January is a good time for us homeschoolers to start feeling overwhelmed. Ever notice that? In most of the country, it means inclement weather has us stuck inside the house with littles who are tired of being stuck inside the house. The excitement of the holidays is over. The next break is weeks or even months away (unless you homeschool year round with monthly breaks, but Even That seems far away in January). There’s that back to school rush at the first of the month then within a few days… Blah. Burnout. We are out of sorts from lack of sun. One little is stuck in one subject and it seems like he’ll never get it. Another little is sick. A third is hyper from being cooped up.
Well, I don’t have 3 in homeschool. But maybe they have multiple personalities.
Burnout happens to us homeschool teachers just as much as it happens to college students, if not more. We are responsible for So Much. I mean, wouldn’t it be great if homeschooling were at least our only responsibility? If a maid service took care of the house, a chef took care of the meals, a chauffeur drove the kids to outside activities, and you had farmhands? Well, okay, my boys might count as farmhands. But I still have to check their work. The thing is, most of the time, we have to be all those things. And it can be exhausting. Let’s not pretend to be Supermom here–when we are thinking rationally, we all know such moms do not exist.
So what do we do when it’s January and we are feeling overwhelmed? Well, there are some things I do to help me get through it, and maybe they will help you, too.
1. Reconsider your schedule
When we come back from Christmas break, the past 7 weeks have looked like this:
- 2 weeks off for deer season/Thanksgiving
- 3 weeks of Unit Study in one subject
- 2 weeks off for Christmas break
So, the first week of January I feel compelled to jump right back in to a full schedule. This year that means writing, forensics, math, reading, and geography unit study that includes history, gardening, art, maps, geology and animal studies. It’s a lot of work. Last week, we had a blast getting back into what we call ‘real school.’
Monday morning I woke up just not feeling it. It snowed over the weekend, and in our rural county, that meant the roads were bad. So I knew I was stuck in the house. I also knew it was going to snow again on Tuesday, which might mean I was stuck for even longer. The temperature has been pretty low too, and Littlest has been sick. So we couldn’t even go out for a snow walk or to build a snowman. What does that have to do with school?
Nothing but my attitude.
And it grew and grew. Even today, the only reason we will have a normal school day is because I’m going to push myself to do it. I don’t want to. So I’ll be taking another look at my schedule, to see if there’s anything I can cut out or put off, at least for a week or two, until I’m feeling less overwhelmed.
I’m not telling you to chuck your schedule. I fully believe that sticking to some kind of schedule is imperative for good learning. Kids react to life better when they know what to expect. You don’t even have to chuck one class. Maybe just start a little later so these dark early mornings can be spent in bed. Maybe shorten each lesson–spread what you planned for one day over two or three. Whatever makes your weight a little lighter.
2. Seek Help
As homeschoolers, no matter how many groups we belong to we can often feel isolated. As homeschool teachers, we tend to think the job is solely up to us and if anything goes wrong, we’re the only ones who can own it. But that’s not true. We have spouses, friends, peers, co-ops, and even an online community who are all too willing to help. We hesitate to ask for help. Will people think we suck at this if we need help? Cruising the interweb can make us feel worse, can’t it? Those bloggers seem to know so much and have it all together. Well, let me tell you, bloggers deal with the same stuff you do, but we gave ourselves the job of being here to help you, so we offer advice. Often, the reason we think to write that advice for you to read is because we’re dealing with the issue ourselves. We don’t have it all together. We’re giving ourselves pep talks as much as we’re advising you. Remember, Supermom doesn’t exist. Instead of letting blogs make you feel worse, glean the good advice from them. In fact, send an email to your favorite blogger (I hope it’s me), and you’ll find someone willing not only to make suggestions but who will commiserate. Totally. We get it.
Turn to your spouse. Don’t we forget that sometimes? He or she is in this, too, and perfectly capable of helping with math flash cards or going over spelling words. Martin teaches the boy things I can’t (because I don’t know how to do them), like mechanics and woodworking. He is even having them help build our new house so they are learning that skill as well. Is it structured school? Well, no. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a valuable asset to their education. And the thing is, don’t we homeschool because we want them to have the opportunity to truly learn how to navigate life?
Your homeschooling peers and friends would probably appreciate the offer to swap teaching days one day a week. Or even to swap kids. Maybe you have something to offer your neighbors’ kids that she doesn’t necessarily have. I can’t knit. I think it would be cool if my boys could go to a friends house one day a week to learn that skill. Or if they would just go to a friend’s house one day a week.
3. Shake it up
I’ve mentioned this before, but taking some time to just have fun can still be learning. Board games are the perfect tool. Scrabble for language, Monopoly for math & finance, Clue for critical thinking, trivia games for history and current events. See if you can plan a board game day into your schedule. Or play one game every day.
You could also have a craft day or a science experiment day. No writing or reading, just hands-on learning. You’d be amazed at how much pressure a day like that can relieve.
4. Get outside anyway
Whaaaaat? It’s 13 degrees outside right now!
Yeah, yeah, but it’ll be 32 this afternoon, and we have coats, gloves, scarves, and toboggans. And if this funk keeps clouding my brain, a brisk walk in the snow might be just the thing to clear it up. And I don’t mean walk to your car, though visiting friends might also be a big help. I mean take 15 minutes and go enjoy the planet. I know, it sucks being cold. But it sucks just a little bit more being trapped inside, doesn’t it? It must, or we wouldn’t complain about it so much!
5. Trust your instincts
Still feel like you need a day off? Take it.
Your children’s education is not going to take a nose dive because you took a day off in January. Maybe, though, it will help you get some new perspective. Tomorrow might be your first get-up-and-go school day of 2016.
Here’s the thing. We all get overwhelmed. This homeschooling thing is Hard. But we knew that going in, didn’t we? And we signed up for it anyway. I don’t know about you but–hard as it is–it’s easier than I thought it would be when I decided to do it. Yeah, it’s a lot of work. But it’s gratifying work. So take care of yourself and you’ll be able to take care of your littles. And all your other jobs.