Homeschool Burnout: Am I Enough?
I wake up in the morning, the cold rushing through my bones as I walk across the dark house. The coffee doesn’t brew fast enough and I stand there, looking out at the snow-covered world.
It’s February and we’re almost done with our school year, but we aren’t.
As the sun starts to rise over the white, as I watch the world turn pink, orange, blue, the questions flood my mind, my heart.
Am I doing enough?
Am I harming my children?
Are they learning?
Are we making the memories I want to make?
Do they like it here, with me, all day?
Are they missing out?
And then the fear, the doubt, creeps in behind and I feel the weight as I try to drown it with coffee. The weight of educating my children, being the one and only person doling out knowledge to them is heavy.
If they can’t adult, I have nobody to blame but myself.
Will they be able to adult?
Will they be able to function, to go to college or get a job or be the wife, husband, parent they should be?
Am I messing them up?
As they wake up, move through breakfast, books, chores, the weight seems to multiply.
Then the milk spills and there are sisters fighting, words so mean that I look at them in wonder at how they could dislike each other at this level, and it all presses in.
And these hard moments turn into hours, into days and before long I’m sitting in the bathroom crying, wondering how I got here. The questions never got answered. They never do, because nobody knows and I just want some answers!
I pray and cry and rock myself like I do my babies, wipe the tears and cover the red face-splotches with powder so the kids won’t know. Taking a deep breath I open the door and go back out into the living room that has become my battle ground.
And I still wonder if I’m doing enough.
Is this homeschooling thing all enough?
You are not alone, momma. I understand this place and am with you as you struggle through this valley.
Mid-winter burn out is real for homeschoolers. I think everyone feels it, but for homeschoolers, it’s a unique place to be.
We carry a load that others don’t and it causes some different thoughts and heartache. We started in the fall, full of hope, as we unpacked our curriculum, the new-book smell fresh as we opened to the first, crisp page.
The delight of watching our child light up as they learned something and the bonding grew stronger along with our confidence and we thought, Wow! I can do this!
And now it’s February, the kids haven’t been outside in days, the sun seems to have forgotten what it’s job is and the books are worn, just like our soul.
Maybe you took a break for a couple of days to see if that would help break up the monotony, but now it’s been a week and you’re wondering if you’ll ever go back.
I am here, too.
After 18 years of homeschooling, I still can end up here. But I have added some tools to my bag that helps me get through this.
Sharing them here, I hope to encourage you to keep on. This time of year is hard for all of us and you are not alone.
Exercise. I know. This one is hard. Just bundle everyone up and take the kids for a walk. Or go to the YMCA or other local gym and walk around the basketball court while the kids run. You’ll feel better. I promise.
Pick one school thing to get rid of. This goes against all of our homeschool instincts. But this is why it works! If this is too scary, pick something small, like a timed math test or a cursive lesson.
Or if you want to go big, cut out math for the rest of the school year. It will be fine. You can pick the book back up in the summer or just do some review at the beginning of the school year.
What this does, is forces you into reassessing what is important, what are non-negotiables and what is busy work that has crept in to your school days. It also helps your children focus on other things they may not have had enough time for, which in turn helps you see your schedule in a different light.
Do more read alouds. Find a book you’ve always wanted to read to your children but never had the time.
I like to do this first thing in the morning. It’s a nice transition from breakfast into school. It acts like a bridge from regular life into school day life, gently helping their brains–and hearts–move into school mode.
Change your routine. Sometimes when we feel burnt out, it’s because a system we have in place is not working. It’s like we’re banging our head against a wall, but we aren’t aware that we’re doing it. We just feel the pain, but can’t figure out how our headache started.
By changing things up, it can shine some light into crevices that haven’t been looked at in a while and reveal the shortcomings, the wasted time, the system itself that may not be working.
So read before breakfast, do chores last instead of first, do reading after math instead of before math. Think about your entire day’s routine: meals, chores, school, bedtime, transitions, play time–all of it. Think about where you can rearrange some things.
This also helps by breaking up the monotony that can sometimes go along with homeschooling.
Just breaking that up can be fun!
Make some brownies. Chocolate, anyone?
Ask your kids what they would do in an ideal world. I have had some profound insight into everything from schedules, to curriculum, to chores just by asking my kids their perspective on things. See what they say. You may be surprised!
Momma, I hope this helps you. I want so badly for you to succeed at this homeschooling thing.
It can be hard. I know.
The days are long and the years are short, and some days feel like years. When you’re in the thick of it and wiping another nose, changing another diaper, cleaning up another mess and why can’t she just learn to read a little bit?
These are the hard moments, where we wonder if this way of life really means that much. But it does.
It really does.
Even if nobody notices, they appreciate it, though they can’t tell you, can’t quite put their finger on it. Because they feel it deep in their soul, their heart is aligned with yours, beating together this rhythm of mommy-child that without they would be utterly lost.
They will never know it, but they will cherish it, deep inside, untouched and protected.
You matter in that space.
And that is enough.