By: Lisa, Founder of Rest for the Weary
Editor’s Note: Today we are blessed to have Lisa from Rest for the Weary as a guest poster. Homeschool burnout is a subject I’ve long wanted to cover, but I didn’t feel that I had enough personal insight to cover it well.
Lisa’s website is dedicated to helping parents who face homeschool burnout. As a mother of 7, she understands the demands of homeschooling well. Having suffered from homeschool burnout, Lisa has a balanced view that will help other homeschool parents as they face the decision to send their children to school.
The Early Years of Homeschooling
I began my homeschooling journey in 1995 with my 5 year old and a 3 year old tagging along. I had known since college that I would home school because I wrote my final research paper on this very subject. I was fascinated at the family bonding and the amount of time children had to learn and be kids. At the beginning of my journey, I homeschooled for social and academic reasons. As I continued on, I discovered another reason I wanted to home school, religious reasons, to be able to impart the faith all day to my children. In the beginning of this season, life was quite blissful. We enjoyed the great outdoors, lots of reading time together, free play including dress up, crafts and cooking.
As they grew, I added in more academic type work with lots of free time afterwards. As the years wore on, I had 5 more children. With a large, young family there were several babies, toddlers, and preschoolers thrown in the mix while attempting to home school. I had one son with ADHD, Sensory integration disorder, bipolar disorder, and learning problems. With all of this on my plate, I quickly spun into what I thought at the time was burnout, but after trying all of the usual burnout remedies and not improving, I knew it was something more. I discovered I was actually depressed and suffering anxiety as well.
The Pressures of the Ideal Life
Other causes, besides homeschooling fueled my depression and anxiety. Many homeschoolers promote other causes, trying to cure America and society of its ills. We became a quiverful family, which means we allowed God to plan our family size. We also did many things to save money like grow and raise our own food, cook everything from scratch, and use natural remedies while shunning doctors. I also got caught up in the modesty principle and began wearing skirts only. I also strictly controlled my children’s friends, shunned TV and movies, and analyzed every book they read.
All of this led me to crash and burn. It was too much to take on my shoulders. I wanted the perfect family and children. I wanted to help save our country. My ideal home school family was shattered when my oldest son was officially diagnosed as bipolar when he went into a psychiatric hospital as a teenager. He went on to become a prodigal son, and I found my perfect plan did not guarantee what I hoped it would.
The Transition from Homeschooling to School
Something had to give after I hit bottom. I could not function well enough to meet basic needs for everyone and home school. I agonized for months over the decision to send my children to school. I hated to admit defeat, which really was prideful of me, but I finally relented. In 2011, after 16 years, I realized my ideal and my reality did not match, and that is why it was not working. We began by putting our oldest at home into high school, two years later; we added 3 more children to school and finally this fall, all 5 of my children at home are in school.
As you can imagine, this has been an enormous change for my family. The children have adapted well, but I have had more of a problem. This change has been like losing a job. It has been my job for 19 years. I have looked pride in the face and realized that I have made homeschooling and my family an idol. This is painful to realize that I placed my identity in homeschooling.
Following God’s Will
God has stripped me of so much and is making me see my need for Him. I am slowly realizing that I am not the one in control. I admit that I have been trying to control all of the results and it comes down to me not trusting Him. I have come to realize the startling fact that God can protect and take care of my children no matter how they are educated. I have to do my part, but He is about results. He can work grace into any situation. This is how I am slowly making peace with everything.
I also realize that I have to take care of myself so that I can care for my family. You can only pour yourself out so much without needing to replenish. God has let me know this is my time to do this replenishing. It feels so strange to me, not to have so much responsibility for their education, but deep down, I know this is His will for us right now. I have felt like a failure and even had other homeschoolers say that I gave up. This is not helpful at all, but I have to tune out the naysayers, including myself, and listen to Him.
I am using this time for much needed rest and recreation. I am tending my physical needs, my spiritual needs, and my emotional/mental needs. I am also taking time to nurture my marriage, my relationships with my children, volunteer at their school, and develop some new hobbies. I also have sought the help of a counselor for getting through these feelings of failure and guilt. That is helping tremendously.
What I Would Change
I have been a mother long enough to know that if you wait long enough, something will change. I know that I may never home school again or I might. I am keeping that option open. However, if I do home school again, I will do some things very differently than I did them the first time.
First, I would take much better care of myself, similar to what I am doing now. One neat concept I came across when I was making the decision to send my kids to school was the idea of paying yourself. This basically entails doing things or buying things for yourself as a sort of payment for the work you do as a mother and teacher. Also, I would no longer feel the need to mix causes with homeschooling, thinking I need to save the world. That is God’s job so I can just choose things to do that I like such as gardening.
In addition, I would have more outside accountability for myself and my children through academic co-ops and enrolling my children in a home school correspondence school once they are in middle school. That way they have someone else to answer to which motivates my children. Sadly, they perform better for others than for me.
And last, I would find more support for myself and my children. During the years I homeschooled, our support was just a few families. My children crave more friends so I think having a co-op and a bigger support group would be beneficial. I would also make time for my friends, preferably alone.
All of this change has made me question things a lot. I know I have been a bit of a control freak, trying to make the perfect life for my children. I have realized there are no guarantees and no perfect solution. All educational choices have their pros and cons. I have seen God provide for my family, even without me being the main educator. He will work in their lives no matter where they are educated, and school can provide many good opportunities for them.