This is a guest post from Sarah Faulkner. She is a homeschooling mom in Washington state. She has five kids, ages 14, 13, 10, 7, and 3.

As my kids get older people ask more and more when I will put them in school, as if I keep them home to shield them from the evils of the world. Or, that I am keeping them home to force brilliance onto them. And when said person speaks to my kids, it feels disappointing for them to find my kids are simply typical.

I don’t have a home school “starting” moment. I have been homeschooling the whole damn time. The other day I collapsed into bed and I thought, “I have been dealing with diapers for 14 years.”  That is a long time. I feel burnt out. I don’t know if it is from being a mother or a homeschooler.  Maybe it’s from being a Homo sapient.

Sometimes when I feel this way, I search for posts by other home schoolers who have burned out. I find two types: one ends up talking themselves into school being the better choice, and the others that pretend they are burned out and have dumb suggestions that don’t help with the root of the problem. For example, they might suggest:

1.  Restrict outside activities
2. Plan outside activities
3. Get Support
4.  Make Changes
5.  Find something to be excited about

We moved from the east side to the west side of Washington state, we lived in a complete, to-the-guts remodel for 4 years, while my husband worked close to 100 hours a week and I lived with my fourth son’s fresh diagnose of autism. After 3 years I was burned out. You can read here and here as I fought to not be burned out.

Now, I am living in a new house with Andy only gone 50-60 hours a week. We have been living with special needs for four years and more and more we are getting the hang of it. Things are easier. But I still wanted to have several months of alone time. Until recently. So here is my biggest secret to overcoming burn out:

Carpe Diem

When I feel tired, I am always walking hand in hand with homeschool worry that is not mine to tackle. It is so hard to separate our kids’ successes and failures from our own self-esteem. I worry that I am going to screw my kids up for life, that they won’t turn out to be (society’s definition of) perfect. Or that they won’t be smart enough, socialized enough, or hate me for homeschooling them.

I must practice carpe diem within myself: Live with my choices each day, and let the worry die.  When I do this, the load is much lighter.

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13 replies
  1. Rachael
    Rachael says:

    Thank you for this. I often look at my kids homeschooling work and my plans and think “What am I doing!?!?” Just this weekend I was thinking that surely I am ruining them, failing them, and when they are older they will hate me because I didn’t do it right. I didn’t teach them well enough, or the right things, or enough about any one thing. My daughter struggles with math and asks if it is her fault she has a hard time and my answer was “no, it’s mine.” And I feel totally responsible for their failures. I seem to have no problem giving them credit for their successes, but I take on their failures. I know, I KNOW, that homeschooling is better for them. I know that when they were in school it was crying and feeling stupid and constant stomach aches, but I get overwhelmed with the responsibility of it all. So often all you read is the happy and bright and crafty and “perfect” side of homeschooling. It’s nice to know that other parents are worried about screwing up their kids’ lives also. I will try to “let the worry die.”

  2. Jana
    Jana says:

    We can’t know the outcome. I think that’s what is the hardest. I can say mine don’t hate me but they don’t realize the sacrifice either. They made it through college but would they have done just as well in public school? We just will never know.

    What I do have is momories with my kids. Lots and lots of moments of being together and the good seem to stay and I forget most of the struggles. And that is worth everything.

  3. John
    John says:

    It is often said perfection is the enemy of good, but in homeschooling and parenting in general comparison is the enemy of good. Especially since the online community and blogosphere is so huge now. How often do we read that super homeschool mom is doing so-and-so with her 8 genius homeschool kids, with great projects like composing symphonies or building a cold fusion operated ovens? It’s not enough to read about pyramids when studying ancient Egypt, moms! Now you have to visit your local mortuary to build your own mummy! I think one of the cures to homeschool burnout is to just turn it all off and get back to basics.

    • Tracy
      Tracy says:

      > It’s not enough to read about pyramids when studying ancient Egypt, moms! Now you have to visit your local mortuary to build your own mummy!

      Oh that line cracks me up, genius…how have I not done that already?!? ?

      • MBL
        MBL says:

        MY daughter did that when she was ONLY six for the science fair. She did it ALL by herself, including procuring the body. I’m sure she would have won first place but the judge didn’t show up. The weird thing is that they never did figure out what happened to him. Waaiit a minute…oh crap!

        (That mummy line cracked me up too!)

  4. liza
    liza says:

    Unfortunately, because we choose to do things differently (and as a result, we must do them on our own), the “blame” comes down to us personally. It’s really easy to blame some abstract person or institution for the failures of school in general or our schooled children in particular. But when it comes down to homeschool, the blame will come right straight to you (me) the parent. It’s a tough burden to carry, but so worth it. Removing children and education from the family (nuclear and extended) is an enormous social experiment that is still quite new. I’d rather teach my own and build our relationships than out-source what practically amounts to life itself.

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      In a way, we carry that burden because we let anyone saddle us with it.

      At some point I had to say “wait a minute, no one even asked me if I was okay carrying this crap. It’s not even mine! I don’t judge my friends the way I judge me. THIS IS NOT MINE. I refuse to carry it.”

  5. Karelys
    Karelys says:

    Oh my gosh Sarah! your writing has taken a whole different taste and level!

    So poetic.

    As of late I’ve been thinking of a few things. Though my oldest child is not even four, my closest friend is struggling with the balance of taking her two daughters to activities outside school. It seems like so much good comes of it. And yet….it’s so physically and emotionally expensive. I dread having to be stuck in that situation if I ever decide that the benefit is super necessary and worth it to my children.

    And then I had a thought that made me chuckle: “either school or activities but not both.”

    I have to consider school and how to still be an unschooler if I ever have to put the kids in school. Life changes. MY LIFE has changed ridiculously. The person that I have deeply loved like crazy for the last almost-decade is not going to be my husband anymore. Unschooling is still a priority. And yet, I have to consider that shit happens.

    Like yourself, my happiness has been rooted and flourished from the same sentiment. And secretly, I think that may be the stone that I want to build my children’s education on.

  6. Carole
    Carole says:

    I am the mother of 5 also – ages 14, 12, 9, 6 and 2 1/2. And I am really burned out. I was thinking similar thoughts about burnout – that it’s not just from homeschooling, though most people who don’t homeschool think, “why don’t you just stop homeschooling, then, if you’re so burned out?” Parenting full time burns me out. Parenting 5 kids burns me out. Evolving and shifting and growing in my worldview while parenting 24/7 burns me out. So, you suggest Carpe Diem as the mind shift for helping to prevent burn out? I can’t grasp it. I am not there. Any words of advice on how to get there?

    • jackinlondon
      jackinlondon says:

      As father of 5 kids, homeschooled along with one of them being a tennis prodigy who trains 5 days a week, we can relate! We do the annual “should we put the kids in school” thing, we go to various good schools, they do a trial day or two, some entrance exams, blow everyone’s mind with how independent they work or how well they do for their age and level, and we go “hmmm, do we REALLY want to change it if it’s clearly working so well?”. I think it’s not just homeschooling which burns someone out, it’s parenting and life in general. What I find helps my wife IMMENSELY is that when it gets too tough, when she’s going just completely bonkers, TAKE A BREAK!! A school free day or even week doesn’t set anyone back, but that can surely be a heck of a battery recharge. Good luck!!

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