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Homeschool burnout – I’m pretty sure everyone gets to a point where they think, “I’ve HAD it. I can’t do this anymore. I’m quitting homeschool.” For most people, i’s not a matter of if but when you hit this point.
Homeschooling is not easy, after all, and the amount of commitment and endurance it takes to teach even one child is crazy. Teaching multiple subjects to multiple children, at multiple grade levels, often by yourself, for weeks on end, can be unbelievably difficult. So before you read any further, you need to take a deep breath and say, out loud:
“I am a damn good parent and teacher.”
The good news about homeschool burnout is that it’s treatable. Don’t immediately jump to fantasies of sending the kids off to school as if that will solve all your problems. It might, but remember that the grass always looks greener on the other side. You chose homeschooling for a specific reason, and chances are you still believe in a lot of those reasons. It’s just hard right now, right?
So let’s talk about some things you can try to get over feeling miserable and dreaming of quitting homeschooling.
Identify your pain points before quitting homeschool
Is it a particular subject? A time of day? Trying to do too many things? You haven’t had a single moment to yourself in 3 weeks?
Hide in the bathroom if you need to, but take ten whole minutes to actually think about what’s gone wrong. You might want your child’s feedback too. Then, rank the most difficult parts so you know the order to tackle them in.
Plan vacations or breaks to prevent homeschool burnout
Ok, so this one doesn’t help you right now, but still. I want you to go to your homeschool calendar right now and plan at least one day off sometime during the next long slog. Future you will be so grateful. In my experience, these periods come most often between January and whenever you end your year. This is especially hard in March and the last few weeks of school.
Talk about this day off with your kid(s), and really hype it up. Make sure they know it’s coming, and talk about how awesome it’s going to be. Sometimes, we get increased motivation and energy if we know a finish line is close by.
Take a nature walk
I’ve talked ad nauseum about the importance of nature and nature education on this blog. But it’s super important. For one, more time outside is linked to lower rates of all kinds of issues like anxiety, depression, and ADHD. But even for those without diagnosed conditions, nature is important. Time spent soaking up that vitamin D and breathing fresh air helps you reset and stop feeling like quitting homeschool. Actually, getting sunlight really does help you reset your circadian rhythms and helps you get better sleep. Speaking of which…
Get a good night’s sleep
There’s virtually no chance that you will be a warm, nurturing, patient parent on four hours of sleep. This goes double if you’re so far deep in sleep debt that it’s been weeks without a solid 8 hours. And if it’s your kids who are sleep deprived, learning can feel like an unclimbable mountain.
Focus on a few components of good sleep hygiene at a time, and add more as you get better. These include turning off screens, eliminating caffeine later in the day, and having a set bedtime every day.
Try a short unit study
Unit studies are great for a blitz-style learning experience for your whole family. Some people use unit studies as the cornerstone for their entire, but they’re a perfect antidote to homeschool burnout for short periods of time, too. I go into this strategy in plenty more detail where I explain how and why unit studies work. If you want even more info, we’ve written an entire ebook on unit studies with plenty of ideas for how to get started.
Go on a homeschool field trip to remedy burnout
And these don’t have to cost money, either! Field trips are perfect for experiential learning, whether or not it’s related to the exact topics you’ve been studying in your curriculum.
Need field trip ideas? We’ve got you covered.
Tweak your assessments
If you son needs to show he understands the War of 1812, does he have to write an essay? Or instead, can he dress up as William Henry Harrison and describe battles to you?
There are so many different methods you can use to assess what your child has learned about a subject. If tests, essays, or giant projects have become a sore spot in your homeschool, ditch them for other assessment types:
- more regular check ins
- Conversations / oral exams
- Songwriting (where the new learning is the lyrics)
- 3D models
- Make a movie
Bribe with cookies
I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but baking is just a balm to my soul and always lifts me out of burnout. If you can drag your kids into the kitchen, everyone can learn something while baking cookies. One kid can practice reading the recipe and another can work on fractions. If you’ve got a high schooler, they can get really fancy and talk about chemical reactions in the cooking process.
And now as a bonus after all that learning, you’ve got actual cookies to bribe your reluctant learners with!
Enlist help to eliminate homeschool burnout
You are not an actual superhero. Sometimes, you just have too much on your plate and you need to outsource. Tutors, online teachers, co-op programs, and even community college courses can help reduce your burden without compromising your commitment to homeschooling.
