So after working so hard to figure out the whole homeschooling thing, getting started, experiencing many of those "wow" moments, working through those "I’m ruining them" moments, then setting the cruise control and gliding through a few years of ups and downs, it’s in the natural progression of things to hit a few burnouts.
Burnout can happen after many years of homeschooling, at the end of the year, before you get to the end of your book, or even before you get to the end of a lesson sometimes, LOL. We all experience it in everyday life, cooking the same ole meals over and over, going to the same job everyday, washing the same dishes over and over. We might as well teach our kids that burnout happens, and help them learn to deal with it.
First of all, I try to remember not to just give up or let ourselves become idle. It’s important to evaluate the cause of the burnout. Sometimes, it’s just a well-earned break from things. Take a break from writing that story for a little while, and chances are you’ll be able to return with some fresh new ideas. But, do come back and finish the story.
There have been times the girls just can’t focus on getting through their math. I try to let them take a week or so off either completely, or use a fun fill-in like Quarter Mile math software, Mathletics (our favorite), take a detour with some Math Mammoth "Math in the Real World" lessons, or go back through our Times Tales for review. Sometimes giving them something easier that they know they can do helps boost them through the burnout.
When we are just burned out in general from moving from subject to subject daily, I have taken a break from it all for a unit study. The first time we did this we took 4 weeks off to do a packaged unit study on Lighthouses. While they had a great time with it, they were actually a little bit burned out doing the unit study and ready to go back to their regular work! We currently have a unit study on Horses we are wanting to do, but unable to really take a break from what we are doing now, so you really have to determine how taking a break from it all will affect the progress you need to make.
This year we have scheduled things a bit differently due to circumstances, but I really feel it has helped things to flow a bit more smoothly and avoid end of the year burnout. We don’t do any subject daily, and have "together subjects" two to three days weekly and independent studies the other two days. We will probably work a little farther into the summer to finish up what we need to, but I do think it’s been a productive year. I also think a VERY IMPORTANT way to avoid burnout is plenty of field trips, and hands-on activities. Have in mind places that fit what your kids are learning, favorite place close to visit like Zoos or parks, and DON’T hesitate to be spontaneous on a day when no one can get into their schoolwork.
Somedays you just gotta say, "Ok guys, put up your stuff, load up, it’s "Homeschool Socialization Day," LOL. Then take them to the park, bowling, or just to Sonic and Tractor Supply for a break. We have the advantage of living on a ranch with the always-welcome opportunity to send the girls outside to exercise and work on their horse riding skills if needed.
One word of caution, though. Don’t let burnout be an excuse to slide into a pattern of not finishing and following through with your plans. While it’s ok to fast track through materials, throw out the busywork if you think concepts are well learned, and not finish every word in every book just to say you finished it, I’ve had to really evaluate not letting projects or subjects get dropped or set aside unfinished due to burnout. I’ve found the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow of determination is much better than the pot half full of abandoned interest. Sometimes keeping your eye on the prize, and reminding your crew that you can’t build a mansion without a strong foundation can help get you through those tough times. It also helps to take a moment to look back at all you’ve accomplished to motivate you to finish. Get out those notebooks of unit studies, nature notebooks, Apologia notebooks, history notebooks, favorite lapbook projects, workbooks, art projects , journals, whatever you have . Take a walk down memory lane, show them how far they’ve come!
For longterm burnout, read some Homeschool books, find some homeschool friends, and talk it out. Get some support. There are tons of resources out there from fellow homeschoolers, veterans, homeschool grads to read and help you get motivated to keep on.
Finally, I think it’s important to look at just why we have chosen this lifestyle, and for those of us following a Greater Set of Plans for our kids, just say thanks. Thank you Lord for allowing me the opportunity to guide and nurture these kids you’ve placed in my care in the way that YOU have instructed me to. Pray about it, talk to Him about it, and ask for motivation to carry on. Pray with your children. Your excitment and enthusiasm will carry over onto your children and help them deal with their feelings of burnout more than anything.
Check out what other families do to deal with burnout over at the TOS Crew blog.