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Homeschool Burnout For The Tired Mama

It happened again…same time as last year. My excitement for our new curriculum wore off and homeschool burnout snuck in. I could not motivate myself to get things done! February came around, and the Christmas high was over. I was dreading our to do list. Was I bored with our routine? Overwhelmed with responsibility? Tired of our curriculum? I’d say…all of the above.

It’s not that I don’t like homeschooling! I do. It’s just the demands of being both mom and teacher seem to leave little time for recharge. It’s also my first time homeschooling 2 kids with with a baby.

I think every homeschool mom in our co-op was feeling homeschool burnout too. I didn’t even realize this was a common, yearly thing for so many families!

By opening up about it, I hope you’ll see that what you are feeling is normal and that you’re not a failure. It’s part of the process. When you notice this happening, give yourself permission to switch things up and find REST.

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What is homeschool burnout?

I define homeschool burnout as feeling like you dread getting through your daily subjects and have no spark or zeal for learning or teaching your kids.

It might look like exhaustion, stress, or feeling pulled in a million directions.

If you are feeling that “February Slump” (yes that’s a real term homeschoolers use!) and feel like you dread homeschooling or just feel blah…it’s a sign you probably need a big ol’ homeschool break and that it’s time to make a few changes.

Even if your slump is in November or March…this post is for you too! 😉 Burnout can happen anytime. Even with something you’re passionate about.

I’ll show you some of the things that have helped me get through the blahs.

A close up of a mom holding her baby in a tan Lillebaby ring sling while the baby rubs his eyes.

Common causes of homeschool burnout

  • Winter (Yes, blaming you cold weather!)
  • Getting bored with your routine
  • Lack of “newness” with your curriculum
  • Forcing something that’s just not working
  • Not taking enough school breaks throughout the year
  • Not taking care of yourself
  • Going from public or private school to homeschool without taking a few months to “deschool”.
  • Doing too many subjects in a day
  • Taking too much time for each subject and losing your kids attention
  • Dealing with daily pushback from kids on getting their work done.
  • Comparing your kids to other kids
  • Being on Instagram too much, and creating an unrealistic reality for your homeschool based on what you *think* others are accomplishing.
  • Dealing with major life changes while homeschooling like moving, having a baby, or family health issues.

Why homeschool if you feel burnt out?

I try to only talk about feelings of homeschool burnout with other homeschool moms who get it. They are encouraging, full of ideas, reassurance, and most of all…I don’t feel like they are wondering why I don’t just send my kids to school to eliminate the problem.

We are finishing year 3 now homeschooling 1st and 2nd grade. I’ve also got a preschooler and 8 month old after a 4.5 year gap.

To put it lightly, I’m busier than I’ve ever been with less of me to go around. So how do we homeschool multiple grades on top of it all? Why do we do this when I could send my kids to school?

My why is probably different that yours. That’s ok. But I am fully committed to making this work right now so stopping isn’t on my radar. Solutions are!

I made a big list of pros and cons of homeschooling, because without a WHY, there’d be too many convincing reasons to quit homeschooling.

So 1st things 1st, revisit your “why”.

How to tell if you have homeschool burnout

  • You dread homeschooling each morning!
  • You feel like you need a better plan and have no idea what you’re supposed to accomplish that day.
  • Being with your kids all day has become a chore and you don’t like it (time to reconnect).
  • You scroll your phone as an escape…or check it constantly(here’s a post for you if so).
  • You’re impatient, triggered easily, and snap a lot
  • Parts of your homeschool you used to enjoy are not longer enjoyable
  • You’re way “behind” and don’t care OR are “behind” and overly stressed about it
  • You feel like you have no down time or time to recharge. ( I find that when I fill my tank…I am re-inspired to homeschool).

Reversing homeschool burnout

Each time I suspect that I’m feeling this way (usually during the winter about half way through our curriculum), a few things seem to really help.

