Are you experiencing homeschool burnout? It is a real problem. While a lot of homeschool moms (and public school moms too for that matter) may feel a real lull in the school year in January and February and wish schooling could be done for the year, homeschool burnout is a deeper issue. If you are exhausted from homeschooling, here are tips for how to recover from homeschool burnout so you can thrive, not just survive!
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My Road to Homeschool Burnout
A year ago, I had been homeschooling for eight years, one on my own and seven involved with Classical Conversations. While I really enjoyed all that my children and I were learning through Classical Conversations, I was always involved in tutoring or directing, which required a lot of accountability and work.
During those eight years, I also taught early childhood music and piano classes, wrote skits about artists and composers, cooked all of our meals, trained my kids to help me keep the house clean, and did the usual housekeeping stuff. My summers were supposed to be when I rested, but really, every summer, I prepared for the next school year and caught up on house projects, like a lot of painting. Especially after the last summer, when I prepared to tutor Challenge A, we painted the outside of our house ourselves, and I filmed my artist and composer skits for a YouTube channel, I started the school year on empty.
As our eighth year of homeschooling drew to an end and the February slump never got better, my wise husband could see that I had reached the point of homeschool burnout. He looked at me and said, “You need a break. We should take the year off from CC.” It was a relief to think that maybe I could begin to recover from this exhaustion.
Our family is firmly committed to homeschooling – so we were not taking a break from that – but in a sense we decided to take a year of Sabbath rest from homeschool groups and extra commitments to focus on our family and better self-care. In Leviticus 25:3-5, God outlines a plan for a year of Sabbath rest. “For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of Sabbath rest, a Sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest.”
Oops! I guess I should have taken a year of Sabbath rest after six years of homeschooling, and then maybe I wouldn’t have been in homeschool burnout! Well, better late than never.
How to Recover from Homeschool Burnout
Does this sound like you? Are you exhausted from all you do as a homeschool mom or do you need help in recovering from homeschool burnout? Here are tips that have helped me to recover from homeschool burnout.
1. Restore your relationship with God.
This is the most important way to begin to recover from homeschool burnout! A big factor in burnout is trying to do things in our own strength. We can’t. We can do nothing apart from God, so we must be abiding in His Word and getting our strength from Him. Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
God wants to revive us in His Word, the Bible, and in our relationship with Him. We will find refreshment in the truths and perspective and promises of the Bible, but even more so as we grow in a relationship with Him. Developing our relationship with God reminds us of our purpose in life, “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism #1)
In addition to time in the Bible, prayer time is vital. We need to be able to pour out our concerns to God and lift up our children and activities. We also are able to find perspective as we focus on praising God for his character and thanking him for our many blessings. I like to keep a daily journal of things I am thankful for along with wins in personal growth to remind me of God’s faithfulness to me.
2. Get rest.
This may sound obvious, but each season of life has its own challenges and it is tempting to burn the candle at both ends. Seriously, take time to rest and relax. Go to bed earlier and get on a regular schedule for both going to bed and getting up in the morning. Take naps when needed. Take breaks in the midst of busy seasons, and rest and do activities that refill you in less busy seasons.
3. Figure out your priorities.
What is really most important in your life? I’ve heard it said, “If everything is important, then nothing is important.” You need to decide what is important and thus where you should focus your energy and time.
There is a powerful visual demonstration of this using rocks in a jar. If the jar represents the time you have and you want to fill all the spaces of a jar using big rocks, small stones and sand, what would you put in first? If you put in the sand first and then the small stones, there would not be space for the big rocks! Yet if you put in the big rocks first, then you can still fit in small stones. You can even fill in sand in all the extra spaces.
The big rocks are our priorities, but so often, we fill our lives with all of the tasks that are “urgent” or “necessary” – that is the sand and the small stones – and then we don’t have time for what is actually important. So again I ask, what is really most important in your life? These are the big rocks and we need to put these first in our jar of life. We need to make time for these first.
