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Beyond Burnout--Fried to a Crisp


La Condessa
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I am really, really struggling. I burnt myself out juggling homeschooling my kids and taking a challenging college course during the Fall. I felt myself burning out, but just forced myself through it, figuring I would just have to recharge during a few weeks off over the holidays. (I actually spent the last few weeks of the class doing all of my work and reading standing up, because I fell asleep every time I sat down. I wound up taking almost a full month off of homeschooling, but it wasn't enough.

 

My husband is losing his job in a few months, and I am majorly stressed out and also trying to make time to do things to prepare for that. Plus trying to be extra super frugal with meal planning and budgeting to save up for that, but there's really not much you can squeeze out when you are already living frugally and cooking from scratch, etc. I teach a friend's preschooler two mornings a week along with my boys. Everything feels so hard right now, I would frankly like to can preschool altogether but it is hard to give up that little bit of extra income with a job loss on the horizon. Not to mention that my ds4 (who is a very difficult child) is generally more manageable when we do that dedicated preschool time.

 

I always struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder this time of year to some degree since we moved to Oregon, but this is the worst it's ever been. I am taking vitamin D and put brighter light bulbs around the house, but just motivating myself to keep doing the next thing feels exhausting.

 

I am also leading a chlidren's theater group to put on a production of Twelfth Night. This is something I absolutely loved doing as a kid, which ignited a lifelong love of Shakespeare for me. I have excitedly looked forward to doing this for my kids when we reached this period in history. Now it is just more grueling, exhausting work to force myself to prepare for and execute.

 

For the first time, I seriously considered putting my kids into the terrible public school here this week. But I concluded that I really do not think they would learn anything. Educationally, it would be the same as just doing nothing for the rest of the school year. It would provide free babysitting for my two girls, but frankly, older ds is the one it would be most helpful to have a break from, and he is not old enough. (We can't afford preschool.). My kids feed off my stress and act out, and my stress feeds off their bad behavior. It creates a nasty cycle that I try to recognize and interrupt, but frankly, I'm not feeling like a very good mom these days.

 

I am trying to find ways to lighten the load. I don't feel like I can take more time off school now, as we are only half way through my plans for the year, plus we have relatives coming in to town in a few weeks for oldest dd's baptism, and I thought we'd take a week off then. I pulled the girls from their tumbling class. I stopped trying to do their subjects of choice (botany for younger dd, Latin and Greek for older). I dropped all the projects from history and have just been reading the chapter and doing a narration. It feels like handing a cracker to a starving man. Good, but not enough.

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I quit everything and stopped going to school again, remembering why it didn't work the first three times I tried with a husband and kids. I wish I had more advice for you but pulling back from everything non-essential was the only way I could survive.

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Your oldest is in 2nd?  Unless they have some learning challenges, you could skip the rest of the year and not be behind.  I promise.  

 

That said, I wouldn't stop schooling your preK child since it helps their behavior and it is earning you income.  Instead I'd just try rolling everyone into the prek world until you feel back on your feet.  Something like FiveInARow, which would allow everyone to snuggle, chat and enjoy life for a while might be a good fit.

 

Having a healthy and happy momma is much more important than learning Greek at age 7.  

 

ETA: Just for the record, I am one of the more schedule oriented nose-to-the-grindstone type homeschoolers.  When my kids were this age I would have had a hard time following my own advice, regardless of how sick I was. * BUT *  Over the years, I have noticed just how repetitive schooling is in the younger years. Sure they are progressing all the time, but whatever they miss in 2nd grade will absolutely be covered the next year.  All subjects are just baseline familiarity at this stage.  It really is okay to take time off now and simply catch up school during the summer or whenever you feel better.

Edited by Plink
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I totallly agree with Plink!

 

In an emergency, put on your OWN oxygen mask first!

 

You have a LOT going on - it is reasonable that you feel so stressed! You have to figure out some ways to deal with the stress so that you can keep it together. Are you walking or getting any kind of exercise? Getting any downtime? If your dh is unable to help out with these two things, maybe you could trade with a friend?

 

Hugs to you, my friend - you're in a hard season right now - don't be afraid to cut the homeschooling for awhile...

 

Take care of yourself so that you can care for everyone else!!

 

Anne

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Your oldest is in 2nd? Unless they have some learning challenges, you could skip the rest of the year and not be behind. I promise.

 

That said, I wouldn't stop schooling your preK child since it helps their behavior and it is earning you income. Instead I'd just try rolling everyone into the prek world until you feel back on your feet. Something like FiveInARow, which would allow everyone to snuggle, chat and enjoy life for a while might be a good fit.

 

Having a healthy and happy momma is much more important than learning Greek at age 7.

