2. We dumped the packaged curriculum for a more relaxed, “life-learning” approach. Now the kids see learning and life as one in the same. I occasionally get a bout of burnout now and again but the load is much lighter.
    Aadel Bussinger’s latest post: Homeschooling should be joyful!

  3. Laura Strong says:

    WOW! I think you were writing about me in the article!! 🙂 I had the very same issues last year and we took the summer totally off, too, which I don’t normally do. I love your ideas to incorporate mental health days. I’m going to do more of that so that we don’t get burned out again. I’m also going to do more service projects around the community so that we can get out of the house more often! People often don’t understand that when you are your child’s teacher and Mom it can get overwhelming….24/7 with your children is a blessing but can also wear you down! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  4. This is just the post I needed to read today! We are building a house at the moment so this summer has been manic. My survival strategies haven’t met my high standards for the ‘perfect’ family life but we are getting through and are all alive! I’ve also come to the conclusion that is it better to let my kids have a bit of tv or computer so that I can get work done and be available for them afterward, or even so I can take a break!
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  5. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I like the last part about taking a “mental health break”. So true! I feel like that is something I always put on the back burner.
    Also, thanks for suggesting taking a break in Feburary. When my kids were attending public school they seem out of sorts and so was I. Now that we are homeschooling I’m going to plan a break in Feburary. It’s a short month, but at the same time it drags on & on. 🙂
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  6. Wow, Kris, we must be soul sisters because I could have written this post! I had the same emotional arc over the summer, and did some of the same things you mentioned. Part of my motivation solution, too, was to join a new group (Classical Conversations). It’s different from anything we’ve done before, but the accountability and the companionship have been pretty inspiring and energizing thus far.
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  7. One of my strategies to prevent burnout (learned from hard experience) is to keep close tabs on my joy levels. When I find myself having less joy in my kids and my life, busyness is the first place I look. For me, losing joy signals me to slow down.

    Feeling burnt out is also a signal light for me to check my expectations of myself and my kids. Am I comparing myself with others? Are my goals unreasonable? Am I hoping to be supermom or have superhuman kids?

    Thanks for this post!

  8. Wonderful post. I think as moms we need to accept those seasons when it’s time for a rest. I love the idea of lunch and a movie. Thanks for sharing your struggle.
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  9. What a great post!

    We homeschool year round but are very relaxed and eclectic. I think the term I like to use when describing us is “relaxed eclectic with unschooling tendancies”.

    We take as many breaks as we need during the school year with definite weeks long breaks in December and again sometime in spring. One thing that keeps me and my nine year old motivated is to give random “surprise” breaks. If I see he’s been working really hard I’ll tell him “Surprise break day”, and he gets to do whatever he wants without my interference. Usually he’ll read and play with Legos and maybe a small stint of computer time. The next day we’re both revived and ready to go.

  10. Before we started homeschooling last year, I was warned that everyone wants to quit in November and February, and not to get discouraged when it happened to me.

    In November we planned a beach vacation (while everyone else was in school, NICE!) I didn’t want to quit homeschooling and felt really proud of myself.

    In February, we all got sick, and busy, and stir-crazy from the cold. And I wanted to quit.

    I’m printing this post and putting it in my tickler file for January–to help me avoid February burnout!
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  11. I have to say I just get tired of the blah boring blah!!! Folks always say do less and rest more, but this year I packed all sorts of things into our school schedule that have never been there before… We start every day with arting, I have tried to do their reading out doors everyday, rain or shine, somehow it just doesn’t feel like school… and things we don’t have time for usually I scheduled in… so an afternoon of games and an afternoon of cards. A nature walk mid-morning, we take a half hour snack break anyway, why not talk a walk up the road and roar around the park for fifteen minutes or draw in our notebooks. Our schedule looks busier but there is more fun in it!!! My kids are keen because of the variety and they are keen which keeps me keen too… I think before I haven’t scheduled the fun in and so we never got round to the fun stuff!!! And yup boredom set in for all of us more than anything else. We are half way through our year and it is going well… take-away tip: schedule the fun in… everybody needs it!!!
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  12. I loved this post. Last year was my first at homeschooling and I started to get burned out around Spring Break. I can’t believe you’re only getting burned out after 9 years! Amazing! I love your ideas, especially the one about taking a long break in February. We try to do that because here in Seattle, we start to go crazy with the rain. Thanks again and good luck this year!

