Homeschooling can be a stressful experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Often homeschool parents create stress because of underlying anxieties about whether we are doing enough for our kids. We see how slow the learning process can be, and we panic.
In my experience, homeschool burnout can come from two directions: from your child or from you. Either way, there are many strategies to alleviate stress. Today, I want to offer you four tips to help avoid homeschool burnout.
1) Empower Your Kids To Request Short Breaks
I am the textbook definition of a Type-A parent. I have five adult children and a 14-year-old. Recently my kids and I were talking about our adventures in homeschooling. I realized that as a Type-A Parent, my mentality was often that if I had set a goal, we were going to meet that goal no matter what happened. This put my kids in a position of not feeling like they could advocate for themselves.
We can inadvertently sabotage our children’s ability to self-regulate when we try to force them to overextend beyond their capabilities. Create a system of checks and balances where your student can say, “I need 10 minutes to just go sit by myself” or where you can say to your kids, “I need a break. Let’s go outside and look at the clouds for 15 minutes.”
Homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint. One of the hardest things about homeschooling is for us to realize that this is a job where you don’t see the fruits of your labor while you’re laboring. Let me encourage you to breathe, to relax. You’re fighting a good fight and you’re doing a great thing with your children. If you’re teaching your children to advocate for themselves and become lifelong learners, then you’re doing a fantastic thing. Taking breaks is an important part of the process.
2) Embrace Laughter
The second tip is to embrace laughter. As a colleague reminded me this morning, “You know, for homeschooling to work, you gotta be able to laugh at yourself. You have to be able to laugh at your mistakes.” That’s really true.
Laughter is something we should take into all of our endeavors. Find what’s comedic in everyday life. Spend time with your kids remembering past funny experiences. Last Christmas, I gathered with all my kids and grandkids and we had a fantastic time. And what we remembered most vividly from the days of homeschooling were the funny things that happened.
3) Find Friends Who Let You Vent
My third tip is that it’s important to find someone to talk to who’s a good listener, and who is probably not related to you. What does that mean? Sometimes we’re just too close to an issue and that can cause friction. Often we’re tempted to try to immediately solve everything instead of just listening. As a parent, it becomes important for you to have someone that you can call or chat with, or have a cup of coffee with and say, “I’m really struggling with this right now.” Someone who can hear you, provide feedback, and help guide you.
I was blessed to have two friends with whom I homeschooled for my 21 years. We had the kind of friendship where we could call and say, “Hey, I don’t need advice. I just need to vent for a minute.” And the other person would sit and listen. That was a wonderful gift and those ladies are still part of my life. A good friend can be such a powerful encouragement, to keep you in the game and help you avoid burnout.
4) Record Happy Moments on a Post-it Note
My fourth and final tip is that when you and your kids experience a funny or happy moment, write it down. I have a Mason jar where I keep all these notes. And then when I’m having a day that I feel like, “Hmm, the knot at the end of my rope is a little frayed,” I take out my jar and I start reading through those notes. It encourages me.. The biggest blessing is that at the end of the year, you can pull out those notes and you and your children can look at the year and say, “Wow, look at all these fantastic things that happened.”
Homeschooling is not an easy experience, and you will have stressful days. Remember on days that you and your student feel like you’re hitting a brick wall to take a break, laugh, vent to a friend, or read through your positive Post-it notes. Above all else remember you ARE doing a good job.