Monday, February 23, 2015

Burnout, Self-Denial, and Refreshment

So, word on the street is that February is homeschool burnout month.  I must've missed the memo on that one because we hit burnout here only a week back in after Christmas break.  I spent most of January fighting back against it.    I had a certain number of weeks I wanted to get through by the end of March when life will go topsy-turvy for our family for most of the spring and summer, and nothing – not stress, not sickness, not bad attitudes – was going to stop me.  The last week of January was absolutely miserable for us.  There was shouting and tears and school, which on a good day is easily finished by lunch, was stretching out until 4 or even 5 o'clock.  A major ongoing discipline issue with one of the children that needed some serious attention came to a head.  Something was going to have to give…but what?
What I came to realize was that *I* was the one that was going to have to give.  I've very jealously guarded our free afternoons ever since we started homeschooling, ostensibly for the children's sake – so *THEY* could be free to play with their school friends and pursue their interests.  This is a good thing and a worthy goal to shoot for.  But what I realized was that I was really jealously guarding that time for *ME*.  I wanted that free time for myself to work on my own personal projects and have the kids out of my hair for a bit while they played with their friends outside.
So, I thought through a few things tweaks to help our days run more smoothly:

I let go of my ideal of getting all of those boxes checked as quickly as I'd like.  We took a break for a few days, just to breathe.  Those boxes - they'll get checked when they get checked.  And it'll be OK.
I am limiting my time online.  Mama sitting in front of the computer is like an invitation to go do what you want rather than what you are supposed to be doing.   I've found that I need to restrict my online activity to the kids' free time in the afternoon and in the evening after they are in bed, and on the weekends when everything is a little more relaxed.
I deleted a couple of nonessential or overlapping items from Michelle's schedule – like dropping the formal grammar book in favor of discussing grammar and punctuation naturally in the context of our dictation passage each week, and dropping her individual French work for now until I can find different materials that will suit our needs better. (We still do French as a group each morning, so it's not being completely neglected.)  

I  drew up more of a time-based schedule (as described in Nicole's scheduling series here).  I'm not following it rigidly but using it as a monitor to keep myself on track and be aware of how we are using our time (who knew I was letting math lessons drag on far longer than I should have?).   I resisted this for a long time, but it has been quite helpful.
Lastly, I bit the bullet and added in another 45 minutes to an hour after rest time in the afternoon for handicrafts and 'keeping'.  We've been using this time for things like working on sewing felt bookmarks (our current handicraft project – more soon!), working in our nature journals, drawing, updating our maps (more on that soon, too) and adding pertinent bits from the week's reading to our timeline books.   Knowing that we have this time coming has helped our mornings to run more smoothly – we can keep moving along since we know we will have dedicated time for drawing and journaling and crafting later in the day.
Yes, I had to give up a little bit of my ideal of what our homeschool should look like.
Yes, I had to give up some of my online time.  I can't be as active here or over on the Forum as I'd like to be. 
Yes, I had to give up some of my personal time in the afternoon with the addition of the handicrafts-and-keeping hour.
But do you know what?  February has run a whole lot smoother than January did in our homeschool.  Not perfect, but better. 
That child who I am working with on a major discipline issue….well, it's too soon to say that it's been completely resolved, but I think we're headed in the right direction.  Not because I've done anything terribly drastic about it, but just because I have been more present and invested in that relationship.  The child feels validated, respected, and loved.  It's helping.
And, as ironic as it sounds, I have been refreshed.   Taking the time to do drawing and handicrafts and journaling WITH THEM means that I have had the time to do drawing and handicrafts and journaling too.  Because we are doing it all together, we're not at odds with each other.   I'm finding myself genuinely enjoying my children rather than being constantly irritated by them.   
I had to give up some of what I wanted - some of the 'personal time' that I thought I needed - but I have gained so much more.
Funny how that works sometimes, isn't it?


  1. Thanks Jen. Just what I needed to hear. Thanks for sharing your struggles and what made it better. Apparently, we did get the memo because February has been a bear.

  2. Oh, I identify with so much of this, Jen. Thanks for sharing honestly :)

  3. I have come to the same realization. I always justified 'me time' as a much needed part of my day for my introverted self. But the ever expanding 'me time' began to have consequences that weren't positive for my children. So I have done most of the things that you have done. We just started these changes yesterday so it's too early to see changes but it was good to do things all together as a family.

  4. This was a really encouraging and inspiring read, thank you for posting it. I love the idea of a Keeping hour. I haven't been around online much recently, and am only just coming across all this "keeping"!

  5. Appreciate your candour, Jen - it's so helpful when others can see this sort of transparency.

  6. I really appreciated reading about your thought process as your adjust your schedule to one that works best. I had the same realization a couple years ago (that I needed to give up my afternoons), and it was one of the hardest adjustments (for me--at the time I really needed that quiet) but also one of the best. It makes our school day flow much more smoothly when I create more margins in my day. And I am thankful that my kids all go to sleep relatively early so that I get plenty of downtime in the evenings. ;) And I agree about doing those hands-on activities along with the kids. When I get the chance, they are as refreshing to me as they are to them. I'm not sure why that should have been a surprise given the principles behind the "riches," but it was. Anyway, very encouraging to see how you consider and reconsider your schedule in light of new family needs.