There are seasons to homeschooling. Some follow the weather; we do nature study when in the spring or fall and extend our reading when it’s 4 degrees outside. Some seasons shift with the age of the students, pre-readers to readers, playful curiosity to avid readers with deeply thought out questions. Seasons can change because of family dynamics, like adding a new baby. If we are being really honest some seasons change because of mama’s mood. Seasons of burnout are real. Very Real.
I sat with a mother the other day who was burnt.out. She needed a listening ear. She needed encouragement. (Quick shout out to my dearest homeschooling friends who that do that for me on a regular bases!) But she was also asking me practically what I do when I’d rather stick a pencil through my eye than work through another math problem or open up another read aloud.
Gasp! Did I just admit to not always loving read aloud time with my people? I am sure that goes against the homeschool mom’s code or something, but oh yes, I did! Even something as wonderful as read aloud time can be soured because of a season of burnout.
Sometimes I have to just take a week off. I do this several times through out the year. I now plan time off in advance in order to prevent burnout, but I have learned a few other tricks so that we can keep learning when mom needs a break.
1.) Assign an audio book and corresponding art project. We are a family deeply invested in audio books. We have seasons when the kids decide when and what they are listening to, but we also have times when I assign audio books and direct what activity they do while they listen. For us that has primarily been drawing or coloring. For example, if I picked Charlotte’s Web or Farmer Boy, I would get them a book on how to draw farm animals to use while listening. If I assigned Black Beauty or a Misty of Chincoteague I might get a horse coloring book or paint by number. Our favorites have been Draw Write Now, 1-2-3 Draw, and Drover Coloring books. There are tons of options though-origami with Sadako and 1000 Paper Cranes. Paper dolls with Little House on the Prairie.
2.) Memory CDs. This year we could not get all four of our schooling kids in enrichment classes on the same day so we have relied on “van schooling” more than we ever have. One term we shelved some of our traditional memory work and listened to memorization CD’s on our way back and forth to enrichment classes. I have friends who do not participate in Classical Conversations but use the memory CDs from that program. There are many great Bible memory CDs available for families too. One of our favorites has been Seeds Family Worship. We are using a geography CD to memorize our states and capitols. I plan to use the parts of speech CD for next year.
3.) Workbooks. Now, some workbooks require a lot of explanation or a lot of correcting. That’s not the kind that I need during seasons of burnout. We have always loved Explode the Code for a good phonics review, especially for my kids who need a little extra help. I like Draw Write Now which mixes art with copywork. When I find quality educational puzzle books on sale, I pick up word searches, Sudoku, crossword puzzles, mazes, mind benders, or spot the difference books and use them as assignments.
4.) Short Unit Study. One of my favorite ways to reboot when we can’t take a week off from school is to incorporate a unit study. This isn’t good if I need a break from the kids, but it is great if we all need a break from our curriculum. I am not a unity study mom, but sometimes it’s good for us all to set aside the books and do something that is just different. When the kids were younger we did thematic unit studies or literature based units that I pulled of the internet for free. As they have gotten older we have done poetry, art and geography units.
5) Educational DVDs. I want to put a plug out there for planning ahead and using a DVD series to prevent burnout. I am one of the many homeschooling moms who has thrown a DVD when I was fried, just trying to make it to the end of the day. But when I am in a season of burnout sometimes I plan regular DVD’s for a couple of weeks. One semester we watched 2 episodes of Liberty’s Kids every Friday after our seat work. There have been many February’s when the days are long, and I plan for a science DVD everyday after lunch. One of the kids’ favorites has been Popular Mechanics for Kids.
6.) Games. I am not going to go into a lot of detail here because there are a boat-load of ideas over at Simple Homeschool, but I assign my kids a game and a game partner several times a week. I think that it builds relationships and logic skills all at the same time. (I work myself into the mix of partners too! For some of my kids it really strikes a chord with their love language.)
7) Ditch the Guilt. One of the good things about having a few years of homeschooling behind me is that I know that the seasons will come and go. It doesn’t mean that I am a bad mom or that I should give up on homeschooling. Burnout happens. I also have had to ditch the guilt that might accompany any one of the 5 other suggestions that I made. The homeschooling community can speak so positively about morning time, reading aloud and spending quality time with our kids that I felt guilty if I had to take a break and do something so mediocre like use workbooks or DVDs. I don’t get the rest or refreshment that I need if the whole time I feel guilty. I have learned that it is far better for me to accept it and move on.
So if you are feeling the heat of burnout, don’t be afraid to take off the week, or every afternoon this week or every Friday for the next month. I know that I will, and I will be a more refreshed homeschool mom because of it!