Homeschool burnout sucks. Perhaps the worst part is feeling so bad about something that once brought so much joy – something you felt passionately called to do.
Many homeschoolers with more experience than me have shared fabulous advice like this for overcoming burnout. But sometimes it’s not as easy as following a few tips. Sometimes we feel so stuck that although the advice sounds very sensible and could probably help “other people”, it couldn’t possibly help us because [insert our unique, insurmountable circumstances here].
What we need is something to help us get unstuck.
In my work as a coach and therapist I used many different tools to help my clients get unstuck. This process is one of my favourites. It can be used very effectively to help overcome homeschool burnout, by reconnecting you with the energy and passion that first inspired you to take on this blessed role.
How to free your thinking and overcome burnout
All you need is a piece of paper and a pen (or electronic equivalent), and twenty minutes undisturbed time. (Yes I know… Do it in the middle of the night if you have to!)
Step 1 – What do you want?
Write down in your own, positive words what you want. Not what you don’t want, or what you think you can get, but what you really want.
Example – “I want to feel inspired and energised about homeschooling.”
Step 2 – What’s stopping you having what you want?
Now write down all the things that are stopping you having what you want.
When you’ve finished, check there’s nothing else by asking, “What else is stopping me?”
Keep going until until you’ve written down every single thing that stands between you and your goal.
“Homeschooling has got so stressful. I know we ought to take a break but if we do we’ll fall behind with the curriculum. I want my kids to work more independently but they seem to need me for everything. Writing lessons are so frustrating right now, but if he doesn’t learn to write he won’t be able to take exams. I’m sick of the daily grind. I hate our curriculum but we can’t afford to change. I need some time to myself but that’s impossible.”
Step 3 – What are you assuming that is most limiting your thinking?
Look back over everything you’ve written in step 2. What is the single most important thing you’ve written down, the one that really stands in your way?
Example – “(I feel like taking a whole month off but if we take that long off) my kids will forget everything and we’ll never get back on track.”
Write it down again on a line of its own.
Step 4 – Is it true?
This is where I’m going to ask you to make a leap of faith. (It will be worth it, I promise.)
When we’re stuck in problem thinking, everything seems set in stone. But when we shine a little light on them we begin to find our reasons actually rest on assumptions we didn’t even realise we were making.
In our example – “(I feel like taking a whole month off but if we take that long off) my kids will forget everything and we’ll never get back on track.”
Will your children truly forget everything they know if you take some time off? Will you really never get back on track? (And anyway, don’t you want to find a new groove instead of returning to the same old rut?)
Some reasons might be objectively true, but on closer inspection are found to rest on their own limiting assumptions.
Example: “It’s March now – if we take a month off my daughter won’t be able to take her exams in June.”
Or: “If we take a month off, we’ll lose our place in the co-op.”
Each of those statements may be true, but what are you assuming will happen if your daughter can’t take the exam this June? Is this the only opportunity ever? Will she never get a job if she doesn’t take the exam this year? Of course not. And if you lose your place in the co-op, will the world end? Perhaps other doors will open if that one closes?
Gently examine your limiting assumption until you realise it’s not one hundred percent, provably, “true”.
Step 5 – What is a liberating alternative to the limiting assumption?
This is the cool part. Look at your limiting assumption and ask yourself, “What is the complete opposite of this?” Then close your eyes and tune into your heart.
This is not a semantic exercise. If the words you come up with bear no resemblance to your limiting assumption, that’s a good sign.
Some real examples from my own experience:
Limiting assumption: “I can’t get anything done here because I have no control over how I spend my time.”
Liberating alternative: “Right here and now, I am freer than anywhere to do all the things I want.”
Limiting assumption: “Because my blog isn’t as successful as others, I’m not good enough and may as well give up”*
Liberating alternative: “Every word I write is the perfect contribution to the world.”
* I wrote that a few years ago 😉
In our imaginary Example:
Limiting assumption: “My kids will forget everything and we’ll never get back on track.”
Liberating alternative: “A long break is exactly what the children need to get excited about learning again.”
Step 6 – The magic question
Take your liberating alternative and insert it into the following question:
“If I knew, without a shadow of doubt, [true alternative], what would I be thinking or feeling or doing differently now?”
