Mental and physical exhaustion can happen to any homeschool parent. Whether it results from trying to juggle too many family obligations, adjusting to life with a new baby or adopted child, caring for a sick child or coping with one’s own illness, helping aging parents or grandparents, trying to balance work and homeschooling, dealing with unemployment, buying and moving into a new home, or any of a myriad of life’s stressful situations, chances are at some point in your homeschool career, the very thought of homeschooling will be one thought too many.
Yet, if you have been called by God to homeschool your children, that responsibility remains. What can you do in those situations when you have very little to give? How can you continue to educate your children when you can barely function yourself?
1) Consider an Out-of-the-Box Curriculum
Sure, when you are at the top of your game, you can pick and choose curricula or maybe even design your own. When you are exhausted, you might want to consider an out-of-the-box curriculum. The pressure to plan will be off of you. Your children can continue to get a quality education; you can care for yourself a little bit more.
If you are on a tight budget, reasonably priced educational workbooks are often available at local bookstores for elementary aged students. These can provide some structure and continued practice in the midst of a difficult time.
In the same vein, on-line education may be an option. While I would hesitate to have a young child spend hours in front of a computer screen, high school students may be able to take many of their classes via the internet.
It can be hard to accept help. I know that I much prefer to be on the giving end of the equation, but there are times in life when we need to be willing to both accept and ask for help.
Make a list of everyone who could possibly help you in your homeschool . Do you belong to a homeschool group? Is there a co-op available where your children could take classes once or twice a week? Would another homeschool family be willing to supervise your children doing their lessons for a limited time?
Are other relatives and friends available to help? Do they have a particular skill that they would be willing to share with your children? Maybe a teenager or local college student could be hired as a mother’s helper to read to little ones or help with math.
In times of mental stress, not everything can be accomplished. Trying to stretch yourself thin will only result in frustration for both you and your children.
It can be great to tackle six or seven different academic subjects, but there are times when that just isn’t practical or possible and you need to choose what is most important for you to focus on. Language arts and math are the core of knowledge. If someone can read, write, and understand basic math, he or she has the tools to learn anything else.
If you need to get down to bare-bones homeschooling, do it and don’t feel guilty about it. Your children will continue to learn from the world around them. Nurture your relationship with them as much as possible and allow formal academics to take a backseat for a little while.
4) Utilize Child-Led Learning
Whenever I start to get discouraged about what we are or are not accomplishing in our homeschool, I start reading about unschooling, also known as child-led learning. The Little Way of Homeschooling is one of the best books I’ve read on this subject. It profiles several Catholic homeschoolers who fall on various spots on the unschooling spectrum.
Unschooling does not mean not educating one’s child. Instead, it operates on the principle that children will be more invested in their education if they choose what they want to learn about.
In a time of mental exhaustion, this can be used as a supplement to #3 above or as a method all on its own. Take frequent trips to the library and check out books on topics that interest your children. Have lots of art supplies available to encourage creativity. Spend time outside observing nature. Watch “how-to” videos on the internet. Play card or board games. Cook together. Have children keep a journal or make a movie. Teens might be able to find a volunteer opportunity in a field that they are interested in.
The possibilities are endless. Education does not always have to look like what the world considers school. Our children are always learning.
Mental and physical exhaustion will happen to all of us at some point, but with God’s grace, both you and your family will get through this season. Remember that homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint and try to keep the long view. Reduce the homeschooling stress as much as possible, focus on your relationship with your children, and trust in Our Heavenly Father to see you through.