One of the benefits to being a teacher in a traditional school is that you get to go home at the end of the day. You don’t have that option, and that means you can get a serious case of burnout. Your kids are also susceptible to burnout when learning at home, but you can always give them a break to recover. You, again, don’t have that option. Homeschooling is a major undertaking. On top of that, you are probably responsible for cleaning and cooking as well. This is more than a full-time job. It’s more like two full-time jobs. When you feel the burnout, it is easy to begin to question yourself and your homeschooling goals. Maybe you begin to feel like homeschooling was the wrong choice. Now is the time to stay strong. You can banish the burnout with a few tweaks and changes to the way you do something. And, of course, don’t neglect to take at least a little time just for yourself. It may seem impossible to carve out the time, but it will be well worth it to do so.
How do you know you are beset by burnout?
It may seem obvious, but the signs of burnout are not so easy to see in yourself. Maybe your spouse will tell you that you seem a little stressed, but it’s still important for you to look for the indicators. Some of these signs are perfectly normal and understandable in moderation. If you notice them increase or become more severe, however, you are probably burning out.
- You feel stressed on a regular basis. Some amount of stress is health, normal, and useful. Stress can propel you to succeed, but if you have too much, you are heading for disaster. Too much stress can impact your emotional and physical well-being and can rub off on your kids as well.
- You feel like you are failing. If you feel hopeless and as if you are a failure as a homeschool teacher, you are experiencing major burnout. It is normal to feel this way occasionally, but if you don’t snap out of it soon, you are in trouble.
- You lose patience and lash out. You are bound to lose your cool with the kids sometimes. But you could be burned out if you find your outbursts happening more frequently and becoming severe. Beware if your kids begin to shy away from you.
- You are feeling bitter and envious. If you feel bitter about your responsibilities or you begin to feel envious of non-homeschooling parents, burnout is the possible culprit.
- You feel apathetic and ignore simple tasks. If you just don’t feel like getting even the most simple and routine tasks out of the way and can’t find the motivation to work with the kids, you are burning out.
So what can you do about it?
Burning out on homeschooling does not mean that you made the wrong choice or that you need to ship the kids off to public school. You just need to make a few changes. Here are some ideas to get you started and to get you back to sanity.
- The kids should be doing chores! You are working as a full-time teacher. How can you possibly also take care of all the meals, the cleaning, the laundry, gardening, and other chores with no help? Help yourself and also teach your kids to be productive, useful, and kind. Set a weekly chore assignment for each child, appropriate to age and ability, of course. To keep everyone on track, make a chore chart that hangs where all can see it and mark off chores as they complete them for the week. If needed, offer incentives, such as a reward for being the first one to complete a chore on a given day. When you have big jobs to do around the house, like a garden harvest, canning, or a mountain of laundry to fold, get everyone in on the action and knock it out quickly.
- Lower your expectations. Okay, so this one doesn’t sound quite right, but the truth is that many people have lofty and unrealistic expectations before they start homeschooling. Having everything running smoothly and peacefully with high productivity is a fantasy. You need to have realistic goals and expectations and be prepared to roll with the punches. If you think this lifestyle will be easy and perfect, you are asking for burnout.
- Get organized. When your classroom and your house are in disarray, so is your state of mind. If you are constantly searching for what you need, wasting time sorting through stacks of papers, and getting stressed out about it, it’s time to get organized. Even if you need to take a full day or two days away from homeschooling and other chores to get it done, it will be worth the time off. The key to getting organized and staying that way is planning before you act. Really think through your organizational strategy before you put it into action. Think about where items should go that would make the most sense and how files should be labeled and organized.
- Change things up. If the kids are fighting you every step of the way on something, such as a particular book or assignment, maybe there is a good reason for it. Of course, you can’t let the kids make all the educational choices for you, but in some cases they may have a point. If something in your educational plan isn’t working, don’t be afraid to change it. Maybe a book you chose for your daughter is too difficult for her after all, so get a new book. Maybe your son really isn’t ready for algebra yet. Go back and review pre-algebra. He can catch up later. Maybe it’s time for your kids to start working independently more often. Use that time to get other things done.
- Ask for help. When you are really stuck, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Maybe your spouse can take over for a day to give you a break or give you a fresh perspective on what is going wrong. It may be the time to join a local homeschooling group. Commiserating with other homeschoolers can be a great stress relief and it can give you some great ideas to try. Learn from the mistakes of others. You can also share teaching duties with other homeschoolers, which can give you an occasional break.
- Sign the kids up for sports. Get your kids into community sports leagues. Your spouse can take them to practices and games while you take care of yourself or chores around the house. When you do go to the games, it can be a nice reprieve from work and a chance to let your kids shine without you.
- Take a break. This can be tough to do when you feel overwhelmed by all your chores and responsibilities. Schedule time for yourself on a weekly basis and stick to it. Even if you only get an hour to take a bath, read, or take a walk alone, the time alone focusing on you can really make a difference when it comes to burnout. Spending time alone and not working can really recharge your batteries. Take breaks with the kids too. When you are stressed, the kids get stressed, and sometimes you all need a time out. In these moments, take thirty minutes, an hour, two hours, or even a whole day and do something fun together. Go to the zoo, have a picnic, go to a movie, or go out for lunch. Have fun and show your kids that time off is important for everyone.
Whatever you do, do not beat yourself up over getting burned out. Assess the situation, think of solutions, implement them and then carry on. Don’t give up and next time, stop burnout before it hits you full force.
©2012 Off the Grid News