Homeschool burnout. Most of us have heard this term and many have experienced it. For each of us it can be different. It can happen suddenly without warning or it can slowly creep up without us even realizing what's going on. It can become steadily worse as we ignore the symptoms and try to soldier on through it and can manifest itself in various forms including depression, panic attacks, physical illness and more until we feel like there is no alternative but to quit homeschooling. It is important to recognize the signs that homeschool burnout may be on the horizon and prepare ourselves to combat this beast. Below are some things to be on the lookout for before they develop into a full-blown case of burnout.
Unrealistic expectations – Most of us have a vision of how our homeschooling days should be going and more often than not the reality falls short of our vision. This can cause us to begin to doubt our ability to teach our children and cause us to have a feeling of failure. When this happens, it may be time to take a reality-check and adjust our expectations to align better with the truth of the here and now.
Losing sight of why you are homeschooling – Remember the reasons you decided to homeschool your children in the first place? Losing sight of these can take the focus off of your end goal and place undue emphasis on other things. Some families create a simple homeschool mission statement that outlines their reasons and main objectives for homeschooling that helps them keep their eyes on the target.
Missing the joy in homeschooling – It can happen to all of us. When we first started homeschooling, we were excited (and yes, a bit scared) about this new adventure. But as time goes on and things became a little more difficult and maybe even a bit mundane, we can come to dread teaching our strong-willed child or become bored with the day-to-day of everything. The joy in the process and achievements seems to disappear. Try being unpredictable and change things up with the what and where you teach or do something that you all enjoy doing that isn't necessary found in your lesson plans. Recapture the excitement and joy you first experienced with something new and unexpected.
Comparing yourself or your children to others – As much as we consciously know that we should never compare ourselves or our children to others, we too often fall into the trap of trying to measure-up to someone else. This feeds our insecurities and fuels our feelings of inadequacies. Find ways to focus on personal strengths and uniqueness and build upon those. Seek out individuality and remember that the person you may be comparing to may just very well be doing the same thing with you.
Over-extending yourself – Being a homeschool teacher as well as taking care of household and family obligations can be time-consuming. We often fill up every waking moment of our lives with activities, running here and there for this and that, sometimes leaving us feeling overwhelmed and fatigued. It is important that we prioritize, schedule our time accordingly and enlist the help of others. Nowhere is it written that we have to do it all. It is OK to no!
Not taking care of yourself – Homschooling, parenting and all the things that life entails, will often leave us with little time to even consider taking a minute to do something just for ourselves. This can lead to feelings of resentment over the level of responsibility that we take on, envy towards those that seem to have an abundance of free time, cause us to become irritable and angry and, especially, lead to down-right exhaustion. Just like a car cannot run when it is out of fuel and broken down, the same is true of ourselves. We need to purposefully and deliberately set aside time, at the very least, each week, preferably every day, to fill our physical and spiritual tanks. It is not selfish or irresponsible to do something just for you. In fact, it is medically and scientifically proven that we will be better and more equipped to tackle everything in our lives if we do so. Enlist the help of others if needed to be able to ensure that you are doing things that don't revolve around your home or homeschool so that you can be a better and healthier you!
These are just a few of the signs that you may be headed towards homeschool burnout and on the verge of tossing in the towel. Things will go wrong. More than likely, you may experience some guilt that you did not accomplish everything on your self-inflicted "to do list." You will probably have days where you feel like you are not capable of meeting your child's educational needs. There will inevitably be times when the kids will simply drive you up the wall, frustration will escalate out of this world and you will think that they would be better off schooling somewhere (anywhere) else. All of these are normal and natural feelings that we want to be sure do not become extreme.
Just because today you are feeling like things are going all wrong, that you are failing your children or that you just can't do this anymore, does not mean that tomorrow you will not find new resolve and energy to hit the ground running. Warding off the things that take away the spark and life of your homeschool (and home) by being aware that they exist is the first step to moving onward and upward.