Yesterday, after recognizing a minor mistake in an order I placed I felt so frustrated - it bubbled up over to my husband and onto my kids. It started to rob me of the joy in preparing for guests to come. It wasn’t the mistake that was the problem - it was the feeling like I cannot get anything completed without interruption. That underlying hint of recognizing there is very little margin in my day and week. I have strategies for making sure I have quiet time, and moments throughout the week to squeeze in a workout. But time to get things done uninterrupted, phone calls and returns, orders and writing. As homeschool parents, where do we get that? It wasn’t about the mistake - it was this nagging feeling of burnout.
Taking on the role of home educating on top of every other aspect of parenting is thrilling, encouraging, exhausting, stretching - and so much more. There’s such a joy in being home with my kids every day and witnessing those lightbulb moments. But there is also the nagging pressure of needing to do more, and that terribly long never-ending to-do list. Like, it literally never ends.
This is my fifth year homeschooling and I know this feeling that usually creeps up in February. I call it the February slump (you can read about it here). But really, no matter what month it is, there has to be a plan in place that is protecting our boundaries as an individual and ensuring that we don’t get sucked into the hole of being burnt out.
It will take shape differently for every family. But here are six strategies we’ve implemented over the past several years that you may find helpful when facing burnout and exhaustion in your homeschool year.
Don’t wait until you get burnt out to take a break. Seriously.
Prioritize time in your day not just your kids to have a break or downtime, but also yourself. A wise friend many years ahead of me in homeschooling still has all of her children, up to age 15, take a silent hour in the afternoons. She does whatever she wants during this time - and it’s a great reset. In our house we do a TV hour (and a half) so no one wakes up the baby, and save quiet reading hour for while I’m making dinner.
Schedule time to get out of the house (or hole up in your bedroom) weekly or bimonthly that you value and prioritize. Life is busy and it has become the social norm to let your kids social lives and extracurricular activities takeover your week-month-year. But you have a choice to either let them - or not let them. My pastor shared last year “you prioritize what you plan and you plan for what you prioritize.” If time for yourself, running errands, mental break is important to you and your family - then make it happen! Open up your calendar with your spouse and pick some days and times that you can get away to a coffee shop ( me right now), go make all your returns, meal plan, call all the people, get your hair did, and then do it.
Take time off of school. The blessing and curse of homeschooling is that it is always there. Mom guilt is a real thing. While everyone else is having a snow day or celebrating President’s Day, it’s easy to want to just keep going. But you don’t have to. You could take an entire month off and chances are you’d still be on track. And if not, there is always time to make it up. So go ahead and plan for days and weeks off regularly to give your mind and family a break.
Come up with a list of things you absolutely enjoy in your homeschool day, and then delight in those things regularly. Take field trips if that’s your jam (it’s not mine. I find them stressful and exhausting.). Paint, craft, read aloud, bake… set aside the text books and allow for margin to pursue the things that bring beauty and delight into your home.
Homeschool Conferences. This isn’t a plug for homeschool conventions, I promise. But I have found them to be so life giving. The fellowship with other women, listening to encouragers and teachers pour into YOU; often times they fall in early spring when our hearts are in need of pouring in! If you have an opportunity to go to one, I highly highly recommend it. If you don’t have anyone to watch your kids, GHC offers an affordable Kids Camp! And if cost is an issue, GHC has volunteer hours to offset expenses.
What are your biggest hurdles when it comes to carving out time for yourself? What are some ways you’ve learned to combat the homeschool burnout?