Inside: Learn why so many moms have homeschool burnout and why it doesn’t have to be your reality with some simple systems put in place.
I’ve been homeschooling for fifteen years now. Before that, I taught in the school system for nine years. Yes, that makes me old(er) but also wiser.
Being a former teacher, I assumed homeschooling would be a breeze. How hard could it be? I managed 20-25 kids at a time. Ha! I soon realized that teaching wasn’t the most difficult part. It was trying to keep up with everything else WHILE teaching that was the problem.
It made me feel like I was in the Lucille Ball in the episode where she can’t keep up with the candy coming down the conveyor belt and says, “I think we’re fighting a losing game!”
Homeschooling Reality vs. Myths
When I was a teacher, teaching was the only thing I had to concentrate on. There were no other outside distractions.
At home, not only did I have school to teach, but I also had a house to clean, get dinner on the table, and keep an eye on a toddler who liked to stuff beads up her nose.
Not too long into this thing, I realized I underestimated how tough it was and I needed to make some changes or mom would be in a straight jacket and carted off to the funny farm.
I began thinking about techniques I used in the classroom and researching what other homeschool families did to make their days run smoother. Through trial and error, (it’s a nice way of saying my kids were guinea pigs) I combined these ideas and developed a few systems of my own.
Now my days are less chaotic, more productive, and I’m not frazzled at night. Are they perfect? No. But I enjoy homeschooling again, and most importantly, I’ve learned the art of delegation.
Why Do We Have Homeschool Burnout?
Why is it we homeschool moms feel like we have to do it all and go at a pace we can’t keep up with? That candy assembly line resembles what it feels like when we are the ones responsible for everything.
I have determined that most of us feel like we’re the only ones that can do what we do. What makes me think this?
Who does the planning? You!
Who does the record keeping? You!
Who does the teaching? You!
Who does the scheduling? You!
I could go on, but you get what I’m saying. You have to let go and give up some of these things to your students. Yep, you read that right. Let it go! (Are you singing the Frozen song yet?)
Whether it’s a control issue (Who’s with me?) or you don’t know how to hand off some of your responsibilities, it doesn’t matter, because it’s wearing you out and you’ll end up with homeschool burnout.
Believe it or not, Johnny and Suzy are more capable than you give them credit for and it’s high time they do their fair share of the work so you can get other things done and have less stress. Not only that, you’ll have more time to do the fun things you enjoy about homeschooling.
Simple Systems to Prevent Homeschool Burnout
Let’s get on to the good stuff. There are things you can do to prevent homeschool burnout. Most of these ideas are ways to pass the responsibilities on to your students and relieve some of your workload. Take them and make them your own. Every homeschool is different.
Teach Your Kids to Work Independently with a Daily Assignment Sheet
If your children are not working on their own, I recommend you train them. There are so many benefits not only for you but for them as well.
Benefits for students:
- Learn to be self-starters
- Responsible for their own work
- Learn to problem solve
- Motivated to get school done
- Have a sense of accomplishment
- Learn to plan and schedule
- Prepares them for adulting
Benefits for Mom:
- The school day is shorter
- Can get things done around the house while your students are working
- Can work one-on-one with younger siblings or toddlers
- Students can do school even if you are sick
- Less stressful
- Reduced workload
I have created a daily assignment sheet my children are responsible for checking off each day (depending on their age).
This sheet enables them to start their work without being told. They can keep moving through their subjects without having to wait on me to tell them what to do next, and most importantly, it’s a skill that carries over into adulthood. I have seen this firsthand with my son.
I take ten to fifteen minutes each night or first thing in the morning to fill in the day’s assignments for each of my children on the sheet. They add the sheet to their homeschool binder (more on that later) and refer to it during the day to know what their assignments are. As they complete each one, they check them off.
It’s as simple as that, but it has a big impact on our homeschool day, and worth giving it a try.
Teach them How to Correct Their Own Work at a Checking Station
Another simple but effective procedure I use is setting up a checking station. This allows my children (when old enough) to check their own work without me having to stop and do it.
This saves a lot of time and also teaches children to be honest and it helps them discover on their own what they did wrong rather than you telling them. I have found this very helpful in math.
When your kids correct papers for you, there’s no pile of papers waiting to be checked at night, they learn to problem-solve, and you might get to watch an entire episode of New Amsterdam in one sitting.
Pick a specific spot for your station and post some rules to follow. Go over the procedures with your children and then train them for a week or so before letting them try it on their own. Keep an eye on them to make sure they understand how it works and then check in with them throughout the week to see their progress.
Note: I do not use a checking station for quizzes and tests, just their daily assignments.
