Struggling with Homeschooling Burnout?

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?


6 thoughts on “Struggling with Homeschooling Burnout?

  1. I really struggled last year. I have had my moments every year but last year was more intense and more prolonged. Some of it came from health issues but really it was the proverbial chicken and egg, the health issues came from the stress of homeschooling and not taking enough rest for myself. I moved forward by putting my spiritual practice back into the very centre of my life, so that that became my priority and focus, not homeschooling. It is hard to find a spare hour (or two) to meditate when I know that so many other things will not get done if I do that, but I finally realise that it is as essential to life for me as breathing. So when planning my day, that is the thing that has to be done today, not homeschooling.

    • Thank you for sharing, Cathy. Putting a primary focus on our own self-care, I truly believe, is an essential in treating burnout and homeschooling struggles.

  2. We both hit burnout last year in fifth grade, much of it because of my son’s reading struggles and my impatience. What helped was a bit of separation. He has been going to a small school part-time since then. It is not Waldorf but does focus on where the child is academically and the teacher is loving. She is great at sitting kids with conflict down together and mediating with them. My son has learned well and our relationship has healed.
    Having said that, I’m not sure if he will attend next year. I miss schooling him, he misses out on homeschool activities in town and his homeschool friends, and we just bought Oak Meadow 7th grade. We’ll see how it goes.

    My advice would be to find some separateness with your child if they are old enough. A playgroup or co-op where you can drop them or a specific time where the other parent or close friend can teach.

  3. The time is now. I am not going to put more negative critique than praise and constructive thought in my year-end review (self-imposed)!! This time of the year can be so tough for me. Partly because I’m from the SE and here in Colorado I’m still nursing my tomatoes indoors. I want my feet to be soaking in warm creek waters, not frigid snow melt …at best. 😉

    This is my time to reflect yes, with an eye toward the future, an understanding of what worked and didn’t and get right back to living it and not critiquing it! The time is now to be OK, to accept, to continue to strive to live this path I so desperately want to live…to homeschool my children and to grow. To be more accepting and learn from each week and month…each year.

    Keeping it simple and being realistic about our needs is KEY. Self-care, balance, food planning…

    Thank you Carrie for all you write and do. I often look here for inspiration, guidance and support.

    xo Sheila

  4. Pingback: Overflowing | The Parenting Passageway

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