One of the recurring themes for many home education sites is how to avoid or get over burnout. The day to day of home education and parenting can be exhausting and I think it is fair to say that many mothers get so tired they put their children into school because they think it must be easier.
There are a number of ways to avoid burnout or to at least mitigate against it’s effects. The best way-but it seems the hardest to get organised, is to have ‘mum time’. This can take a number of forms; get a bit of time to read or just do nothing with a cup of tea. Get a few minutes while the children are otherwise occupied to blog a bit. (The incredible luxury of time to think up and write a whole post in one go may be a dream too far, but a few sentences at a time can be achieved).
Sickness is a tough one. I have realised that I need to be able to be flexible with the children’s learning when I am not well. The last week or so has been very hard going thanks to some kind of relapse in my disability that going by another home ed mum’s experience may be some kind of virus. In order to keep the education going I have needed to get the children to do some work more independently. There are some really good websites that will guide children in their learning and allow them to explore even if the parent helping is a witless blob for the day or even a few days. It doesn’t hurt that we spent a bit longer on the sofa while the children drew and read and looked through books on the human body.
The main problem most of us have when we are ill is there is simply no time to recover so it takes so much longer. It doesn’t matter how chilled the educational side gets, toddlers in particular still need care and the fact is, even with a bit of a curriculum melt down, most of us don’t want to let the educational side of things go completely no matter how bad things get.
A friend of mine kept going through chemo! And I’ve had the children bring work to hospital to show me. We’re a weird bunch.
Most of us will look out for one another in a crisis but I do believe most of us mums need some time that is just for us, or burnout will become inevitable. Sadly I just can’t find out HOW to do this on a regular basis. Usually I have reached complete exhaustion before I get a break.
Most homeschool advice columns will point to dads and grandparents as a good way of ensuring children are out of the house for a day or two so mum gets a break. Sometimes this is possible, but for many of us dads work long hours and grandparents are not always an option.
So what do I suggest?
Be realistic- nobody is Supermum and there will be times when you need to let it ride and leave everything alone for a day. DO that. Worksheets, websites and just playing can be fine for a short time.
Ask for help: I have always found this one difficult to do. The hostility towards home education that I faced at the beginning has left me feeling that a lot of people would think “you’ve made your bed…” However I have found that there are people who recognise the massive commitment of home education and will be there if you ask them. DADs too can be asked to help. Some of the best help you can get of course is fellow home educators-who are already wearing the t-shirt.
Don’t CARE so much about what others think: The important thing is your children are happy, learning and doing fine. You are doing this for them not other people. Constantly hoping for approval and support from those who will never give either is self defeating-leading to stress, doubt and burnout. Let it go.
Alongside this I think we need to beware of looking for solutions on places where they don’t exist. Don’t forget to pray-after all He really does have the solution and will give graces for each day.
MUM time. I really think this would prevent a lot of tired, fed up and irritable mothers. I am working on this one and I will let you know when I find a solution. I keep saying I am going to do this-but haven’t worked out how. If anyone has good ideas I really am interested.