I have 8 children (ages 1-13) and have been homeschooling all along. I have really enjoyed homeschooling through the good and bad, but I am now struggling with terrible burnout! I just don’t feel like getting re-organized, preparing meaningful lessons, and supervising. We recently moved, and I don’t have the energy to make all new homeschooling friend contacts and activities. I have valiantly involved my children in the planning, work, and cleanup and so on, so my problem is not an imbalanced workload. I am tired! Any ideas?
What a dedicated mother you are! It warms my heart to meet a woman who is so devoted and dedicated to doing what is best for her family. You need to be congratulated that you are doing so much right! And you certainly have a reason to be tired! I do know how you feel. I get tired too.
Mothering is vital and rigorous work. Homeschooling is an important and demanding job. These things can make you mentally (plus physically of course!) exhausted. You can’t serve from an empty platter. There has to be time for self-renewal, so that your reserves are filled and you are refreshed. Yes, we have crucially important work to do, but life is not supposed to be grueling and dreary. It is supposed to be joyous, even while we work through difficulties. God wants us to be happy and have peace!
I am very committed to homeschooling, as you are, but sometimes I consider how my load would be lightened if I used the public school system to help me with educating my children. Whenever I do this, one of my friends has the wisdom to remind me that homeschooled children are done with their work at the end of the school day, whereas children that attend public school come home each day with a load of homework plus needing you and your time, plus needing you to do “repair work” on their self-esteem, faith in Christ, etc.
It helps me remember that the sheer fact that I have 7 children means quite a workload, whether I homeschool or use the public school. Public school would not be the “quick fix” that we sometimes imagine it might be. I am thrilled to have a large family, but fatigue definitely is a companion to this wonderful mission.
The years we spend in childbearing and raising our children are labor intensive. I often thought it feels like being in an Olympic marathon . . . and I wish I’d had better training, somehow, so I could hold up to the rigors.
When you have several small children, there just are not enough hours in the day, and some things are quite difficult to find time for, but consider these questions, even if some of them are impossible right now for you, just thinking about them opens some possibilities and they can bring beautiful balance and relief from burnout:
1. Do I exercise regularly (walking, running, treadmill, biking, swimming, etc.) without incoming noise so my mind has a quiet rest from input and my body is invigorated?
2. Am I dedicating a precious half hour daily to read the scriptures, prayer, ponder and meditate, to “be still and know that He is God”?
3. Do I treat myself to some tiny enjoyment every day–use some special soap, listen to some favorite music, put on lipstick or perfume or a pretty necklace, or light a candle at the table, have a special goodie, or stand for 5 minutes and watch the sun go down—in some way pamper myself so that I acknowledge the special woman that I am?
4. Am I setting boundaries on demands so they don’t swallow me up? (The goal that I reach for: schooling at my house goes from 9-noon and then “Teacher” turns into “Homemaker and Mother” until 6 p.m. when I turn into “Wife” first.)
5. Am I keeping a lighthearted sense of fun and cheerful enjoyment of life? Do I smile and laugh often?
If the answers are “no” to some of these questions, you may have contracted a very common disease amongst homeschooling moms—a case of over-extending. It is so needful to give, give, give, give when you are a mom. Everyone of your children has needs and you are their mother! Add to that the job of teacher, with every child wanting a personal tutor to work every problem alongside them and you’ll find you may not have a smidgen of time for yourself (or your husband).
Burnout is a very real feeling. The only cure I have found is to take time to replenish your “serving platter” so you can continue to give and serve your children and husband without expending yourself to the point of exhaustion.
Other things I do that renew me:
- keep an ongoing read-aloud to the children that I look forward to each day
- write a few sentences in my journal—reading back in it gives me an overview of my daily struggles and helps me have a good perspective
- do creative things with the children such as draw, paint, play the piano
- keep a stack of excellent, inspiring, stimulating classic literature (next to my “rocking chair” when I had a nursing baby, or in my purse when I have to wait), so I can snatch a moment to feed my own mind.
The journey may seem long, but the rewards are just around the corner for you! If your oldest is 13, then in just 5 years, that child will be a responsible, grown person whose standards and good education will bring you a great deal of joy. There is no success outside the family circle that can possibly be as rewarding, or important to the future as seeing your own children grow into excellent adults. You are in the trenches right now, with all your children still pretty young, but they grow up faster than anyone can imagine, and you will be very glad for your dedicated efforts. Having 4 of my children grown and on their own now, I can tell you that the light at the end of the tunnel is not quite so far away as it seems.
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