It’s almost February. Any homeschooler knows what that means. Burnout season is here. I don’t see it that way though, and I have actually come to enjoy these winter months. Of course, I guarantee that as soon as I publish this post some flood of crises will land on my lap and force me to eat my words.
Seriously, February is always a time for reflection for homeschoolers. By February, here’s what is usually happening in an average homeschooling family (and I’m definitely including my little family in this grouping)…..
- Somewhere from a smattering of disorder to all out chaos in terms of “stuff” (usually attributable to the happy influx around Christmas)
- A real erosion of habit training (usually also a direct result of holiday scheduling and the garden variety of normal, everyday happenings)
- An awareness that we planned a bit too much over the summer months in terms of lessons, and books to be read, and projects to be accomplished, and reports, and field trips, and, and, and…
~ OR ~
- An awareness that we haven’t accomplished nearly as much as we thought we would have by this time for various legitimate reasons
- The subsequent dislike and/or complaining from the children associated with lesson overload or acting out due to boredom and lack of opportunity
- The sinking feeling that something/everything isn’t working
- The overwhelming sensation of drowning in a sea of laundry, lessons, life and littles
What do you do when this hits? And, it hits every single February like clockwork.
I focus and rejuvenate and clean out the closet…
Homeschooling is a lot like walking into the closet and choosing clothes. Some days we walk in, put something on the children and it fits. This works for a while, but then our children grow or seasons change and we make adjustments. Too much in the closet and a lot is wasted and never worn. Too flashy often equals too flashy and we always tend to the well fitting and comfortable. Too much and you can’t find anything in there and you’re overwhelmed with choices.
Keep it simple, keep it realistic and join me and the rest of the moms in the homeschooling world and let’s reassess the closet – weed out the ill-fitting, simplify to fit our family, add a touch of the beautiful and know that we’re gonna have to do the same thing as each child grows and as the seasons change.
~ I focus ~
* On lessons and our general family philosophy
* On my plans
* On the season of life
* On my own habits
* On my children’s needs
* On my environment
and then…with those thoughts in mind….
~ I rejuvenate ~
Which means simply, I try to freshen by getting back to a simpler, gentler, more realistic plan and environment – one that meets the needs of *my* family, *our* needs, and remembers to offer beauty and relaxing amongst its days. Take a deep breath, relax your shoulders, grab a cup of tea and make a plan of prayer and action that takes into account where you are, where you want to be and introduces a little sunshine. Your kids have likely grown since August/September when you started school…let’s clean out the closet…
On lessons and our general family philosophy
Every family has one, whether you tend more towards workbook pages and texts or learning in the context of real life and more living books. Get back to your basic philosophy if you’re feeling overwhelmed. It’s a safe space. If you’re new to homeschooling and you’re unsure because you haven’t had enough time to develop a family philosophy, just pare back to reading…read everywhere and everything for awhile. Read out loud. Read outside if it’s nice. Read on top of pillows piled in front of a sunny window. Read in the morning and before bed. Just let them read. You read too and pray…do some soul searching. Discern where your teaching philosophy and abilities mesh with your children’s learning needs. There will always be opportunities for growing and stretching in both of these areas, but for the most part where these two abilities intersect is where you’ll spend the majority of your energy and time homeschooling. This is home.
Have I tried to incorporate too much? Scratch everything but the basics.
Am I overloaded and overwhelmed with a myriad of learning philosophies? Simplify down to my core philosophy….and read, read, read.
Are my plans languishing because of a lack of time to accomplish them? Time for a reality check – did I plan too much or am I not offering my presence enough to accomplish a realistic amount?
We can make plans and live them, but when reality makes it abundantly clear that we’ve gone off the path somewhere, be flexible enough to recognize it, accept it and just make some changes. The beauty of homeschooling is that we can custom tailor a set of plans and curriculum to fit a specific child. Don’t get stuck in the “check every box” trap. Look at your plans with an eye towards each child and the reality of life right now and then…tweak it. 🙂 Take it in a bit here or there, let out a hem elsewhere. Let your plans fit and flatter the child.
On the season of life
Are you expecting another little one? Taking care of an aging parent? Meeting the needs of an illness? Learning how to nurture a high needs child? In what season of life are you?
