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Beating Homeschool Burnout

by Christine Miller


Fatigue and Discouragement


Why do we get burnt out in the first place? Fatigue, fatigue, fatigue; and discouragement, if we don’t see results right away. It’s sometimes much harder to see the results of our homeschooling, our work, than it is for someone working 8 to 5 and getting a paycheck for it. That paycheck, the result of their labor, keeps the 8 to 5er going; but what do we have to motivate ourselves when we don’t see the results of our teaching? That’s when discouragement can set in. So let’s look at both the problems of fatigue and discouragement.

If you are burnt out because you are tired, then take a week or two off of schooling! Sleep, rest, and do some fun stuff with your kids. Get the laundry and the cleaning caught up. It’s amazing how strongly clutter, and those nagging unfinished jobs in back of our minds, can sap our energy. Make a dent in the stack of papers needing grading and filing. Taking some time off will not hurt the kids. The only consequence is that you will finish school a week or two later than you planned in the summer.

In order to beat this kind of burnout before it happens, we school for six weeks, then take a week off. We do this for six blocks of six weeks each, for thirty-six weeks of school, which meets my state’s requirement with two weeks to spare. During our six weeks of school, we do not take off holidays such as Columbus Day or President’s Day. We keep the momentum going, Monday through Friday, with our week break in the not-too-distant future as the reward for our work. The six-one ratio has worked well for us, and God used the same ratio in working for six days to create the world, then taking one day to rest.

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Meeting the Physical Demands


We only help ourselves head off both fatigue and discouragement before it happens when we help our bodies work efficiently. We should be getting enough sleep, drinking lots of water, taking a walk everyday, getting out in the sun (when it’s shining), and taking our minerals and vitamins. Often as homeschoolers, we might think we can’t afford the time it takes to get enough sleep or take a walk everyday. We might think we can’t afford vitamins or minerals. Really, we can’t afford not to. When we let our bodies get run down through overwork, fatigue, lack of exercise, and lack of the vitamins and minerals it needs in order to work properly, then we are more susceptible to burnout and discouragement, as well as illness. We end up paying the piper anyway, both in time and in money. Better to pay it in small daily increments of daily exercise and vitamins, and remain healthy with a positive attitude, than pay it all at once by being ill for several weeks with expensive doctor visits.

We can also prevent burnout by finding ways to do our work more efficiently. Read Don Aslett’s books on housecleaning and learn to clean your house like a professional: they know how to get the job done in the least amount of time possible. Cook once a month or every few weeks and put meals in the freezer for school days. Delegate chores to your children. Even five-year-olds can dust or fold laundry. Get up early if you are a morning person or stay up late if you are a night person, and use that one or more hours of uninterrupted time to study, prepare lessons or grade papers. You can accomplish more in one hour if you are focused and undistracted than in six hours with constant interruptions.

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Meeting the Emotional & Spiritual Demands


And of course, besides the physical demands of homeschooling and homemaking, there are emotional and spiritual demands as well. When these demands become too great, then we get fatigued and discouraged, and that leads to burnout. We must replenish our resources continually by abiding in the vine that is the Root of Life and all good things. Develop the habit of living in God’s presence. When my children were small, I found it nearly impossible to maintain a separate daily prayer time as had been my wont. The demands on my time and energy were just too great. I learned to speak to God while washing dishes and hanging laundry on the line; I learned to listen to His voice while cooking and settling sibling disputes. I found my daily relationship with Jesus deepened rather than compromised when I took Him out of my prayer closet, and included Him in the diaper-changing and rocking the little ones to sleep. I found that rather than being aware of Him and being in His presence for one hour daily, I was now aware of Him and living in His presence for twenty-four hours daily.

Develop an “attitude of gratitude” by giving thanks in everything, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us. The joy of the Lord is our strength, and praise is becoming to the upright. No matter how black the situation, there is always something we can find for which to sincerely thank Him. His glory and majesty are not diminished because we are having a bad day; take a minute and worship the Lord of Heaven and Earth just for no other reason than who He is. When we are living in His presence, maintaining an attitude of praise and thanksgiving for all He does for us daily, then something happens to us. Jets travel in the stratosphere because all the weather happens in the troposhere, and it’s a lot easier to just avoid the weather than fly through it. That something that happens to us is like flying through the stratosphere and avoiding the weather in the troposphere. Life on the one hand has not changed for us, and yet on the other hand everything has changed. We find the inner peace, strength, and patience with which to cope, with enthusiasm and exuberence. It is because we are living “in Him,” and He Himself is the Prince of Peace; God Almighty whose name is like a strong tower, the Everlasting Father who is long-suffering and forbearing.

Maintain daily or consistent Bible-reading. If it seems like no matter what, you cannot make the time for it, get the Bible on tape and take a Walkman with you when you have your daily walk; exercise your body and feed your spirit in one time slot. :-)

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Realizing our Limitations


And finally, we have to realize our limitations. In homeschooling, we have committed to two full-time jobs: teaching and homemaking. Each one by itself is a full-time job, so it’s no wonder that we get tired and discouraged. We need the Lord’s strength in order to do the job. We cannot do this job by relying on our strength; it’s too big for that. Our strength, our resources are not adequate. But the Lord’s strength and His resources are more than adequate! He is generous and willing to give freely. His help is available. So how do we “get” it? Ask and receive by faith through grace, just as we “got” salvation. “We have not because we ask not.” If we can’t get organized, then we need order. If we are discouraged, then we need encouragement. If we are overwhelmed, then we need help. If we no longer care, then we need motivation. The Lord is able to order, encourage, help, and motivate us, and provide anything else that we are in need of, if we only ask Him.


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Cross and crown of thorns, the symbols of our Lord’s suffering for our sakes

Classical Christian Homeschooling / Christine Miller / Last revised November 1999
http://www.classicalhomeschooling.org/homeschooling/burnout.html
Copyright 1997-1999