I think many homeschooling parents struggle to find a healthy mental space that is somewhere between being confidently relaxed about our children’s academic progress and being senselessly worried that we’re majorly screwing things up for them by not keeping up our end of the homeschooling responsibilities. 


My 3 year old’s self portrait, created in February.
Perhaps he too was beginning to feel burned out?


In the past months, I’ve been teetering towards the senselessly worried end of things because I’ve been battling burn-out.

Ever go through seasons like that? Maybe you’re in it with me right now.

I’m talking about those days {or weeks} when life in general {let alone the homeschool routine}, is just such a struggle that we really start believing that although everyone else around us seems to be doing just fine, we are these unorganized, unmotivated, barely-surviving, failures as parents and teachers.

February-March was rough for me. 

Those late winter/early spring months make it hard to even do life, let alone a structured academic routine.

We’ve been all cooped up inside for months on end, and our kids are restless and driving us mamas a little bit bonkers.  These are the times when forward progress feels so difficult.
Remember Laura Ingalls, towards the end of The Long Winter after they had endured nearly 7 months of relentless blizzards?–she writes that her mind felt numb, and when it came to school work, she was “dumb” and incapable of learning.  

There are just seasons–literally–when we all become weary of the relentless mental demands of life and home education.

As a former teacher I used to feel badly for my students during this time of year.  That was when I tried my best to liven things up in the classroom–do more hands-on, more art, schedule a field trip for that time of year, or make some unexpected changes to our routine and classroom rhythms.  Unfortunately, this is also the season when most public schools are gearing up for state testing, so teachers and administrators everywhere have this pressure to amp up until all that has passed.  How well I remember the stress of those times!

So what has changed since I’ve started homeschooling?  
Well, when it comes to burn-out, not a whole lot.

Homeschool moms everywhere feel the late winter blues of schooling this time of year.  We just feel spent, and very often, for some reason, we are afraid to admit it (do we think, perhaps, that by saying we are burned out, it means we are failing altogether?).

Well, this normally energetic, teacher-turned-homeschool-mom is gonna be the first in line to say, yes, I feel burned out.  I am tired.  I am ready for spring. I’m behind on life and school feels like a burden to carry some days.

I really hate that we even have to go through these seasons, but I don’t care how optimistic you are, to deny that we do is to be dishonest. In ANY serious undertaking (which homeschooling most certainly is), there are valleys as well as there are peaks.

Sometimes I look back and wonder where on earth my September steam went.  I marvel at the energy I  had then, and how much more I seemed to be accomplishing each day and in school especially.  We were just truckin’ along, and my goodness, these days, we are dragging our feet to get the bare necessities in each school day.  

I took a full week off in mid-March and I tell you, I had guilt for our entire break because somewhere around Valentine’s Day, the weariness set it, and I started giving less than 100% effort in the formal schooling department.  
Did we really deserve to take a whole week off after sorta slacking the month before?  

But ya know, mamas, sometimes you just have to stop–like FULLY STOP–and take the break that you know you, and your kids need.  To just BE together in a more relaxed way, and for an extended period of time.
I think most of us who have chosen this lifestyle really do believe that the “learning button” is never actually switched off, but sometimes the more rigorous parts of the day do need to be loosened and eased up altogether.  As Ann Voskamp says, why do we think we can get anywhere safely if we never allow ourselves to come to completehard stops?  If we don’t come to full stops, at some point, we’ll end up crashing.

So guilty as I felt, we took our full week break, as planned, from formal academics.  I wish I could say that I used that week to get caught up on the laundry, or to do some big project, but I didn’t.

We all just stopped. We spent time as a family, and with dear friends.
And it was nice.  Really nice.

Following our formal break, however, we had a wonky week where, due to crazy schedules, visits from family members, and life in general, our school routine was once again disrupted almost daily.  
That brought us right up to Easter weekend, and then what would have been our first Monday back we missed school because my kids had spent the night at their grandparents over Easter Sunday.  

