How to Stay Motivated when Homeschooling
Advice for parents
Do you ever find yourself, as a parent and an educator, getting burned out? I predict that the answer is yes, and you’re not alone. Many, many parents around the world have trouble staying motivated in their homeschooling routines. While doing research for this post, I read a lot of testimonials from parents who were having trouble sticking with it, and I started to suspect that this problem was actually two intertwined problems. If you read on, I’ll try to solve both of them for you.
Burnout: Two Types of a Problem
Homeschooling parents burn out all the time. A Google search for “homeschooling motivation” returns 625,000 results. It’s an awesome task to take a child’s whole education into your own hands. In conventional schools a whole armada of people would be teaching your child, but if you homeschool there’s only you. And that can be overwhelming.
In public schools a whole armada of people would be teaching your child, but if you homeschool there’s only you-this can be overwhelming. Click to Tweet
One situation in which homeschoolers tend to burn out is when there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. This post on the Secular Homeschool forums is a good example, but burnout along these lines happens to all sorts of homeschooling parents, married or unmarried, Christian or secular. Sometimes there just isn’t time to fit it all in—the car needs work, the bills need paying, and groceries are not buying themselves, and somehow in the middle of all of that you’re supposed to teach basic algebra to one kid and basic Spanish to the other one.
The other type of problem is less practical and more philosophical: sometimes homeschooling, even when there’s enough time and money, just feels like too much. A paradigmatic exploration of it is here, on Christy’s Houseful of Chaos: a well-situated woman with enough time to manage homeschool curricula for three kids is simply getting worn out. Not because there’s not enough time or enough resources, but simply because the process of homeschooling can be exhausting on its own.
Now, there’s no reason these two species of burnout can’t occur at the same time, in varying proportions. They are distinct problems, though, and I think they have distinct solutions, which I’ll try to lay out here.
How to Cope with Both Types of Burnout
Solving the not-enough-time problem is tough, but it is doable. A good place to start would be to look into homeschooling co-ops near you. We’ve written about these before, but they’re especially germane here, since they’ll help shoulder some of your burden. If you can find a homeschooling co-op where your child can learn some specialized subjects—law, foreign languages, advanced math, etc.—you can use that time to meet some of your own needs, whether that means grocery shopping, bills, or time to yourself. And ideally, you’ll also be introducing your child to a network of other parents that you trust, so that you’ll have a safety net in case something really serious demands your full attention. Remember that homeschooling doesn’t have to be just you and your child.
The philosophical problem is more nebulous, and I can think of two ways to solve it. One reason homeschooling might be exhausting, above and beyond material or temporal pressure, is that it’s becoming monotonous. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to change up your schedule—in fact, that’s exactly what you should do, because if your heart’s not in it, you’re not providing the best for your children. So if you find yourself dreading the toil of the next school day, adjust your schedule. Start teaching four long days a week instead of seven short ones, or vice versa. Add a new subject. Find ways to keep yourself invested in the educational project, and your kids will follow suit. One of the joys of homeschooling is having that kind of freedom.
And if you find yourself in need of a more philosophical form of consolation, consider this: homeschooling is a unique liberty in the English-speaking world, and taking part in it is a real privilege. There’s almost nowhere else on Earth where homeschooling parents have the kind of freedom they have in the US and the UK. Homeschooling is heavily regulated in most of the West—in Germany it’s illegal—and in most of the rest of the world it’s unheard-of. If it ever feels frustrating or pointless, remember that you’re taking part in a unique Anglo-American tradition, and helping bring it into the 21st century. Onwards.
photo credit: Lynn Friedman stock Sunday Streets Mission Dist April 2013: Dad Assists Daughter on Scooter via photopin (license)