4. Back off commitments.
Now that you know what is most important, you will want to eliminate or take a break from activities or responsibilities, even if just for a season. There are seasons to life and you can’t do everything at once. This means learning to say “no” to many things. I want to do it all, and I want my children to have every opportunity to grow and learn. But it is unrealistic to try to do everything. This could be as simple as saying you can’t bring a meal to a family who just had a baby this time. Maybe you can skip enrolling your child in soccer this season. Or it could be letting go of a commitment for the year – not tutoring or teaching Sunday school this year. For me, the biggest way I set some limits was in taking a year off from any homeschool group. Since I was so involved in our CC group, this took a lot off of my plate. I was now only responsible for my own family and could make up a schedule to fit our needs and desires.
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5. Set goals.
Once you know what is essential, you can set goals. Having goals is imperative, for, along with knowing your priorities, goals give you direction. Instead of running around like a chicken with its head cut off, you can live intentionally. After all, as Zig Ziglar says, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” Dream big with long-term goals, and then break them down into short-term goals.
Setting goals can also help with your mindset. If you know you are working towards a goal, it doesn’t feel like each day is the same thing every day. While our real purpose is to glorify and enjoy God, it helps to also have a sense of purpose in working towards a goal, for as Cathy Heller says, “Purpose is the opposite of depression.”
6. Make a Plan.
Having a plan is a key to sanity as a homeschool mom! Indeed, with all the things we need to do with my children in homeschooling and all the things we want to do with our lives, not having a plan causes us to run around in circles and feel like we’re getting nowhere.
You also need to plan your children’s homeschool schedule. This could be a separate planner from your own. You will need to look at the priorities for their education – what is most important for them to learn while they are at home (long-term learning) or this year (short-term learning)? You may also want to make goals or help your children define goals for the year. Then you will want to look at how many lessons are in a curriculum and how many days of school you will meet. From here you can sketch out a plan in pencil of how many lessons you need to do a month and a week. Finally, each week make up a daily schedule or list of what needs to get done each day that week. (I like lists for my children’s homeschool because as older learners now, they know what they need to do for the day and can take however long they need for an assignment. On the assignments we do together, I schedule a time block with them. (i.e. 10 – 11 AM Latin)
7. Set up Systems.
Another way to recover from homeschool burnout is to set up routines and automated systems. These are necessary so we don’t waste mental and physical energy on things we do regularly. Routines to save time and energy are meal planning (a schedule of meals for the week or month so you know what to buy and what to thaw and/or cook each day), meal routines (what needs to be done for meal preparation and cleanup and who cooks, sets the table, clears and cleans dishes, wipes the table, sweeps the floor after the meal) daily tidying of your home, making a cleaning/chore chart (yes, teach your kids to help you around the house!) I even have a morning routine and evening routine of self-care. These systems enable us to not be overwhelmed on a daily basis!
8. Make time for self-care and breaks.
Self-care is implementing all of the above steps, but also planning time for things that you enjoy. As homeschool moms, we are in a season of giving a lot of ourselves to our children, but if we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t have anything to give. If possible, we need to strike a balance between giving to our families and so fulfilling our calling as wives and mothers, and taking care of ourselves and making sure we get breaks for refreshment. If you are reading this, it is probably because you have reached the point of becoming an exhausted homeschool mom, which means you may not have been taking time for self-care.
Getting exercise and fresh air are a vital part of self-care, so you may want to start with taking regular walks. I love to walk early in the morning while I pray, for example, or go on walks with my husband to get some alone time with him. When my kids were younger, I’d pack them up into a bike trailer and take a bike ride. I was with them but getting exercise, sunshine and a sense of alone time.
You know what kinds of things fill you up – time to read or write, alone time if you are an introvert, a get-together with friends if you are an extrovert, a date night with your husband, etc. Make time in your schedule for some of these things in the next week, and make sure to add in breaks and self-care regularly!
If anything, start with making time with God a priority! This is the best form of self-care!
Recovering from homeschool burnout is a journey. These tips will help you get started on the path to overcoming homeschool burnout so you can thrive, instead of just survive!
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