Amy Pak, a homeschool veteran of four, shares her six tips to avoiding homeschool burnout.
There is such joy in the first days of the school year—the smell of new books and supplies, a brand new planner just waiting to be filled with fun lessons and experiences, a clean slate to begin the year’s journey! However, once we get three-fourths of the way through the school year, we can often find ourselves running a bit behind with studies. When it comes to our kids, it’s the season of recitals, testing (for some homeschoolers), and the beginning of summer sports practice. We begin to smell the wisps of the smoke of burn-out, yet life isn’t slowing down!
With the final stretch of the school year to go, you might be dealing with a lack of enthusiasm and the early stages of exhaustion. The stresses start to build as does the guilt (and even shame) when we don’t accomplish all that we set out to do. We’ve all been there, and it’s normal. However, there are “smoke alarms” you can put in place to avoid burn-out or recognize when it’s coming on so you can snuff it out before it becomes an inferno.
1. Know your priorities
Shed off what truly isn’t necessary—both in your school schedule and in your personal life—and don’t be afraid to say “no.” Your kids are your mission field, and it’s important that you make them a priority rather than answering the needs of everyone else.
There will always be needs out there, but there will never be more than 24 hours in a day. Make lists of what’s truly a priority, what is moderately important but can wait, and what is not really necessary or can be delegated to someone else.
Although church is often a place we feel we need to contribute and give of our time and talents, it is also a place of solace and renewing. We can find ourselves pulling away from time with God because the hours just run away with us and we forget to include Him. Or sometimes we just feel guilt because we think we’re not doing our part, and we assume God will be disappointed in us.
Nothing could be further from the truth! He longs for us to come to Him with our burdens and lay them at His feet. In Matthew 11, Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He is our refuge and our strength! Remember to pray, even if it’s just a cry for help. He is ever-faithful to listen and comfort.
3. Don’t let guilt or anxiety have any power over you
Do NOT compare yourself to others—that will do nothing but add to the anxiety. Your situation is your own, and the rate that your children learn is individual to them. Every homeschool is its own entity and has its own definition. Don’t fall into the trap of measuring yourselves to others—it’s not fair to you or your children.
No one loves your children like you do.
Your children will benefit far more from a mother who is trying to protect her family’s sanity than one who is trying to keep up with all of the unrealistic expectations and responsibilities that society has dumped on her plate.
4. Get help when you can
If you’re finding that Tommy is just not moving along because he’s stuck, find help to get you through the lessons. Perhaps the support of a tutor or someone who understands the subject could lend a hand. Sometimes just learning from another person, especially at a time you may be stressed, is just the ticket to jump-start your child’s enthusiasm for a topic.
Maybe it means getting help with some of the other work to lighten your load! Hiring a person to clean for just a few hours a week can help tremendously and is worth the cost. Another form of “help” is picking up pre-made food that just needs to be heated. Meal-prep can take a lot of time, but doesn’t always have to. Does your grocery store offer rotisserie chickens or prepared family-sized meals, such as lasagna or casseroles?
Help can also come in the form of having someone to talk to. Just sharing our concerns and stresses with a friend or counselor can often lighten the load for us mentally. It allows an outside source to speak into our situations, perhaps with views we hadn’t thought of before.
5. Be aware of your health
Burn-out is a physically real thing! Many people are hospitalized due to built-up stress and exhaustion. If you are not eating well or making sure to drink enough, ailments will compound with dehydration. Depression is a quiet stalker that can rob you of joy and derail you mentally and physically. You can’t tend to others if you are not caring for yourself. Lack of sleep is a huge contributor to burn-out!
I have personally suffered health issues due to lack of sleep and poor eating, and I can’t begin to tell you how much this can affect your life and your relationships with those around you. As moms, we tend to view caring for ourselves as selfish, so we are always last on the list when it comes to care. Although our families still come first, we do no one any good if we are down for the count! Make the necessary time to keep yourself healthy.
6. Make plans to simplify
Finally, if you know there will be added stress coming down the pike, such as a new baby, a move, or added responsibilities you can’t avoid, begin preparing for it early. Plan to keep things simple and focus on mandatory lessons, but keep the other subjects less complicated.
Be aware of your moods and look for the symptoms. If you find yourself losing patience and making irrational decisions, or crying easily and overreacting to situations, talk to your spouse and reassess your schedule together. Take care of yourself and get that rest. That old adage is true—‘when mom ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.’
If we can place a few “smoke alarms” in our schedules, we are more apt to avoid burn-out before it gets out of control.
Amy Pak is an 18-year homeschool veteran to four and a “Maimy” to seven grandkids. She is also the co-owner, illustrator, and co-author at Home School in the Woods, a family-run history company known for its historical timeline figures and hands-on history studies. You can read more of Amy’s writing on her company’s blog.