By Lee Binz
iTired: Dealing with Homeschool Fatigue There's an App for That! Fatigue is the epic battle for homeschool parents. Often it’s the biggest issue that homeschoolers face in the middle of winter. Between homeschooling and housework, parents feel stretched. Add your own need for self-care, the needs of your children and spouse, and it can feel impossible. Then add the darkness of winter months, and even seasoned veterans can be hanging on by a thread.
Yes, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and fatigued! But there are some solutions that will help you face the day bravely, with the confidence and energy you need to make it through the year...or at least until dinnertime. Hey, some ideas might even get you into the evening hours without a meltdown.
Put Priorities First
Every homeschool parent has a subject that they don’t understand, tolerate, like, or even remember to teach. When you identify your weak area, you can do something about it! Once you have identified your weak subject, remember to put that subject FIRST – it’s the first thing your student does in the morning and then it’s out of the way! You’re not spending all day worrying about it or nagging your child to get that dreaded subject done!
Make sure it's always done and never missed. Prioritize it by also spending extra time and money on the weak area. A monetary investment in these weak areas has two potential benefits. First, it is human nature to value things more if we invest in them. Just the act of spending money can give you a lift in attitude. The second benefit is, believe it or not, you may actually purchase something that could make the dreaded topic more tolerable and, dare I say...fun! This strategy can eliminate a lot of stress and help prevent that homeschool fatigue.
Have a Morning Meeting
If you tend to fall behind, or if you see your student becoming overwhelmed by their work, instituting a “Morning Meeting” can be the perfect answer! It’s so easy for children to get off-track. Teenagers often seem to have an uncanny ability to avoid work. That’s where the Morning Meeting idea can help begin the process of helping your kids become responsible adults.
When you check on your child each day, you can shape and mold their “responsibility index”. A quick 15 or 30 minute check-in can give you the time you need to assess the situation and correct the behavior, shaping and molding your child’s responsibility as you go. Try having a quick morning meeting for a successful and less stressful homeschool!
Enjoy Your Coffee
A cup of coffee or tea can be your inspiration for homeschool happiness. It can motivate you to have your morning meeting with your kids. When you meet with your children each day, and go over your expectations for them, the whole day will go more smoothly. A quick daily check-in is often all it takes. It reminds me a lot of having a quiet time, actually. Your morning coffee can help you have your morning meeting with God. When you meet with the Lord each day, and He reveals His expectations for you, then your whole day will go more smoothly. A quick daily check-in with the Bible can be just the encouragement you need to stay on course.
Coffee can encourage you to take care of yourself. If you do some self-care, you’ll be much more capable of doing some other-care. We do so much for others all day long. A little bit of “me time” can start the day off right. It doesn’t have to be coffee, it can be tea or a warm meal, but taking care of you is the first step toward taking care of others. Remember what the airlines say, “first put on your own oxygen mask.” Coffee can encourage budding friendships, if you can plan a coffee date with another homeschool mom. Instead of dropping them off at a play date, stay and enjoy fellowship with others. We will often crave the company of someone other than our children, and sharing a coffee can encourage sharing our feelings. The best support system I had was my weekly cup of coffee with my best friend. She shared her struggles about learning disabilities, and I shared my woes about my own children. We both ended up with a better appreciation for the struggles others face.
Coffee can ensure you have margin. Everyone needs time in their day when nothing is planned. The margin of your day is like the margin on a book. Book margins make a book readable, just like life margins make life liveable. If you don’t have time to sit down and have a cup of coffee, then you don’t have enough margin in your life. Take a moment. Sip. Breathe. It’s therapy. Your quiet moments of relaxation can give wonderful memories. I remember going to Starbucks once a week, while my son Kevin taught chess. It was just me and Alex in the coffee shop; he was studying and I was sipping my peppermint mocha learning about homeschooling high school. Good memories. Memories can last a lifetime.
Invest in Self Care
A healthy body is less fatigued, and more resistant to disease. To fight fatigue, eat healthy food and get regular rest at night. When you are tired, especially during seasons when you can’t sleep all night, be sure to take a nap. Care for yourself, because your job is so important, and your children are counting on you to be healthy, rested, and responsive. That can’t happen if you are exhausted, fatigued, or overly-frustrated.
Care for yourself by scheduling some free time each day. Spend time with other moms. Share feelings with trustworthy friends. Having enough time to yourself will mean that you can’t do it all alone. Delegate some responsibilities with your spouse and children. Delegation is not a sign of weakness; it’s the sign of a leader. You are the leader of your home, and it’s your job to delegate some tasks.
A healthy spiritual life can fight fatigue as well, giving you a sense of purpose and value. Have a regular quiet time each day, reading the Bible. Spend time praying and verbalizing your reliance on God as your source of strength.