Alternatively, you could outsource other tasks you’re responsible for. As a stay-at-home parent, you’re probably responsible for meal planning, cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, buying birthday gifts, financial planning, grocery shopping, and setting up for garage sales.
And some of you crazy people ALSO run small businesses out of your home on top of everything else! If you want to keep raking in the cash, plus homeschooling, don’t be afraid to hire a freelancer. They can take care of specific tasks like social media, mailing products, answering emails, or writing blog posts.
Check for issues besides homeschool burnout
For many of us, burnout is the sole problem. For others, homeschool burnout (either on the kid’s or parent’s part) is merely a symptom of an underlying issue. If you’re concerned either you or your child might be struggling from a mental, physical, or developmental disorder, don’t be afraid to look deeper. Pediatricians, therapists, and social workers are all there to help both your kids AND you.
Offer more independence
If one of your problems is kids hanging onto your legs all day, start teaching them independence skills. Not all learning has to happen with you directly next to them. Homeschool centers are one strategy to help kids become more independent in their learning. This, in turn, means more breathing room for you. While they’re learning on their own for small chunks of time, you now have flexibility. You get to work one-on-one with whoever needs it most, get chores done, take care of the really tiny humans, or just pee by yourself.
Add a new subject instead of quitting homeschool
You must have misread that, right? This is an article on homeschool burnout, and I’m encouraging you to ADD work onto your plate?
I know it seems crazy, but sometimes what you need to get your head above water is a new passion project. Has your kid always wanted to learn coding? Maybe the family can take tae-kwon-do classes together. Even just spending some time in front of a youtube video understanding how to knit or change a tire can be a productive change of pace.
Get more exercise
Endorphins are a proven way to boost your mood, focus, and concentration. While they can’t solve every problem in your homeschool, the can make existing problems worse. It’s important to make sure you and your kids are getting enough exercise!
Switch up the pace
Is your current schedule requiring math practice 10 mins a day, every day? Why not do it twice a week for a half hour instead? You don’t need to commit to your new schedule long-term. This is an attempt to get over the hump and
Alternatively, you could do the reverse and break long lesson times into many shorter ones.
Homeschool on weekends
This one might sound crazy, but try homeschooling on the weekends (or whenever another adult might be home to help with the workload). I know in our house, we usually think of weekends as “family time,” but you can remind everyone that learning together is a family activity. Plus, you can offer to let the kids choose which weekday they’d like off in exchange.
Invent a game when you’re feeling the homeschool burnout
Gameschooling is awesome, but I’m pretty sure no game yet exists that’s able to teach my kid how to memorize a particular set of vocabulary words. (I’m happy to be corrected, though!)
Though plenty of pre-made educational games exist, some things are just too specific. But you’re the mom who kept a toddler entertained with an empty water bottle and a handful of pennies. You’re brilliant enough to turn whatever’s tripping up your kids into a game! If you’re struggling, a walk through the craft or toy section of the dollar store might be enough to get the creative juices flowing.
Watch a documentary, play, or classic film
There are crazy amounts of content out there. From PBS, to Netflix, to your local library, free or low-cost films are easy to access. Documentaries were one of my go-tos when I was teaching and my students were burning out. They’re usually pretty persuasive, eye-catching, and can be quite educational. Documentaries can easily tie into current events/social studies, science, career studies, and more.
Old school movies like The Sound of Music, Jaws, and the Wizard of Oz are also educational. Not only can they help your youngster get a visual understanding of history, but they can help teach storytelling, vocabulary, and more. Filmed theater productions are also great for helping kids understand scripts, literature, and even live performance etiquette.
Switching curriculum might help fight homeschool burnout
This strategy is last because I don’t offer this lightly. Curriculum is expensive, and sometimes buying it mid year might mean not using half of what you pay for.
If you’ve tried other options and are thinking about quitting homeschool, it’s worth a shot. Before forking over your hard-earned cash, check with other local homeschool parents. See if anyone already has what you want. Maybe they’d be willing to loan or rent it to you for the rest of the year? You can always buy your own books or set if you like what you find.
If you’re not even sure what you’re looking for or what options are out there, you can check our secular curriculum guide, updated for 2021.
Hillary is a former teacher who went rogue and became a freelance writer. When not offering support and advice to homeschooling families, she tends to her own garden, family, and cat. You can connect with her on her website, homegrownhillary.com.