“If I knew, without a shadow of doubt, that a long break is exactly what the children need to get excited about learning again, what would I be doing differently now? How would I be feeling different? What would I be thinking?”
Sit quietly and notice what comes to mind. You’ll be amazed at the wisdom and resourcefulness that flows in. (It’s always been there, you just couldn’t reach it from the limited thinking you were stuck inside.)
I’m so excited about sharing this tool that’s helped me get unstuck so many times in the past. If you use it, I’d love to hear from you. And if you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer them.
For more views on the subject of overcoming homeschool burnout, visit:
Every Bed of Roses – Homeschool Burnout
One Magnificent Obsession – Avoiding Homeschool Burnout
Barefoot Hippie Girl – What to do when you run out of fuel
Highhill Homeschool – How do I keep homeschooling?
Time to Think – I first came across the process I’ve shared here in this wonderful book
This free pdf Incisive Questions is a short summary of the process (as designed to be used in a coaching session) by the same author.
I’m appreciatively linking up here:
The Homeschool Mother’s Journal
12 thoughts on “Overcoming Homeschool Burnout – The Missing Piece of the Puzzle”
Wow, that is one good self-therapy session. Thanks for sharing your tips, Lucinda!
Thank you, Hwee. I definitely benefit from this kind of thinking pretty often!
Wow, there is much very good tips here. Thanks for sharing them, Lucinda! I can sure do with using them from time to time!
WOW, this is SUCH a thorough, practical and thought provoking piece!
Thank you Lucinda for the encouragement, tips and advice…looking fwd to clicking to those resources that you lsit as well…
Havea lovely day.
Thank you so much, Chris. I always love reading your kind and enthusiastic comments!
I hope you have a lovely day, too! xx
Lucinda, I suffered from it last term. Obviously it had been coming on for a while but by the last week of term 3 I was just simply put spent! I simply felt after never having had any time without the kids, and the house being a mess constantly and me never seeming to have time to accomplish things that I would trial the kids this last term (for us in NZ) in a public school. By the end of my two week break did I do it … no I didn’t. Funnily enough rather than take a break, I powered up and accomplished things that I had been procrastinating over (throwing stuff out helps … lol). It hasn’t been the perfect final term for the year, school work wise but as they say on some the TV shows “I aint bothered”. I am going to take a good long break over our summer and will definitely follow your very good advice above. Thanks ever so much. I am going to share this around the NZ groups I belong to! You’re a doll.
Lisa, Thank you so much for your kind words.
I definitely relate to your story. I’m sure all mums feel a similar way from time to time, but I think it’s probably more intense for us homeschoolers just because of the amount of time we spend with our children in our (messy) houses, combined with the ever-present sense of responsibility for their education. I know that to feel like I’m fulfilling that responsibility I need to be feeling okay in myself. When I’m not, everything goes wrong! So my priority is always to use a process to help myself feel better rather than going through the motions of homeschooling when my heart’s not in it. Either a self-coaching process like the one I’ve described in the post, or something as simple as clearing out a drawer.
I love how your “break” turned out. It sounds like once you’d let go and decided to take one, you were able to tune into what would make you feel better and actually get it done. And then everything else began to fall into place!
I hope you have a wonderful summer break. We are on holiday at Centerparcs this week. It is zero degrees and very rainy but we are going swimming in the outdoor rapids – we know how to have fun, LOL! 😉
ps I am still on for that Skype poetry tea sometime!
Over the years I have learned to honor my instinct as much as possible. That said I still get the nagging “we should be…..” or “if we don’t get that that then…….”. This is a wonderful reminder and a great exercise to do when I start to feel that way. Thank you.
Jessica, “… I have learned to honor my instinct…” – I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoy your blog so much. You seem very aligned with your values which makes it a pleasure to read your story.
I feel similarly, becoming more confident all the time about my choices. But yes, as you say, this kind of exercise is wonderful for those moments when we need a little nudge back in the right direction!
Thank you for your kind words. Lucinda
This is sheer brilliance. I’ve bookmarked this post, and intend to return to it often over the winter holiday. Thank you, Lula, for writing this post. I’m so lucky to have stumbled upon it–and the rest of your blog, which looks fab.
Thank you so much for your lovely comment, Jen! I really appreciate your kind words.
I love this process so much, if only one other person gets as much from it as I have over the years, it will have been worth writing about it!