Use a Homeschool Binder
I’m about to share a little secret here. The homeschool binder is almost magical. If you set this up and teach your kids to use it, you will have most of your record keeping done for you at the end of the year. Are you doing the floss yet?
What goes into our homeschool binder:
- Daily assignment sheets
- School calendar
- Reading log
- Loose worksheets organized by subject
- Curriculum Guides I use to fill out assignment sheets
A homeschool binder is so helpful and even better than discovering a lost piece of chocolate in the cabinet (okay maybe not, but it’s close), especially if you have to prepare for a portfolio review.
Make Your Homeschool Space Efficient
How much time do you and your kids waste running around looking for missing things like pencils, scissors, or even school books?
It used to drive me insane when we’d sit down to do school and my son’s pencil was missing, or the workbook we just used yesterday was gone!
I’d spend ten minutes looking for them and once I found them, he had lost interest or disappeared from the table. When my second child was old enough to start school, I had to get organized.
Here are two things we use that have helped tremendously.
Homeschool Supply Caddy
Right in the center of my kitchen table is an old antique tool caddy I found at a Christmas flea market. I love it and make no apologies for having to pass the gravy around it at Thanksgiving. It’s become part of the decor.
My caddy is big and I’m able to hold a lot in it. I emptied some soup cans and filled them with pencils, markers, and color pencils and placed them in one section. Next to that is a section with scissors, glue sticks, and a few other odds and ends. The front part is the dumping ground for the stray crayons I find in the bottom of my purse that come with restaurant kids menus, along with some extra boxes I emptied in there.
When we are doing school, all the general supplies are right in front of us in the caddy and there’s no need for anyone to get up from the table. This has reduced interruptions during our lessons and helps keep the kids on task.
Any supply organizer will do. Try it! It will surprise you what a difference it makes.
If you haven’t tried homeschool workboxes, they’re amazing! It’s the best idea I’ve used in our homeschool. Yes, even better than the supply caddy.
Workboxes speed up the process of teaching your children to work independently. And what’s great is there are so many ways to modify them to fit in your unique homeschool space.
We use plastic shoe boxes from the Dollar Tree and line them up on a metal shelf.
I’ve also used the Trofast system from IKEA.
Many people use the rainbow cart system (so each subject is a different colo) or metal carts with wire drawers. You can even use magazine holders, bins, or baskets. It’s whatever works for your family and space.
Each box holds all the materials, including curriculum, for one subject. Some people have a pencil in each box, but if you have the supply caddy, you won’t need to do that.
When your child is working on a subject, he gets the box that corresponds and sits it next to where he’s working. When he’s done, he can either put it back or make a stack on the floor somewhere by the workboxes.
The idea behind not putting the boxes back on the shelf is that your child can see how much work he has left and it motivates him to get finished. When my son was in school, he loved seeing the boxes disappear. If this is something you think will help, then do it. My girls don’t have a problem with this, so they just put them back on the shelf.
To make this system even more independent, you can set up a schedule on a chart, label your boxes with velcro tags that match, and your child can pull the tags off the boxes and stick them on the chart as he works through them.
Workboxes have endless ways you can use them. The original system by Sue Patrick was more involved with exciting activities in boxes between subjects. The anticipation of seeing what’s in those boxes can help children finish their work to get to the fun.
We have simplified ours for now and just use them for school work, but that’s an option that may appeal to your kids.
No matter how straightforward or involved you make your workboxes, you will benefit from the organization, independence, and motivation they create.
These are just a few of the ideas we use in our homeschool space. They have made my life easier than those early years and have prevented homeschool burnout.
Lighten Your Load
This last one isn’t a system, but some advice I’m throwing in as a freebie. You don’t need to do everything every day! Try using a loop schedule or alternating subjects.
We rotate through science and history every other day. That means one week we do science for three days and history for two. Then it switches to three history and two science for the following two weeks. We also alternate through grammar and spelling, and we cover some topics together with a morning basket.
Homeschool burnout doesn’t have to be a reality when you put some simple systems in place. The little time and effort you put into setting them up will have a huge payoff.
Imagine having days where you can…
- Get a load of laundry done
- Have time to plan your dinner
- Have some free time in the afternoon
- Do something for fun with the kids
- Feel more relaxed
Sounds good, right? Go ahead and give yourself a pep talk. Then push the stop button on the assembly line and start delegating work to your students. Not only can they handle it, but they’ll be better off for it and you will be a much happier mom with a lot less stress and no homeschool burnout.
You have packed a ton of useful information in this post, Heidi. I am a big supporter of delegating things to kids as well! Having them grade their own work is especially ingenious, especially if you are homeschooling more than a couple. It does children good to contribute to all of the household chores as well as helping a tired homeschool mom out. Great post!