By that point, I started really stressing out.  You know what I mean, don’t you moms?  That feeling you get when you know that barring disaster, you WILL NOT let another day go by without doing school FIRST THING and getting “back on track” or whatever else you say when you find yourself in such a place.

So today, right after breakfast, there I am pulling out the books and calling my girl to come on back to the table to get our morning work started.  

Oh, people, you should have heard the groans.  Then came the dreaded whine that grates like nails on a chalkboard to every homeschool mom’s ears when she hears it… “but I don’t want to do schoooooool...”

{sigh}

It can be hard to move back into routines, huh?

But I smiled, held my ground and eased into things by starting with some of my daughter’s favorite subjects, and in no time at all, she was smiling too, and we were enjoying being back into the swing of things together.  The sun was shining and the little boys were in and out and under the table as usual while my girl and I were deep into science, and then on to math.  
Hmm, math–not my girl’s most favorite subject. As we open to our lesson we realize she has reached the end of her current book, and the last page presented her with a 45-question math-fact quiz that covered all the facts she has learned to date.  Oh man, I thought when I saw it.  We haven’t exactly been on top of math fact practice lately…this could be painful.
I held my breath. But would you know, my girl just devoured those questions, and she hardly missed a single one?  

On to reading, and instead of the usual struggle to attack those words on her own to sound them out, I sat back in amazement as my girl breezed through it and moved on to read aloud an entire never-read-before book to me, word for perfect word, like she’s been reading all her life?!  
Oh you can bet there was some high-fiving and hugging and dad-calling, and possibly even some passing out of candy at 9:30 am.  My daughter was feeling energetic and confident in herself, and I’m pretty sure that brain of hers grew a size or two in these past few weeks of restful, laissez -faire home life. And to tell you the truth, I felt pretty great too.  We sort of got lost in our studies for a while today, and it’s been while since that’s happened.


It’s April now, and I think (I think!) we are through with winter weather.   

But if you or your kids are feeling the not-quite-spring blues, hang in there.  Take a FULL stop/break if you haven’t yet, regardless of whether or not you think you deserve it.  It’s gonna be ok.  You WILL regain your energy and focus, and you WILL finish your last 2 or 3 months off with flying colors. 

As you intentionally love on, and pour into your children, I pray that the Lord breaths new life into each of you life-weary moms out there….so many of you (like me) are juggling babies and/or chasing toddlers while also trying to school your older children.  Life is crazy!  Others have been at this homeschooling thing a lot longer than we have been, and while your children are older, you are no doubt feeling the weariness of the long road you’ve been on.  The never ending demands of homemaking+homeschooling+child raising can feel so relentless at times.  So give yourself some grace.  Cut yourself some slack. You’re doing great, mamas! 

Together, let’s keep our eyes fixed upon the prize ahead, never forgetting to stop, to remember, and to give thanks.  

Remember where you were this time last year?  Remember how you cried out to the Lord for what He has now provided? See how far you’ve climbed? See how faithful He has been? Remember!  The Psalmist says “forget not ALL His benefits!”

Look how high we’ve climbed!

And as you lift up your life-weary hands once more for Him to fill, rejoice that our Lord, who has guided you this far, is with you still, and will guide you continually as you wait upon Him.

***

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.””  
Matthew 11:28



“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His Holy name.  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not ALL His benefits.”  
Psalm 103:1-2





5 thoughts on “Homeschooling When You’re Burned Out

  1. Pingback: First Half of School Year — PART 1 — The Good ‹ The Art of Heart & Home

  2. chris 2011

    I hear you girls my son is in public school and mom weariness is nearing an end spring is here and better weather also I have had my husbands illness and being out of work because of him being sick for a year. but things are looking up I am going back to work now and my husband is well again . So we look forward to a new Beginning and starting Strong with the Lords help and guidance. Happy Spring!!!

  3. Homestead Mommy

    We are just now coming out of our Winter burn out as well. Between Easter,life and I had a surgery with a rough recovery and an er visit.
    We just started back yesterday. Oh the groans from my two.LOL but, the
    weather is turning nice and it is giving new life to their drive to finish school to go out and play.

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