:iagree:

 

This is so true!!! I think this is perfect advice. When our kids are little, we think they need to learn everything RIGHT NOW, but when you homeschool, that's not the case. Your kids have many years to learn new things and even when you're not doing formal things, they find a way to learn anyway.

 

Right now, you're incredibly burned out, so take some time to relax and regroup. It sounds like your kids may need some time to relax, too.

 

Give yourself a break. Everything will be just fine. :grouphug:

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Your oldest is in 2nd?  Unless they have some learning challenges, you could skip the rest of the year and not be behind.  I promise.  

 

That said, I wouldn't stop schooling your preK child since it helps their behavior and it is earning you income.  Instead I'd just try rolling everyone into the prek world until you feel back on your feet.  Something like FiveInARow, which would allow everyone to snuggle, chat and enjoy life for a while might be a good fit.

 

Having a healthy and happy momma is much more important than learning Greek at age 7.  

 

 

 

 

This is also what I think.

 

Spend the rest of the year on board games and dice games that teach math, and FIAR for all is a very good idea. But if even that is too much, you can also lean on educational media stuff like Schoolhouse Rock and Magic Schoolbus and Liberty's Kids, read a lot, and focus on nurturing routines and calm at home....go outside a LOT...

 

WHILE you disengage from as many of these outside activities as possible, in prep for next fall.

 

I would also keep the preschool arrangement, because of the money but even more because it helps you with one of your dc.

Edited by Tibbie Dunbar
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Ok, somebody will have the link, but years ago LoriD had a link and a post all about how to handle this. Basically you make a really generic plan that says something like:

 

SOMETHING for math

SOMETHING for language arts

SOMETHING they write

 

And everything else is masterful play.

 

And walk away.

 

And that something for math can be cookies. And that something for LA can be like you went to the library together and got books or handed them audiobooks. And that something they write could be postcards with complaint letters, whatever.

 

And they play.

 

Yes, 2nd grade and under, I'd give yourself some permission for a while. That would be horribly stressful to know your dh is about to lose his job. You doubtless have a lot of added responsibilities and thoughts on your mind that you didn't have before. It's ok to shift things for a season.

 

Agree with keeping the preschool. I would do that and type the list for the others (something math, something LA, something they write). They check that off while you do preschool. Then everyone is done and you do whatever works for your family. (park, roller skate, visit Granny, whatever)

Edited by OhElizabeth
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Whoa that is a lot!

 

I don't know if you want JAWM, are decompressing and regrouping, or want suggestions.

 

From what you wrote, this is what I see, feel free to contemplate, disregard, anything:

 

You love working at the theater. This is something that can recharge you, inspire you, show your kids a passion of yours. All good. A way to "fill your cup." Kids need to know you are someone else other than a "need provider" and also its good for them to learn independence for another family member to do something that brings them joy. You do that for them, let them rise to the challenge and do that for you. If you feel that enriched doing this, I would encourage you to explore how you can continue. Even if it means putting your kids in public. Also, if you enjoy the preschool, and bringing your preschooler with you, how would it be to seek full time? With the others are at public, this could be a possibility.

Don't be so loyal to home educating that it destroys any quality of life you might have. It never speaks well of home educating to trash the mom in the process, it is supposed to be, for the most part, an enriching experience. Some family set ups are not that great for home educating, especially homes where the husband works a lot of hours, and the wife doesn't have a lot of support or help. That is what causes burnout for the mom. The airlines say "put on your oxygen mask first, then your childrens'" and that is very good advice. Your daughters need to see an empowered woman to model after, and you doing what you need to achieve that, whether or not that includes homeschooling.

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Firstly, big hugs, you sound so stressed. :(

 

You have a LOT on your plate. A LOT.

 

I was burnt out last year, I took about a month and literally stared at the wall, went for walks, watched tv, we lived on sandwiches. I didn't get up again for weeks. Then slowly, I started listening to podcasts and trying to get some love and passion back.

 

Drop the Shakespeare to minimum. Our first Shakespeare experience? My kids and a few of their friends learned 2 scenes, we went to the park to perform them and have a picnic. Low key, low prep, lots of fun. They loved it and they all have a deep love of the bard now.

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Oh someone referenced Lori D's advice! I forgot who I got it from and that reminded me - that is exactly what we do on our half days, postpartum, or when mommy has mental health issues. It assuages the education guilt but doesn't eat my brain and fry me. It's really okay to do the minimum and some play and Netflix. Really really.

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Totally agree with everyone.  

 

 

Drop the theater

 

just relax and do things that are educational

 

 

history 

put on SOTW audio books

 

math games

easy work books

 

educational tv

there are lots of great shows for kids

Love PBS

 

 

audio books for the kids to listen to

 

have a nap time for you

 

 

Spring is coming.   I swear it.  

 

Put the kids outside everyday.  

