During the past 7 years of homeschooling I have experienced the joys of teaching my kids, seeing them grow in wisdom, skills and character.
And in this time, I have also experienced something else: homeschool burnout.
I’ve seen many other moms give up on homeschooling altogether because of it. Really, I can’t blame them.
We are educating multiple children, running a house, driving kids back and forth to activities, and some of us are even working from home on top of everything else.
Basically, we’re doing it all!
I, myself, have come very close to throwing in the towel. Along the way, though, I discovered that there were certain pitfalls I kept stepping into that were leading to me feeling frazzled and weary.
Here are several ways I have found to overcome homeschool burnout and, ultimately, enjoy teaching my kids again.
1. Don’t try to replicate school at home
So many of us try to make our homeschools look exactly like a regular school setting. We set up our school rooms like a typical classroom. We’ve got certain time slots set aside for different subjects. And we may even have a block schedule that mimics the regular school day, from 8 to 3.
But the reason we brought our kids home in the first place to educate them is probably because we realized something about that environment wasn’t working.
The great thing about homeschooling is that you can think outside the box, and tailor your child’s education to his or her own interests and strengths. It’s not a one-size-fits all type of thing!
But so often, we focus too much on making sure our kids get all their math facts down and the mechanics of writing and history dates right. And we end up missing out on the opportunity to form a great relationship with them, or even hurt this relationship in the process. We also miss the chance to address a lot of the stuff that gets in the way of our kids learning.
2. Focus on character first
It’s hard to teach a child spelling or algebra if you haven’t first addressed character issues beneath the surface. For instance, you ask your daughter to read a paragraph and she has a meltdown. Or your son gives you an attitude when you explain another way to work out a math problem. Or both kids start fighting over who’s going to do which part of the science experiment!
Their resistance to persevering through a tough subject, or receiving constructive criticism reveals a deeper heart issue that has to be dealt with. If things aren’t running smoothly and you find that you’re constantly butting heads with your kids, it may even be necessary to put academics aside for a season and focus solely on character.
I’ll be honest- I don’t like interruptions in my days or schedule. It’s much easier to just ignore the disrespect, laziness, and whining so I can continue with my agenda and mark everything done for the day! But it’s our job as moms both to train and discipline our kids.
Help strengthen their skills
We want to use these struggles to shape their character, so if they’re struggling with something like diligence, use practice sessions throughout the day where they work on strengthening attentiveness. Give them different instructions 10 times a day, and have them practice focusing on one single task, until it’s done.
Then have them come report to you, so you can check their work. This heightened accountability leads to a feeling of needing to act responsibly and complete a task all the way.
Use the Bible as a guide
We also want to point them back towards scripture. Again, if we’re trying to teach diligence, we can show them a verse such as Proverbs 6:6 that says “Go to the ant, you sluggard, consider her ways and be wise.” Or 1 Corinthians 10:31, which says “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Using God’s Word to train up our kids in this way is instrumental in developing internal motivation, along with the Fruits of the Spirit. These, in turn, will help your child put forth their best efforts in their school work! So much of home education involves teaching those things that are not strictly academic.
3. Have Realistic Expectations
We get so discouraged when our kids don’t seem to be learning something in the time frame we think they should, or when something isn’t clicking for them. The good news is, there is no “behind” in homeschooling!
If they’re really struggling with certain concepts, they may just not be ready for them yet. Let them grow and mature a little bit, and try reintroducing a lesson again in a few months.
When my daughter was in 2nd grade, she struggled a lot with spelling and writing. It turned out she just wasn’t ready for that level of Language Arts yet, so ¼ of the way through the year I pulled out the 1st grade curriculum we had used the year before. I went over those concepts again and got her caught up. We spent the rest of the year redoing the 1st grade lessons.
If I had kept on pushing her to do something she wasn’t ready for, I know she would have become more frustrated and withdrawn- and there would have been a lot more conflict between us.
