Written by Kara S. Anderson
I quit homeschooling once.
I remember the day actually – it was two houses ago now, and I was pacing in my living room. I had my sleeping 1-year-old held to my chest in a baby sling, and it was cold, because it was December and that drafty Victorian was always chilly.
We had started in September after a year of church preschool. Preschool had been rocky because my son didn’t like to sit on the line. It was a whole thing – the teacher kept talking to me after class, and I wasn’t sure what to do, but I was gradually realizing that the school wasn’t a good fit for my precocious boy.
So we decided to try homeschooling. I spent the summer reading books and getting our little home classroom ready.
We started off strong – perhaps too strong. I realize now that I had an even mixture of zeal and terror.
My son, age 4, had shown a casual interest in knights and castles, and so I read the kids Robin Hood. (I mean, I tried to read the kids Robin Hood – they were 1 and 4 and the book was an inch thick and didn’t have one picture – not even on the cover).
We made paper because paper was invented in Medieval Times.
And we planned out a huge Medieval feast. We ate with the lights off.
At the same time, I also tried to follow a book curriculum, and tried to practice Waldorf methodology like my life depended on it.
Is it any wonder that I burned out before Christmas?
I had jumped in a little too far. I was trying to do homeschool so fully, so completely, when that half-year could have been spent reading, playing and not trying to cram 1,000 years of history into 4 months.
I had such relief when the little Montessori-esque preschool accepted my son.
We actually really liked the Montessori school. It had a tree growing in its library. My son loved “Math Mat Time” and music class.
But the school told us that the next year, they wanted to move our 4-year-old into the 6- to 9-year-old classroom because he was an early reader.
We still had another child to consider – and full-days in their grade school were considerably more expensive than the preschool had been.
And so, we decided to try homeschooling one more time. And that time, it stuck.
We just entered out 12th year, and although I’ve experienced plenty of worry and doubt, I’ve never considered quitting again.
So what changed?
I think I was very lucky that I burned out early. The stakes were still pretty low. Even when we started again, I could reason that it was “just” Kindergarten.
But more than that, I realized that if we were in this for the long haul, we had to start treating it like a marathon, and not a race.
I had to pace myself, and stop for (water) breaks, and I had to take a bit more control over how we homeschooled.
When we first started, I used a method that made me feel bad ALL THE TIME.
But when I decided to take the parts of that philosophy that worked for us, and leave the rest behind, I found a new freedom.
Seeing my people
I also decided that the most important part of our homeschool experience was the relationships.
Nothing worked when I pushed. I’m a highly-sensitive introvert, and an Enneagram 9 – that means that pushing is entirely against my nature.
I needed to factor in every person who lived in our house, because home and homeschool are not separate. I had to make sure I never again put the dogma ahead of my people.
And I decided that if we were going to thrive, I had to quit seeing the Internet as a massive homeschool assignment.
There are so many wonderful ideas out there – but we need to keep them in their place. Ideas are great, but if we’re going to stay sane, we have to pick and choose. We have to be homeschool minimalists – wherein we do what works for us and leave the rest.
Learn from my mistakes
If you were to ask me how you can avoid burning out this year, this is what I would tell you:
- Breaks are so important. Take them when you need them. That means if you can NOT teach one more math lesson until the kitchen gets back to a point of at least being functional, it’s okay.
- Stop following social media accounts that make you feel bad. I don’t care if someone has 100,000 followers or all your friends sing someone’s praises.
- Speaking of which, listen to your gut. Mama Intuition is powerful. Don’t ignore how you feel.
- Develop a self-care routine. This doesn’t have to be fancy. Maybe your routine is reading a book in your room each afternoon during nap/quiet time. Maybe it’s a night with friends once a month.
- Learn about your personality and what you need to thrive. Introverts: read Jamie’s book! (afflink)
- Find a friend you can be honest with, who won’t tell you after a bad day that maybe you should quit homeschooling.
- Realize that you can make mistakes. It’s okay. We ALL make mistakes. We all try a math program that bombs – and online craft project tutorials? Forgetaboutit.
Mostly, I want you to give yourself so much grace. You are one person. We all are.
So do your best, and on the hard days, jump into bed as early as you can and promise yourself you’ll try again in the morning.
Remember Emerson …
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
Don’t you love that?
We can always begin again.
Have a wonderful school year, friends.
Have you ever considered quitting homeschooling? What helped you stay the course?