As a newbie homeschool mom, I thought the winter months would be a piece of cake—staying cozy, snuggled inside with our studies. The reality is quite different. Being cooped up for long periods without a chance to get outside and run off excess energy is making me crazy. Add a sinus infection, a massive holiday hangover, an upcoming move, and a third trimester of pregnancy to the mix, and I'm nearly ready to throw in the towel.
Getting to stay home with my kids and witness them learn is incredible. It’s also frustrating, exhausting, and humbling. There are days that I dream of going to work or living life as a trophy wife with in-home tutors. Fortunately, God knows me better than I know myself and He knows I’m up to this challenge. While I have faith in His plan, I also recognize my feelings of being overwhelmed as a warning sign to slow down to avoid complete burnout. I don't stop though! I push through even when I don't want to teach, using these three modifications.
1. Giving My Kids More Ownership of the Schedule Helps Me Push Through
Creating Oral Contracts
Instead of going about our daily schedule and checking off activities, I’ve taken to asking my children,
- “What are you willing to do today?”
- “What would you like to start with today?”
This simple oral contract has helped avoid lots of whining and stalling. I don’t have to push and prod. We agree on a set amount of schooling and get it done. Any non-essentials or things I already know the kids can do get skipped unless they just want to do them.
If I notice certain subjects are being neglected for longer than a week, I gently point it out to my kids and ask how much of that subject they are willing to do today. When they complete a week’s worth of assignments in all our subject areas (which may easily take longer than a week), we celebrate the milestone. The kids get to choose something fun such as
- staying up past their bedtime for half an hour,
- choosing what we are going to eat for dinner that night,
- or picking our next elective Read-Aloud.
Respecting Their Choices
I never stop them from working on subjects they request even if it’s one they ask to do every day. Sometimes this means that they complete three weeks of science in one week. It can also mean that math or language arts gets skipped for several days running. I’ve learned to be content with this arrangement since they are still learning to appreciate that their choices are being honored.
2. Having More Relaxed School Days Helps Me Push Through
Four-day Homeschool Weeks
Taking just one day off each week makes a big difference when you’re struggling with motivation. Formally homeschooling for four days doesn’t mean the kids aren’t learning on the fifth day either. I let the kids pick a topic in which they are interested and load up on library books covering that subject, hit YouTube, or arrange for another family member to escort them on a field trip.
We typically follow a routine in our homeschool days. We get up, read Bible, have breakfast, do a few chores, and then set about our planned lessons. When teaching stretches me beyond my comfort zone, I allow free time in the morning and spread our lessons through the day. I’m also more flexible with regards to chores and other housework not getting completed.
Fewer Extracurriculars and Outside Trips
Giving myself permission not to load everyone in the car to check off a suggested field trip can be a huge relief. Scaling back on extras that require travel or additional funds gives the kids more free time to think about what activities are most important to them.
No Prep Field Trips
If we do a take a trip, I don’t focus as much on gathering materials beforehand. For example, for a recent trip to the orchestra, I originally wanted to go through a collection of handouts about instruments and composers. But when push came to shove, I realized the thought of all those printables was causing me stress. So I ignored the worksheets and just enjoyed the performance with my kids.
3. Investing in Self-Care Helps Me Push Through
Ask For and Accept Help
When you just don’t want to continue homeschooling, having a support system can make all the difference. My husband is great at running science experiments with the kids on the weekends and my mother is my go to for Read-Alouds when I need a break.
Getting small amounts done is still progress. When the desire to quit gets too intense, I simply stop. Free play is one of the best things we can offer our kids and my needing a break is plenty good reason to give them a little more unstructured play time.
Do More of What You Enjoy
I love to read. I love to spend time outside, and I like to learn on my own. One of the best discoveries I’ve made is that if I embrace my own interests, my kids will occasionally follow my lead. My daughter can name most of the songbirds that visit our backyard feeder because I watch them every morning over breakfast. I haven’t tried to teach her about them. She simply senses my interest and pays attention, unconsciously absorbing the information.
Set a Good Self-care Example
Practicing self-care sets a good example. Think about what you might tell your grown child if they were feeling the way you feel right now. Be kind to yourself. Recognize and respect your limits.
We all go through periods when homeschooling isn’t fun. The yellow school bus seems to laugh as it roars past your house without stopping. Know that this tough period is just a season; it shall pass. Don’t give up on yourself or your kids, but do give yourself a chance to recoup and slow down. Pray and reflect on what you need to keep going and remember all the compelling reasons you chose to homeschool in the first place.