“Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” (Proverbs 4:25–27)
In my ten-plus years of experience, I think I have met only one homeschooler who claimed to never struggle with it. Whether burnout occurs as a result of financial stress, major life change, marital struggles, difficulties with a child, or just plain old exhaustion, most of us are bound to encounter burnout at some point in our homeschooling journey. The question isn’t whether we will face burnout, but rather what we can do about it when we do.
Below are ten “Burnout Busters” I have found helpful to me at different points along my homeschooling journey:
1. Don’t subscribe to the dangerous “grass is greener” syndrome.
If you have a friend whose kids are in school and you find yourself envying her freedom, read the verse I included at the beginning of this article. These are the times when we must keep our focus on God and on His calling on our lives, not looking to the right or the left. Instead of lamenting your lot in life, focus instead on the benefits of the life you have. Don’t circle past the local public school and cast longing glances. Don’t ask your kids what they would think about going to school. This is a slippery slope that leads to a declining attitude and much lost ground in the end. When this thought pattern invades your mind, this is the time to ramp up your prayer life and find another homeschool mom to encourage you—even if that is just a blogger who encourages you through her written words. I know I have several blogs I read to encourage me via the miracle of the Internet.
2. Bookend each day with prayer.
Greet the day with a “Hello, Lord, what do you have for me and my children this day?” Living a life that looks for God’s activity and His answers leads to the life of abundance that Jesus spoke of in John 10:10. End the day with a time of praise for what He did in your lives, as well as asking for any needs that arose during the day.
3. Each day after school is over, spend a few minutes assessing the day and planning for the next.
This is a good time for reflection and preparation while the day is still fresh on your mind. What went wrong? What went right? What needs to be done differently? You can keep a journal and jot notes in it each day—which books to look for at the library, craft ideas you want to try, and any moments you want to remember from your day.
4. Open several Bibles around the house so that you can glean from the Word as you go about your day.
Keep your mind fixed on Truth, so that lies have no place in your thought life. You can also write Scripture on index cards and post them around your home. (Don’t forget about the kitchen, your bedroom, the bathroom, and the school area.) Write down any verses that ministered to you when you first began homeschooling.
5. Work toward establishing order in your life.
If you are struggling with disorganization and a messy house, that can add to the feeling of being overwhelmed. Consider purchasing a book on organization to help you if this is an area you struggle with. I love The Complete Guide to Getting and Staying Organized by homeschooling mom Karen Ehman. Take time off from schoolwork and designate a week (or two if necessary) to get your home in order. Involve your kids; this is all-important life skill training!
6. Create a rhythm to your day.
I am not advocating a strict schedule unless you think that would work for you. For me, just a fluid rhythm to my day where both my children and I know what to expect is good. This includes time for meals, rest, and play, as well as school.
7. Take a few minutes to plan your meals.
This might sound silly, but it will go a long way toward helping you feel more on top of your day. There is something about already knowing what’s for dinner that makes the day feel more do-able! I work on my meal plans on the weekend, posting my list on a write-on/wipe-off board on my refrigerator. I also do my shopping during the weekend so that all the ingredients I will need are in the house for the week. This is a big time saver during the week and is definitely worth the effort I put forth on the weekend when I don’t have schooling responsibilities.
8. Get outside.
Go for a walk. Go to a park. Look for bugs and rocks and leaves. If you want to make it educational, then use a guide to identify what you find and let your kids take turns sketching these things—or just take a photo and keep an inexpensive photo album of your findings. Getting outside and appreciating God’s vast creation never fails to give me a fresh perspective and a renewed energy level. If nothing else, just carry a blanket out to your backyard and do schoolwork outside, or read aloud on the deck, patio, or in the hammock!
9. Take time to be alone.
It’s okay to need, as one friend put it, “just a few hours where nobody calls me Mama!” from time to time. I like to have a nice leisurely lunch all by myself with just a good book for company. Or join other homeschooling moms at my church group’s moms’ night out. Or venture to a bookstore with my planning notebook for some time to plan and read and pray over what we are doing for school.
10. Don’t forget to laugh!
Don’t be so teacher-oriented that you forget that you are first and foremost a mom. Enjoy your kids. Laugh when they say funny things. Make jokes and be silly. Appreciate the sheer joy that can be found just by looking into their eyes and hearing the sweet things they say. Recently I wrote across the top of my goals for this year: “Be joyful! Motherhood is a gift, not a burden!” Why is it that sometimes I forget that simple truth? “He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the Lord.” Psalm 113:9.
My hope is that some of these ideas will infuse you with new life, new perspective, and new hope for your homeschool!