Trust me, those first glimpses of harvest will come into view if you don’t give up. Your daughter will eventually read through a book without pictures on every page, though it may not be on your timetable. Your son will figure out long-division, but it won’t necessarily be a result of that tried-and-true-works-for-everyone method.
4. Take care of yourself
As moms, we focus a lot of our energy on taking care of and pouring into our children. But if you burn out, who will care for your family? In Mark 12:31, Jesus said to love your neighbor as you love yourself.
So, it’s important to look for those ways to help you relax! For me, what helps is setting some time aside for Bible study on my own and listening to worship songs around the house. Sometimes it’s just chilling out for 30 minutes while I send the kids to their rooms for some quiet time.
What I’ve done for the last few years is block out the first hour of my day to spend time with God, pray, and care for myself. I’ll listen to the Bible on the YouVersion app and praise & worship music on my phone while I get ready for the day. This helps keep my focus on God who gives me strength for what’s ahead.
Think about what would help you relax and recharge: spending time with God, taking a nap, having coffee with friends, or maybe diffusing some essential oils. You could even trade off with a friend and watch each other’s kids so you can go for an outing by yourself, or just have a quiet afternoon alone.
5. Don’t say “yes” to everything
We are falling into the trap of being busy and doing all the things so easily in our time and culture. We are proud to be multi-taskers, but we’re rarely able to keep focus in only one place. Our brain is everywhere.
Yes, we get the job done but the end result is purely physical and mental exhaustion! We are addicted to busy. We want to do it all, and that’s where the stress comes in.
What we need to do instead is learn our limits and create healthy boundaries in our lives.
At first, people who are not used to it may find it strange. However, this will not only give you immediate relief if you’re starting to get burned out, but will also produce major benefits in the long haul.
While it might sound heartless to say “no”, if you don’t learn to say it now you will fall back into the same trap of being busy and overwhelmed.
When someone asks you to bake something for an event, consider everything else you have going on before saying yes. Don’t feel like you have to sign up to volunteer at every church event. It may not be the right season now to teach Sunday School or a women’s Bible Study. Consider what’s reasonable given your current schedule.
And it’s okay to limit outside activities for your kids as well. Your children really WILL be okay without all the extracurricular stuff. Besides, that’s not really your priority as a Christian parent. We all want our kids to have a well-rounded and enriching education, but if we’re always running here and there to activities, that will stress us out also.
6. Work smarter, not harder
One thing I’ve learned over the past 7 years is that there’s no one right way to homeschool. Sometimes, if we become too rigid and overcomplicate things, we easily get overwhelmed.
Keep it simple
Over the years, I have simplified our homeschool as much as I can by grouping my children together for a couple of subjects. My kids have their own separate Math and Language Arts, but then they’re combined for Science and History since they’re 3 years apart.
Whatever my daughter doesn’t pick up on right now, I can go back over with her later. When my son starts 8th grade in another year he will start doing all his subjects independently, which will give me a chance to do that.
And help your older kids be independent learners, so you’re not having to do the bulk of the work and you can transition to being a guide for them as they go through the material.
Create a rhythm of breaks
One of the ways that has helped me immensely to avoid stress and overwhelm was to add flexibility to our homeschool. Homeschooling year round allows us to stretch our curriculum and take breaks more often.
I’ve structured our year where we do 6 weeks on, 1 week off. We take a Sabbatical week every 7 weeks, taking a complete break after every 6 weeks of homeschool.
This lets us work as fast or as slow as we want, taking time to create memories, dive deeper into our favorite subjects and find beauty and wonder in what we are learning. When we finish the curriculum, we finish the year. Everything is unhurried. We do less at a time, but we do better.
Homeschooling can be a wonderful opportunity to guide your kids along a path of learning and creativity, as you do life together. By giving yourself plenty of grace, flexibility, and margin to rest and focus on your own health, as well as your children’s character, you’ll replace burnout with peace, joy and fulfillment.
Soon another year of educating your kids, being their mom, and all the things that come with it will come to an end. Count the successes, learn from the mistakes, and then strap on your armor to get ready for another great year!
This post originally appeared at Called to Mothering, published with permission.