Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Remedies for Homeschool Burnout: Shake It Up, Mom!

Step two for overcoming homeschool burnout in our house is probably the easiest and most interesting step.  It's time to shake it up!  Sometimes, as moms, we know what needs to be done to bring the fire back into our homeschool, but we feel like slackers for even thinking about stopping (gasp!) to do something more interesting. 

Well, blame it on me!  I am giving all of us permission to do what we know is best to help us and our learners get over this mid-year slump and come out on the other side with renewed excitement about learning.  Here are some of the ways we are stirring the pot in our homeschool to help us overcome this year's month of homeschooling woe.

How Our Family Shakes Things Up

1.  We changed the daily schedule.
I finally gave in and gave up my quiet time.  You may be wondering how giving up the highlight of my day, my blessedly peaceful hour and a half of quiet time, makes for a happier mama.  Well, I've discovered that homeschooling Andrew, who is easily distracted, is far more productive when his younger brothers are down for a nap.  What takes three hours, due to interruptions and needing to spend time with the little ones, only takes about forty-five to fifty minutes during quiet time.  This includes all subjects including Bible, history, and science experiments. 

With this change,  we all win.  Stephen and Caden get to spend lots of time with Mommy while Andrew works on independent assignments and self-led learning activities.  Andrew gets uninterrupted intensive instruction and one-on-one time with me.  Best of all, I still get about thirty to forty-five minutes of blissful solitude when the lessons are over.  Why didn't I do this sooner?

2.  We have become more involved with our local homeschool support groups. 
I can't say enough about active participation in a local homeschool support group.  As a family, we belong to two support groups and I belong to one mom's discussion group. 

In the winter, we attend almost every function hosted by our support groups.  We attend weekly park days, parties, field trips, and help with service projects.  I also get some "grown woman" time, by attending the monthly Mom's Night Outs and Charlotte Mason discussion group.  There is nothing better than sitting with a bunch of Christian women who have been called to do the same job you are doing and understand your need to just be yourself for one night. Not mama, wife, or resident cook.  Just you.  That, in itself, is so energizing.

Although it is not a necessity to be so actively involved, it works well for our family.  I live in a boy house, and cooping little boys up in the house all winter long would be the number one way to tip this mama over the edge!

3.  We participate in competitions.
Of course, in a boy house, mentioning the word, "competition," instantly changes the mood.  This month, the boys are attending their first homeschool Valentine's Day ice skating party.  The highlight of the event is the intense Valentine box competition. I showed the boys pictures from last year's party, and they have been chomping at the bit to get started on their entries.

After the party, Andrew will start preparing for the Texas Regional Science Fair, hosted by one of our support groups.  Science fair is a huge deal in our house.  School pares down to the basics: reading, writing, and 'rithmetic.  Everything else gets rolled into a large self-directed research project as Andrew prepares for competition.  He is reading, comprehending, researching, computing, planning, and analyzing data.  Then he pulls all of the information together to present on his tri-fold board and in his presentation and Q&A session with three judges.  Did I tell you he's only eight years old? This child loves science fair!

Stephen and Caden join in on the fun and learn about Andrew's topic on their level.  This year, I am considering encouraging Stephen to pursue his own 'research project' on his favorite topic, horses.  Of course, when science fair ends in March, we will return to our regularly scheduled program, but it definitely helps to cure the doldrums.

It varies from year to year depending on our family situation at the time, but this combination of interventions is what is working for the Wicks family this year.  In the past, we have also completed thematic units, held game days, and spent whole days watching educational videos on a topic of choice.  I am not ashamed to admit that I have resorted to using the television as a temporary diversion!

I hope this two-part series on Remedies for Homeschool Burnout has been helpful.  At the end of the day, it really is about figuring out what works for your family. 

The end goal in all of this effort we put into homeschooling is to raise intelligent, responsible citizens who love the Lord, love his people, and love life.  We can't lose sight of that goal by dragging our babies along through the trenches when there is an amazing world out there that we have more time, flexibility, and freedom than most to stop and explore. 

Take advantage of the opportunities that are available to your family and beat those mid-winter blues.  Happy planning!

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