I've been homeschooling for a decade now. I made some n00b mistakes as I was getting started, especially in light of what kind of kid I have. Thanks to some older, wiser friends who had raised kids similarly wired to mine, and their willingness to share how they'd managed to solider through, I avoided most of the homeschooler burnout that results in homeschooling mommies throwing up their hands in despair and enrolling their kids in the local public school even though they really don't want to.* That being said, these ideas are mostly my own (5, 8 & 10 are the ones most influenced by my wiser friends), and my friends shouldn't be blamed if these ideas sound dumb to you.
Did you read my footnote at the asterisk? Go read the footnote. Ok? Now you can continue.
1. You must get time alone or time with your adult friends, whichever is most refreshing for you, time where you are not responsible for the children. Ask your husband for ideas, or suggest something to him. A late night at Starbucks once a week while he puts the kids to bed. A solo library trip for yourself. He takes the littles to McDonalds for breakfast on Saturday mornings. Something. Something regular that you can count on. Every week if possible, every month at least. It should be a routine, a ritual. Part of his vocation as husband is the protection and care of you, and that's not just physical protection, but emotional care and protection as well. Let him do his job.
2. Date night with the husband. It's a cliche, but it makes a huge difference. Make the time. If it's too dorky for you to call it date night (I hate that term myself) call it something else or make it a less formal thing, but make it happen on a regular basis, daily, weekly, whatever. Make it regular, and not spur of the moment, a planned-ahead, scheduled time. You need to be able to look forward to it. You don't even need to leave the house or spend lots of money. (Although of course you can if you'd like!) You need time where you are your husband's wife and you are not Mommy.
3. Push as much of the housework together into clumps as you can so that you have a day or two each week where you don't have major housework hanging over your head all day. Not always entirely possible, but try to work it so you at least have a lighter day here or there. I've ranted before about laundry, and yes, I have a small family, but I'm still 100% convinced that most people are doing way more laundry than they need to. Menu planning means stacking the grocery shopping all on one day is mostly possible; a time set aside each week for cleaning means the house never gets hoarder/revolting even if you don't have the time in that weekly cleaning to get the house spotless. (and who wants to live in a "spotless" house, anyway?)
4. School all year. Take breaks when you need them and do not sweat the schedule or curriculum plan. Twenty-five percent of the reason you are homeschooling is so that you are not beholden to a school district's school schedule, right? (If it's not, it should be.) For example, we take off most of December because my husband is super busy during Advent. Then we get lots of school done in July and August when it's too dang hot to play outside. If you don't want to or can't school all year, relax your schedule other ways. It's ok. When is the last time a child in public school actually got to the end of the history textbook on the last day of class? Yeah. Never. Work diligently, but when life gets lifey and you get a bit behind, let it go.
5. Admit you screwed up your curriculum choice. Probably the number one issue I see with beginning homeschooling mommies is a curriculum choice or scheduling plan or overall methodology choice that is so. obviously. not. working. but an utter blindness on the part of the mother to admit this. She will blame everything else first: the concept of homeschooling itself, her own teaching abilities, her child's real or perceived faults, her child's real or perceived learning disabilities. Everything but the fact that maybe, just maybe, the books she's using aren't very engaging, are boring, or are completely wrong for her kid's learning style. (My child simply does not learn the way the Classical model says children love to learn, for example. It would have been a nightmare methodology for our family!) But sometimes moms will bang their own and their children's heads against stuff that everyone hates for years before letting go of something that just isn't working.
6. Make little rewards for yourself for doing boring or unpleasant tasks. "If I finish Math with Mathwillkillme Child, I get to watch another episode of Stupid TV Show." I swear this trick is the only way on God's green earth that I manage to get my husband's shirts ironed or the litter box cleaned. Alternately, save pleasant things for during the task. Podcasts and my favorite radio talk show are sometimes the only way I can force myself to cook supper.
7. Possibly drink more adult beverages. Yes, I'm serious. (Obviously, if you're currently an alcoholic, don't do this.)
8. Relax the screen time rules. Video games aren't as bad for our kids as we've been led to believe, plus, kids need a sane mom more than they need strictly controlled and managed video game time. Kiddos playing something creative like Minecraft can be good for them, and it gives Mom some peace. A resource restricted is a resource desired more than it would be if it was free. Call it the DeBeers effect. Make some basic ground rules ("Math & chores have to be finished first, and no fighting or I turn it off for the day") and let them figure it out. You might be surprised what your kids come up with as far as sharing the computer or Xbox, and how they work together to solve problems within the games they're playing.
9. Eat more cheese, meat, eggs, and veggies and less bread, pasta, cookies, cake and other sweets. Protein + fat > carbs. Your hormonal system runs on fat. So does your brain. Don't starve them. Treating your stress with ample amounts of sweets sounds like a good idea, but feeling fat and gross doesn't really help your overall stress and happiness levels, does it? No. Find other ways to treat yourself, reward yourself, and relieve stress. If you absolutely must indulge, pick something high quality and quite expensive (think fine, dark chocolate here), and sit down and savor it. Stuffing it in your mouth on the way out to soccer practice doesn't count.
10. Finally, talk to your kid. We say we want children to be lifelong learners, but we rarely give them a voice in their education. We pick the books. We pick the topics. We pick the method. We pick the order they study unrelated topics. We, we, we. Why are we surprised, then, when they go out into the world and don't continue learning and exploring? They've never learned that it's something they can do themselves; it's a task something other people give them to do. Find an overall framework, pick the books, but get your kids' input, too. Sure, you know best and you're the grownup, but your kids have desires, skills, and interests, all of which may be different than yours. Let them start to grow up by giving them gradually increasing responsibility for their own education.
Related to choices, when your child balks at a school task, find out why. Ask what would make it easier for him to complete. The answer might surprise you. It might be as simple as changing writing tools. (My daughter could only do the writing needed for a Confirmation assignment with a fountain pen; a pencil was too light and she felt she had to press too hard, making her hand sore. I shudder to think the misery I'd've put her through if I'd pulled the standard, "Rules are rules and you're going to DO that sheet, right now! Because I said so!" thing. But I didn't. I asked.) It's not always because your child is just being a brat. (See #5 above.) Maybe she'd rather do math with Dad in a long session every Saturday morning instead of daily, with you. Maybe he's passionate about all things Irish and would rather study Gaelic than Spanish. Both are a foreign language, yes? But you won't know why your 13 year old son refuses to do Spanish unless you ask him and (I should add) he feels he can honestly tell you without you flipping your lid and going all parent-rage on him.
There. Some of these are pretty common sense. But some are downright rebellious, to judge by a lot of the homeschooling talk I see out there ("Not worry about not finishing?! Are you nuts?" "Stop restricting screen time? Do you want a school shooter on your hands?!") They are, however, all things that have made our homeschooling journey gradually more and more of a joy, even now that we are in the supposedly-dreaded Teen Years.
If you're an experienced homeschooling mommy, what has helped you avoid throwing in the towel due to burnout or frustration?
*Clarification, because I know us homeschooling mommies can be with regards to guilt: I am not talking about enrolling a kid in school because you decide that's the best option for him, because she wants to go and you've decided it's ok, or really, any other educational option involving school. I'm speaking specifically about giving up on homeschooling because you think you can't do it, that you suck as a mother, and are a failure at homeschooling, and enrolling a kid elsewhere because of that. That can be avoided.