Recently I had the opportunity to speak for a homeschooling support group in Michigan. After the meeting was over, I enjoyed being able to talk to many of the ladies that were there. One lady came up to me, and thanked me for sharing honestly about some of the difficulties I faced in my parenting and homeschooling. As we talked, she shared how she had been struggling with burnout. She mentioned that no one really is very willing to say how they are feeling, and that if someone had explained to her that those feelings were from burnout, it would have really helped her.
Burnout is the bleak side of homeschooling that people don’t like to talk about!
I love what Christine Field said about this very issue in her book “Help for the Harried Homeschooler“.
Burnout. We don’t have to define it; we know it when we see it, or more accurately, when we feel it; the dread, the joylessness, the physical exhaustion, the sense of inadequacy or even failure. We have no vision for our work. We’re short and impatient with the kids.
Burnout is the bleak side of homeschooling, and at some point, the experience of almost every veteran homeschooler. If we knew how common it was, if we were willing to talk about it more, perhaps we could help one another work through it. But the fact is, we don’t want to talk about it. We don’t want to be seen as failures. We feel a need to prove ourselves to other homeschoolers as well as to our skeptical relatives and the world at large. How are we doing? Great! Wonderful! What a joy our homeschooling journey is!
But pretending that everything is fine when it’s not does nobody any good. If burnout is a problem in our efforts to homeschool, we need to face it and deal with it–or risk everything for which we’ve sacrificed. How many homeschools are abandoned before their time, I wonder, because a burned-out-mom saw no other alternative?”
This brings me to two points I want to share about burnout and homeschooling:
1. We need to be real with each other.
I don’t think we should always be complaining about how hard it is to homeschool, and do all we’re supposed to. Those difficulties shouldn’t be our topic of conversation at “support group” meetings. However, it is so important that we are honest, and admit when we are struggling.
We ALL struggle. We ALL have days when we don’t want to homeschool any more; days when the kids have bad attitudes, and challenge us continually. That doesn’t make us a failure. It means we are normal human beings with weaknesses. It shows that our kids aren’t perfect, but are normal kids with a sinful nature.
When you are struggling or discouraged, admit it, and ask for prayer. Ask others for ideas of how they have dealt with those issues. Those of us who have been homeschooling and parenting a long time, should be there to help teach the younger ones, and encourage them. (Sometimes the younger ones encourage ME with their energy, and zeal!)
2. Realize that you can’t do everything!!
Often we unknowingly bring burnout on ourselves. We try to do too much, and along with too many commitments, we have too little support.
When you’re feeling stressed, recognize that as a sign that you are doing too much. Cut back on what you can, and lighten up your schedule. Don’t keep pushing when your body is saying to stop. Be sure you make time to take care of yourself and renew yourself, or you will burn out. You can only push yourself for so long, and then it will catch you in the form of burnout. Slow down and ask God to give you strength, and to show you what your priorities should be, and what you can let go.
When I was struggling with burnout, I would often quote this verse as a reminder to myself:
“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.”
Look to God as the source of your strength, and wait on Him daily to lead you in balancing what He has given you to do.
(In my next post I will share some of the common causes of burnout. )