Get your blood pumping and you’ll stay awake. Do something to increase your blood flow. There are little things you can do that can get that heart rate up. Regularly change your study location moving from kitchen, to couch, to desk. Take regular breaks. Between books, or between courses, take a few minutes off. Take 5 minutes to put in a load of laundry, or empty the dishwasher. Sure, it’s just housework, but it’s still a break from studying and teaching, and sometimes that’s all you need. Drink a glass of water each hour. That will certainly get you up and moving more (at least to the bathroom!) and can increase your circulation.
Exercise can battle fatigue. Set aside time to exercise regularly. Perhaps you can exercise in the morning, before school starts. Maybe you can exercise in the afternoon, when older teens or your spouse can supervise quiet seat work.
Take a quick walk. If you can’t exercise, then just take a stroll around the yard or neighborhood, and don’t call it exercise. Just go outside and breathe the fresh air. A brisk walk, no matter how long or how short, can be rejuvenating, or at least wake you up enough get your work done. Going outside is often the real cure for fatigue.
Vary the Routine
Once a day, try to mix in some fun activities. You might do a creative project or a hands-on activity. A fun activity might be a science experiment, an art project, or playing a musical instrument. Anything that is different than reading a book can provide stimulation. Try to do one creative or hands-on activity each day. During your seat work, you can vary the routine by adding music.
Once a week, make it your goal to play. Really play. Schedule something fun to do and get out of the house. For some families, that might mean a long trip to town for groceries, but for fun taking a quick stop at the park. Another family might schedule a sports activity or meeting with friends each week. If you plan just one day away from home, it won’t mess up your schedule, or keep you from completing your duties. On the other hand, if you are someone who is always running around, you don’t need to do more playing than you already plan. This play time doesn’t have to take all day - it can take just an hour or so to make all the difference.
Once a month, consider taking a mental health day. Everyone feels like they can’t take it sometimes. It’s not a sign of weakness to need a day off. Schools regularly plan for mid-winter breaks because they know it’s hard to stay focused during the dark months of winter. Take a break and give yourself a day off when you need it. People who work hard know the value of a true day of rest.
Find a Coping Mechanism
Sitting back to relax with a warm cup of coffee or tea can help you relax and take care of yourself. But my way of coping may not fit everyone. Create your own coping mechanism. We discussed our coping mechanisms on Facebook. “How do you cope with homeschool fatigue?” We got so many great suggestions, you are sure to find something that will help you today! Here are the great ideas that other homeschoolers suggested.
Which suggestion will work for you today?
Change location, sunshine works best, Food throughout the day, coffee, yogurt fruit smoothies from blender, fresh carrot apple juice from juicer, breakfast, mid morning snack, lunch, happy hour favorite fruit juice with cheese dip and tortilla chips, dinner, dessert Run in the morning, walk the dog mid day and before bed to find time alone with hubby, bike ride, whenever possible...seeking healthy options. ~ Laura
Exercise! I go for a walk alone every day once the school day is done. It's a great way for me to downshift from homeschool mom/teacher/principal/guidance counselor mode into a more relaxed 'just mom' mode. ~ Sonja
Spending time with other homeschool moms. It refreshes my soul. ~ Laura
To prevent burnout, I build some cushion into our schedule, allowing for one or two impromptu days off each month. I limit our outside activities while also trying to have at least one Sanity Day (full day at home) each week. Then if life gets too hectic or we are still facing burnout, I drop everything except the absolute essentials for a few days: reading great books, notebooking, basic math, and lots of nature study. ~ Rebecca
Drop the "studies" for a day, two or three - or a week, play, relax, go to the park and regroup. My kids love to color, so sometimes we just print a pile of coloring pages or paper dolls, let them create or play games, put on music or audio books and yes, naps are great if you can squeeze them in. I guess my biggest strategy is really to do all of those things before any burnout sets it - like sometimes a rainy day is just a cozy day to relax. ~ Galadriel
Change of location. When we're getting burned out, we pack things up and study somewhere else. For us, that's usually the park. We sit in the car to read or do seat work. Then, they can play for awhile (P.E.) before we head back. Sometimes we do nature walks for science, even if it doesn't go with that year's subject. Or, we do a field trip somewhere close. Though, I am working on getting better at field trips. ~ Carrie
Taking probiotics at bedtime. And making sure I spend time with The Lord each day reading His word, definitely gives me a new perspective on things. ~ Heidi
We take breaks every 6 weeks. We put the curriculum away and focus on our other interests like art, movies, video games, shopping with friends, etc. There is still plenty of learning going on during this relaxed time. ~ Michelle
Attending daily mass is a reminder for why I have children and why it is my responsibility to educate them. Thanks to God for the blessings he has given our family. I have two awesome teenage boys! ~ Happy
