When you’re researching homeschooling, you’re likely to find articles that paint a rosy picture of family closeness, excellent academics and relaxed, confident parents. And, to a large degree, homeschooling does involve these things. What you are less likely to hear about is “homeschool burnout.” It’s not that there is some sort of conspiracy to cover up the fact that homeschool parents do burnout on occasion. It’s more about the resources available to you as you research.
Homeschoolers are conscious of representing “all” homeschoolers if they are writing for a blog or homeschool site. No one likes to put her dirty laundry on display. You are far more likely to run into positive depictions of homeschool life. However, if you dig deeper and visit some homeschooling message boards and talk to real life homeschoolers, you’ll find honest answers about the realities of burnout.
How to Recognize Burnout
Whether you choose to pursue a classical method of homeschooling or are eager to provide your children with an unschooling experience, you will run into roadblocks. Burnout, as it relates to homeschooling, is not simply having a bad day. Burnout is a sustained feeling of boredom, exhaustion, frustration or entrapment when facing issues relating to your homeschool. For long-term homeschoolers, you will often hear that October and February are typical months for parents to burn out. Recognizing burnout for what it is is half of the battle to beating it.
October burnout is the let-down feeling after a summer of planning the school year. You started off full-speed and settled in to day-to-day reality. Two months in, you might have to accept that your children are never going to learn Greek – at least from you. Your hopes for the expensive art program are dashed by the weekly crying jags from your eight-year-old because her pictures aren’t just right. February burnout is often a combination of never getting your house back together after the holidays and cabin fever if you live in places with extreme winters.
Solution #1: Switch things Up
Either way, you will find yourself in bed at night wondering if you have any business at all homeschooling. You wonder if your children are really monsters or has homeschooling ruined them. When these thoughts come knocking on your door, it’s time for a break. If you are normally a classical homeschooler, take a week and do some unschooling. Let the kids read what they like and pursue their own interests. You do the same. If you lean to unschooling, introduce a little structure to your lives. The point is to mix things up a bit. I have a great post on quickly and painlessly creating a homeschool routine to help introduce some structure to your homeschool. You can also try a unit study or a series of science experiments. Changing your routine is the quickest way to regain your momentum and perspective.
Solution #2: Find a tribe
Additionally, you must have some form of support network. If you’re lucky, you have “real” people in your area who meet regularly and discuss the day-to-day ups and downs of homeschooling. If not, join a variety of online communities where you can find like-minded souls to brainstorm with you until you hit on a solution. My favorite VERY ACTIVE homeschool online community is The Well-Trained Mind. I’m on there everyday. There are more active homeschool communities out there on Facebook, Yahoo Groups, etc. so just do a Google search (ex. online homeschool forums/groups/chats…). Knowing you’re not alone and that your kids are not the only ones who prefer an Adventure Time Netflix marathon to reading Beowulf can go a long way!
solution #3: play!
While we are not a family of gameschoolers that heavily incorporate games into our curriculum… We still play games! A few years ago, we started “lite” gameschooling after my kids went to a 6-week-long board games class. They had so much fun learning about math, science, geography and more while playing games that we decided to build a library of our own games. By the way, they still play games daily. See how we use games in our homeschool here.
Burnout happens to every homeschooler. It’s not pretty. It does not mean you are a failure or that your kids are destined to become Walmart greeters. It signals that you need a break, a change or both!