I think this is the time of year where I get a spate of emails either from excited parents who are ready to embark upon their homeschool journeys or I get just the opposite – emails about burnout, dashed expectations, and exhaustion. Parents with homeschooling burnout wonder what to do if they don’t want their children to go to a brick and mortar school, but yet they cannot see any resolution to the challenges before them.
I experienced true burnout this year, and I am not afraid to share what worked for me in hopes it will help other homeschooling parents.
Part of the challenge: Part of burnout, for me, had to do with homeschooling for ten years with most summers taken up at least partially or fully with homeschool planning (vacation, anyone?). I notice in some Waldorf Schools the teachers seem to take sabbatical after taking a class through eight years. We do not have that option at home, as we often have younger children to continue homeschooling or we are homeschooling into high school.
Part of the solution: Stack some vacations in the worst part of the year to get me through; plan less weeks and less days per week in order to work in planning time during the school year.
Part of the challenge: Homeschooling for many years children of wildly different ages who have wildly different developmental needs.
Part of the solution: No child is going to get their day 100 percent tailored to them in a homeschooling situation where the family has children of massively different ages. As a homeschooler, it is easy to look at what a Waldorf School might offer and think that this would be better for the child. However, comparing a Waldorf School and Waldorf homeschooling is often like comparing oranges and grapefruit – same family, but perhaps distant cousins. Home is not school and school is not home. Reaching a balance not just over the course of a week or a month or a year is important, and to take a really long-term view that the child will get what they need by the time they graduate. Remembering why we homeschool for each developmental period is important and helpful.
The other part of this solution is to impart more responsibility to the older children where one can, and to know sometimes it isn’t in the academic arena or the artistic arena, but it may be the older student can be helpful with smaller children or responsibility around the house.
The third idea is to look carefully at outside activities. It is harder to say no to worthy outside activities that a high schooler wants to do if they only have a few years left full time at home, but it is simple to tell younger children they simply must wait – or to choose activities the whole family can enjoy together!
Part of the challenge: High school was not only a curveball for our oldest, but it was a curveball for ME. Most of the parents in my area homeschool high schoolers using traditional textbooks, online classes, or the use of a hybrid school where their child is in classes two to three days a week with homework to do on the other “off” days. What I kept hearing over and over was how homeschooling high school was so wonderful, how all it was was facilitating work and the student did everything on their own.
This could be the case for many Waldorf homeschoolers, but I don’t think this is always the case. Many of us are still directly teaching high school subjects and very involved. We also may be trying to figure out that whole balance of blocks versus year long courses , workload, and how to grade things.
Part of the solution: Let it go. Courses can extend throughout the high school years in homeschooling. Preserve the relationship. See if you can find in-person support from someone who has homeschooled similarily to how you have homeschooled, but also understand that every teenager has a different rate of neurologic development, and therefore that person’s experience may not be your experience at all! In the middle teen years, I see very pronounced differences in the development of the brain and the profound effect this has upon high school. No one talks about that at all on homeschooling blogs, so I am saying it!
Part of the challenge: The parent is still developing and going through seven year cycles; older parents can have challenges and we all seem to age a little differently.The decade of the 40s can also be where many mothers are squished between taking care of elderly parents or parents with health problems, homeschooling, running a household, and getting children to activities. It can be overwhelming.
Part of the solution: Rest, exercise, and healthy eating is a key. Making time for your own health does nothing but stabilize the school situation. If you have shorter days due to your own health needs and you decide to homeschool with shorter breaks throughout the year in order to accommodate this, well, we have that flexibility! The other piece of this is to go back to your spiritual practices – what strengthens your inner resolve and strength?
These are just a few of the things I did this year to help myself. I would love to hear from you if you have suggestions to help mothers suffering from burnout! What would you say to be encouraging and helpful?