If you’ve been homeschooling for any length of time I would guess you’ve thought about quitting at some point. You may even be so burnt out right now that you can’t imagine how you’ll continue another day. Midwinter burnout is a common thing among homeschoolers and can lead even the most dedicated homeschool mom to the end of her rope.
This is my guest post, originally shared on Busy Boys Brigade, which is now Rock Your Homeschool. I didn’t want any of my readers to miss this post so I’m making it available here. Be sure to visit Amy Milcic’s amazing blog Rock Your Homeschool.
When I began homeschooling
16 years ago in 2001 I had idealistic expectations about how it would be. I planned everything in great detail and purchased all of our supplies for our first year. I was nervous but excited and I even memorized answers to every absurd question I would get from others about why I would want to homeschool.
I had visions of a peaceful home where everything would be beautiful. I just knew that my children would happily pitch in and do their chores, complete every assignment, would never fight and at the end of the day we would joyfully sit around the table and share with daddy all that was accomplished.
Obviously, that’s not real life or at least it isn’t in any homeschool that I know of.
I quickly learned that homeschooling doesn’t produce perfect children. It isn’t fun and happiness all the time. Life happens, stresses come and as the busyness sets in things are bound to go wrong. You can be sure you and your children will have bad attitudes at times, your children will argue, and assignments won’t get completed. The house won’t be cleaned the way you want and sometimes dinner will consist of take-out and that’s OK.
While you may have entered into homeschooling with more realistic expectations than I did you might find yourself wanting to quit at some point because let’s face it, homeschooling is hard work.
Through the years I’ve been tempted to quit more times than I care to count. We’ve had a lot of great times, wonderful memories, and experiences but we’ve also had a lot of challenges.
Our entire family was diagnosed with chronic illness in 2009 and our homeschool had to change. This was a really hard time for our family but I can honestly say I’m a better homeschool mom because of my limitations. I’ve learned to give control of my children’s education and their future to God, which is where it should have been in the first place.
You may never have to deal with chronic illness during your homeschooling career, but life has a way of wearing us down and side-lining us when we least expect it.
I’ve graduated my two oldest girls from our chronically ill homeschool. I wasn’t really sure how I would continue to homeschool. I knew that when my children were sick I couldn’t give up on them even though I was sick myself. Once they got well, thoughts of quitting began to cross my mind again. This always happens when my focus turns to what I see right in front of me and I forget that I should be looking at the bigger picture and my focus should be on trusting the Lord.
I don’t have a magic formula for how to continue strong but if we were to sit and have coffee here is what I’d tell you.
God will provide everything you need and equip you to do the very best for your children. God will give you the wisdom and the endurance that you need. He will provide the right resources, training, extracurricular activities and even support. He has a plan for your children’s future and He knows your heart’s desire for each one of them.
“And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will complete it.” Philippians 1:6
You are not going to ruin your children. You are equipped to be the best educator for your children and you can do all things through Christ who gives you the strength! (Philippians 4:13) While an outside teacher can be an amazing influence on your children, you have the love and deepest desires to see your children succeed and to equip them in all aspects of their life, not just their education.
Homeschooling is primarily about your relationship with your children. Remember, homeschooling is much more than filling little heads with facts. It’s about helping your child discover who they are, what they love and how they can process through life in a way that not only helps them achieve their goals but also to be a valuable member of your family, the church, and society. Just recently my adult daughters told me how glad they are that they have a close relationship with me. We wouldn’t have that bond if we had not homeschooled.
Go back to the reason you made the choice to homeschool in the first place. Write it down in the front of your homeschool binder or planner, better yet type it in beautiful lettering and place it in a frame. Title it “Why I’m Homeschooling” and then list all your reasons. As the years go on your reasons may change or you may find yourself adding to that list. Reminding yourself of your purpose will help you to focus on what’s important.
Don’t Try to Do Everything. Most of the time, we’re trying to be superwoman. We have unrealistic expectations of ourselves. I really struggled to let things go, like an organized and clean home. I tried to do everything and I began to get frustrated because doing everything is just not possible without getting burned out or burned up with frustration.
Set goals for yourself, your children and your homeschool. If you don’t know what you want to achieve you’ll be frustrated as you go about each day without a true purpose. Goals are important but be very careful not to allow them to get in the way of your relationships with your children. Always be sensitive to what God is calling you to do for each day.
“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes His steps.” Proverbs 16:9
Be willing to change how you homeschool. If you’re tired, worn out and you’ve lost the zeal to continue homeschooling you should change what you’re doing even if it’s temporary. Take time off and do fun activities together. Take a year to homeschool through field trips; you can even do this in High School. Utilize homeschool co-ops or organize a class with other homeschool children. You might even want to spend a little extra and purchase online classes so that you can take a break. There’s nothing wrong with any of these choices and it may just give you the time you need to refocus.
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galations 6:9
Never let curriculum control your homeschool. If you’re like I was in the beginning, you may get anxious when you see that your children are not getting through the curriculum. I have a secret for you, the public and private schools never get through their curriculum either. Go through your curriculum, decide what you think your children need to know right now and just forget the rest. Much of what’s in the curriculum for younger grades is repeated in cycles as the child progresses. If your children didn’t have time to cover it and it’s really important, they can cover it in the following year. Use your curriculum as a tool and never let it control you.
Take time to educate yourself. Most professionals continue educating themselves to stay on top of their careers. Take your responsibility as a homeschool mom seriously. Take an online class or one at the local college. Put aside a small budget to occasionally be a part of a homeschool webinar. Buy a few books that will encourage, teach and inspire you throughout the year. If you’re only investing your homeschool dollars towards curriculum you will most assuredly miss out on an important opportunity to keep yourself motivated.
Put together a support system. This is such an important point. We can’t be lone ranger homeschool moms. After years of chronic illness, I became tired and unenthusiastic about homeschooling. I found myself dreading the upcoming year and wondered how I could get out of homeschooling my last two children. To be in it for the long haul you need to surround yourself with other homeschool moms who are excited about homeschooling. I recently discovered how important this is when I found a homeschool community on periscope which has been the exact prescription I needed for my homeschool fatigue.
Homeschooling is hard, sometimes it’s lonely and we should not do this important job alone. We need others in our lives who can be a source of encouragement and we need to make sure we’re also encouraging others when we can.
Before you choose to throw in the towel on homeschooling, seriously consider praying with an open heart to seek God’s will. I know there are times when quitting is absolutely necessary but if your reason is that you’re burnt out and tired of doing it, I’d like to encourage you to first try to revive your love for homeschooling and I’m sure you will find the abundant joy to homeschool for the long run.
“For the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10b
If you’re homeschooling with chronic illness, I would love for you to visit my blog at Abounding in Hope With Lyme where I share how we continued to homeschool when I was ill and when my kids were.