 

Field trips

easy ones

park, beach, whatever

 

 

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Agreeing you can just drop it for the rest of the year, but make sure your TV shows are educational, you are reading good books, and you actually do stuff with your kids instead of sitting on the computer or whatever.

 

If you want to do some academics, then I'd do the extras and blend the basics into them. Everyone cuts down to bare bones (math book, phonics, that's it) and wonders why it's dry and boring. I do the opposite (or did, more rightly)--use history and science as a foundation for skill activities like math and reading. It's not boring as heck then. 

 

But seriously, just do preschool and require math and some reading, and let your kids choose something that gets them out of the house, like a weekly nature walk. That's it. 

 

And, if you can't do preschool, maybe you could find two other families and do preschool at home. You each take a week, and you drop off your kids at each other's homes. 4 kids is totally doable, for 3 hours. La Leche has an excellent book called, appropriately, Preschool At Home

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So a few years ago, I hit serious burnout.  Too much going on with volunteer work, church activities, homeschooling and working part-time.  Plus I had some of my own health issues to deal with.  I was a Crispy Critter.

 

Younger DD's school work got a total makeover.  We dumped all the academic work for a month.  History?  She did projects from the Evan-Moore History Pockets.   She read books from the library and drew pictures about what she read.  Science was Magic School Bus and Bill Nye videos.  She kept trucking along in her math because that was totally independent but if it had required me, we would have shelved it for a month.

 

I had a high schooler then as well and I couldn't change his stuff up much, but I started having him go back to bed after his 6:30am jazz band class.  We would do his schoolwork in the afternoon and evenings while I worked on the computer next to him.

 

Upshot was that I started having quiet lovely mornings to recharge myself.  DD had a blast with all the crafty stuff (that I hate doing) and DS got some extra sleep that he had been running short on (common in teens) without falling behind.

 

With younger kids especially, don't be afraid to change things up for a month.  

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Thank you all. The sun came out this weekend, and dh didn't have to pull extra hours for the first weekend in a while. We went to the beach, and I just wandered around in the sunshine while the kids played with the driftwood and dh played his flute. It was so peaceful. Then dd2 got sick, and I stayed home with the kids today while dh went to church and taught my youth Sunday school class. I let my girls watch cartoons all morning, and wound up snuggling my two little boys who were feeling crummy in bed for a solid two hours while they slept and I read. It was so lovely. Things are going to be alright.

 

I am going to trim down my plans and expectations for school and try to take things easier for a while--and especially, to try to give myself permission to just stop and relax when it's possible, no matter what else still needs doing. Thanks for listening.

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I'm glad you got a bit of a break this weekend.

 

I'm going to echo others--drop almost everything. Health, including your mental health, comes first; this is The School of Life Lessons time for you. Kindergarten can be done for the year. 2nd grade--well, I don't know what your state requirements are so maybe there is a minimum that needs to be kept up. If not, that is fine too. Figure out what schedule/plan would be enjoyable and non stressful for you and the kids and do that.

 

Basically, stress takes a huge toll on your body and that is cumulative. You cannot keep pushing right now--things will not get better if you do.

 

We've had to take breaks many times, sometimes for months at a time. Have you heard the concept of tidal homeschooling? I feel like that is what we do. High tide is time to set sail and accomplish stuff, the periods when I am highly motivated and energetic: I schedule outside activities, make daily checklists, we go go go. Then there always comes a low tide, a period when we have to pull back. Low tide is time to wander the beach looking for shells and splashing puddles. We take a break from activities and classes, schooling becomes minimum. The kids play a lot and those who are so inclined read a lot. They draw and create stuff.

 

I think both high and low tide times are good for us, in different ways.

 

My own formal education was interrupted over and over. When I was your children's ages I was not in school--my mom just didn't believe sitting in a classroom was healthy or necessary for young kids. I did Suzuki violin and a bit of gymnastics until that became too much for the family. My mom tried to teach me how to read--I didn't catch on until I was 8. I picked up basic math concepts from daily life and older siblings.

 

I went to school in third grade in one state, part of fourth in another, part of 5th in a foreign language in one foreign country, 6th and part of 7th at one school in a different country with a different language, then the rest of 7th and most of 8th at yet another school...etc. Not much ordered progression. Lots of changes and gaps, starting a school year late or leaving early because of moves, entire years lost because I couldn't follow the language.

 

I kept learning throughout. We had a home full of books and a family culture of reading and exploring and valuing learning. Not only I but every one of my siblings ended up as competent adults ready to tackle college and life.

 

I'm not one to say "anything goes" when it comes to education, children can do nothing but roam the woods or play video games or read novels for years on end and be fine. But embracing the high and low tides of life, taking breaks and scenic diversions and accepting gaps and imperfections? Yep, this I think can be normal and healthy.

Edited by maize
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