  1. Making time for me daily to rest and unwind. Maybe extra sleep, reading, or just watching a movie with my husband after the kids are in bed. When the kids were tiny, I began this workout program when my husband got home and I remember thinking it was 30 minutes of glorious uninterrupted time alone.
  2. Getting us outside as a family as much as possible. Walks, hikes, parks, or plopping a comfy chair for me in the backyard.
  3. Taking a full week off. Or two. Recharge, reconnect, and give yourself some time to change the plan.
  4. Starting back with gameschooling to ease back in. (For 1st grade math we love Sums in Space and my 2nd grader likesMath Noodler and Yatzee. Scrambled States of America is our go to for geography. The Wordscapes app, Bananagrams with sound blends, Boggle or Boggle Jr. for spelling. Mad Libs for language arts).
  5. Ditching busy work that’s snuck in and prioritizing the minimum. (For me, that’s a family read aloud book, math and some kind of short, daily writing).
  6. Looking for evidence of unplanned learning. See things your kids do naturally that can replace a subject on a certain day. For example, my son asked to make a paper spinner for his sister to do a scavenger hunt. I wrote the clues for him, and HE wrote down the possible prizes on the spinner that he hid at the last spot. I counted that for his writing that day, so we skipped Handwriting Without Tears and our Jot It Down writing program was replaced by this for the week.
  7. Slowly adding in other subjects on a loop schedule , and being willing to change our plan for those subjects.
  8. Asking the kids what they want to learn about and switch gears for a month while you do a unit study. Gather Round is really fun for this with 4 week units! Waldock Way has some cool unit studies too, or just get books from the library on a topic to read out loud.
  9. Stop giving your time to just anyone. All of those “lets get together for a morning or afternoon” days add up, and they are either adding to your energy or taking from it. Encouraging you or draining you.
  10. Declutter. Less stuff = less tidying = less stress! I did myself a favor this winter and sold a ton of stuff on Mercari and donated to Goodwill. I got rid of homeschool workbooks sitting around unused. Thinned kid books we didn’t read anymore.

Try switching things up for a month

I love changing up things in our homeschool. I’m learning that I have to change things up or I get bored.

But the risky part of making changes is the idea that we’ll “get behind” in our set curriculum. This is a big stumbling block for me for some reason.

I’m trusting the homeschool giants like Sarah McKenzie who wrote Teaching From Rest and Julie Bogart who wrote Brave Learner. They say it’s ok to go slower or veer from your curriculum! To focus on connecting with your kids and running with their interests.

They have homeschooled kids to college so I really do trust them! Kids are learning SO many things all the time outside of “school work”!

Not to mention MOST curriculum I’ve seen has less than 36 weeks. Which means on top of our vacation time…there’s usually wiggle room to switch things up.

I paused our Brave Writer language arts Darts for a month and just had the kids do a page a day of Handwriting Without Tears.

I paused our Singapore math and spent 6 weeks using Addition Facts That Stick.

We also paused all subjects except math last winter and did a space unit study from Gather Round.

We loved the change of pace each time!

Reverse homeschool burnout by finding a hobby

We put ourselves last so much when the kids are tiny. But when we CAN come up for air and a break…do we?

It’s hard for me to prioritize things I find fun and fulfilling! To learn new things “just because”.

I’ve had to sit and think…what things do I like? Because it’s not laundry, dishes, teaching math, or meal planning. Can you relate?

For example…I used to love being in the kitchen. But for me right now, all I see are more dishes and kids who drag their feet eating what I consider delicious food. Our fault as parents, yes, but it still takes energy and consistency to change that.

So cooking is very basic right right now, and I’m spending my time doing other enjoyable things!

Thing’s I’m doing more because they bring me joy:

  • Exploring outdoors with the kids
  • Going on short hikes
  • Reading a book for fun in front of my kids. (It’s ok to say, “I’m not going to talk for 15 minutes. You go play.” That’s assuming your kids are old enough to safely play for that long.
  • Teaching my oldest two (and learning alongside) how to start fires, and cook over fires
  • Meeting another mom at a park where we can talk while the kids play. That way I don’t have to tidy anything at home or worry if my bathroom has been bleached because #3boys live here.
  • Blogging! I sometimes feel guilty they see me on my computer. And I do prefer to blog someplace quiet I can think. But if they see me, (and they do!) it’s ok. Blogging fulfills something in me homeschooling can’t, and provides money for our family too. I don’t expect the kids to understand this.

Rearrange your homeschool day

Are you stuck on finishing school in the morning so you can have the afternoon off? It sounds awesome, but if it’s causing you a ton of stress and your kids are asking for more breaks, maybe try doing school in a few bursts throughout the day?

We’ve had to move to doing school in “pockets” whenever I’m ready because of the baby. So when I get some time, (totally unscheduled), I call one over to work on x, y. or z. I’d love to be done by afternoon, but the expectation was stressing me out.