  13. I am so right there with you! Great thoughts on making sure you plan time to break — especially when you know it will be hard! Love the movie idea!!
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  14. I am so glad to read that other homeschool moms burn-out like I do. I’ve been homeschooling for seven years and for the past four years, I’ve noticed that I burn-out by March. Pushing through April is a chore, but by May, I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Dual roles as mom and home educator are tough. I get caught up in being the teacher, when I prefer to just be a mom sometimes. I always felt guilty for not doing some kind of review during the summer, but my relationship with my son is much better if I allow him a much needed break. The break from all-things educational does me good, too.
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  15. My oldest is 14 and he has 3 younger siblings so I appreciate the ideas and reminders. I like it so much I shared it with my Facebook friends 🙂
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  16. Love it! All of your suggestions are great. I like the movie idea especially. Even just as a whole group (not necessarily teens) it is a nice casual way to meet and enjoy time together.

  17. Love your honesty. We too go year round with a month off between terms (3 per year) and we picked our favorite months too. This year is a little wonky, but we will be “off” in November, February and May. I would have preferred October, but Thanksgiving is at our house this year. 🙂
    I also am putting field trips and student theater on our calendar to be sure we do some fun stuff!
    thanks for your plans, I love the movie idea, now the tricky part will be finding appropriate movies that often 😉

  18. Having homeschooled for 8 years, I definitely suffered some burnout. I also recently completely burned out, but that was due to a corporate job overload. I can only stress the importance of taking care of yourself, giving yourself some room to breathe, and relaxing the pressure that you put on yourself. Your kids will survive, and they need you to survive as well!
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  19. Because we played and had so much fun this summer is the reason why I didn’t want to homeschool again this year; I just felt like I couldn’t do it. BUT, I knew it was the right thing, and sure enough, as soon as we forced ourselves to get started back into it, it feels sooo right! Yay! Now I’m really glad we took the time off because we’re all gung-ho about diving back into learning again.
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  20. We normally school year round, so that we can take breaks when my daughter needs them, or when I get short term burn out. We also homeschool so that when life gets in the way, (for example, my own mother’s horrible health, require more participation from me on a daily basis) I don’t get too burned out having to care for mom, homeschool, work, laundry, cook…etc. When school started this year after a summer of other responsibilities (see above) I was not ready to start. I still felt strung out and tired. One of the things I decided to do was scale back all of the local homeschool groups “back to school” activities. The flurry just felt like too much. We took time for us, time to get back in the groove of learning, time to catch our second wind. It was very helpful to just accept less outside commitments for a while.
    Waiting for someone to unscramble the word “homeschool” so that it means we actually get to spend some time at home!

  21. We are very new to Homeschooling, but started our pre-k routines this summer. Whenever I got frustrated or felt a little “stuck in the house” I made cookies (or bread). Not the healthiest of options, but the kids and I had fun laughing and creating together and our extended family members enjoyed the treats from our kitchen!

  22. Erin Shaheen says:

    thank you for your very honest post. I too had my worst year of burnout this year with a 13 year old, 10 year old and 7 yr old twins. Usually we loosely school in the summer but took 6 weeks off. I loved the movie/lunch idea. It’s nice to have reminders of the easy things to do to bring more joy in. I think we will schedule fall hikes and a weekly craft.

  23. thanks for this as a new year is beginning in our house! i think the mental burnout is what gets me the most. i am working on ways to ease that for myself, but as a family as a whole, we don’t tend to respond to the need when it arises, we just continue to muddle through…

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  24. My little man (Kindergarten) is actually go off to school next year (for various reasons). One thing I am concerned about is HIS needing a mental health day now and then. I know it is likely, but there is the guilt… of there WAS the guilt. I think a day at home now and then as needed will serve the whole family well.

    Thanks! 😉

  25. Wise words.
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  26. I have a child with autism who will be graduating this year, a child with social anxiety & depression who is in 10th grade, and an 11 year old boy. I’ve tried these techniques a ton and still come back to burn out mode. I’ve been seeing a counselor and she recommended I let things go, which was my plan too. My middle child has been the hardest to homeschool as she’s never happy. We put her in a private school and she was bullied. I’m of the opinion that private schools are worse than public schools. They just hide their evil under their bibles. Anyway she has asked to attend public school so we did some shared time classes this year and will probably transition to full time next fall. I’m hoping that the joy will return back to homeschool for me and my son, but if it doesn’t, I will let it go.
    I think we moms tend to have a savior complex. We burn ourselves out and then end up with bad health. If I keep coming back to the burn out, something is wrong. I feel sad parts of my journey are ending but I don’t feel guilt for putting my health first. I will finish out this year although I’m pretty exhausted already but then I won’t regret letting go and letting my kids deal with their choices as how to end their high school education. Life is one big lesson that doesn’t end with me. I’ve taught them what I could and its ok that someone else takes on the heavy lifting.

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