You’ve probably been on one side of this conversation.
Mom #1 – “Well, hi! I haven’t seen you in a long time! How’s the family? Are you finishing up homeschooling for the year?”
Mom #2 – (nervously shuffles her feet and clears her throat) “Um. We’re not exactly homeschooling anymore. I just couldn’t keep up with it, the kids were driving me nuts, I couldn’t find curriculum that worked…but the local public school is pretty nice and…” (uncomfortable silence follows)
Homeschool burnout. Every one of us has seen it happen, and some of us might even be headed that direction.
Before my husband and I had children, we were greatly influenced by several families that homeschooled. Their example was instrumental in our choice to eventually homeschool all eight of our children. Now I can’t imagine doing anything different.
Unfortunately, every single one of those families quit homeschooling in the elementary years for the same general reason: they were burnt out.
Despite differences in family size, background, curriculum, and parenting styles, there are three main things that cause burnout.
1. An unrealistic approach. Also known as “trying to do it all.” If you try to do math, grammar, history, geography, science, reading, keyboarding, and more for each one of your children individually, you will never be able to keep up. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Remember – we’re not trying to re-create the institutional classroom in our homes! Homeschooling naturally lends itself to combining ages. For example, math is the only subject for which all my children have separate books or software. But even with math, I frequently have older ones reviewing flashcards with younger ones — it’s great review practice for both ages. For history, my 14- and 12-year-olds are reading the same material, and then we discuss it all together. Games and projects can be highly effective for geography, science, and more. A variety of ages combined with different expectations for each child.
2. An uncontrollable classroom. If behavior is a big issue in your home, immediately put the school books away. Take the time to diligently teach your child to obey and submit to authority. (Read more HERE.) It may take weeks if you have never established obedience as a habit in your home. But what is the purpose of homeschooling? Is it to merely fill our children’s head with knowledge? I would much rather have a child of mediocre intelligence with a heart for God than to have a genius who is disobedient, disrespectful, and angry.
3. A weak spiritual life. If your life is right with the Lord and you are making Him a priority, everything is affected positively. Does that mean everything goes well when you read your Bible every day? Absolutely not. But when our eyes are focused on Him and on things of eternal value, we have the strength and grace to handle the challenges of homeschooling. This is directly connected to something all homeschoolers can struggle with: discouragement. What is your ultimate goal? Perfect, highly intelligent children? As Christians, our goal must be to do everything for His glory, regardless of circumstances or perceived results.
Do you feel like you are falling into burnout mode? Evaluate if you are doing too much. Perhaps your children need behavioral training more than anything else right now. Consider if you are diligently seeking His through His Word. God promises to give wisdom if we ask for it (James 1). Cling to that promise and be encouraged that you are not alone.
Gwen and her husband, John, and their eight children are involved in full-time ministry with Wycliffe Associates – volunteers committed to accelerating the process of Bible translation around the world. Find out more at Tolivers to Texas.