Different seasons require different approaches. Give yourself permission to let your lessons reflect the challenges you face in your current season of life. Trust that God’s timing in all things is PERFECT. He placed your family in this season with great thought – likely to draw you and your family closer to Him. So stay close. Stay focused on Him and He will provide you the graces to meet this season of life with gentleness and grace. Be patient with His timing. Remember, His Yoke is easy and His burden is light. If your yoke and burden are neither easy nor light, you’ve likely added a few too many ideas/to-do’s/plans/errands/expectations/projects to your days. Ask me how I know this. 😉 Lighten up. Live out this season and trust that there are many lessons in it for your children that are far more valuable in the eternal and supernatural sense than any algebra lesson or book report could ever be.
On my own habits
Am I a gentle, encouraging mother that is involved and joyful with the everyday, quiet (and loud – who are we kidding?) moments? Am I making time to enjoy the simple moments with my children rather than just observing them from afar?
Life in the trenches is often overwhelming with its fullness. It is full of life’s redirections (that’s what I’m calling interruptions in order to convince myself and shift my own attitude towards them). Sometimes the children re-direct. Sometimes my husband does (this usually happens at the end of a sentence of mine listing a litany of my current projects and his integral involvement in them whereupon he quietly or sometimes playfully reminds me of my human-ness and suggests/insists that we redirect our (read: my) focus towards the important stuff) 🙂 And…sometimes God redirects. The quiet moments are always just a precursor to suffering and climbing back on the Cross. If you’re not there now, you will be. If you are there, you’ll soon be offered a respite. This is the way of the Cross. If we’re following Him, this is the way.
Wherever I am, whoever is interrupting…I mean…redirecting, cooperating with God’s grace I can be gentle, soften my voice and tone, and act in kindness. Over and over and over again. I should offer myself in service to my family joyfully and willingly without resentment or complaining. In a life of service (and that’s what mine is…or should be as I grow in virtue) each act is an expression of “my life for yours”. Every act of tying the shoe, every question answered, every dinner made, every diaper changed is my life for yours. And this is the most important part: my life ~JOYFULLY~ for yours.
On my children’s needs
Think individually of each of your children and their specific needs…then think of ways you can address that need with something in your own home that lives on your shelf already. Imagine you are a pioneer and you are educating with a Bible and the family farm – put some of that ingenuity and imagination to use and harness it. Don’t let your knee-jerk reaction to, “this isn’t working” be “what new thing/book/curriculum can I now buy to fix it?” It may be that you will decide to prudentially purchase something after further research and exploration and discerning, but seek first to meet a need with something within your own home or with a better use of your time. Look for opportunities and answers from real life, from the everyday where most learning takes place.
On my environment
Is it overstuffed? Is a learning space feeling suffocating? Stand inside that room…look around…have things been living on that shelf, in that corner, under that table for years…since you moved into the house? Does it belong there or would it work better somewhere else grouped with other like items? Is the room working for you or are you working constantly to keep that space? (More on this in a future post about organizing and simplifying our spaces and making them beautiful, light-filled environments for living and learning! 🙂 ) Find a way to restore a little bit of order to your spaces even if you have to move through a room like a bulldozer scooping items into bins that you’ll sort through later. Children need an environment that is beautiful and that communicates learning opportunities and connections.
Do you have little, little people? Get down on your hands and knees and crawl around…have you made little spaces for them down low that are attractive and safe? Book corners, baskets of blocks, small groups of toys set about.
Learning in the winter months can take on a touch of the drearies. It’s cold and harder to get outside. If your space is languishing, look for the light! Find a sunny spot, usually a southern facing room with windows and set up a reading corner – turn a chair around, relocate a table, bring a basket of books from the learning room…but find the sun. I orient my entire learning space around a sunny room for this very reason. The sun just encourages cheeriness and bathes the space in light.
Consider a winter bird-watching study from inside of one of those sunny, southern facing windows. Set up a little bird watching basket with binoculars, a bird book, a simple notebook or journal to record what you find. Outside that window consider a bird feeder or strew popcorn or sunflower on the ground. You can make a simple pinecone birdfeeder coated in peanut butter or hang some suet outside the window. A lovely book for helping to inspire some ideas for drawing the wildlife in to you is Attracting Backyard Wildlife by Bill Merilees.
Short Circuit the February Blues
Do this by anticipating them, knowing that your closet – your learning space, your plans and strategies – will need a little tweaking, a little tidying. Give yourself permission to take a day or two to freshen your closet to make sure things fit your family and your season of life. Seek out the sunny, the cheerful, the simple and the gentle. Be joyful! I’m right there in the closet with you, folding and putting away, sorting and tidying. Pray for me. I’ll be praying for you.