The month of February is notorious for being the most likely time for homeschool moms to suffer from burnout. The novelty of a new school year has worn off, combined with the post-holiday slump and, for lucky people like me- the long, cold winter season. Those factors can cause even the most seasoned homeschoolers to want to pull their hair out.
I’m not going to lie to you- the first few years of homeschooling can be rough. The combination of getting used to being with your kids all day, learning not to try to recreate school, finding your homeschool groove, and dealing with friends and family members who don’t agree with your decision can be a draining and stressful experience.
Unfortunately, many, many parents end up making the same decision to counteract this desperate season:
They send their kids back to school.
I know. I was one of them.
My Story: A Cautionary Tale of How Burnout Caused Me to Send My Kids Back to School
Making the decision to homeschool was a rather long process for me. My oldest son had been tossing the idea around for about a year before I gave it any serious thought. Having a rather large family already, like many, I assumed that I’d never be able to handle it.
Fortunately, I eventually happened upon a family who only had one less child than we did at the time (we had seven), and who were successfully and happily homeschooling. Like the vast majority of homeschoolers, they welcomed my questions and joined another family in letting me borrow (or keep) some textbooks from them.
The mom of the other family even offered to let me come in and watch a normal homeschool day at their house. Since I thought I knew everything at the time, I never took her up on the offer because I figured that I knew what I was doing. After all, I was a former gifted student. I had it covered…
At first, I actually started out pretty well. I was using the Five in a Row curriculum I had borrowed with my younger kids while my oldest was using the textbooks our friends lent to us. Our homeschool was relaxed, peaceful, and cozy.
And then someone mentioned to me that the school district would provide me with textbooks.
Big mistake, Take Two
Being the nerdy, “I want all teachers to love me” girl I was, I sped off to the schools to get them for my kids. Not wanting to stop using FIAR since we were loving it, I decided that we would complete that curriculum plus do every single subject for every single child separately with the textbooks we got from the school.
You would think the added stress from all of the additional work would’ve helped me to quickly put an end to the madness.
This went on for two years. Even after we were through with the books furnished by the district, I went ahead and bought more unit studies and separate textbooks for every single subject.
As if that weren’t bad enough, I also decorated a room in our house to look like an actual school classroom, complete with some actual school desks I found at a thrift store. An American flag in the corner,a chalkboard, and educational posters were in the background as I lectured my poor children day after day, requiring them to raise their hands to ask questions and, yes, go to the bathroom.
The novelty quickly wore off- for all of us.
At the end of those couple of years, my oldest- the one who wanted to homeschool in the first place- requested to go back to school for 11th and 12th grade. (Can’t say I blame him.) I didn’t put up much of a fight. Around that time, my other kids and I went out for a walk, and we walked past the elementary school. They had recently added a new wing and were having an open house. We decided to take a look around.
I’m sure you can guess what happened next….
Yup. Back to school they went.
At first I was so relieved. I remember opening up the living room window and sitting in the reclining chair listening to the crickets outside because when the kids were home, it was always too noisy to hear them.
It was wonderful.
My house was finally clean, and I had lots of peace and quiet, having only two kids home with me during the day.
After a few months, however, the newness of school quickly wore off. My kids came home and constantly fought with one another. The after-school hours were a constant battle over who I would help with homework first. (May I add that helping my kids with their homework felt like I was homeschooling all over again?) There were scores of papers that had to be signed, fundraisers that had to be held, and after-school programs my kids just had to attend.
Every morning was filled with the chaos of missing shoes, missing backpacks, missing toothbrushes, and missing homework, even though we always laid everything out the night before.
And while they were gone? I missed my kids.
I missed the closeness we shared while we were homeschooling that no longer existed in this new lifestyle.
Additionally, I despised the assumption of the schools that they had more say over my children than I did.
I won’t even get into the violence my kids encountered and the terrible behavior of their classmates.
Suffice it to say, I came to my senses two years later- yep, it took me two years– and I couldn’t take it anymore. I took my kids back out of school, did lots of research on the ins and outs of homeschooling, which I should’ve done in the first place, and I’ve never looked back. In fact, I refer to that period as our “dark days.”
If you’re feeling like you want to send your kids back to school because you’re stressed out, think long and hard about it first.
The peace and quiet you may feel at first may quickly be replaced by regret. There are so many ways to counteract homeschool burnout. Take a breather, give your kids and yourself a little break, and take time to reassess where you’ve been and where you’re headed.
I’m here to tell you today that sending your kids to school may seem like an easy solution, but it’s guaranteed to come at a cost.
The question is, are you willing to let that happen?