Going outside really helps me when I'm stressed or tired but still need to get school done. We have a hammock chair that I love or sometimes I just spread a sheet & bring a pillow. ~ Suzanne
A quick workout during lunch break. And a big glass of water. ~ Sherry
Bible lessons and drinking Virgil's Root Beer or Black Cherry Cream Soda. ~ Piety
Chocolate with coffee. Taking a day off on occasion helps us all feel better. I can do chores, and my daughter can do whatever she feels like. ~ Stephanie
While standing still and waiting on son to do a task, I have started to exercise: squats, leg kicks, do the grapevine, back kicks, walking in place, etc. Not only am I getting exercise, it is making me feel better and have more energy. GET MOVING!! ~ Susan
Park days with friends. ~ Jennifer
Very important to spend time in prayer and bible study. Also very important to have a time by yourself at least once a week. ~ Sandi
Prayer and a white board with simple tasks that can be crossed off - helps me stay on target when too tired to hold it in my head! ~ Debbie
After lessons are done (and if I can swing it) I take a 30 minute nap. Also like to go outside with the brood for a walk. ~ Heather
I've been homeschooling for 15+ years now with multiple children. Here are some of things I've learned to combat fatigue: 1) Delegate, delegate, delegate. Mom does not have to do everything. 2) Perfectionism leads to fatigue. You, your house, your kids and your husband do not need to be perfect. 3) Plan time to take care of yourself. It's imperative to take care of your health. If you aren't healthy, it makes it difficult to take care of others. 4) Laugh...often. The kids have created a disaster in the family room, you burned dinner, and the baby just puked down your back. You can laugh, cry or get angry. Choose to laugh. It's really easy to get angry or cry. It takes an effort to look for the positives. Make the effort. You'll be happier about it and feel less burned out in general. ~ Erika
Changing location. Move to the living room, kitchen, park, backyard, etc. ~ Cindy
We have SOS days. (Save Our Sanity). A random day off of studies to go out and enjoy nature, or to watch old movies all day, or make stuff, or cook fun things we wouldn't normally make, etc. It's more for my sanity than theirs, but they do appreciate it. ~ Heidi
1. Switch it up and plan a fun lesson. 2. Take a picnic lunch break, followed by a nature walk. 3. Use educational DVDs or audio books every so often. 4. Have an older child help a younger one. 5. Read poetry. It's soothing. 6. Keep on praying! 7. Don't let fear or guilt weigh you down. 8. Eat a healthy breakfast. 9. Finish your work in four days, and make Friday an enrichment day. 10. You will be tired from time to time. Just do what you can. ~ Heather
Do one thing creative each day...arrange some flowers...drop someone a SHORT note...pull together one page to scrapbook later...pull together things for a handmade greeting card...bake something to give to a neighbor. I'm in my 17th or 18th year of homeschooling and still struggle with tiredness at times. ~ Connie
Definitely taking a day off to go do something fun. We have picture day in the fall, ice skating in the winter and sometimes we'll curl up with mugs of hot goodies and watch a movie. Moms need to have something that they enjoy doing and it doesn't have to be away from home. Having a definite stop and start time for school helps too and them you won't feel like that's all you do. ~ Tricia
Nap! Have realistic expectations. Spend time with like-minded friends who can encourage you. ~ Mary Jo
Don't be afraid to ditch curriculum that is just not working (or just take a break from it and rethink approach). Do things that you love to do as a family to recharge everyone's batteries. ~ Gail
Praise music always helps me to power through it! Usually a day off to rest or catch up also alleviates some of the fatigue. ~ Autismland
Delegating and asking for help are big ones (and hard to remember for me). Taking time off is also important. My hubby used to often walk in from work, look at my face, and send me to Books a Million for a cream soda and a book. ~ Tina
When I need a break I exclaim, "Time for P.E.!" and send the kids to the backyard until further notice. ~ Ivette
"Most important things". For housework and for homeschool, I always have in mind what are the most important things, both for the long term and for the day, for each child. That way, if I don't get anything else done, I know I've done the things that matter most. ~ Rebecca
Mani/pedi -- so worth the $. Makes you feel like a girl (not just a mom). ~ Theresa
A day of scriptures, and fasting prayer, to ponder each child and then record inspirations/personal revelations I receive...I notice for our family, burn out only happens when we lose sight/get off track, of what we were inspired to do in the first place...amazing how easy it is to lose track of what is working, and slip into "other things”. ~ Brenda
Scheduling - The Secret to Homeschool Sanity: Plan Your Way Back to Mental Health (Coffee Break Books) [Kindle Edition]
When you homeschool, it’s important to take time to plan and rest, and not just work, work, work! Using schedules in your homeschool can help you avoid burnout. “Scheduling is the Secret to Homeschool Sanity: Plan your Way Back to Mental Health” will help you create homeschool balance, and keep your homeschool sane. You’ll learn to overcome your weak areas, involve all your children in responsibilities that will lessen your load, and how to get a grasp on those areas that are ruining your best intentions for peace and organization!
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Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school. Get Lee's FREE Resource Guide "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School" and more freebies at www.HomeHighSchoolHelp.com.