Why have I chosen to post about homeschool burnout in September?
Aren't we all just getting started with our homeschool year?
Because - right now you are setting your homeschool pace, the pace that will result in a happy, successful homeschool year, or a complete meltdown by February.
The diagnoses is simple: When you burn out, you are doing too much.
I've written before about strategies for avoiding burnout, but in this post I want to help you protect yourself against discouragement and fatigue.
The secret sauce for avoiding burnout is:
Recognize your limitations.
I don't know why we set expectations for ourselves that would render Martha Stewart catatonic. Is it
- our experiences in public school
- the amazing number of choices we see in homeschool catalogs
- gorgeous photos in home and garden magazines
- an addiction to Pinterest
- comparing ourselves to other families
that makes us feel like we have to do everything and do it perfectly?
Then after we've set a demanding course, we think we have to be the Little Engine That Could, chanting the "I know I can, I know I can" mantra while climbing our self-made mountain, not even sure exactly what it is we are trying to accomplish.
Face it – we have 24 hours in a day, and some of those hours must be spent resting, eating, exercising, reading the Bible, praying. None of those is a waste of time – they are essentials. We also need to care for our husbands and children, and for our homes, each according to need. We live out our faith by ministering in our church and community.
Then add homeschooling into the mix. It's a wonder we all aren't toast.
We want to do so many things. Nurture, create, teach – it's all good. But we have to recognize our limits, and instead of barely accomplishing dozens of things, we need to try to do fewer things better.
The word "limitations" has negative connotations, but in reality, limits are good and natural. Instead of creating friction by going up against our limitations, we can use them to help us choose the most important things to focus on. Our goals set the course for our decisions, and this keeps circumstances from making our decisions for us.
Check your motivations:
Under every decision we make are our fundamental motivations; impulses and ambitions we sometimes don't want to acknowledge. Pride and envy, fear and despair – these can influence us to act from a place of insecurity and weakness instead of confident purpose. Recognizing these inclinations can help us develop and maintain healthy priorities.
Some things are just more important than others. We know this. But we are easily distracted by shiny new projects, a minor crisis, or a sticky spot on the kitchen floor. Create a family mission statement and outline your homeschool goals, keeping them front and center. Remind yourself every month, every week, every day if you have to so as to never forget your "Why". Each time you are faced with a decision - whether it's organizing your schedule, changing curriculum, making a major purchase, taking on a new responsibility, attending an activity or class - check in with your family's goals. If there is a conflict, then you have your answer, "I'm sorry, but this is not a good fit for our family at this time".
Divide your time:
Take your 24 hours and divide it into time slots for all the essentials in our life. Don't skimp on anything, especially caring for your physical needs, because skimping on essentials sabotages everything else. You've established priorities - now give them the time they need to breathe and fulfill their potential.
Preserve your physical health:
Taking care of yourself allows you to better take care of everyone else. Adequate rest, nutrition, and exercise are essential for both your physical and mental well-being. You can't homeschool effectively if you are falling asleep while reading out loud to your kid. (I have actually done this). This is a good example to set for your children. They also need to learn how to take care of their bodies, which in turn leads to a healthy mindset, as well as more energy and focus.
Assess your mental ability:
A common myth of homeschooling is that the parent must do most, if not all of the instruction. This is not true. Homeschooling is parent directed education, and you can direct your child to use an online or independent learning program. Be realistic about how much of your own mental energy you can invest in making lesson plans and putting together unit studies or notebooking, and choose your homeschool methods and resources accordingly. Choose a prepared all-in-one curriculum or self-directed to get your feet wet in the homeschool pool. Or deschool if you and your kids need time to adjust to a new lifestyle of learning.
Inventory your resources:
Your budget, the size of your home, friends and family nearby for support, access to the library and internet – these are all resources. How can you use each of these to accomplish your goals? Don't get off track now by coveting someone else's resources - this gets you absolutely nowhere, and makes you miserable and ineffective. Instead, take inventory and factor these things in to your homeschool plan.
It may be the beginning of your homeschool year, or the first year of your homeschool journey, but now is the time to guard against the things that drain you of focus, energy, and joy.