Homeschool Burnout ~
Written by Caitlin Curley of My Little Poppies
Sometimes you can feel the burnout coming on, just as you can tell your body is fighting a cold.
“Uh-oh,” you think to yourself, and then you quickly snap into prep mode.
With this type of burnout, you have a little wiggle room. You can try to fight it off … and also prepare in case you lose the battle.
Other times, burnout stops you in your tracks. More like the flu, it sneaks up on you on a clear blue day and knocks you to your knees without any warning.
Out of nowhere, you suddenly feel horrible. Physically and emotionally exhausted, you are left wondering what on earth just happened.
Burnout is always tricky, but sneaky burnout is the trickiest.
This homeschool mama gig did not come with sick days, or vacation days, or a substitute teacher. And that’s the worst part of burnout. You’re on your own. You must put one foot in front of the other, don a smile, and muddle through until the fog lifts.
Unfortunately sometimes, for whatever reason, burnout is harder to shake. All of the usual strategies don’t work and you just feel … stuck.
If you are feeling this way, please know that you are not alone. Some homeschool seasons are harder than others.
In fact, I am right there with you.
Last week, I finally emerged from the throes of sneaky burnout. I’m still scratching my head, wondering what happened. We had a great winter and we made it through February with nary a hiccup.
Then March hit and the kids bounced random illnesses back and forth and the world was gray and cold and wet. The month felt like an eternity and yet I cannot tell you what we did. When the kids were finally feeling better, I was utterly exhausted.
Everything felt harder, even the simple things. Even the things that should be fun.
I tried all the usual strategies:
- We took some time off
- I made sure we were all getting eating well and enough sleep
- I sprinkled in more “fun” activities and events
And still… nothing. No matter how hard I tried, something was missing. And that something had been missing all month.
You know you are suffering from sneaky burnout when the joy is gone.
So, how did I come out the other side?
First, I did what I always do when anxiety swells: a brain dump. I made a list of activities that usually make us happy… and I made sure they were easy.
Then, I resolved to do as many as I could each day.
But here’s the most important part: I set aside the homeschool to-do list. I promised I would stop worrying about math until this phase had passed.
Our one and only goal was to find the joy.
Today, I’m sharing that brain dump with you all. Here are ten easy things to try when homeschooling is hard:
I promise you that it will help even when you don’t feel like going outside. Make yourself get out there for twenty minutes and see what happens. Your children will benefit, too. If you don’t believe me, read this book. It’s science!
I know you don’t feel like it. (I didn’t either.) But, again, this is science. You don’t have to run a marathon, but resolve to move. You could go for a leisurely walk with the kids…
… or you could do a yoga DVD together. Consider it phys ed class – you’ll all feel better when you are finished!
Music is my go-to cheer up strategy. When the going gets rough, we turn on [my] favorite songs and dance in the kitchen. Acting silly together and singing at top volume can turn a bad day around.
One of our family’s most treasured homeschool routines emerged during a time of homeschool burnout. It was never planned, I just did the easiest thing while muddling through.
When things feel hard, grab a good book and read aloud. This is arguably the most important thing you can do for your child!
We are a family of gameschoolers… but we didn’t always consider games part of our curriculum. Several years ago, we started a Gameschool Challenge to help our family survive February. We witnessed such remarkable learning during these challenges that we decided to use games daily!
Art is a wonderful way to calm down and there are a wealth of art resources on the internet. Grab a sheet of paper and create alongside your children. You’ll be so happy you did!
Let’s face it: sometimes it’s a struggle to get off the couch. On these days, turn on a favorite movie and create memories with your children. Watch a documentary, an old classic, or study musicals and count it as learning because it is.
8. Rabbit Holes
If you are struggling to plan your homeschool, stop. Ask your kids what they want to learn about and let them have at it. Maybe it’s origami, or magic, or baking. Rabbit holes can help children discover passions!
9. Field Trips
Sometimes you need a break in the monotony. Stop by your local library and pick up some museum passes or enjoy a virtual field trip together.
And speaking of that…
Don’t forget to feed your soul, mama.
What makes you happy? Find time to do that. For me, books help. Here are a few that have filled my soul over the years:
- Anything by John Holt
- A Gracious Space by Julie Bogart
- Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne
- Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life by Peter Gray
- Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry by Katrina Kenison
- Only Love Today by Rachel Macy Stafford
Homeschooling is a journey, not a race.
Burnout happens to everyone. This too shall pass, I promise.
While you are muddling through, look at those little people in front of you.
They are learning all the time, regardless of your planning and prepping. So much learning happens in the space between. Focus on your children, your relationship, and the conversations and connection.
Before you know it, your joy will return.
Have you experienced sneaky homeschool burnout? How do you find your joy when burnout hits? Share here.
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