It's that time of the year: birds are singing, flowers blooming, pollen on the air...and homeschoolers fight homeschool with every fiber of their being. Yet, you as the homeschooling parent, want--need--them to finish something related to homeschool. Your house is a mess, your kids aren't listening to you, and you are overwhelmed.
Homeschool doesn't have to be overwhelming but it often can be. Distractions get in the way of both parent and child, and the academic part of homeschooling can quickly feel like a chore. Here are some ways to manage an overwhelming homeschool life:
Have a change of scenery
As I write this, my daughter is beside me on our deck. We're sitting on a bench together, papers and books and laptop before us on a table. Birds are chirping, our chickens are clucking, the duck is quacking, and I expect Carl, our rooster, to crow any moment. Carolina blue skies are overhead, dotted by big fluffy clouds. It's a glorious day--and we are homeschooling. She's working a word search for spelling.
The thing is, we just started--and it's already 12:03 in the afternoon. It's nearly impossible for us to start in the early morning hours, so we start when we can: after animals have been fed, breakfast eaten, and clothes changed. Sometimes, a change of scenery, like coming outside on a gorgeous day, can help a great deal. Take materials to the park with a big blanket, or go to the library. Sit at a library table and, quietly, do the lessons.
The biggest distraction for my daughter are screens. Her tablet, her borrowing my phone--they all have a tendency to suck time and motivation away from her. One thing we're going to do, starting tomorrow, is to institute a new family rule: no screens until academics are finished and chores are done. I say tomorrow because this is an ongoing issue and, frankly, one I just came up with. When you're overwhelmed, you have to come up with things as you go to see what works and what doesn't.
Here me out: you don't have to finish the curriculum. If academics are hurting your relationship with your child, stop the academics. Take a couple weeks off and do fun things: plant a garden, visit museums or parks, rearrange the child's room--do things that are out-of-the-ordinary. Go for long nature walks and talk about what you see. Then, come back to academics a little at a time.
Not even public schools finish entire math books. The purpose of homeschool is to cultivate a relationship with your child and institute a love of learning. If learning has become a form of torture for you both, it's time to give it a rest. Try something new, like just reading the history book aloud. Do science projects.
There's a caveat to this, though: if you have a high school-level student, it's important for the sake of the transcript that curriculums do get finished. Have a heart-to-heart with your student and just lay it out: you must push through the curriculum to graduate high school. A lot of life is simply pushing through. We need to make sure our children understand that.
Take time for yourself
It's one thing for the students to be overwhelmed; it's another when the homeschooling parent gets overwhelmed. Know that it's perfectly okay to reach out to another homeschooling family and ask if they want to trade time. You invite another group of homeschooling children to your home, with their academics they're working on, and all the kids work on their individual tasks at your table, while the visiting kids' mom gets a much-needed break. Maybe she'll get her hair done, or nails, or just have a couple hours for a mental health break. Then, she watches your kids while you get a little break.
Take a week off academic homeschool and make it a homeschooling project to organize parts of the house that are cluttered and overwhelming. If you use your dining room for homeschool, as I do, try to figure out a way to store homeschool materials when they're not being used so you can actually use the table to dine on. If you are blessed enough to have a dedicated homeschool space, take a day or two to organize and redecorate it--particularly before starting a new grade or homeschool year.
Biblical characters battled being overwhelmed, too
Christian homeschoolers often think that they're the only ones to get overwhelmed. Just because a biblical character was close to God doesn't mean they didn't battle being overwhelmed. David, Jeremiah, Elijah--even Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane were overwhelmed at some point in their lives. We can learn from them and how they handled being overwhelmed. Having an active and constant prayer life, being in the Word, and surrounding yourselves with praying friends can all help you in being overwhelmed.
Everyone faces a season of being overwhelmed. I feel like I am a chronic overwhelmer--to the point that I needed help, so I wrote a book about how biblical characters handled being overwhelmed and what we can learn from them. I learned so much during the writing of this book! Overwhelmed: Biblical and Practical Ways to Manage a Crazy-Busy Homeschool Life can be found in my online store (autographed) or non-autographed books are available on Amazon. Balancing homeschooling, parenting, discipleship, home management, and life can be extraordinarily tricky. In this mercifully brief book for overwhelmed homeschool parents, I give biblical and practical strategies on how to manage a crazy-busy homeschool life. Using Scripture and practical suggestions, I encourage parents who are caregivers and homeschooling, and parents who are homeschooling children with special needs. In addition, I show how biblical figures handled stress, and applies those lessons to real-world issues homeschoolers face.
Please know that you are not alone! Every homeschooling parent feels overwhelmed at times, and more in some seasons. It's important to recognize when you're reaching that point, and to do something about it.
(C) 2022 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Terrie Bentley McKee is an author and speaker who homeschools her youngest daughter. Married to her husband Greg, they have four children, all of whom have special needs of varying degrees. Terrie is a follower of Jesus Christ and tries to glorify God in all she does. To read more about her testimony, click here.
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