It's January. The weather is miserable. The children have had runny noses, coughs, or fevers for seemingly weeks on end. There seems to be an enormous amount of laundry, dishes, and other housework. Out of all of those wonderful homeschool plans you made over the summer less than half actually happened on time. What seemed like such fun and exciting at the beginning of the year seems like an enormous burden now. You are tired, cranky, and not looking forward to another semester of homeschool. All of the joy of homeschooling has been sucked out of you. You, my friend are suffering from Homeschool Burnout.
It can strike at any time, although in my experience January and February are the worst months. Why? Mostly the weather. In the winter months it is colder (even in Arkansas.) You have less time to spend outside due to shorter days. The cold and flu virus are more common so you are inside more and tending to cranky children and yourself. You are worn out from all of the holiday activities and can not seem to catch up on the housework. All of these can contribute to the burn out feeling.
Life changes are another big cause of Homeschool Burnout. A pregnancy that leaves you sick for months on end. A new baby. Moving into a new house, or hubby's new job all can cause stress on your life and contribute to homeschool burn out.
It used to hit me hard every year, usually mid January. But, for me it wasn't the weather or the tired and cranky kids, or the pregnancies that left me teaching from the couch for months on end. It was the curriculum. Curriculum is one of the biggest causes of Homeschool Burnout for a lot of different reasons. For me, I was using a curriculum that was given to me. Who can turn down free? But, it was a curriculum that taught all "grades" separately, was all text book based, and (ahem) it was boring. I didn't like teaching it (and juggling three different grades) and they didn't like learning it. To top it off, I was too stubborn to admit it wasn't working and was determined to finish what we started. By January I was so frustrated I wanted to throw it all in the trash. I began researching new curriculum to use for the next year.
Another reason curriculum can cause burnout is when you try to do every single suggested activity, read every book, and research every topic your curriculum tells you to. Or, you buy one of those "curriculum in a box" products that tells you what to do in every subject every day of the week with no room to adapt the schedule or allow for real life (doctors appointments, field trips, sickness etc...) After a few weeks of not being able to "get it all done" many homeschool mamas end up feeling like a failure and want to throw in the towel.
So what can you do to beat or avoid Homeschool Burnout?
First of all, give yourself some grace. No one can do it all all of the time and anyone who tries will get burned out. Second, go to the Lord in prayer. Lift up all of your cares and concerns and discern what direction the Lord wants you to take in your homeschool.
After that, take a look at your curriculum. Do you like it? Do your kids like it? Is it working? Is it too much? Can you tweak it to make it fit into your homeschool better? I found that for me it was so much better to go to curriculum that I could use with many different ages of children when I could. For some of the subjects I couldn't do that with, I have gone to products that allow for independent study, or teach with DVD's. Some things you can't do either of those things (like Spelling, Handwriting) and for those I seek out "open and go" programs that list the teaching process step by step so I do not have to take time to figure it out on my own.
When you feel like you need a break, take a break! Put the books away, bundle up and go on a nature walk. Plan a field trip to a Science Museum. Invite some friends over to do some fun experiments. Cancel "afternoon schoolwork" and watch a movie (or take a nap!) instead.
Take a look at your schedule and make sure it is realistic. Make adjustments if you need to. I switched to a 4 day/week school schedule years ago and it has been wonderful for me! Having Fridays free to run errands , take art classes, and play at the park makes my homeschool run so much more smoothly.
When you are facing big life changes, put it aside for awhile. Choose some books and educational DVDS for the children when you are unpacking, tending a new baby, or dealing with an illness. Just because you are not doing your regular school work, does not mean children are not learning. They can and will learn even if you are not sitting down teaching them, and a short break is not going to hurt anything.
Seek out an encouraging friend. One that will listen and offer encouragement, not someone who will make you feel inadequate and more stressed. Having someone to talk to who has been down that road can be a great help sometimes.
These are just some of the things that have helped me. I am sure there are many other ways to beat burnout. Don't give up! You are not a failure and can successfully homeschool your children! We all go through times of burnout or frustration. Take a break, make some adjustments, and you will get your homeschool back on track.