How to Recover from Homeschool Burnout

source: Grief by C.Angeles

Are you having a difficult time rising in the mornings and facing the day?
Does the thought of another day of ‘school’ make you depressed?
Do you find yourself inventing excuses to skip lessons with your children?
Do you spend more time at homeschool social events rather than teaching your children?
Is your house a mess and you are flying by the seat of your pants when it comes to meal preparation?
Are you barking orders at your kids throughout the day?
Does every new curriculum that comes along look like the panacea for your homeschool blues?

If you can answer yes to two or more of these questions, then most likely you are experiencing homeschool burnout. Burnout is a very dangerous disease that can lead to the death of a homeschool. If parents remain in burnout for very long, they generally end up sending their children to a private or public institution simply because the pain of this illness is too great to bear any longer. You need a cure, and you need it fast.  Well, I have good news for you, the cure is at your fingertips and the medicine is pleasant. Read on.

Everyone loves a good story. We instinctively know that a good story tells the truth about something. It also inspires us to be better than we are. Stories encourage us to continue a task even when facing impossible odds. We were wired to enjoy stories. God uses stories throughout the Bible to communicate truth to humans. Truth wrapped in story appeals to children and adults alike.  Children get a thrill when they read about the heroic exploits of King Arthur and his knights of the round table, Harriet Tubman risking her life to hide slaves or when Dad reads aloud from the Bible about brave, young David fighting the giant Goliath. Heroic tales from history, literature and legend contain deep truths that we all must learn in order to become people of character and virtue. Truth is the most fundamental aspect of a child’s education.

If your school days have more workbooks and textbooks than story books, your children’s minds are feeling the strain and they need the medicine of truth wrapped in story. But sometimes we let our fears cloud our judgment.  Educational jargon bombards our minds- ‘comprehension,’ ‘vocabulary,’ ‘reading level,’ ‘mastery.’  Before we know it, our children are stooped low over a table writing out wearisome exercises. The light of curiosity has left their eyes. They only complete the dreaded task because Mom either offers a trivial reward or a dreadful punishment. This dreary, daily routine continues on only to appease that boogey called ‘Fear.’ Maybe we have forgotten:

“The object of children's literary studies is not to give them precise information as to who wrote what in the reign of whom? - but to give them a sense of the spaciousness of the days, not only of great Elizabeth, but of all those times of which poets, historians and the makers of tales, have left us living pictures. In such ways the children secure, not the sort of information which is of little cultural value, but wide spaces wherein imagination may take those holiday excursions deprived of which life is dreary…” Charlotte Mason, British educator

I urge you to put away the textbooks and let your children read real, living books that engage your children’s imaginations and sense of wonder! Maybe you started out with story, but it has fallen by the wayside. It’s never too late to pick it back up again. Even the high school student is never too old for a good story.

Children not only need a diet of truth to thrive, but they also need to be surrounded by beauty. It feeds the soul. We know this because we are all created in the image of God and He loves beauty. Since we resemble our Maker in many ways, we desire the same things that God desires and enjoys. When our craving for beauty remains unmet we begin to experience negative emotions. Depression can set in and we find ourselves in a ‘rut.’

Please do not fall for the lie that education consists of the three Rs, reading, writing and arithmetic. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The three Rs are simply the tools one must learn in order to become educated. In reality, these disciplines should be a very small part of a child’s education. A truly educated person has had as many doors of truth and beauty opened to him as possible. Only then can one know how to truly live and enjoy a full life honoring to God.

A child should be surrounded by beautiful works of art and inspiring music of all kinds. He should be encouraged to explore these areas of beauty by using his natural God-given ability and desire to create. This type of learning is like play to a child. It seems almost sinful. Shouldn’t learning be more academic? When did we become convinced that learning was a hard, difficult task? Learning should be joy-filled, just as our Maker is.

If your school lessons are taking all day, you are going against a child’s nature. It is in his nature to explore God’s creation and drink in the beauties around him. Mornings should be set aside for lessons, but afternoons are for outside. Children should be outside every day for at least a few hours. But in today’s culture. Many children remain indoors glued to a chair staring at a computer game.  They need a firm hand to switch off the screen and lead them outside.

“As for that aesthetic appetency . . . it dies of inanition when beauty is not duly presented to it, beauty in words, in pictures and music, in tree and flower and sky… The function of the sense of beauty is to open a paradise of pleasure for us.” -C.Mason

They may not even know what to do with themselves at first, but eventually they will exult in their new-found freedom.  When my children were very young, I chose not to use a science curriculum. Instead, I invested in several Audubon field guides. We lived in a city of five million people crammed together like sardines in high rise apartments. Our apartment was on the ninth floor. I spent our afternoons looking for green places, which was no easy task. But my children’s natural curiosity was preserved and gradually trained to observe the beautiful wonders of creation hiding in bushes, under stones and in empty lots. We spent hours learning how to draw and paint and identify the natural world. I was a student right along with them.  I didn’t need to fear about ‘gaps in scientific knowledge.’ Today, one is studying astrophysics and the other is an artist who still spends many an hour wandering fields and forest with a sketch book and field guide. More importantly, our souls were nourished on beauty and our school days were happy ones.

The last medicine one needs in order to cure homeschool burnout is a sense of order. Even though a person can learn to adapt to a chaotic environment, they will have a difficult time thriving because we need some order in our lives.

Children want to know what to expect in a day. This doesn’t mean you need to make detailed schedules, but a daily routine should be posted where they can see it and know what to expect. They also need a beautiful, orderly environment. Maybe it’s time to throw out the old and bring in the new, whether that is a drawer full of papers or just rearranging furniture. Moms need this too. It’s difficult to keep a home orderly and neat when you have a lot of possessions. You need to purge. It is very satisfying and peaceful when we know our little kingdom is neat, orderly and beautiful. 

Truth, Beauty and Order. What sweet –tasting medicine! I offer it to you along with prayers for a blessed, joy-filled school year.  

one step at a time...

first published in Home Educating Family Magazine