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It happens to all of us at some point. That moment when the overwhelm hits, but you still have to keep moving forward. Homeschooling through exhaustion is not easy. Recognizing why moms are exhausted is only the beginning. Having a plan on what to do when you start to feel homeschool burnout and real-life burnout, is important.
In our house, I’m the one who is in charge of homeschooling. That means I decide what the children are learning each year. I maintain their portfolios and schedule evaluations. And I’m the one who guides our daily homeschool lessons and activities.
But like most moms, it doesn’t stop there.
Moms tend to act as the CEOs of their families. But, unlike in the business world where the CEO has a staff below them where every aspect of the business can be delegated, moms have to be able to multitask and wear many hats. Homemaker. Chef. Health & Safety Officer. Accountant. Events Coordinator. Chauffer. And the list goes on and on.
All of these roles are exhausting on their own, but throw them together and it’s amazing more moms aren’t completely burned out and exhausted. Oh, wait. Many of us are, but we’ve been taught to smile through it and stay quiet because this is our place. We made this choice.
I believe homeschool moms feel this even more because we made the choice to stay home and educate our children. We accept that it is not always going to be easy. The criticism many of us face about our choices to educate our children is enough to make us bite our tongues and grit our teeth through it. Society doesn’t seem to understand that it can be the best choice for our family, yet we are still human and can have bad days/weeks and we can face challenges that bring us to our knees.
So how do you continue homeschooling through exhaustion? On the days when you can’t even decide what to eat, and you can’t make even one more decision about anything.
Homeschooling through Exhaustion
Unschooling is my preferred way of homeschooling through exhaustion. Formal lessons often go out the window, but there are little things you can do that are still learning experiences and are easy to adapt to your circumstances.
- It is ok to take breaks. Sometimes we schedule breaks, like for a holiday or a child’s birthday. But, sometimes we have a sudden need to take a break from anything and everything and that is okay. Give yourself grace, and know that taking off of formal learning for a day or even a week at random is okay. It is teaching your children to listen to their mental health and to be aware of each season we are in and what we need to do during that season.
- Field trips count as learning. I know that scheduling a field trip is a whole other headache for many, but even a quick, put your shoes on because we are going to the park (or library, grocery store, nature center, laundromat, etc) can be a learning experience about real life. The change of scenery often helps too. Simply running errands and calling it good enough really does help some days.
- TV and Movies are a great escape. Sometimes, we just want to stay in our pjs and veg out completely. That’s a great time to pop on some cartoons or a movie, curl up under a blanket, and sit with your children. Let them share their favorite shows with you, or watch something you enjoyed as a kid. It doesn’t need to be some deep documentary with blatant educational value.
- Cook or bake something together. You need to eat anyway so why not involve the kids in the kitchen? Oh, look, reading, math, and science. If your children are older, you can just point at the kitchen and say figure it out.
Planning for Exhaustion
When I am feeling refreshed and in control, usually July and August when our lives have slowed down for a bit, I plan out our homeschool year. I pick at least 1-2 subjects per child where the lessons can be done completely on their own.
Utilizing curricula like Teaching Textbooks and Khan Academy allows me to schedule lessons for the children where I can be hands-off. This means during those days when I just can’t do anything, they can still work through those subjects. When my children were younger, we also utilized resources such as Reading Eggs so that I could be hands-off for even 15-20 minutes.
These days my kids like online work through Duolingo, Coursera, Elephango, and Sparketh. We also utilize various kits like the ones from CrunchLabs and MEL Science which are great for independent work.
Another thing I like to do is coordinate our school calendar with our personal calendar. That means on a day where we have homeschool bowling followed by doctor’s appointments, I know that we aren’t getting in a full day of formal lessons. In fact, I know that we may only get in a little quiet reading and that is perfectly ok.
Even though I plan out my year in advance, each weekend I do need to prep for the coming week. During that time, I adjust lesson schedules based on upcoming events, and based on how I’m feeling.
How Does This Work in Real Life
I’m already overwhelmed for the coming week and it’s only Sunday morning. I know that the coming week is going to be a challenge and I’ll need to continue homeschooling through the exhaustion and overwhelm or else I will feel worse at the end of the week. When things go amok, I get agitated and angry. If I have a plan for getting through the mayhem, then at the end of the week I can look back at the success of what we did accomplish instead of what we didn’t.
Time for a real-life example of how I make this work. This coming week we are preparing for a Scout camping trip. All five of us are going camping. My daughter is in charge of grocery shopping for her patrol. My son is the senior patrol leader and is in charge of the entire trip. I’m grocery shopping for the adults. We need to prepare to have my inlaws (who live with us) care for our cats, turtle, fish, and chickens. There is a lot of laundry that needs to be done. We may need to purchase additional personal gear since we don’t typically have all 5 of us camping at once.
Add in my husband has a conference this week for work, two nights of scout meetings, and an eye doctor appointment, and I’m already overwhelmed. While friends are reminding me to take time for self-care, the reality is I need to take time to plan how we are going to survive the week. And that’s what it is sometimes. Just survival. That’s okay.
As I sit down to look at the week, I’m taking Friday off of all lessons so we can pack up so I don’t lose my mind. I am also rearranging lessons on Wednesday and Thursday so they are lighter days.
During the week, I’ll set alarms to remind me of meal times, appointments, and even bedtime so that we stay in our routines. I’ll make sure we have easier meals planned so that I can delegate those to my husband or children even though I’m typically the one who does all the cooking.
And I know I’m going to have to rely on lists a lot more this week because when the mental load increases, so does my forgetfulness. Notepads, Post-Its, and Google Keep are my friends when it comes to keeping track of what I need to remember.
If on any given day things just are working the way they should, I’ll scrap the plan decide what is the priority, and move forward from there.
While burnout and overwhelm impact each of us in different ways, it is important to have a plan for homeschooling through exhaustion Delegate what you can, when you can. And no matter what happens, give yourself permission to change the plan when and as needed. How homeschooling looks for your family is going to look different than it does for every other family. We all come at this from different places. There is no being behind like there is in a brick-and-mortar school. Your children are learning something every day, even if it is not a formalized lesson. Learning how to live and how to find balance are equally, if not more, important than any textbook.