Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Staying Motivated

It never fails this time of year.  From January to about February/March seem the bleakest.  The talk amongst my homeschooling friends and posts on online forums tends to point to burnout.  We start wondering aloud, "Is there really anything wrong with the local school?"  and daydream about what we would do with all the free time we would have if the kids were off to school during the day.  Its all downhill from there.  We can't wait to get to done with the year. 

Maybe it starts with the Christmas break.  We realize when we rest that we really did need a break.  Or, maybe the holiday season wasn't much of a break at all and we still need some time off from our homeschool duties.  There are lots of reasons why this time of year tends to bring about the yearning to stop homeschooling. 

And, if you've ever felt that way, I can tell you, without a shred of doubt or shame, you are not alone.

But, we got into this for a reason.  Keeping a perspective on the why of choosing to homeschool helps us to stay motivated for those times when we just don't feel like doing it anymore.  I enjoyed this article by Israel Wayne called "Avoiding Burnout in Homeschooling."    Its a quick little article with some good advice and a reminder to run while looking at the finish line and not down at our feet.  Good for reading when you need a quick pick-me-up reminder of why you chose to homeschool in the first place (focused on Christian homeschoolers).

This is another article.  Its much longer, but is a bit more in depth in case you're looking for a little more guidance.  Good for reading when you really need to analyze why you feel so burned out or, you need to escape the chaos around you for a good 15 minutes or so.

Then, this article from Family Education.com, is right about in the middle - not too short, not too long, good advice in a conversational style.  Good for reading for a reminder to not overload yourself and that burnout happens to most of us.

My own take on staying motivated is that over the 6 years I have done this I have learned a few things that keep me going.
  1. If I am getting too testy with the kids, or life feels like its falling apart around me, I take a break.  Simple as that.  Keeping up with some schedule that I made up for myself and my kids is not an at-all-costs task.  The self-imposed burdens of school schedules, activities, household duties, errands, and whatnot, can really get out of hand at times.  I take a break, take a deep breath (or 10) and approach school again another day, or week - however long it takes to get collected and organized and be able to go on (within reason, of course).
  2. I keep a list.  I'm a list keeper.  That's just how my mind works.  Over the years I have compiled, added to, edited, and rewritten my list.  This list is the reasons of why we have chosen to homeschool our children.  Sometimes I just need to look at that list and remind myself of why we chose this path in the first place.  
  3. I have another list - a list of goals.  In the past I've never been big into writing out goals.  But lately, I've found that actually having something to aim for has been great for keeping me motivated.  While short-term goals are important, my list is of long-term goals I want to accomplish with our homeschool journey.  Or even, perhaps not necessarily on a homeschool journey, but rather what we want to see our kids accomplish by the time they are ready to head off to college or leave home.  This list includes things related to character quality, life skills, goals of faith, etc.   More than once I've looked back on this list and been re-motivated to instruct my kids.  It can even spur me on to tackle something different for a time while we rest from some of our normal studies.  Which brings me to...
  4. Changing things up.  I like things to stay the same.  I'm not big on change.  Yet, even I get burned out when we do the same thing day after day after day.  No wonder I get burned out - using our curriculum all year (though I'm very happy with it) can get monotonous at times.  So, every once in a while I change things up.  I'll take a break from our curriculum and plan field trips, do a short unit study,  do an involved project for a week - just about anything to mix up our days a little and get out of the rut.
If you're feeling a little burned out this season, I hope this helps a little.  Hang in there!

-A

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