Signs of homeschool burnout:
- Boredom (you and/or the kids).
- Nagging (you have to nag to make things happen).
- Reading, writing, and math are something to “get through” rather than to explore and enjoy.
- Field trips are limited to excursions to the orthodontist and pediatrician.
- Everyone else you know is better at homeschooling than you are.
- Art supply closet is empty.
- You imagine flagging down the next yellow bus and tossing a few kids onto it.
- Clothes catalogs are more interesting than book catalogs.
- The house never feels neat enough to concentrate on anything meaningful.
- The thought of teaching someone to read again makes you consider adopting the next child at age nine.
You get the picture.
When homeschooling becomes a chore for everyone, it’s time for extreme measures. Clear out a week (cancel music lessons, no doctor’s appointments, no sports practices). Then follow this one week plan for breaking through burnout:
- Day One
Get out of the house and go anywhere that is not an errand. The zoo, the beach, the children’s museum, the music store (where your kids can test the drum kits!), Aunt Millie’s farm, farmer’s market, the art museum, the YMCA, the local pet store, a state park… Pick one and stay all day.
- Day Two
Drop all routines. Eat, drink and be merry. Eat fun foods (order in, go out, or make a real meal that tastes really good). Drink something new (look up mock-tails on the Internet or make smoothies or add grenadine to Sprite for a Shirley Temple complete with the red cherries and straws). Have banana splits for lunch. Make a big tostada bar. Watch a Shakespeare movie or one based on a children’s book you’ve read, or listen to a book on tape that you all would enjoy while you eat and drink.
- Day Three
Stay in and play games. Stack them up on the table, microwave popcorn, light a fire and play: Sorry, Yahtzee, Monopoly, Settlers of Catan, Quiddler, Pictionary, Scattergories… When you get tired, watch TV for a break. Stay together all day and enjoy it.
- Day Four
Everyone does her own thing. Set the table the night before with art supplies, cards, cook books, clay, video games, dress up clothes and marbles. Make a yummy breakfast. Then everyone gets to pick whatever he or she wants to do. TV is a definite option (as long as your family doesn’t mind) and so is the computer. Unlimited, as long as everyone takes turns. You can take the day off too and read a book or play on the computer or join your son in building a Lego fort. It’s up to you.
- Day Five
Family pow-wow over tea. What was the most fun this week? How can we fit that into the regular schedule? When you look ahead to the rest of the school year together, loosen up. Drop one subject or curricula that saps your energy. Drop one that is sapping your kids’ energy. Then rearrange the way you do the ones that you will continue. Ask your kids: would you like writing better if we did it at Barnes and Noble every week over hot chocolate? Can we change math to three days a week for an hour rather than every day for a half an hour? Would it help to drop history for now and focus on science experiments?
Make a rough plan for how to include games, outings and personal days so that you don’t get into that same rut again. Remember, we are homeschoolers, not slaves to the educational establishment. We can change course midyear and make everyone happier.
That is your mission, should you choose to accept it.