My husband and I also talked about doing some school on a Saturday at home so it’s one less day to worry about mid week. Homeschool freedom is awesome.

We also school year round so we can take more frequent breaks throughout the year. My “planned” time off is once week after 6 weeks of school. When I have to swap weeks, it’s no big deal.

And it’s easy to see what week of the year we are on when using our 36 week homeschool crate system.

What activities could you say no to?

If you are feeling homeschool burnout, I’d encourage you to take ONE season off for ALL the kids. If you can. No kids ushered to sports. No where to be. Time to refocus and recharge.

I don’t think we’ll do anymore formal activities this spring, since I need a break and we are gearing up for a cross country move. UG.

This year, we let my 2nd grader do rock climbing and basketball. My 1st grader is doing ballet. It’s the most we’ve ever done outside the home. Plus we do a nature focused co-op (where my kids have made most their friends).

I have no idea how we’ll manage 4 kids’ activities someday! But it was such a big part of my childhood that I would love to let my kids be part of a team as well.

Kids just don’t see the time and energy and money it takes to sign them up for activities!

The main thing to remember is the more you add in, the more burnt out you get. Find what’s important to you, and don’t feel bad saying no if you need to reprioritize your family time and your health.

Prioritize what has to get done first

If I make time for just one subject per kid, it will almost always be math. It’s not the “right” way. You could prioritize anything.

Ask yourself what would make you feel better about your homeschool at the end of the day, and aim for that. Sometimes it’s simply:

  • Making sure we read out loud every day
  • Getting to the library or homeschool co-op
  • Working on a project that has been on the back burner

It makes me miss the days when school was the most simple…when my oldest was doing preschool at home.

Spend a day doing JUST extras you don’t normally do

Some of my favorite days have been prioritizing the EXTRAS in leu of school work. Do I count this as a day of homeschooling? Absolutely.

Like going to the library.

Or days we start by reading a book out loud I’ve been meaning to open, then move on to watercolors just for fun. Here’s the free backyard bird bundle I love to do with my kids. I’m aiming for 1 a month.

Sometimes we’ll do a nature craft I’ve eyeballed for months, like rolling pinecones in peanut butter and birdseed. Or making quick dry rainbow rice for my 5 year old. Or finally drawing something and labeling the parts in our untouched nature journals.

The hands on stuff seems to ignite why I loved this in the first place and helps me to enjoy my kids more for some reason! And I’m always amazed at what learning happens naturally when we play.

Do school in your back yard

One of my favorite ways to make homeschooling more enjoyable is to do one or two subjects outside. Weather dependent of course.

Such a small thing but it seems to kind of reverse homeschool burnout for me. We don’t do this enough!

Take a month off Instagram

As a blogger and creator, I am very aware that other Instagram homeschool accounts don’t do all the things they post all the time. They exist for inspiration, for ideas. And I definitely know their homeschool lives don’t always reflect their curated feed.

I stopped posting to stories and mindless scrolling for a while so that I’d be on the app less. Scrolling for 20 minutes here and there was leaving me empty and dissatisfied and unproductive!

Plus I wasn’t in a place where I could implement any of the ideas I saw. So I began to feel bad about our homeschool when in reality what we had was perfectly fine!

Turns out it was really nice to take a couple months away. I had NO IDEA what other homeschool parents were out there doing. I’d still check my close friends stories, but that’s it.

One month turned into 2, (which is NOT recommended if you are trying to grow your IG account and brand, lol), but it was so refreshing to me as a homeschool mom.

Don’t feel obligated to do this, or righteous for it if you do. Just do what makes you a better homeschool mom and know it’s ok to come back when you are not burned out.

Join some homeschooling Facebook groups

I’ve found so much encouragement from other moms in some of the homeschool Facebook groups I’m in. I’d recommend joining some that match whatever curriculum you are using (like Singapore math or Masterbooks, etc) and also homeschool style (like Charlotte Mason, classical, unschooling, etc).

There’s always posts from parents feeling overwhelmed, behind, lost, or parents who have kids that are not loving the material. It’s just a nice way to get ideas, encouragement, and not feel alone!

Remember YOU are the best thing for your kids, but you need to take care of yourself to be in a good space for them! You got this!

For more of my homeschool resources, go here.

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