Mom-to-Mom Support/Homeschool Burnout and What to Do About It

Homeschool Burnout and What to Do About It

What is burnout? Often burnout comes with lots of feelings—exhaustion, frustration, and even a desire to throw in the towel. “I’m exhausted, and so are the kids,” you may say to yourself. “Homeschooling isn’t fun anymore. I’m not good at it! I just want to put my kids on the yellow school bus.” 

Sound familiar? If you’ve had these feelings, know that you aren’t alone. Most homeschoolers have experienced burnout at one point or another. The good news, though? There are tried-and-true ways to overcome burnout and get yourself and your kids back on track. 

The first step? Pray. And not for the energy to keep muscling through but, instead, for the wisdom and clarity to find a healthy rhythm. If possible, ask another homeschool parent for encouragement. Joy is waiting for you on the other side, but something may need to change for you to get there. With that added support, read on to understand why homeschool burnout happens and what, specifically, you can do to pull yourself out of self-doubt. 

Burnout Season

Before you can course-correct burnout, it’s important to understand why you’re feeling this way. Sometimes, burnout is just the natural result of a particular season of life. January and February, for example, are common times for burnout to hit: not only are we all coming away from Christmas highs, but there’s likely less sunlight, which can drag spirits down—especially because summer is still months away. 

Changes in family life

Some life changes can also trigger homeschool burnout. An illness, the birth of a new baby, a move, or a job change, for example, can bring on added stress and trigger homeschool burnout. 

This is normal. It isn’t reasonable to think that you can accomplish just as much work in these circumstances as when you are full of energy and free from extra concerns that draw on your time. 

Similarly, if your child is new to homeschooling or has had a bad experience at another school—or with an overly-demanding homeschool program—he may be struggling because of academic overload or attitudes that can take a while to recover from. 

Too many supplemental assignments

Although every homeschooler experiences burnout at one time or another, extended periods of burnout are a sign to reassess your schedule and expectations. One of the most frequent causes of burnout is adding on too many extra assignments. There are so many good books out there that it can be tempting to add “just one more” to your curriculum! 

At one time or another, most homeschoolers also struggle with self-doubt—that you’ll somehow fail your child if you don’t “do it all” in a day, a week, or a school year. It’s important to remember that a good education is not limited to book learning. Our children’s minds and characters are also developing while playing, exploring hobbies and talents, helping with family chores, and interacting with siblings and friends. Adding too many supplemental assignments can lengthen the school day and increase frustration, exhausting the parent-teacher while stifling your student’s natural love of learning. 

Using a curriculum that is too rigorous or structured

Even if you have not added any supplemental assignments to your curriculum, it is possible that the homeschool program you are using already includes too many assignments. Some homeschool programs overwhelm students with hours and hours of school each day. This can discourage children from wanting to learn anything.

Many families first try CHC because they experienced burnout with other programs. After switching, they are thrilled to find that CHC’s curriculum provides an academically excellent education and also encourages their children’s love for learning while leaving more time for family activities. 

That’s not to say that CHC is guaranteed to be the perfect fit for your family—every family is different. But if you’re experiencing homeschool burnout with a different curriculum, it is worth considering whether a less burdensome homeschool program would be a better fit for your family.

Unlike many homeschool providers, CHC doesn’t confuse “arduous” with “academic.” In most cases, just the opposite is true. An exhausted child is not going to be as receptive to learning as a child who is engaged in his subjects and not overwhelmed. 

Too many extracurricular activities

Trying to fit in too many extracurricular activities can also lead to burnout. Rather than trying to fit in a separate, full social life for each of your children, focus on group activities in which all your children can participate, such as homeschool groups or church events.

Summer is a great time for more extracurriculars because it doesn’t add to your already busy schedule during the school year. For example, swimming lessons. Summer classes are a great way to help your children socialize without too much commitment. Also, in any new group or class, you and your children may meet new people you’d like to befriend. 

What to do when burnout strikes

With a better understanding of what causes burnout, we can now tackle the big question: What to do when burnout strikes? For many families, taking a little break can be a huge step in the right direction. A day off (or three) can help refresh everyone’s spirits and reconnect you with the joy of homeschooling. When used judiciously, impromptu breaks from routine provide much-needed relief and a reminder of the sweetness of life. 

When you take a break, you might find that your child wants to curl up on the couch with a book or sink into some other quiet activity—or he may respond with a burst of energy. In that case, consider letting him get out and play—but find activities that don’t require your involvement. The key is not to stress about your activity: the point of this break is to relax and recharge, not to shift that angst to something else.

Some other activities to consider?

  • Funny Hat Day: Make or borrow an outrageous hat to wear all day
  • Dress Backwards Day: Just as it sounds! 
  • Chocolate Chip Day: Award chocolate chips or some other “tiny treat”—they can add up!—for each right answer 
  • School on the Sofa Day: Why not snuggle up and learn?
  • School Under the Table Day: Fill your space with big cozy pillows and hunker down
  • Free Time Day: Devote time to digging into whatever your child loves most—a favorite hobby, sport, activity, or visit to a local park, playground, or other fun spot 

After observing your students’ work patterns for a few days, chart what you think is a reasonable amount of time for the students to finish a lesson and still do a good job, then add five minutes—for example, 20 minutes for a spelling page plus five more minutes or 45 minutes for math plus five more minutes. Tell your student that today you will set a timer for the charted period of time. If he completes his lesson before the timer “dings” any remaining time is his to spend on that favorite book, game, or outdoor play. When the timer rings, reset it for the next lesson, and so on. As an incentive, keep that favorite book or game within view, but out of reach. 

To add “spark,” dramatically set the timer and announce, “on your mark, get set, GO!” as the time starts ticking down. This exercise is fun for everyone but also revealing. It’s possible both you and your child will be happily surprised to learn that his school day can be shortened with a bit of focus.

Core vs non-core subjects

Another strategy during burnout periods is to differentiate between core and non-core subjects—and eliminate what isn’t necessary. 

Again, core subjects are the basic essentials of education for a particular grade, such as reading, math, science, and religion. Non-core or elective subjects such as art and map skills are not required and can be added as time, interest, and finances allow. CHC lesson plans make it easy for you to know which subjects are core and which are not, and what a minimalist plan of action looks like.

During burnout periods, don’t be afraid to cut down to essentials—those core subjects in CHC’s curriculum. If you don’t have time for all the core subjects, that’s OK, too. Do what you can, focusing on reading (especially for 5- to 7-year-olds) and math. 

With a modified curriculum in place, try going at a slower pace, at least at first. As much as possible, encourage your child to read independently. Don’t worry if you don’t get very much school done for a while. There are more important lessons than academic ones, and not everything should be sacrificed for short-term academic success. Your child will learn important character lessons and have new opportunities to mature when you make adjustments to respect your family’s needs.

By understanding why you’re burning out—and what, specifically, you can do to both bounce back and curb future burnout—you’ll be better positioned to move forward with your homeschooling, happily and confidently. Take a breather and give yourself time to consider the best way to go forward. Is it time for a quick break? Or have you been adding too much to your homeschool schedule? Can you roll back to just the core subjects—at least in the short-term? 

By asking yourself these questions—and being honest in your answers—you can keep your homeschooling journey moving forward, now and in the future. 

Related Blogs

If you enjoyed this article, you might be interested in the related articles below.


Explore CHC’s top favorites! From art to literature, science to hands-on religion, CHC has materials to enrich every Catholic homeschool.