Unschooling parent Karen M. Gibson outlines some reasons for homeschool burnout and possible remedies.

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If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun.
~ Katharine Hepburn

    Surviving Homeschool Burnout
    Karen M. Gibson

    Burnout happens to all homeschoolers at least once, sometimes more than once in our homeschooling journeys. Even those who do not follow a scope and sequence or a particular curriculum can fall victim to burnout. We all have expectations, internal and external, on ourselves and our children and those expectations can easily lead us to question why we are homeschooling and if we should continue to homeschool.

    Burnout Symptoms

    • Overreacting to situations
    • Irritability
    • Feeling overwhelmed
    • Crying often
    • Lack of confidence
    • Yelling
    • Feeling frustrated
    • Exhaustion
    • Overeating and/or lack of appetite
    • Rosy thoughts of public school
    • Chasing down the school bus

    Burnout Causes

    • Expectations of others (family, friends, even spouses)
    • Our own expectations concerning our household, family, homeschool (feeling we have to "prove" we can succeed at homeschooling or that we have to maintain certain housekeeping standards)
    • Unreal expectations concerning curriculum or resources that do not fit our children’s learning styles
    • Outside activities consuming our lives
    • Isolation, not enough outside interaction
    • Focusing solely on homeschooling and not other areas of family life
    • Parent / Child conflicts (parenting issues)

    Burnout Cures

    • Setting boundaries with family and friends - let the answering machine pick up during "school hours" and/or put a "school's in session" sign outside the door
    • Reducing outside activities
    • Finding time for yourself- admitting that you need time away from it all, personal time, personal space. This might be bath at night after your spouse comes home or quiet time during the afternoon or even letting the kids sleep later in the morning to get gain some solitude time
    • Finding time for husband and wife together – make dates, let your children realize you are a couple, not just mommy and daddy
    • Finding time to just enjoy your children – don’t make every moment a teaching moment. Play with your children, enjoy their company, talk to them and listen to them
    • Reducing academic expectations - change resources, take more breaks, do less busy work, don't worry about finishing that textbook by the end of the year, skip over material, slow down, decide whether your children and you really need a schedule
    • Cease worrying about "gaps" as yes, you will miss something!
    • Focus on learning styles and interests, rather than the textbooks and grade levels
    • Connect with other homeschool parents, swap stories, compare notes … very few actual have that "perfect homeschool" that we all picture ... it just does not exist!
    • Consider another way to cover a subject that is causing stress - swap with another parent to teach a particular subject or ask your spouse to take over in that area, find a tutor (online or in real life), enroll in the dual-enrollment program at your college or a cyber-program
    • Reduce your household expectations, hire someone to clean or enlisting your family’s help (children and spouse)
    • More outside activity - exercise for both you and children
    • Having a park day or special day every so often to just enjoy, no schoolwork!
    • Raise independent learners
    • Make meal time easier - plan meals in advance, find quick and easy meals, use your crockpot
    • Getting enough rest – easier said than done. Maybe trade babysitting time with a friend or neighbor or hire a mother’s helper to come in and watch your young children while you nap.
    • Eat well, take your vitamins, and exercise, even if all you do is go for an early morning walk before everyone wakes up.
    • Pursue your own interests – you will worry less and also renew your own batteries by doing something solely for yourself. In addition, your children may discover a new area of interest for themselves
    • Parent / Child conflicts - review your expectations, are they age appropriate?
    • Involve your children more in their education, in the choosing resources and subjects to study, thereby empowering your children and building their self-confidence and abilities

    Homeschool burnout is survivable. Once you recognize that you are in the throes of a burnout, often all it takes is a few proactive steps to begin the journey to recovery. We need to recognize that often homeschooling burnout is not really about homeschooling at all, but about life and family and not taking care of ourselves. After all, how can we expect to nurture our families if we do not nurture ourselves at the same time?

    2008 Addendum

    I highly recommend homeschooling pioneers Dr. Raymond Moore and Dorothy Moore’s books as both prevention and remedy for homeschool burnout. While the Moore’s write from a Christian perspective (they were missionaries), their books do not preach and non-Christians or those wishing a secular approach will find the information well worth the occasional mention of religion. The Moore’s advocate delayed academics, allowing children to play and enjoy childhood, and also stress the importance of family life and service to others, among other things. For more information on the Moore Formula, visit The Moore Foundation.

    Here are the Moore books I most often recommend:

    1. Home School Burnout: What It Is. What Causes It. And How to Overcome It - No longer in print, but used copies are available. A classic. Here is part of the description from the dust jacket of my copy:

      This book has been written as a reassurance to all parents of the undeniable value of home-based education. By means of real-life examples and new, continually reaffirming research, the Moore’s will take readers “back” to the undisputable “why’s” of home schooling.

      Then they systematically guide parents through the reasons why many disassemble their home schools. Why they – and their kids – burn out. And in explaining this, the Moore’s carefully escort parents back to their own sound reasons for deciding to home school, reassuring them to stay with it. For the good of both them and their children.

      As with all the Moore’s books, Home School Burnout is thoroughly documented. At the same time, with compassion, it encourages parents back from desperation and frustration to sanity and realism.

    2. Better Late Than Early: A New Approach to Your Child’s Education

    3. Home Grown Kids: A Practical Handbook for Teaching Your Children at Home

    4. The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook: A Creative and Stress-Free Approach to Homeschooling. Part of the description from the back cover:

      With a realistic look at the problems homeschooling parents face, this comprehensive handbook offers practical strategies that help you

      • Choose a curriculum that really works for you and your children
      • Avoid student resentment and parent burnout
      • Target your child’s interest and motivation to make learning fun
      • Help your child excel in educational goals, including standardized tests
      • Understand how a child’s developmental stages contribute to learning
      • See the big picture of family and society in the learning process

      This creative approach to homeschooling puts the family first, without sacrificing educational quality. Based on extensive research and use, The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook offers a creative alternative to the regular classroom approach.

    Copyright 2004, Addendum Copyright 2008

    Don't miss Karen's blog post
    Back From Burnout

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The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook
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