Re-Energize Your Homeschool: Coping with “Burnout” and Sparking New Ideas
Burnout is usually a result of trying to do too much or trying to stick to an old format. It can be a sure sign that it’s time to try something different, to broaden your horizons, to make changes not only in your homeschool, but in your lifestyle. Change can help us keep growing and lead to many happy years of exciting, rewarding homeschool experiences.
Encouragement for Your Homeschool Journey
Burnout can occur after ten years of homeschooling or after two years. Parents may feel that they have exhausted all the ideas that once seemed so fabulous and endless. After a few years of homeschooling, the kids might not be as excited about the homeschool experience as they were in the beginning. Getting them to open a book or finish an assignment seems like a losing battle. But it needn’t be a battle with the kids nor yourself.
Stress is one of the main causes of burnout. Parents may find themselves trying to fill two full-time roles in the home: as a parent and as a “schoolteacher”. This adds unnecessary stress to your life. As we've noted in previous articles, learning is a natural part of living, and homeschooling should be a natural part of your family’s lifestyle. Homeschooling is not “school at home”. Teaching your children is simply a part of parenting your children.
Burnout also comes from setting expectations too high, then trying to reach them, day after day, and finding yourself falling short. If you feel you’d be a “better teacher” if your children were ready for learning every morning at 8:00 A.M., dove into their lessons with glee each day, stayed on task throughout the morning and afternoon, achieved 100% on all their assignments, and were able to deliver the Gettysburg Address over dinner, then you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment. Occasionally, a day may work out this way, but it’d be a miracle for nearly any teacher to experience such success.
If you, on the other hand, feel you’re accomplishing your goals when your children enjoy most of their lessons, like to explore things that interest them, are learning new information and skills, and can deliver the Gettysburg Address by the end of a school year, then you and your kids are probably enjoying the homeschool process, and you won’t be as likely to burn out.
As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Lower your expectations for yourself and for your children, and you will lower your feelings of stress and chances of burnout. It’s true that you’ll want your children to attain certain goals, so you naturally have some expectations of them. Just remember that you have an entire year to reach those goals. And then there’s next year, too, and the year after that.
When you begin to get that nagging feeling that maybe you’re not doing enough in your homeschool, or read or hear about the fantastic adventures of other homeschool families, take some moments to step back and look at your own family. Consider the happiness and well-being of your own children. Consider how much they’ve grown, how much they’ve learned since you began homeschooling.
If your children are exhibiting signs of boredom, then they may not be challenged enough. Set the learning rail a little higher for them—just enough to entice them to try a little harder. But not so high that they become frustrated, which will lead to feelings of frustration and burnout for everyone.
Revisit areas of interest or new ideas for learning. Explore new hobbies. Learn new art techniques, try a different musical instrument, or try a new sport or recreational activity. Create something, invent something, no matter how simple. The fun and learning occur as a result of "doing" and "exploring".
Less Structure and More Flexibility
Remember that childhood is a time for being a child, not for squeezing hundreds of lessons or extracurricular activities into their lives. Remind yourself that childhood is a time for being curious and explorative, for daydreaming and thinking, playing and learning, having fun and being happy. The child who has plenty of time for these simple activities will grow into a curious, creative, thinking, happy adult who enjoys the freedom and fun of learning.
More Helpful Tips
For more Helpful Homeschool Help, Weekly Homeschool Activities, Unit Studies, Unschooling Activities, and more, visit our www.EverythingHomeschooling.com site. (Portions of this article are excerpts from our Everything Homeschooling Book by Sherri Linsenbach.)