We start off with so much enthusiasm. This is an exciting new world we are venturing into, full of adventure and possibility. There is so much to do and see, and the new curriculum that just arrived looks like the perfect fit. This year is going to be so much fun. We are going to love every minute of it!
Then suddenly it is nearing the middle of the year. The books and lessons that were met with whoops of delight back in February are now greeted with a sigh at best. Outright resistance at worst. And you can’t even be bothered to argue on it. Your homeschooling mojo has gone the way of Elvis and left the building. You let them skip maths for the day. The next day you feel guilty for it and demand, in the sternest of mum voices, that they knuckle down and make up for the time lost. Then that makes you feel guilty too.
What happened? They used to love this stuff!
You’ve heard of homeschool mum burnout, but this isn’t it. Although, if the kids keep rejecting everything you put before them, you know it won’t be long before that really is the problem. No, this is something different.
This, my dear, is run of the mill, loss of joy. It happens from time to time, particularly mid-year and right at the tail end. And I’ll let you in on a secret. It happens to kids in school too, generally towards the end of each term. So I can tell you right now that jumping ship and enrolling in school isn’t the answer to this particular problem (believe me! We did 18 months of primary school and this is a well-known issue there too).
You and the kids have lost that spark, that wonder in the world and the joy in each new day. Which sounds awfully depressing, doesn’t it. But something lost can also be found. You just need to know where to look.
Before you can fix a problem, you need to understand it’s cause. For us mums, homeschool burn out often comes with overwhelm. But what about our kids? Why has their joy in learning faded away? There could be several reasons.
- They are bored with the routine.
- They are overwhelmed.
- They don’t like the curriculum choices you made for them.
- They aren’t doing enough of the fun stuff.
- They are picking up on your signals.
And just for a bonus, it could be a combination of any or all of the above.
Now before you spiral headfirst into a panic… breathe. None of these are terminal problems. There is a solution for everything on that list. Let’s tackle them together, just one at a time.
Doing the same thing day in, day out, can wear anyone down. You know yourself that taking care of the housework can start to feel like drudgery at times because it’s always the same chores, over and over again. It’s the same for our children when they are faced with the same work, in the same order, each day for schoolwork. Choosing a more holistic style of homeschooling goes a long way towards staving off this particular issue, but even that doesn’t make you completely immune.
The solution to this problem is to change up your days. If you always tackle your subjects in the same order, try rearranging your routine. If your kids aren’t interested in morning circle anymore, try changing the verses, adding in some different maths facts games or including yoga. If you’ve been stuck on one read-aloud for a while now and just can’t seem to get through it, ditch it and read something new. I won’t tell. It doesn’t so much matter what you choose to do, more so that you are consciously changing things up to bring a little life back into the day.
I know if I have a lot on my plate, I freeze up and manage to accomplish a big, fat zero. Nothing at all gets done when it all feels too hard. Kids are the same. Maybe you are trying to cover too much, too fast. Maybe you are squeezing too many activities into your day or week.
The trick with this one is to take a day off. Or even a week if you need it. Let everyone get a little breathing room. Cancel everything on your agenda; lessons, co-ops, excursions, non-essential outings. Stay home and relax. Read some good books. Play in the yard. Recharge. Then set aside some time in the week to take an honest look at what your kids have got on their plate. Do you need to reduce some of their commitments to activities outside the home? Or is the problem the volume or difficulty level of the academic work you are expecting of them? Take a look at your daily rhythm and make sure you are providing balance. It shouldn’t all be head work.
This problem often comes about because we as homeschool mamas are so worried about getting things right. Everyone is asking us about socialisation, so we join our kids in every group. We don’t want them to miss out on opportunities, so we enroll them in every interesting class. We keenly feel the burden of needing to provide a top quality education, so we squeeze as much of the academics in as we can. Maybe it’s all of these things. Maybe it’s none. But take an honest look at what you are doing and why, then make the necessary changes to lighten the load. Always remember you are teaching to the individual child in front of you. Give them what they need.
It’s an expensive mistake to make, but we’ve all done it. The curriculum looked perfect. It really did. But it’s boring. Forget for a minute how much you spent. Is it dry and dull? Is it repetitive? Is it too hard? Or way below the level your child needs to feel challenged? I hate to say it, but sometimes you just need to cut your loses and throw away the curriculum.
Now before you go hastily chucking it on to the fire, vowing never to buy curriculum again, maybe you can save it after all. Sometimes you just need to slow your pace through the work, supplement with some interesting books from the library or a cool project. The other option is to put it aside for a month while you work on a unit study or a large scale project, and then come back to it later. Definitely rethink the way you are using curriculum before you ditch it altogether. But if after all that you know that it is just not a good fit for your kids, sell it on and try something new. Now might be the perfect time to try planning your own lesson blocks!
I’ve been guilty of this one before. You get so caught up in the ‘school’ portion of your role as a parent, that you forget to do the other stuff. The board games and picnics. The pyjama days and popcorn nights. But this one is so easy to fix! Just ask your kids what they want to do…and do it. It’s really that easy. Then all you need to do is remember to do this regularly.
The other thing to remember here is that learning is so much more than bookwork. Learning should be an enjoyable experience, and as home educators following a holistic model, we know that we need to be teaching creatively and in a way that involves head, heart and hands. Three Hs, not just the one. If you’re following a Steiner-inspired model have you got stuck on the story, recall, main lesson book hamster wheel? Maybe as a CM educator you are caught in a read, narrate, read, narrate loop. Don’t just keep the fun for evenings and weekends, plan it into your lessons as well.
Maybe it’s not the kids that are in a funk at all. Maybe it’s you. If you’ve tried everything above and your still having issues, or worse still, you just can’t be bothered trying anything, you are definitely suffering from a case of homeschool mum burnout. If you’re just not feeling it, if you’re bored with it all, or crushed under the weight of it, your kids will know. They can tell when we aren’t being authentic, so if you can’t see the point neither will they. Plus, it’s awfully hard to put in your best effort when you feel like mum is just going to grump at you anyway.
If you haven’t already, read this article on homeschool burnout. Know that it happens to the best of us. Take some time to do the things you love and recharge your batteries. You will get through this season and you’re children will be none the worse for it. But do take action now for your own sake.
A final piece of advice. Remind yourself of why you homeschool. Write it down and keep it somewhere you will see it. Perhaps on the fridge, or in the front of your lesson binder if you use one. Keeping sight of your goals can be a great way to motivate yourself through the more difficult seasons of homeschooling.
Do you struggle through the middle of the school year?
If you haven’t already, head on over to the Australian Homeschool Summit. There is still time to catch some of the FREE live workshops and you can get MATES RATES of 25% off if you purchase the Return and Learn bundle this week. Just click on the image to go straight to the sign up page!
(Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links)