Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fighting Homeschool Burnout

‘Tis the season – for homeschool burnout. Has it gotten to you? Do you feel like your home, your school, and your life are out of your control? Does this school year seem to be stretching out into eternity with no end in sight? Do you dread getting up in the morning? If so, you are not alone. Many dedicated homeschoolers run out of steam during the school year. After all, teaching your children is a fulltime job. While you put in your hours as a teacher, you’re called to be a wife, mom, chauffeur, housekeeper, cook, laundress, and nurse as well. If you also have paying work to do and/or are serving in a church ministry, you probably spend a lot of time dazed and confused about where you are supposed to be and what you should be doing!

Before you start hollowing out the back of your closet to construct a secret hiding place for yourself, you might want to take a moment to reevaluate your responsibilities. Maybe the answer is not to hide or run away. Perhaps you can learn to eliminate and delegate in order to take back your life!

Things you may reduce or eliminate without guilt:

Involvement in extracurricular activities. Listen, I’ve been there. When my two kids were younger, I didn’t want them to miss out on anything. Therefore, we went on at least three group field trips a month, they participated in two sports apiece each semester, and they were members of two clubs as well as being a part of the homeschool choir! Each morning my daughter would wake up and ask, “Where are we going today?” We never seemed to be at home! It put an incredible strain on me, and in the end, my children aren’t pursuing careers in sports, nor were they so enthralled with any field trip that they chose to pursue a career because of it. All of those activities were fine for enrichment, but I can’t say that our participation improved our personal or spiritual lives. Less would have served just as well, and it would have given us more time to relax. Don’t be afraid to cut back or even eliminate extra activities, no matter how educational they seem to be.

Church service. *Gasp!* Yes, I said it. You’ve been called by God to teach your children at home. That’s a fulltime job and takes a lot of after-hours preparation. Now may not be the best time for you to be volunteering at church. If you dread Sundays or Wednesdays rather than look forward to them, and if your involvement leaves you feeling anxious and stretched too thin, it’s time to step aside and let someone else handle that ministry. Some people feel that homeschooling parents have lots of spare time, but we know better than that, don’t we.

Duties you may be able to delegate:

Church service. Yes, I did just say that you could eliminate this without guilt, but you may be able to continue being part of a church ministry with a little delegating, if you feel that God has called you to serve. Perhaps your children can share in the work. Perhaps you can share the job with other church members so that each person has less to do. If you pray about it, you may receive ideas that have never crossed your mind before.

Housework. It’s close to impossible to devote your attention to your children’s education and have enough time left over to keep the house spotless. Don’t be afraid to train your children to do some of the housework. Sure, at first they may not do things up to your standards, but maybe your standards can be lowered. Do the towels in the linen closet have to be perfectly square and neatly lined up? Being clean and available is what matters the most, isn’t it?

Cooking. If you keep lunch simple, it may be something one of your children could prepare. My children enjoyed making sandwiches for all of us, and that was just the beginning of their cooking experience. Now I have a daughter who hopes to be a chef some day!

Other ideas that will benefit you:

Make time for you. Burnout occurs from work overload, but it also occurs from lack of attention to self. You will feel so much better if you are able to do something that you enjoy doing, whether it is reading, scrapbooking, or visiting a friend. Plan to devote some time to your own interests at least twice a month.

Make time for your spouse. It’s easy to let the marital relationship slide when you are wrapped up in your children’s education and the whole homeschooling experience. Don’t let that happen. A weekly date night would be ideal, but if time is limited, make it twice a month. At the least, you can put the kids to bed at a decent hour, giving you and your spouse time to unwind, relax, and enjoy each other’s company.

Make sick days easy days. Why else are there educational CDs, videos, and computer games? When you fall ill, don’t push yourself. Take a break from your regular schedule so that you can recover more quickly.

A burned out homeschooler has nothing left to give. A burned out homeschooler may make poor decisions based on that burned out feeling. Don’t let yourself get to that point.
Remember that this is a season, and it will pass. Too soon you will have finished teaching your last child. Make memories while you have time, and don’t allow those memories to be of a stressed out mom or dad. Simplify your schedule and enjoy your homeschooling experience. Remember what matters in light of eternity, and let go of the extras without guilt. In the end, you’ll be glad you did.

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